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Luzardo not feeling heat to win A's starting spot

Cotton, Puk progress in Tommy John recoveries; Chapman takes swings
MLB.com

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's most-talked-about prospect toed the rubber Tuesday for his first bullpen session of the spring, yet again prompting the big question:

Will Jesus Luzardo be in the A's Opening Day rotation?

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's most-talked-about prospect toed the rubber Tuesday for his first bullpen session of the spring, yet again prompting the big question:

Will Jesus Luzardo be in the A's Opening Day rotation?

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Oakland, which had a strong showing watching Luzardo at Fitch Park, won't have an answer for weeks. Speculation will run rampant in the meantime, while the 21-year-old southpaw attempts to drown out the noise.

"I hear it all the time, but I try not to really think about that," Luzardo said. "I come out there, do my thing and pretend it's just another day."

Luzardo impressed -- it's rare when he doesn't -- with his high-90s fastball and command of his devastating breaking pitches, but he knows he'll have to spend much of this spring studying sequencing and reading hitters -- tasks he struggled with when he broke into Triple-A late last year.

"Way more mature hitters there," Luzardo said. "They know what they're looking for, they're patient, they're not swinging at pitches that they shouldn't be. They're waiting for you to make mistakes."

Tweet from @Athletics: ���He���s got an upper 90s heater, but it���s his breaking stuff that kind of sets him apart,��� says BoMel about @Baby_Jesus9. pic.twitter.com/MJ6ameuwTO

The A's break camp for Tokyo in a month, leaving Luzardo only so much time to make his mark; there's thought that he's already the best pitcher Oakland has in tow, yet the A's won't hesitate to keep him at Triple-A -- where he's only made four starts -- if they feel he's not completely ready for big league competition.

Video: Jesus Luzardo on trying to break camp with A's in '19

Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada and Brett Anderson are expected to make up three-fifths of the A's rotation, leaving two jobs up for grabs between Luzardo and a slew of other candidates, including Daniel Mengden, Paul Blackburn, Chris Bassitt, Frankie Montas and Parker Bridwell.

"I don't feel too much pressure," Luzardo said. "I don't know how to explain it, but I don't sense any of that."

"It was good to see him on the mound the first time," A's manager Bob Melvin said, "and it will be even better to see him in a game."

Video: Top Prospects: Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Athletics

Cotton, Puk take next big step
For so long, Tommy John patients Jharel Cotton and A.J. Puk have been resigned to the sidelines. That all changed Tuesday, when they took to the mound with teammates for their first bullpen stretching 60 feet, 6 inches since undergoing their surgeries last spring.

"It's been such a long time, so it felt like Christmas when we were out there," Cotton said. "I felt like I was a kid again. We're just happy to be back."

Cotton and Puk were instructed to throw at roughly 70 percent effort level, translating to 70-76 mph, as they gradually regain their strength.

Both pitchers are expected to be available to the A's midseason barring any setbacks.

Worth noting
Third baseman Matt Chapman, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, took 50 swings in the batting cages Monday, per Melvin. It was an encouraging day for Chapman, who has said he expects to be ready by the club's March 20 regular-season opener in Tokyo against the Mariners.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics, Jesus Luzardo

Kyler Murray commits to becoming NFL QB

A's reportedly not giving up on convincing QB to come back to baseball
MLB.com

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's won't be seeing Kyler Murray in camp on Friday, or anytime soon for that matter.

Murray has opted to forgo a future with the A's in favor of one with the NFL, voicing his decision to pursue a career as a quarterback in a tweet Monday morning -- less than two hours after A's executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane suggested he remained in negotiations with his 2018 first-round Draft pick and deemed the situation "fluid."

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's won't be seeing Kyler Murray in camp on Friday, or anytime soon for that matter.

Murray has opted to forgo a future with the A's in favor of one with the NFL, voicing his decision to pursue a career as a quarterback in a tweet Monday morning -- less than two hours after A's executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane suggested he remained in negotiations with his 2018 first-round Draft pick and deemed the situation "fluid."

