Athletics notebook: Laureano gets day off, Soria locking down

Joakim Soria has become a reliable late-inning arm A’s with Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino struggling

OAKLAND — The A’s are cooling tensions between them and the visiting Texas Rangers. Instead of starting in center field today, Ramon Laureano — who was at the center of a kerfuffle between the two teams — will be chilling in the Oakland Coliseum’s cryo tank.

“Coming in today, he knows he was down, do some cryo, stuff like that,” said manager Bob Melvin. “More of a spa day than a lift day.”

Laureano’s off day on Sunday will be used for recovery, since he’s played in every game since the All-Star break — hitting .407 with five home runs— but has a nagging hip issue. While the lineup won’t have as much punch without him or Chris Herrmann (who had a collision with Elvis Andrus at home, blocking him from scoring the game-tying run), giving them days off serves the double purpose of resting both, and making sure tensions between the two teams don’t escalate.

“I’m going to be honest — I want to get this clear: I don’t enjoy anything,” Laureano said on Saturday night, when asked if he enjoyed his sixth-inning home run against Adrian Sampson a bit more because of their previous bad blood, dating back to a June incident in Texas where Sampson appeared to try and break Laureano’s bat by stepping on it.

“It happens, and that’s it,” Laureano continued. “It happens, that’s it, and I just keep moving forward. Just trying to win a game every day, and that’s it.”

Herrmann, for his part, had a good-natured interaction with Andrus, who helped lift him back to his feet after the two had a low-speed meeting of the minds at home, as Chad Pinder delivered a seed to cut Andrus down by several steps to end the seventh. He’s been scuffling at the plate after a hot start, hitting .188 (3-for-16) over his last six games, and the off day — combined with a home off day for the team on Monday — could help get him right.

*****

After Joakim Soria threw a scoreless inning in Saturday’s win, Melvin roundly praised the 35-year old righty, given his recent performance, and the fact that last year’s eighth-ninth inning tandem of Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen have seen their combined ERA go from 1.81 in 2018 to 4.55 in 2019.

“With Lou and Blake not there yet, he’s been basically thrust into the eighth inning, and when Hendriks is down, we’ve used him, obviously in Houston we used him to close. Yes, he’s very important, and we signed him for a reason, and that’s to pitch deep in games, and that’s what he’s doing. After a little bit of a slow start, he’s been really good for us.”

Over his first 30 games, Soria had a 5.68 ERA in 31 2/3 innings of work. Since June 15, though, he’s 6-for-8 in save/hold situations, and in 17 1/3 innings, he owns a 2.08 ERA, with opposing batters hitting .175 against him. He’s struck out 24 and walked just four, and the A’s are 14-5 in games Soria has pitched in that span.

“He’s doing what he’s been doing his entire career, and that’s getting outs,” Melvin said. “It’s a good mix of pitches. It’s different velocities on his fastball. It’s now a different arm slot to it, at times. He’ll drop down. He has a pretty good awareness of what’s working for him on a particular day and mixes it up pretty well.”

Soria’s experience — a two-time All-Star closer in his early days with Kansas City — has made him ideal for the late-inning role that’s been thrust upon him.

“Typically that’s what you get from a guy that’s been around for a while and used in different roles, especially in the closer role,” Melvin said. “He knows to stay away from the highs and lows, and I think that would fit into his personality as well.”

His fastball isn’t the plus pitch it was early in his career (with a total runs saved value of 19.3 in 2007 and 14.4 in 2008, but 6.7 in 2019), but his slider has become much more effective (a 4.6 total runs saved value versus 4.4 over the rest of his career) and he’s throwing it at the highest rate of his career (19.2%) while cutting back on his curve and change.

“He’s not throwing 96, 97 like he used to, but he’s still, at times, in the mid-90s, and when he’s not, he’s aware of that and probably uses some other pitches and some different arm angles.”

*****

Right fielder Stephen Piscotty went 1-for-6 on Saturday night for Triple-A Las Vegas as a designated hitter. As he continues to rehab his knee injury, he’ll play seven innings in the field on Sunday, and then have an off day on Monday.

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