Photo by Kimberly Contreras

Trey Cochran-Gill hitting the ground running with the Oakland A's

After a strong 2016 season that earned him an invitation to major league spring training, Oakland A's pitching prospect Trey Cochran-Gill is ready to make a push to the big leagues in his second year in the organization.

In the early 2000s, the glue that kept the Oakland A’s bullpen together was submarine right-hander Chad Bradford, who could be brought in to neutralize big innings by inducing a groundball. With a minor league career GO/AO of 2.29, right-hander Trey Cochran-Gill (follow on Twitter @TCG_14) could follow in Bradford’s footsteps as a “clean-up man” in the A’s bullpen.

Cochran-Gill joined the A’s before the 2016 season in a deal with the Seattle Mariners that sent Evan Scribner to the Pacific Northwest. In his first season in the A’s organization, Cochran-Gill posted a better than 60% groundball rate for the Double-A Midland RockHounds. In 73.1 innings, Cochran-Gill had a 3.07 ERA for the eventual Texas League champions. He would go on to add 14.2 innings in the Arizona Fall League, during which he allowed just 17 base-runners and posted a 1.98 ERA. The A’s rewarded Cochran-Gill for his work in 2016 with a non-roster invitation to big league spring training. He spent roughly a month in big league camp and was sent back to minor league camp on March 5. Cochran-Gill, who had a 75% left-on-base rate with Midland last year, says he relishes the challenge of coming into games with runners on base.

“I enjoy coming in for guys who may be in a sticky situation,” Cochran-Gill said on Friday from A’s minor league camp in Mesa. “I come in with the two-seam and the slider and I get a good bit of groundballs so I feel like I have a pretty good chance of getting out of those situations and helping the other pitcher out.”

On Sunday, Cochran-Gill, who utilizes a three-quarters release point and features a sinking fastball that sits 91-93 and can touch 95, had the opportunity to help out Santiago Casilla in Casilla’s 2017 spring debut. Casilla, who struggled in the outing, left the top of the fifth with a runner on third and two outs. In came Cochran-Gill, who retired Cubs’ prospect Jeimer Candelario to end the inning. Ironically, the out came on a flyball, but it was still a good result for Cochran-Gill, who was looking for some redemption after a disappointing appearance earlier in big league camp, when he allowed three runs in a third of an inning. 

“My off-speed wasn’t there,” Cochran-Gill said of his earlier big league spring outing. “I felt like I threw the fastball fine but I didn’t really have anything else up there at the time. It was unfortunate because I wanted to make a good impression for those guys. Now I’m back over here [at minor league camp] every day working hard just to be a better pitcher and sharpen the pitches up and get ready for the season.”

Cochran-Gill says he took a lot away from his time in big league camp. In particular, he says it was helpful to see how the pitchers with major-league experience went about their daily routines.

“[Big league camp] was an awesome experience. I’m glad I had the opportunity to do that. It was nice to be up there and see how things are done,” Cochran-Gill said. “I will try to take some of the stuff that I learned about the routines back to the minor league side and incorporate that into my routine.”

Cochran-Gill also enjoyed the opportunity to work with the A’s big league coaching staff. He says that A’s pitching coach Curt Young gave him some advice on his two-seam fastball.

“One thing that Curt told me was that with my two-seam, I need to try to stay down over the plate and not necessarily really try to pinpoint it,” Cochran-Gill said. “That was good advice.”

Cochran-Gill learned a lot about the mental aspect of the game last year, when he experienced a “dead arm” period that lasted for most of the month of May. During that month, he walked 10 in 18.1 innings and posted a 6.87 ERA. Removing the month of May, Cochran-Gill had a 1.80 ERA and a 43:15 K:BB in 55 innings. Cochran-Gill said going through that stretch taught him a lot about remaining focused on what he is able to control.

“I never really felt 100 percent when I was going out there for at least three weeks, maybe a month. Finally after I got rid of that, my velo jumped back up. I felt good going back out there and my pitches were a lot more sharp,” Cochran-Gill said. “The adjustment that I made there was that I didn’t want to get too caught up in looking at the ERA because at that point the ERA wasn’t looking too good. I tried not to focus on that and instead focused on the game ahead of me and I tried to take it one pitch at a time, one batter at a time. I just tried to compete from there.”

Last spring, Cochran-Gill was “the new kid in class”, having just arrived from the Mariners’ organization. He says that coming into camp this year knowing so many more players and coaches has made a difference in how he has been able to approach this spring. He says that he developed a close bond with the players and coaches he worked with in Midland last year, in particular, as they chased the Texas League title.

“Just being around everyone in Midland, it made it a really fun time, all the way from the coaches to the staff to the players. We all gelled really well," Cochran-Gill said. "The pitching staff, we pushed each other a good bit. Almost every guy who ran out there was putting up zeroes, so it made it hard for you not to jump on board and give it your best and throw up a zero."

Cochran-Gill made four appearances in the Texas League playoffs, allowing two runs in 6.2 innings. He says that was his first experience in a post-season situation.

“I got drafted in 2014 and I never had really been on a team that had a good shot at making the championship. It was really fun to experience that,” Cochran-Gill said. "It was a really fun season in Midland. I enjoyed every bit of it.”

Cochran-Gill jumped right into another post-season race during the Fall League. He and his Mesa Solar Sox’s teammates would ride a late-charge to an AFL crown. Cochran-Gill got a lot out of his time in the prospect showcase league, as well.

“The AFL was another amazing experience right there, getting to meet so many guys from different organizations and different levels of experience – all the way from High-A to Triple-A and even a few guys with big league experience,” Cochran-Gill said. “That was another good experience doing that, especially playing with and against that caliber of players. Those are guys that you are probably going to see sooner than later [in the big leagues]. It was good to see that and to face batters that were that good. There were really no weak parts of the line-up. You really had to have your best stuff against every batter. I think that is a good comparison to what the big leagues will be like, not having a weak point in a line-up.”

Cochran-Gill’s 2016 season went roughly six weeks longer than a typical minor league season. He believes the experience of pitching into October will help him adjust to a big league schedule, if that opportunity arises.

“It was a long season, but if you are in the big leagues, that is pretty much the length of the schedule you will be playing,” Cochran-Gill said. “I enjoyed it.”

The A’s borrowed liberally from their minor league pitching depth last season to get through the year. If Cochran-Gill continues to pitch like he did in 2016, he could get another opportunity to pitch deep into the year, this time in the big leagues.

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