General manager David Forst, speaking on behalf of the organization shortly after Murray's decision surfaced, diverted questions about when he was made aware of it, only acknowledging he wasn't surprised by the announcement.

"We've known all along this was a possibility," Forst said. "We've been in constant contact. We knew he had a great option in the NFL. So we've known for a while that there was a chance this could happen."

Video: Forst discusses losing Kyler Murray to the NFL

Murray, who declared for the NFL draft last month following his Heisman-winning campaign with Oklahoma, professed his commitment to football through this statement on Twitter, with no mention of the A's:

"Moving forward, I am firmly and fully committing my life and time to becoming an NFL quarterback. Football has been my love and passion my entire life. I was raised to play QB, and I very much look forward to dedicating 100% of myself to being the best QB possible and winning NFL championships. I have started an extensive training program to further prepare myself for upcoming NFL workouts and interviews. I eagerly await the opportunity to continue to prove to NFL decision makers that I am the franchise QB in this draft."

Tweet from @TheKylerMurray: pic.twitter.com/kGePeWhrId

The 21-year-old will be placed on MLB's restricted list, return $1.29 million of the $1.5 million signing bonus he received from the A's last year and forfeit the remaining $3.16 million due March 1, per ESPN. They won't receive a compensation pick in this June's Draft, only retaining his baseball rights in the event he decides to return to center field at a future time.

A source told MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal that Oakland never had an issue with Murray declaring for the NFL Draft and taking part in the Draft Combine in order to better gauge the interest in him as a football player.

Murray's former Oklahoma University teammate Baker Mayfield, a fellow Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, signed a $32.7 million contact after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Browns last year. While it is unlikely that Murray, who is listed at 5-foot-10 and is undersized by NFL quarterback standards, would be selected at the top of the NFL Draft, he could go in the upper half of the first round.

Rosenthal mentioned Cardinals QB Josh Rosen, who signed a $17.6 million deal after being selected 10th overall, as a potential comparable for Murray, and noted that Oakland has the potential to surpass any deal Murray is offered, regardless of where he is drafted.

"This was about Kyler," Forst said. "This wasn't about what it meant for the A's. We picked him because we thought he was going to be an incredible baseball player. That may still happen someday."

Though this was the likeliest outcome, considering Murray's blossoming football stardom, the timing of his decision was unexpected. Just minutes before, manager Bob Melvin remained "cautiously optimistic" Murray would fulfill his commitment to the A's, who had a locker with Murray's name on it and a No. 73 jersey ready for him.

"The guy was a Heisman Trophy winner," Melvin said later. "You do all you can, and obviously we drafted him for a reason. But it's not a shock to me. We still have the rights to him, but it looks like he's going to have a nice little football career and we are going to be rooting for him."

Video: Kyler Murray declares for the upcoming NFL Draft

The A's were believed to be exploring different ways to keep Murray in the fold, including restructuring his contract to allow him to attend the NFL combine before returning to camp. They also reportedly toyed with the idea of adding him to the 40-man roster and subsequently offering him more money. Forst on Monday made it clear that these were internal ideas only; Murray and his family never requested anything more from the A's, who originally granted him permission to play one more season at Oklahoma as part of his Draft agreement.

Playing both sports, it seemed, wasn't ever going to be an option.

"We've known from the tone of the conversations that he could choose the NFL," Forst said. "So we'll focus on what we need to do to make sure if he comes back to baseball at some point that he'll come back to the A's.

"We took the best athlete on the board and what we thought was the best baseball player on the board, too. We don't regret the pick at all."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics

Prospect Kaprielian experiences lat discomfort

MLB.com

MESA, Ariz. -- Long-hyped pitching prospect James Kaprielian continues to be stymied by injury.

A's manager Bob Melvin said the right-hander will be behind schedule this spring after experiencing lat discomfort during a bullpen session Friday.

MESA, Ariz. -- Long-hyped pitching prospect James Kaprielian continues to be stymied by injury.

