Cliff Pennington

Punchless A’s get shutout for 11th time in 53 games

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It was Francisco Liriano on Thursday. Felipe Paulino did it Friday. And now Kansas City’s Vin Mazzaro is the latest pitcher to shut down the A’s, throwing six scoreless innings Sunday as the A’s were shut out for the 11th time this season.

No team since 1918 had ever been shut out 11 times in its first 53 games, as the A’s have. The 2005 Astros were the last of the 12 teams since 1918 to have gotten shut out 10 times through 53 games.

Mazzaro, a former A’s pitcher who was traded to the Royals for David DeJesus prior to the 2011 season, entered the day with a 5.12 ERA in 40 starts and 10 relief appearances as a major leaguer.

14 Athletics players have amassed at least 60 at-bats this season. Six of those 14 guys are hitting under .200. Josh Reddick and Collin Cowgill are the only ones hitting even .250, and Cowgill, with one extra-base base hit in 61 at-bats, has a .279 slugging percentage to go along with his .262 average. Seven of the 14 players are slugging less than .300.

Shortstop Cliff Pennington went 0-for-3 today, extending his hitless skid to 29 at-bats.

Today’s result must have made Luke Hochevar feel all the worse. The former No. 1 overall pick gave up six runs to the A’s on Saturday in what turned out to be a 9-3 loss for the Royals. Excluding that one, the A’s have scored a total of eight runs in their last seven games.

Report: Royals and Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals and the American League rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the National League in the 2nd inning of the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.

Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.

Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.

Yankees sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.

According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.

Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.