A’s Ink Two More Minor League Free Agents
The Oakland A’s have signed two more minor league free agents, inviting both Rudy Owens and Carson Blair to big league spring training. They join Brad Mills, Angel Castro, Kevin Whelan, Alden Carrithers (re-signed) and Ryan Doolittle (re-signed) as minor league free agents to ink with the A's this off-season. More on both Owens and Blair below:
Rudy Owens, LHP: Owens signs on with the A’s after making his major-league debut with the Houston Astros in 2014. The left-hander made one start for Houston, allowing five runs in 5.2 innings versus the Seattle Mariners. It was his only big league start of his career thus far.
A 28th-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2006 out of Chandler Community College in Arizona, Owens spent five and a half years in the Pittsburgh chain before being traded to Houston midway through the 2012 season in the deal that brought Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates and sent Robbie Grossman to Houston.
Owens has spent much of the past four seasons at the Triple-A level and has a career 4.17 ERA in 427.1 innings at that level. In 2014, Owens had a 4.33 ERA and a 104:33 K:BB in 135 innings for Triple-A Oklahoma City.
The Mesa, Arizona, native has a fastball that ranges in the 88-92 MPH range and he locates it well. He also features a solid change-up and a curveball. Owens isn’t a big strike-out pitcher (he has averaged 6.9 per nine innings in his career), but he doesn’t walk many (2.0 per nine) and gets plenty of groundballs. The A’s are relatively thin in starting pitching at the Triple-A level, and Owens will give the A’s some depth in that area. He could also factor into spring training competition for the A’s fifth starter spot should Oakland deal one or two of their current starting five.
Carson Blair, C/3B: Blair joins the A’s after seven seasons in the Boston Red Sox’s chain. A 35th-round pick of the Red Sox in 2008 out of Liberty Christian HS in Texas, Blair will be 25 throughout the 2015 season. He signed with the Red Sox to an above-slot deal in 2008, leaving behind a commitment to play collegiately at Tulane. Originally an infielder, Blair converted to catching early in his professional career, but he has pro experience at third base, as well as behind the plate.
Blair progressed relatively slowly through the Red Sox chain. He advanced past the A-ball level for the first time in 2014, appearing in 17 games in Double-A. He spent the bulk of the season in High-A and batted .261/.385/.471 at that level. Blair had the misfortune of being stuck behind several of the Red Sox’s top prospects on the depth chart (Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart, to name two). Given a chance to play more regularly in 2014, Blair put together the best year of his career.
Blair is on the smaller side for a catcher, but he has solid receiving skills, a strong arm and he’s athletic behind the plate. He should fit into the A’s High-A or Double-A catching mix next season along with Bruce Maxwell, Beau Taylor, Phil Pohl and Ryan Lipkin. Blair joins Bryan Anderson on the current list of non-roster catchers invited to A’s big league spring training.
Minor League Coaching Moves
The Oakland A’s have yet to announce their replacements for hitting coordinator Marcus Jensen or pitching coordinator Scott Emerson. However, there has been some additional news on the A’s minor league coaching front. On Friday, longtime A’s scout Eric Martins tweeted that he will be joining the Double-A Midland staff as a hitting coach in 2015. Webster Garrison was the RockHounds’ hitting coach in 2014.
It was also announced last week that 2014 Vermont Lake Monsters’ manager David Newhan had accepted a position with the Detroit Tigers as their MLB assistant hitting coach. Newhan managed within the A’s system for one season. No announcement has been made yet in terms of a replacement for Newhan.