A's manager Bob Melvin said the right-hander will be behind schedule this spring after experiencing lat discomfort during a bullpen session Friday.

"It looked like he was throwing good before that, but just a little something came up, so I think we're going to have him get an MRI," Melvin said. "So he'll probably be a little bit behind. It looked like he was going to be a full-go and then the last bullpen he felt that."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The MRI will further reveal the severity of the injury, but it's yet another unfortunate setback for Kaprielian, who hasn't thrown a professional inning since 2016 when he underwent Tommy John surgery.

The 24-year-old was still rehabbing from the UCL reconstruction procedure when the A's snagged him from the Yankees in the 2017 Sonny Gray deal, and he remained sidelined for much of '18 while experiencing shoulder soreness. It wasn't until October that he saw game action, pitching an inning in instructional league.

Kaprielian has appeared in just 15 professional games since going to the Yankees in the first round of the 2015 Draft out of UCLA, but the A's naturally added him to their 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.

Chapman expects to be ready by March 20

Kaprielian will subsequently be in big league camp this spring, but he's not expected to be in the rotation mix for at least another year, considering just how much time he's missed.

Melvin did deliver encouraging news on several of his other pitchers, including Sean Manaea, who is expected to begin a throwing program this week -- five months following his left shoulder procedure.

Jharel Cotton and A.J. Puk, both rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, are continuing to progress with their throwing programs and could enter the rotation mix midseason, Melvin said.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics, James Kaprielian

Luzardo out to earn A's starting spot this spring

Oakland prepared to start southpaw in Majors if deemed ready
MLB.com

OAKLAND -- One of baseball's top pitching prospects will soon descend upon the A's spring complex in Mesa, Ariz., and he'll warrant a stream of attention for weeks to come.

Lefty Jesus Luzardo hopes to prove the hype is real. It just might land him a spot in Oakland's Opening Day starting rotation.

OAKLAND -- One of baseball's top pitching prospects will soon descend upon the A's spring complex in Mesa, Ariz., and he'll warrant a stream of attention for weeks to come.

Lefty Jesus Luzardo hopes to prove the hype is real. It just might land him a spot in Oakland's Opening Day starting rotation.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The A's are prepared to award Luzardo, the club's top prospect according to MLB Pipeline, a big league job should they feel he's ready when camp breaks. The need on Oakland's staff is abundantly clear.

• A's Top 30 prospects

Three spots in the A's rotation are up for grabs behind veteran right-handers Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada. Luzardo's competition includes Daniel Mengden, Paul Blackburn, Parker Bridwell, Frankie Montas, Chris Bassitt, Tanner Anderson and Aaron Brooks.

"I think anything's open," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He could potentially start for us, he could potentially go down and get a little more seasoning in Triple-A. We'll just have to take it day by day. But I know we're awfully excited about having him this year, and I would be shocked if he's not with us at some point in time."

Video: Top Prospects: Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Athletics

The question, then, isn't whether Luzardo will make his Major League debut this year, rather when.

Luzardo, who can run his fastball up to 98 mph and paralyze hitters with his changeup, has deemed himself ready for the Majors.

"If you ask me, personally, I believe I am. But it's not really my decision," Luzardo said. "Whatever decision they make, it's for the best of the team and I have no problem with whatever they decide."

Service time will not be a factor. A's general manager David Forst, who acquired Luzardo from the Nationals in the trade that sent relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington in July 2017, has said as much numerous times during the offseason.

"If he's good enough, there's no reason not to have him in the rotation," Forst said. "It's obviously a big leap for someone who has thrown only a few innings at Triple-A. But he's going to get a nice, long look in Spring Training."

Luzardo has made a rapid recovery after undergoing Tommy John surgery as a high school senior in 2016. The southpaw started '18 in Class A Advanced Stockton but worked his way through the Minors and made four starts in Triple-A to end the year. He made a combined 23 starts between Stockton, Double-A Midland and Triple-A, finishing 10-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 109 1/3 innings.

