5/29/2014 10:32 P.M. ET
A's troubled by boos of Johnson from home crowd
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- A's players are appreciative of such a passionate fan base, but there's growing frustration in watching one of their own get booed by the home crowd.
Jim Johnson, who racked up 101 saves in his two previous seasons in Baltimore, has not pitched well at home in the early going of his tenure in Oakland, compiling a 14.04 ERA and .465 opponents' average in the confines of the Coliseum. On the road, he has a 1.98 ERA, and opponents are hitting just .208 against him.
"You look at the numbers, home and road, and there is a significant difference," said manager Bob Melvin. "It's not like you can say, 'I'm just going to pitch him on the road and not pitch him at home.' We're trying to get him through a tough period. The ability is still there. The track record is there. We just haven't been able to get him on a roll, and whether home or road has something to do with that, I don't know."
Either way, several of Johnson's teammates have voiced the belief that boos surely won't help the cause.
"It's really, really frustrating," said Sean Doolittle. "From FanFest through Spring Training, we were telling all of these guys how great our fans are and how loyal they are. The very first night, he blows a save and he gets booed, and it's kind of snowballed since then."
"I think it got out of hand early, and now it's just almost like the cool thing to do," added Josh Donaldson. "I don't know. It's tough. It makes everyone feel awkward. I don't know how it helps anything.
"I get that these guys paid for their seats. I don't care what they do. At the same time, I know it makes me think different of our fans. There was a time when we were all kind of one, which made it so special. We fed off them, they fed off us. Now what?"
Doolittle understands the booing is coming from a place of passion. Like Donaldson, he also maintains that fans have the right to boo, particularly for a lack of hustle, effort or preparation.
"Stuff like that," he said. "But there's none of that going on here. He's struggling, and he's really only struggling at home, coincidentally, which is only making it worse.
"My heart goes out to him because I see the preparation he puts in for each and every game, working with [pitching coach] Curt [Young], throwing extra on the side, looking at video. I mean, he's put in so much work and he wants it so bad."
Melvin will continue to find non-closing situations for Johnson, who entered the year with the task of replacing a fan favorite in Grant Balfour.
"The very first sign of trouble, they were jumping down his throat and booing him off the field," said Doolittle. "We were looking at each other going, 'What?' We don't do this here. I can understand that they're frustrated. He's replacing another closer with a great track record who was a fan favorite. I get it. It just seems uncharacteristic."
"It's tough when you get booed at home. It's as simple as that," said Melvin. "I don't pay for a ticket, either. People come in here, they're going to voice their opinions, and we have very passionate fans. Hopefully we get him on a roll so we don't have to listen to that."
Sogard held out of lineup in opener amid slump
OAKLAND -- Eric Sogard's continued struggles at the plate resulted in a day off Friday, with manager Bob Melvin instead giving the start at second base to Alberto Callaspo against Angels righty Garrett Richards.
Sogard has been entrenched in a platoon at the position since the beginning of last season, called upon to make the majority of starts against right-handers. But he's batting only .198 against them in 101 at-bats to this point.
Overall, Sogard's hitting .188 with a .262 on-base percentage. He has just nine hits in 57 at-bats in May.
"He's struggling a little bit," said Melvin. "The numbers are probably indicative of what he's doing right now. It's not like he's striking out a ton, but he's just not getting good contact right now. We've seen him get hot before, and the feeling is sometimes you start pressing a bit, so an off-day like this is probably a good thing from time to time.
"A couple good games, he'll probably be off to the races, but right now it's a bit of a struggle for him."
Still, Melvin has mostly been sticking with the infielder through his woes.
"It's similar to [Josh] Reddick," he said. "When he's struggling some, his defense always keeps him in the lineup. When you're a two-way player, you give yourself opportunities to be in there on a consistent basis. That has been the case with Sogard at second base."
Sogard has not committed an error this year, and his 170 total chances are the most among second basemen who have not made one.
• Lefty Eric O'Flaherty (Tommy John surgery) threw 20 pitches in a simulated game in Sacramento on Thursday and will next pitch an inning in an extended spring game in Arizona on Monday.
"It went really well from what I understand," said Melvin. "Threw all his pitches, good movement, good velocity, felt great afterward, and that's the most important thing here early on when he has these outings, that he feels good the next day."