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A’s sorting out catching situation

March 10, 2019

MESA, Ariz. (AP) — When spring training opened, one of Oakland’s biggest questions was its catching situation following the departure of Jonathan Lucroy. The Athletics had Josh Phegley on the roster and signed Chris Herrmann to a one-year deal in December. It’s a good thing they added Nick Hundley, too.

Herrmann had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee this past week. That leaves Phegley and Hundley behind the plate.

“No one knew what direction they were going to go,” said Phegley, who is entering his fifth year with the A’s. “We’re all good options.”

The 35-year-old Hundley agreed to a minor league deal with Oakland last month. He spent the previous two seasons with San Francisco, batting .241 with 10 homers in 96 games last year.

Hundley isn’t taking anything for granted. He has an opt out in his contract that Oakland has to decide on by Thursday. That’s also the day the Athletics leave for Japan, where they will open the regular season on March 20 against the Mariners.

“They haven’t told me anything,” Hundley said Sunday. “If something happens before that or I go somewhere else — I don’t put the cart before the horse ever. We’re living day to day.”

Oakland manager Bob Melvin likes Phegley and Hundley as options. How much playing time each will get is still to be determined.

“How it splits up, we’ll see,” Melvin said. “It might be matchups. Obviously, we have analytics that may suggest certain pitchers for certain guys. We want to keep them both healthy. Nick has had some knee stuff in the past. It will allow both of them to get enough playing time to be comfortable and not sit too long.”

The A’s had planned on a platoon with Herrmann, who bats left-handed, and Phegley, who is a right-handed hitter. Instead, they now have two right-handed hitting catchers.

“Things tend to work their way out,” Melvin said. “I’m very comfortable with both guys we have now.”

Hundley made 70 starts last season for the Giants, subbing for Buster Posey when he was injured. He has had to cram this spring to learn the A’s pitchers.

“You can talk to them as much as you want but until you get into live action and see what they like to do and what they need out of me, that’s the biggest thing is making them comfortable with me, making them not skip a beat,” Hundley said.

On Sunday, Hundley was matched up with Jesus Luzardo, a touted prospect who is competing for a spot in Oakland’s rotation.

“His stuff is dynamite,” Hundley said. “He’s been really impressive. I’ve been able to catch him a couple times. He’s been lights out. It’s one of those things where you see a 21-year-old who has a lot of potential.”

Luzardo struck out five while pitching four innings of one-run ball in Oakland’s 5-4 split-squad victory over San Francisco. He surrendered his first earned run this spring on Aramis Garcia’s RBI single in the first.

“He could be a front of the rotation guy for a long time,” Hundley said. “His mindset, his ability to be aggressive in the zone, and his arm is lightning fast. He’s got a lot of talent and when he gets in there and is aggressive like that, the sky’s the limit for him.”

Luzardo is glad Hundley is on the A’s, too.

“We have a good connection,” Luzardo said. “He’s the man. Having a vet like that is a good confidence boost to have as a pitcher.”

NOTES: Melvin said the A’s will go with relievers in their first exhibition game in Japan on March 17 and Brett Anderson will start the second one. ... Mike Fiers will start on opening day against the Mariners at the Tokyo Dome. “It’s an honor to start the season off for this team and get them off on the right foot and set the tempo for the year,” Fiers said Sunday. “Any start is big for me. You’re always nervous, excited, there’s so many emotions that go into these games. You have to just control them and go out and be myself and pitch and not try to overdue it.” ... Former A’s outfielder Coco Crisp, 39, is now on the Oakland radio broadcast team. Melvin said it’s a good fit. “He knows the game,” Melvin said. “I’ve told him that — ‘You’re one of the easiest guys I’ve ever had to manage’ because he understands the game and you know he’s going to be prepared to play. You just let him do his thing.”

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