OAKLAND — Before the Oakland Athletics saw Mike Fiers throw his second career no-hitter, before Stephen Piscotty walked them off in the 13th inning on Wednesday night, Bob Melvin sat in a new chair.
In the front corner of the dugout nearest home plate, Melvin perched ona 30-inch-high, swiveling fishing chair installed before the homestand. After the last two nights, he said, he’s not getting rid of it.
“We’ve won two games in a row with it, so it stays,” he said. “Trying to get used to it.”
The A’s have also been trying to get used to life without designated hitter Khris Davis, who injured his hip earlier this week pursuing a foul ball in Pittsburgh. Davis was supposed to return on Tuesday, batting fourth, but felt tightness and was scratched for Kendrys Morales. He started on Wednesday, but felt evenmore discomfort and left after two plate appearances.
“You know what, he was better yesterday, and I think we’re trying to stay away from him doing too much today, and hope that he’s ready to go tomorrow,” Melvin said. “He made progress from the day before to yesterday. Obviously the at-bat, you can swing all you want in the cage, but in the game, it’s a little different, so we backed off today.”
Davis is hitting .227 this year with 10 home runs and 26 RBIs, but had been in a homerless drought, not hitting one since April 14. He had started to come around, though, just before the injury, hitting .292 over the previous six games with two doubles, six runs and four RBIs, along with five walks to seven strikeouts.
Utility man Mark Canha (wrist) took batting practice on Wednesay, and will head out to a weekend rehab stint in Las Vegas on Friday, with an eye toward rejoining the team on the next road trip, Melvin said.
After throwing seven innings of scoreless relief in Wednesday’s game, the A’s bullpen is surprisngly ready to go for Thursday’s series finale with the Cincinnati Reds, Melvin said.
“There isn’t anybody down there today that’s not available,” Melvin said.
After a bout with the yips, Jurickson Profar has not only made some big-time defensive plays at second (including one to save Fiers’ no-hitter), but he’s also coming around at the plate after starting the season hitting .162.
“I don’t think he’s doing anything different,” Melvin said. “Right now, he’s getting good balls to hit, and when he’s getting them, he’s putting good swings on them.”
Over his last seven games, he’s raised his average 30 points, hitting .286 with two home runs and seven RBIs.
“The hitting has been there, he just got off to a slow start,” Melvin said. “Combine that with playing a new position on a new team, you get a little bit out of sorts.”
Profar, a shortstop by trade, had played over 100 games in his career at short before joining the A’s, where he’s played 32 games (288 2/3 innings) at second — more than in any other year in his career. The most he’d played second before this year was 268 2/3 innings as a rookie in 2013. He’s been worth -7 defensive runs saved at second this season. Since a string of three errors in three games from April 27 to May 1, and two days off to clear his head, Profar has made progress. He’s been coming to the ballpark early to work on fielding with Matt Williams and first-base coach Al Pedrique, and spoken with shortstop Marcus Semien, who had his own defensive struggles early in his career.
“He’s working every day at 2:15 or whatever time they come out here, and the more you work, the more you insulate it, and the more confident you feel because of it,” Melvin said. “Again, it’s a new position for him, it’s a different throw, so he’s taking some time to get used to it. Here, recently, we’ve seen some improvement.”
On Wednesday, first bsaseman Matt Olson, coming back from a hamate bone excision, bunted for a hit against the shift, and missed a would-be grand slam by hooking one foul down the right field line. Melvin said Olson — who hit 29 home runs and won a Gold Glove in 2018 — is not pressing, and in the clubhouse Thursday, he looked very much at ease, more concerned with the volume of his walk-up song than getting back in the swing of things
Since returning on Tuesday, Olson is 2-for-9 with four strikeouts.
“You want to get off to a good start,” Melvin said. “This is kind of a start for him. I don’t see him to be an anxious guy. Bases loaded, you certainly want to get a hit. He had a good at-bat, ended up striking out, but he’s not that type of guy that’s trying to do too much too early. He’s just trying to get a good ball to hit, get a good swing on it. He’ll take his walks, and as he showed when you’ve got four outfielders out there [in the shift], you have to do something to combat that, so he puts down a bunt with one strike. I think he’s just trying to get comfortable.”