Only 16 of Luzardo's 2018 innings came at the Triple-A level, which is why the A's will exercise caution when deciding whether he'll start the season with Oakland or in the Minors.

"It's really up to us to try to identify when he's ready," Melvin said. "You look at the stuff and you would say he's probably right now. But we're the custodians of his career too, so we want to make sure once he's at the big league level, we don't throw too much at him and have to send him back down and mess with his confidence."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics, Jesus Luzardo

Murray to officially attend NFL combine

MLB.com

OAKLAND -- Kyler Murray is due in big league camp with the A's next week. Oakland's 2018 ninth-round Draft pick is also now due to leave camp -- assuming he shows up at all -- for a week-long stay in Indianapolis that could provide this two-sport standout clarity on his future in football.

Murray, who declared for the NFL draft last month following his Heisman-winning campaign with Oklahoma, is listed among 338 official participants set to attend the NFL combine, which begins Feb. 26 -- 11 days after he is required to report to the A's spring complex in Mesa, Ariz.

OAKLAND -- Kyler Murray is due in big league camp with the A's next week. Oakland's 2018 ninth-round Draft pick is also now due to leave camp -- assuming he shows up at all -- for a week-long stay in Indianapolis that could provide this two-sport standout clarity on his future in football.

Murray, who declared for the NFL draft last month following his Heisman-winning campaign with Oklahoma, is listed among 338 official participants set to attend the NFL combine, which begins Feb. 26 -- 11 days after he is required to report to the A's spring complex in Mesa, Ariz.

Attending the NFL scouting combine wouldn't necessarily spell an end to Murray's baseball career, but it would undoubtedly muddle the prospect of one. It's unclear just what the A's would do should he break from camp for Indy. They could allow it, which would likely require restructuring of his contract, and hope he comes running back to them; or they could place him on the restricted list and recoup his $4.66 million signing bonus.

They would not receive a compensation pick in this June's Draft should Murray choose football over baseball, but they would, however, retain his baseball rights in the event he revisits the sport at a future time. To this point, the two sides have remained in constant -- and cordial -- communication.

Publicly, Murray has been mum when asked about his looming decision, most recently dodging questions in an awkward interview on the Dan Patrick Show last week. When asked specifically if he will report to Spring Training, Murray did not give Patrick an answer.

Ideally, Murray would prefer to play both sports, which is believed to be a nearly impossible venture considering the demands of playing quarterback in the NFL. A batch of projections have the 5-foot-10 quarterback going in the first round of the NFL draft in April, but it's also possible he slips to the third round.

The sooner he's selected, the likelier it is Murray takes a chance on the NFL.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics

Murray mum on baseball or football decision

A's prospect doesn't commit to attending Spring Training on press tour
MLB.com

As sports fans wait to see what kind of uniform Kyler Murray dons in the coming months, the two-sport phenom kept the intrigue high during a press tour on Friday.

Murray appeared on several studio shows from Atlanta as part of a Super Bowl week press tour. That included a lengthy interview on the Dan Patrick Show, where Murray did his due diligence to give almost nothing away as to whether he'll choose professional football or baseball. The A's selected Murray, who commanded a $4.66 million signing bonus, ninth overall in the 2018 MLB Draft, but he then captured college football's Heisman Trophy after throwing for 4,361 yards while totaling 42 touchdown passes and seven interceptions for the University of Oklahoma.

As sports fans wait to see what kind of uniform Kyler Murray dons in the coming months, the two-sport phenom kept the intrigue high during a press tour on Friday.

Murray appeared on several studio shows from Atlanta as part of a Super Bowl week press tour. That included a lengthy interview on the Dan Patrick Show, where Murray did his due diligence to give almost nothing away as to whether he'll choose professional football or baseball. The A's selected Murray, who commanded a $4.66 million signing bonus, ninth overall in the 2018 MLB Draft, but he then captured college football's Heisman Trophy after throwing for 4,361 yards while totaling 42 touchdown passes and seven interceptions for the University of Oklahoma.

Murray declared for the NFL Draft, but A's vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane reiterated on Saturday that the club still believes Murray will report to Spring Training.

