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Weekdays at Bernie's, 2/22/16: Spring Training begins for Oakland A's pitchers and catchers

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We're back! Young A's starters Sonny Gray and Sean Manaea generated some buzz by throwing their first bullpens of the spring, while other arms like the Doolittle brothers and Jesse Hahn showed some developments of their own.

Sonny Gray continues to prove that he is truly a star on and off the field.
Sonny Gray continues to prove that he is truly a star on and off the field.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Welcome to the triumphant return of The Daily Bernie! I'm back to cover the Spring Training action for your Oakland Athletics, along with the rest of MLB. Due to school and other time constraints, I won't be able to keep this going daily, hence the (tentative) name change to Weekdays at Bernie's, but we'll get to that later. For now, it's the best dance in the game, so lets get rolling once more!

  • Young ace Sonny Gray has unsurprisingly generated quite a bit of buzz through his first two days in Arizona. As Jane Lee of MLB.com writes, the 26 year-old righty has become a leader for not only the pitching staff, but for the entire team. Susan Slusser of the SF Chronicle adds that Gray sets an example in every facet of the game, be it pitching, defense, or in the clubhouse. Sonny was even the first player to report to camp on Saturday morning, per John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group. Even if it's just the first days Spring Training, Sonny Gray continues to show the Athletics that they were right to hang onto him this offseason.
  • Oakland's top pitching prospect Sean Manaea made quite a bit of noise on Sunday as well. Most noticeable at first was his hair. Manaea sports a "Samo-fro" as he calls it, and it is truly something to see. But there's a lot more than him than just his hair -- as Slusser writes, Manaea dazzled all in attendance with his talent on the field. Minor league catcher Bruce Maxwell referred to Manaea as a "Samoan Randy Johnson" (per Joe Stiglitch of CSNCA). Be sure to read Slusser's article on Manaea, as she goes into depth on his lighthearted personality and breathtaking ability. If you weren't excited for him before, you will be now. This kid is going to be special.
  • The Doolittle brothers, Sean and Ryan, threw bullpens side-by-side on Sunday (video courtesy of Lee). Sean is excited to have his younger brother in camp with him, and manager Bob Melvin is "glad one throws right-handed and the other throws left-handed" (Lee). Ryan, 27, posted a 3.32 ERA in relief for the Double-A Midland RockHounds in 2015, and if he continues to pitch well, he could join Sean at the big league level at some point in 2016. As Lee writes, Ryan is teaching his effective split-changeup to his older brother, as Sean wishes to add another out pitch in addition to his blazing fastball.
  • Sound the alarms -- A's righty Jesse Hahn is ... entirely healthy? Yes, much to the relief of many worried A's fans, the very talented 26 year-old feels no pain and is ready to go for 2016. Hahn believes that the source of his 2015 injuries was his slider, as Hickey reports, and he will therefore be scrapping it. Hahn only threw his slider 4.9% of the time in 2015, per FanGraphs, and it posted a negative pitch value. The real takeaway here is Hahn's health. Hahn is great at getting ground balls, limiting hard contact, and has some strikeout upside, so if he can stay on the field, he could blossom into a great No. 2 for the A's behind Gray.
  • Throwing bullpens tomorrow: RHPs Henderson Alvarez, Chris Bassitt, Kendall Graveman, Jarrod Parker, John Axford, Liam Hendriks, Fernando Rodriguez, Ryan Madson, Raul Alcantara, Angel Castro, Eduard Santos, Chris Smith, and Taylor Thompson; LHPs Felix Doubront, Rich Hill, and Pat Schuster (per Hickey).

"Best Shape of My Life"

Replacing the Daily Deal will be "Best Shape of My Life," in which we touch upon some of the funny and/or quirky Spring Training news.

  • Sean Doolittle has repeatedly stated that he is in "the best shape of his life." He has even changed his Twitter profile to "BestShapeOfMyLifeGuy" to prove it. When asked for a comment, catcher Stephen Vogt replied, "I'm not. But I'm 31." (link)
  • Vogt did his ace a favor by babysitting little Gunnar Gray on Valentine's Day. Vogt loved it, as "they ran around and pulled stuff out of drawers." The two watched the Grammy's together, and by the end of the night, Gunnar wore Vogt out. (link)
  • Sonny is already being good ol' Sonny. He hopes to grow an actual moustache this season, saying "I hear your 26th year is the year" (link). He also got teased by his Uber driver Sunday morning who, upon learning that Sonny was a pitcher, remarked, "I thought pitchers were bigger." (link)
  • Dodgers' infielder Micah Johnson will miss a week after cutting his hand trying to pit an avocado. (link)

Now, about that title...

As stated prior, The Daily Bernie will not be daily during the spring, and thus needs a new name. "Weekdays at Bernie's" was suggested last summer as an homage to the classic Weekend at Bernie's. However, I am still very open to a name change. Listed in the poll below are a few of the options, and if you have any other suggestions, feel free to list them in the comments below. Let me know what you guys think!

That's all for today. Feel free to dump any links and/or title suggestions in the comments below. Until next time - lean on, A's fans!