Oakland A's Notes: Mills, Aldrete Return

Brad Mills, briefly a member of the Oakland A's starting rotation in 2014, is back in the fold. So is former A's first baseman Mike Aldrete, who returns to the club in a new role. We have those notes, as well as the latest from the Arizona Fall League...

A’s Re-Sign Mills, Extend Invite To Spring Training

The Oakland A’s added to their starting pitching depth last week, bringing back left-hander Brad Mills on a minor league contract. Mills will receive an invite to the A’s big league camp and, depending on what other moves the A’s make this off-season, could be competing for Oakland’s fifth starter spot during the spring.

Mills was briefly a member of the A’s starting rotation in 2014. The 2007 fourth-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays was acquired by the A’s for cash considerations on June 17. He took the rotation spot of Drew Pomeranz, who broke his hand earlier that week. Mills made three starts for Oakland, allowing eight earned runs in 16.1 innings (4.41 ERA). He struck-out 14 and walked seven and allowed two homeruns. In two of Mills’ three starts with the A’s, he lasted at least six innings and allowed three runs in each of those starts.

Mills lost his spot on the A’s roster when Oakland acquired right-handers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs on July 5. Mills was then claimed on waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays, where he spent the rest of the season. In two outings for the Blue Jays, Mills allowed 13 runs on 10 hits in 4.1 innings.

In addition to his five outings in the big leagues, Mills made 20 appearances (18 starts) at the Triple-A level in 2014. The majority of those outings came with Triple-A Nashville, then a Milwaukee Brewers’ affiliate. Ironically, if Mills doesn’t make the A’s roster out of spring training, he is likely to return to Nashville.

With the Sounds, Mills had a 1.56 ERA and a 77:18 K:BB in 75 innings. He also made six starts for the Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, posting a 3.06 ERA and a 26:5 K:BB in 32.1 innings. All told, Mills had a 2.01 ERA and a 103:23 K:BB in 107.1 Triple-A innings this season.

By adding Mills, the A’s have given themselves some additional depth in the backend of their starting rotation. As it stands now, Oakland has five starters who made multiple starts for the A’s in 2014 set to return in 2015 (Jeff Samardzija, Scott Kazmir, Sonny Gray, Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz). Starters A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker are expected to return to the A’s active roster sometime mid-season. Both missed the 2014 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery. At the Triple-A level, the A’s have only two starters on their current 40-man roster (Arnold Leon and Josh Lindblom). By adding Mills, the A’s are better insulated in the backend of their rotation against injury. If Oakland decides to rebuild some this off-season, Mills could be a major factor in the A’s starting rotation should one or two of the A’s current starting five be traded.

Mills will turn 30 just before the start of the 2015 regular season. In some respects, Mills has a similar career profile to current A’s starter Chavez. Like Chavez, Mills has posted excellent minor league numbers over the past eight seasons, but he has not translated those minor league numbers into sustained major league success to this point in his career. Mills pitched fairly well in his short stint with the A’s, however, and Oakland has a solid history of getting the most from pitchers who weren’t able to quite put it together for other organizations.

Mills is a crafty left-hander who mixes his mid- to high-80s fastball in well with his curveball, change-up and cut-fastball. Despite not throwing hard, Mills has been able to record his fair share of strike-outs throughout his minor league career and his command has improves as he has developed. He has generally allowed more flyballs than groundballs, but he isn’t an extreme flyball pitcher. With the exception of the seasons he spent in homer-havens Las Vegas and Salt Lake, homeruns have not been an issue for Mills during his minor league career.

A’s Hire Aldrete As Bench Coach

The Oakland A’s announced on Monday that Mike Aldrete would be joining the team as the bench coach. Aldrete is replacing Chip Hale in the position. Hale was recently named the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Aldrete has ties to the A’s and to manager Bob Melvin. The first baseman spent the 1993-1995 seasons with the A’s as a player and Aldrete served as a first base coach under Melvin in Seattle in 2004 and as a hitting coach under Melvin in Arizona in 2005 and 2006. He joins the A’s after seven seasons on the coaching staff for the St. Louis Cardinals, most recently as the team’s bench coach.

A Bay Area native and graduate of Stanford, Aldrete began his professional career as a player in the San Francisco Giants’ organization. In 10 MLB seasons, Aldrete hit .263/.356/.377. He struck-out just 381 times in 2,498 career plate appearances. In three years with the A’s, Aldrete hit .260 with a 751 OPS. He was an excellent pinch-hitter, collecting 65 hits (including nine homeruns) and 42 walks in 302 plate appearances (.358 OBP).

While with the Cardinals as a hitting coach and bench coach, Aldrete helped St. Louis reach the post-season five times. During that stretch, the Cardinals won two NL pennants and one World Series.

Robertson, Olson Heading to AFL ‘Fall Stars’ Game

The rosters for the Arizona Fall League’s annual Fall Stars Game (formerly known as the Rising Stars Game) were announced on Monday and Oakland A’s prospects Daniel Robertson and Matt Olson were included on the AFL’s East roster. The game will take place on Saturday, November 1 at 5pm MST. MLB Network will broadcast the game nationally.

Through Sunday, Robertson was leading the AFL in batting average (.444) and on-base percentage (.556). He is third in the league in OPS (1083) and Robertson has struck-out just three times in 36 at-bats.

Olson is also among the leaders in several AFL hitting categories. Through Sunday, he led the league in OPS (1255), SLG (.793) and was tied for second in homeruns (4). He was fifth in the league in OBP (.462) and he has walked (9) more than he has struck-out (6).

Outfielder Boog Powell was left off of the Fall Stars roster, but he has been one of the best hitters in the AFL this season. He currently is fourth in the league in OBP (.475), second in OPS (1132) and third in SLG (.657).

All three A’s position players have also shined defensively this fall.

On the pitching-side, none of the A’s AFL hurlers made the Fall Stars’ roster. However, reliever Ryan Doolittle continues to shine. He has yet to allow an earned run in seven innings over four appearances. He has struck-out five, walked none and allowed three hits.

In Winter League action, A’s starting pitching prospect Arnold Leon had an impressive second start for his Culiacan squad. In five innings, he allowed one unearned run. He walked one and struck-out 12.

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