When Patrick asked Murray directly if he would report to Spring Training, however, Murray did not give an answer. Murray was also mum when asked if he would attend the NFL Combine -- as was his father, also in attendance. Murray was non-committal as to whether he would hold a pro day for NFL teams, which would theoretically come after the Combine.

"Everybody keeps asking the same questions," Murray said, "but they'll soon be answered."

Murray remained silent on several other questions from Patrick. Murray would not name what his favorite sport is, though he did reveal that he grew up rooting for the Mets and that shortstop Jose Reyes was his favorite player. In a perfect world, Murray would prefer to play football and baseball, but he did admit that the demands of playing quarterback in the NFL could make that difficult. Patrick referenced Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson's recent admission that he would have received criticism that playing baseball would keep him from studying the football playbook (the Yankees currently hold Wilson's baseball rights). The host then asked Murray if he could play both sports if he were drafted by the Oakland (soon to be Las Vegas) Raiders, theoretically keeping his options local.

"In my head, I would love to play both," Murray said. "That would be up to the Raiders and the A's."

Murray also appeared on ESPN's Get Up! program, but he remained careful through further questions about his much-anticipated future.

"When I was young, I always wrote on the paper that I want to be a professional athlete," Murray said. "I've got one [sport] locked up right now, and I have an opportunity to, if I do choose the football route, be selected in another sport. For me it's just all a dream come true. I'm blessed to be in this position, and I'm just taking it one day at a time."

Murray was vague when asked by host Mike Greenberg what factors are going into his decision, but he hinted that his choice is imminent.

"That's a tough question," Murray said. "I've really weighed out all the options, and it's really coming down to these last couple days. I'll probably make a decision soon -- after the Super Bowl -- really soon, actually.

"I've weighed out all the options I possibly could, trust me."

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Oakland Athletics

Luzardo eyed as potential member of rotation

MLB.com

OAKLAND -- A's general manager David Forst mentioned five candidates Friday for the season-opening starting rotation before he named Jesus Luzardo as part of the competition.

Forst obviously wasn't listing the pitchers in order of ability.

OAKLAND -- A's general manager David Forst mentioned five candidates Friday for the season-opening starting rotation before he named Jesus Luzardo as part of the competition.

Forst obviously wasn't listing the pitchers in order of ability.

The path to success seems astonishingly clear for Luzardo, who's widely acknowledged as one of the game's most talented pitching prospects. His fastball approaches 98 mph. His changeup paralyzes hitters. Moreover, he throws left-handed and is just 21 years old.

Offseason acquisitions Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada are the lone starters who appear certain to make Oakland's rotation. This represents opportunity for the likes of Daniel Mengden, Paul Blackburn, Chris Bassitt, Aaron Brooks and Frankie Montas. But sheer skill separates Luzardo from the other contenders.

Another year removed from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent as a high school senior in March 2016, Luzardo sustained an ascent that spanned three Minor League classifications last season. In 23 starts combined for Class A Advanced Stockton, Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville, Luzardo finished 10-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 109 1/3 innings.

During an interview session held in conjunction with Saturday's FanFest at Jack London Square, Luzardo admitted that he's beginning to understand the mental aspects of his job.

"I go out there with a game plan instead of just going out there pitching," he said.

That partly explains the A's optimism regarding Luzardo, who was obtained from Washington in a five-player deal that also brought closer Blake Treinen to the Oakland organization on July 16, 2017.

Asked whether Luzardo has a legitimate chance to win a rotation spot, Forst said, "We're not going to rule it out. I think we've said that for a little while. If he's good enough, there's no reason not to have him in the rotation. It's obviously a big leap for someone who has thrown only a few innings at Triple-A. But he's going to get a nice, long look in Spring Training -- as long a look as you can get in 32 days, or however long we're down there."

Luzardo's Triple-A experience was the roughest aspect of his 2018 campaign. He posted a 7.31 ERA in four starts, though he maintained enough stuff to strike out 18 batters in 16 innings.

