10/3/2013 10:12 P.M. ET
Cook confident after fixing issue with mechanics
By Jane Lee and Jeff Kirshman / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Ryan Cook doesn't deny the frustrations that accompanied his late-season funk and -- along with a similar showing from All-Star closer Grant Balfour -- raised questions about an A's bullpen that had performed as well as any in baseball heading into the postseason.
Cook finished the regular season having allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings over his last nine appearances for a 7.94 ERA after yielding three earned runs in his previous 29 games for a 0.95 ERA.
Fortunately for Cook and the A's, the right-hander appears to have rebounded, with two scoreless innings in his final two appearances after singling out a hitch in his mechanics that he described as, "getting a little bit rotational. My front side was spinning off, which was causing me to get on the side of the ball. I was loosing that zip, if you will.
"It can come pitch to pitch. But it's not anything that you have to worry about," he said. "It's just getting back to what you do and not letting it steamroll, which for a minute there I just didn't feel what I was doing wrong. And once I felt it and once we saw it on film, we made the switch and it's been fine ever since."
Granted, two innings isn't a large sample size, but Cook believes he's as good as ever. "You want to be great every time you take the mound," Cook said. "Every time they give you the ball, no matter what the situation -- up 10, down 10, one-run game -- it doesn't matter. You want to be great. I think that's something our entire bullpen believes, and our whole team, really. It was frustrating there for a minute, no doubt, to not be able to pinpoint what was going wrong. But what a relief it was when we did."
Cook's recovery will be crucial to the A's attack as they get set for their matchup against the Tigers in the American League Division Series (watch Game 1 on Friday at 6:30 p.m. PT on TBS). Oakland's bullpen ranked third in the AL with a 3.22 ERA, issuing the fewest walks in the AL (154) and second fewest in the Major Leagues behind the Cardinals' 148.
These numbers come in spite of respective slumps by Cook, Balfour and Sean Doolittle throughout the season. The ability for the pitching staff to return to form, Cook said, is largely a result of manager Bob Melvin's trust in his staff.
"The way he communicates and the faith he has in us as players is remarkable. He's got a lot of faith in us. He's going to keep giving you the ball," Cook said. "It goes away just as fast as it came," he added, snapping his fingers for emphasis. "He believes in that, and we believe in him. And if he puts me in the game, I'm going to get the job done for him."
Good chance Cespedes plays left field in Game 1
OAKLAND -- Yoenis Cespedes came out of Thursday's workouts pain-free, so the A's are expected to not only have his feared bat, but also his glove in play at the Coliseum for Friday's American League Division Series opener against Detroit (watch at 6:30 p.m. PT on TBS).
"There's a good chance you see him in left field tomorrow," manager Bob Melvin said.
Melvin, however, will wait to see how Cespedes feels Friday morning to officially decide whether placing the slugger in left field is a prudent thing to do. If he's experiencing any discomfort with his ailing right shoulder, Cespedes will likely be in the lineup at designated hitter.
In that scenario, Brandon Moss would play left field while Daric Barton handles first base. Moss becomes the DH if Cespedes plays the outfield.
"We at least have to see how he is coming into tomorrow," Melvin said. "If it's bothering him to the point where we feel like it could get worse, then we wouldn't put him in the outfield.
"We'd like to have him in left. His defense is a factor for us in left."
Cespedes has been limited to just three innings of defense since Sept. 14 because of his shoulder. But as he threw on the field Thursday for the first time in nearly a week, hitting coach Chili Davis commented, "He looked great. [The shoulder] doesn't even look like it's bothering him."
Sogard to start at second for A's in Game 1
OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin has opted to start left-handed-hitter Eric Sogard at second base for Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Tigers over the switch-hitting Alberto Callaspo, who gives Oakland another late-game option against left-handed pitching. Watch Friday's game on TBS at 6:30 p.m. PT.
"Sogard will start tomorrow," Melvin said, "but the thing about Callaspo is, even when he doesn't start a game, you know you can match up with him, and it doesn't have to happen in a second-base position.
"He's been impactful for us. Really, as a teammate, he gets along very well here, has settled in very nicely and has been a great pickup for us."
The veteran Callaspo, acquired by the A's from the Angels shortly before the non-waiver Trade Deadline in July, has just two at-bats worth of postseason experience, both with the Rockies during the 2007 National League Championship Series. Sogard, having completed his first full big league season, has none.
But both have hit Detroit's pitching staff well this year, with Callaspo going 11-for-28 (.393) and Sogard racking up five hits in 15 at-bats, including two vs. Game 1 right-handed starter Max Scherzer.
For the season, Sogard hit .266 with 35 RBIs in 130 games. He made 104 of his 110 starts against right-handers, batting .274 off them. He also finished with a .985 fielding percentage, which ranked sixth in the AL for second basemen.
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. Jeff Kirshman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.