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The Weekly Bernie, 2/21/17: Pitchers and catchers report for Oakland A’s

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Spring Training has finally arrived, with the A’s first Cactus League game coming this Saturday, and team president Dave Kaval gave a ballpark update this weekend, among other news.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Oakland Athletics
Spring Training is here, and it’s time for Sonny Gray’s bounceback to begin.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome back to The Weekly Bernie: Spring Edition! It’s the best dance in the game, so let’s get rolling once more!

  • Pitchers and catchers officially reported to Arizona this past week, meaning plenty of Athletics updates. First off, slugger Khris Davis has decided that he will not be playing for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Although Davis feels “terrible” about the decision, ultimately he would like to focus more on the upcoming season with the A’s. For more, check out Slusser’s piece.
  • The A’s might not necessarily commit to one closer to start 2017, as manager Bob Melvin told Jane Lee of The A’s deep bullpen will include four former closers, righties Ryan Madson, Santiago Casilla, and John Axford, and lefty Sean Doolittle, and a pair of excellent set-up men, Ryan Dull and Liam Hendriks. For more on this decision, check out Nico’s piece.
  • Righty Jesse Hahn has looked impressive so far, as Lee reports. The 27 year-old has always had exciting potential but posted a 6.02 ERA over nine MLB starts in 2016 and hasn’t been able to miss bats since his rookie season with the San Diego Padres. For more on Hahn’s 2017 outlook, read Tim Eckert-Fong’s write-up.
  • On Sunday, A’s team president Dave Kaval spoke with the media about future ballpark plans as well as new features added to the Coliseum. As Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area writes, the revamp will include a brand new “Champions Pavilion” on the plaza between Oracle Arena and the Coliseum. This pavilion will feature 8-16 food trucks, televisions to watch the game, bocce ball, and more. The West Side Club has also been remodeled and transformed into the Shibe Park Tavern, complete with artifacts from the Philadelphia Athletics’ original ballpark. Finally, renovations have been made to allow concession food to be cooked inside the Coliseum. Also included in Stiglich’s piece are updates on the search for a new ballpark site, and the potential transportation issues the club may face. For more on the ballpark situation, check out Tim’s article.
  • Some quick hits: catcher Josh Phegley is finally healthy; 2016 first-round pick A.J. Puk is in better shape and is bringing back his curveball; Jed Lowrie, now able to sleep, might be in for a bounceback campaign; and pitchers Chriss Bassitt and Felix Doubront have rehabbed together from Tommy John Sugery, and could be ready to return as early as June. All links per Jane Lee.
  • Big lefty Sean Manaea enjoyed a strong rookie season in 2016, and the A’s are ready for him to take big steps forward in 2017. Ryan Pollack of FanGraphs writes that Manaea is ready for that jump, and could continue to improve.

That’s all for this week. The A’s take on the World Champion Chicago Cubs this Saturday in their first game of Cactus League action. The contest will be broadcast on 95.7 The Game and starts at 12:05 P.M. PST.

Feel free to dump any links in the comments below. Until next time - lean on, A’s fans!