"I think he ran out of gas, a little," Forst said. "I think if you asked him that, he would probably admit that."

Luzardo indeed concurred, albeit somewhat reluctantly.

"I personally didn't feel it," he said. "I can maybe tell you that, watching video, I noticed that little bit of fatigue. ... You can kind of tell my pitches were hanging a little bit."

To adapt, Luzardo said that he focused on building stamina and endurance with his offseason workout program.

So does Luzardo consider himself ready to perform in the Majors?

"If you ask me, personally, I believe I am. But it's not really my decision," he said. "Whatever decision they make, it's for the best of the team and I have no problem with whatever they decide."

Chris Haft has covered the Major Leagues since 1991 and has worked for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat.

Oakland Athletics, Jesus Luzardo

Inbox: Will Kaprielian, Jefferies return this year?

Beat reporter Jane Lee answers Athletics fans' questions
MLB.com

We've heard very little about James Kaprielian and Daulton Jefferies. Will they ever play baseball again?
--Steve L., Newport, Ore.

That's the plan. Kaprielian actually returned to the mound for instructional league action in October and will enter camp fully healthy and raring to go. The A's expect the same of Jefferies, who, like Kaprielian, suffered a setback in his rehab from Tommy John surgery in June. Both obviously need to prove they can stay healthy enough to pitch a full season -- keep in mind they've each appeared in just eight Minor League games -- but the talent between both is undeniable. The A's hope to finally get them moving through the system this year.

We've heard very little about James Kaprielian and Daulton Jefferies. Will they ever play baseball again?
--Steve L., Newport, Ore.

That's the plan. Kaprielian actually returned to the mound for instructional league action in October and will enter camp fully healthy and raring to go. The A's expect the same of Jefferies, who, like Kaprielian, suffered a setback in his rehab from Tommy John surgery in June. Both obviously need to prove they can stay healthy enough to pitch a full season -- keep in mind they've each appeared in just eight Minor League games -- but the talent between both is undeniable. The A's hope to finally get them moving through the system this year.

:: Submit a question to the A's Inbox ::

Did Jonathan Lucroy just not want to come back or did the A's not want him back?
-- @GregWhiteaker

I think Lucroy would have returned for the right contract, and I'm still not sure why the A's couldn't agree to a reasonable figure considering what he ultimately got from the Angels: a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $3.35 million and incentives that can bring it to $4.525 million. The A's did negotiate with Lucroy, so you could say there was an effort to retain him, but it obviously wasn't enough. It doesn't sound like they were far off from the Angels' figure, which makes this all the more puzzling.

Video: Gray involved in recent trade rumors this offseason

Do you think there is a chance Sonny Gray will come back to Oakland?
-- Susan J., Castro Valley, Calif.

Yes. That doesn't mean I think it will definitely happen, but there is a chance. From what I've heard, the A's have kept tabs on Gray all winter. The Yankees have made it known that they'd like to move Gray and it's unclear just how much, if any, their asking price has budged. Sources indicate it was too high in the early going of the offseason, at least too high for the A's.

I personally think a return to Oakland would be a good move for Gray, who has a great relationship with manager Bob Melvin and prefers pitching in a smaller market. The A's, obviously, could use him, so it would seemingly be a win-win should a deal be worked out.

Looking ahead to the 2020 season, what do you project the starting rotation to be if all arms are healthy?
-- @Fred_T19

Way to put me on the spot. Let's go with some combination of Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk, Sean Manaea, Grant Holmes and Mike Fiers. That is, like you said, if all arms are healthy. I also think Kaprielian gets to the big leagues in 2020.

Will the A's be wearing their Kelly green jerseys again this year?
-- Simon B., Montreal

Yes, during every Friday home game again.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics, Daulton Jefferies, James Kaprielian

Murray declares for NFL draft; MLB still possible

Time remains for A's prospect to change mind and pursue baseball career
MLB.com

OAKLAND -- Two-sport standout Kyler Murray, who is under contract with the A's, declared for the NFL Draft ahead of Monday's midnight ET deadline, further magnifying a most momentous decision.

