Bob Melvin: The A’s are Looked at Differently this Season, But We Can’t Look at Ourselves Differently

February 28, 2013 – 10:00 am by Steven Cuce

They were the fifth team in history to come back from 13 games down and win a division title. The Oakland Athletics were the talk of the American League as they stole the West Division crown from the Texas Rangers. The A’s were 94-68 last season and earned their first playoff appearance since 2006 and most wins since 2003.

Bob Melvin was named the AL Manager of the Year and that honor earned him a two-year contract extension. Here’s Melvin’s spring training approach to build off last year’s success.

Bob Melvin joined KNBR in San Francisco with Murph and Mac to discuss managing his young starting pitching staff in spring training, the A’s starters not going through a sophomore slump, changing the culture in the locker room last season and the development of Yoenis Cespedes.

Tell us a little bit about your strategy with the starting pitchers this spring:

“Well we are backing off some of our guys here early on. There’s a group that is not going to pitch until the 1st of March, so that’s a good week into spring training based on work loads last year. A couple of the starters and a few of the relievers. A.J. Griffin was our first guy that pitched for us yesterday that was in the starting rotation and then Dan Straily today and then we will start these guys up accordingly. Then some bullpen guys coming up on the 1st. We’re trying to take it easy with the long spring, especially with the guys who had extended workloads last year.”

Is there going to be a sophomore challenge for your starting pitchers because around the league teams will take them more seriously?

“There’s always a sophomore challenge, but our focus is just doing what we do and not worrying about what the expectations are and what the distractions tend to be when you do have some success. I think at the end of last year, coming down the stretch and certainly in the postseason, everybody knew who Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker, Sean Doolittle or Ryan Cook, so guys that were rookies at the end of the season no longer are rookies. When they pitched in the postseason that adds to the experience level, so I don’t think that’s an issue that if someone is being noticed this year, I think if they just kind of maintain their preparation and so forth, it shouldn’t be an issue.”

What changed the culture in the A’s locker room to get this team to win the division?

“I think in spring training last year it was more about we had so many different players. We made quite a few trades and a lot of guys hadn’t played together before, so spring training was all about getting to know each other and finding out where all the parts fit. We felt like we had quite a few good players and quite a few good parts, but where does it all fit in? Do we need to platoon certain positions and so forth. We felt we had the chance to get better and better once the season went along, which happened especially in the second half, and then you saw the momentum and confidence that moved forth that we built because of that in the second half, and we just kept rolling off of that. Coming into spring training this year, obviously there is higher expectations around with the prognosticators and so forth, but for us we just try to keep it pretty simple and go out there and give everything that we have on a particular day and prepare as hard as we can for that day and play hard for 27 outs. I know I just rattled off about eight cliches in a row, but that was our mindset and continues to be our mindset. We know we are probably looked at a little bit differently, but we can’t look at ourselves differently. We just gotta feel like we gotta bring the success from last year with us and, again, try to get better kind of maintain our let’s-win-today mode.”

Is there a player you can compare to Yoenis Cespedes? Gary Sheffield? Bo Jackson?

“Yeah, I would say body type you are looking at a Bo Jackson. And bat speed you are looking at a Gary Sheffield. I don’t see many guys around the league that have the type of bat speed that he does. The ball does make a different sound off his bat. He hits it an awfully long way. It’s just not to left field. He can hit balls out to right field and look like a left-handed power hitter. He’s a one-of-a-kind type athlete. Not too many guys come around like him. We’re lucky to have him.”

Listen to Bob Melvin on KNBR in San Francisco here

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