By opting in to the NFL Draft, a move that is essentially procedural, Murray remains within the confines of his deal with the A's -- which includes a $4.66 million signing bonus following his first-round selection in last June's MLB Draft -- but he must now decide whether to honor it.

OAKLAND -- Two-sport standout Kyler Murray, who is under contract with the A's, declared for the NFL Draft ahead of Monday's midnight ET deadline, further magnifying a most momentous decision.

By opting in to the NFL Draft, a move that is essentially procedural, Murray remains within the confines of his deal with the A's -- which includes a $4.66 million signing bonus following his first-round selection in last June's MLB Draft -- but he must now decide whether to honor it.

Tweet from @TheKylerMurray: I have declared for the NFL Draft.

While time remains for Murray to come to a final decision, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Monday that Murray "has informed the Oakland A's of his intention to follow his heart to the NFL, where many project him to be a first-round pick.

"He always can change his mind, but his mind has been made up," Schefter added.

Tweet from @AdamSchefter: Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray has submitted the paperwork to turn pro and plans to enter the NFL draft. Murray has informed the Oakland A���s of his intention to follow his heart to the NFL, where many project him to be a first-round pick.

Murray is due in big league camp with the A's by Feb. 15, while the NFL Combine begins on Feb. 26. That means the 21-year-old will likely have to choose one sport -- it's already been determined that he can't play both in the same year -- in the coming weeks, assuming Oakland prevents him from attending the combine.

The A's are doing their part to keep Murray on the diamond. On Sunday, they sent their top executives to meet with Oklahoma's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in Dallas in hopes of enticing him to a baseball career with a sweetened deal; sources told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi that MLB officials were vetting the A's proposal of a Major League contract for Murray, who is repped by power agent Scott Boras.

Video: Monte Harrison discusses Kyler Murray's decision

Thus far, it's believed that such a deal was not initially discussed as an inducement to help the two sides strike a deal following the Draft -- an arrangement prohibited by MLB. That bodes well for approval of a new deal with the A's, and Murray's entrance into the NFL Draft does not prevent him from agreeing to one.

It's key that any additional money coming to Murray now isn't considered part of his original signing bonus because of the penalties clubs face when exceeding their bonus pool allotments. The A's, who worked with a total bonus pool of $9,553,200 at last year's Draft, selected Murray with the ninth pick overall. That put in place an agreement that would allow Murray to play one more season of college football with Oklahoma. Then historic numbers came for the dynamic quarterback, and a Heisman. Now, he is drawing first-round projections from NFL insiders despite his slight frame.

Should the A's sway the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Murray (he's listed at 5-10 by the Oklahoma football team) to pick baseball over football with a Major League contract that would guarantee him more money, Murray would have four Minor League option years rather than the usual three, because MLB rules grant a fourth option for players expending their third option year before completing five Minor League seasons. Under this scenario, Murray would need to join the A's full-time at the latest by the 2022 season.

On the other hand, if Murray fully commits to the NFL, he would have to return his signing bonus to the A's. However, the club would not receive a compensation pick in this June's MLB Draft, only retaining Murray's professional baseball rights.

Video: Former two-way player Hunter Jr. on Murray's choice

Murray, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the A's No. 4 prospect, hit .296/.398/.556 with 10 home runs, 47 RBIs and 10 stolen bases with 189 at-bats as a redshirt sophomore with Oklahoma last spring.

Murray's father, Kevin, faced a similar quandary in 1982. Drafted out of high school in the 18th round by the Brewers, the elder Murray signed with Milwaukee for $35,000. He hit .161 over 41 games in the Appalachian League before deciding to quit baseball and attend Texas A&M to play quarterback.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics

Key questions as Murray weighs MLB, NFL

A's prospect, Heisman winner expected to declare for NFL Draft
MLB.com

Kyler Murray is one of the biggest stories in two sports.

Murray was the Oakland Athletics' first-round Draft pick last year and is due to report to Spring Training with the team next month. But he's also a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who's now weighing a future in football.

Kyler Murray is one of the biggest stories in two sports.

Murray was the Oakland Athletics' first-round Draft pick last year and is due to report to Spring Training with the team next month. But he's also a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who's now weighing a future in football.

Here's a quick primer on what we might -- and might not -- know about Murray's athletic future early this week.

What is Monday's significance?
The deadline for NCAA underclassmen to declare for the upcoming NFL Draft is midnight ET. Since Murray has one more season of football eligibility left at the University of Oklahoma, he'll need to file paperwork before the end of Monday in order to be drafted by an NFL team in April.

If Murray opts to file paperwork, does he lose his opportunity to play for the A's?
No. Murray is expected to declare for the NFL Draft on Monday, according to Jane Lee of MLB.com, thus enabling him to gather additional information about his possible standing in the NFL. Doing so will not violate the terms of his contract with the Athletics, one source confirmed to MLB.com on Monday. The practical deadline for Murray's final decision is closer to the start of Spring Training next month.

The NFL Scouting Combine begins roughly 10 days after Murray is expected to report to A's camp; his participation in that event -- for which he would need to leave Spring Training -- would almost certainly violate the guarantee language in his contract. The San Francisco Chronicle reported last week that the A's "were considering" whether to allow Murray to attend the Combine, although doing so "would require reconfiguring his contract."

In other words: Murray can keep his options open by declaring for the NFL Draft on Monday, but realistically, he'll need to make a final decision in the next four weeks. If he chooses football, he will need to return his $4.66 million signing bonus.

Video: Callis on Murray's decision to enter NFL Draft

Could he possibly play both?
No. At least, not right now. Even some of Murray's representatives acknowledge the on- and off-field demands of playing quarterback in the NFL are not conducive to pursuing a second sport concurrently.

What options are available to the A's if they wish to woo him over to a baseball career?
It appears that the Commissioner's Office would allow the A's to sign Murray to a Major League contract, which at the very least affords him a higher salary in the Minors (in addition to the bonus money he would continue to receive).

While all drafted players sign Minor League contracts on entry under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, the A's are permitted to give Murray a Major League deal now, as long as MLB officials conclude that there was no promise to do so during the negotiations that produced Murray's first pro baseball contract last summer.

Sources said Sunday that -- in their review so far -- MLB officials believe a new Major League deal was not discussed as an inducement for Murray to sign last summer. That bodes well for the A's ability to give Murray a new contract.

Which factors could contribute to Murray's decision?
If Murray is a first-round NFL Draft pick, he's almost certain to receive a contract with substantially more guaranteed money than his $4.66 million bonus with the A's. Several reports in recent weeks have suggested Murray would be a first-round pick, due in part to the NFL's openness toward shorter quarterbacks. (Murray is often listed as 5-foot-9 or 5-foot-10.)

In baseball, Murray would need to move out of the spotlight and develop in the Minor Leagues, likely for at least two seasons. However, the A's can sell Murray on the relative longevity of baseball careers and guaranteed contracts without a salary cap. MLB marketing executives also attended Sunday's meeting in Dallas, an indication that the Commissioner's Office is eager to help Murray capitalize on his unique backstory and notoriety.

Video: A's reportedly expect Murray to enter NFL Draft

How patient could the A's be with Murray's development as a baseball player?
If Murray signs a Major League contract as a condition of his commitment to baseball, he'll be able to remain in the Minors without having to pass through waivers until after the 2022 season. The A's likely view Murray as an everyday player for them by '21, when he will turn 24, if not before then.

Murray, who turns 22 in August, will need time to gain the baseball repetitions he's missed while playing football. He accumulated only 238 at-bats as a varsity player at Oklahoma, over which he posted a .261/.381/.466 slash line. Four players younger than Murray appeared in the Majors last year, including National League rookie stars Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto.

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network.

Oakland Athletics

A's make pitch to Murray for career in baseball

In line to declare for NFL Draft, prospect could be swayed by additional money
MLB.com

Two-sport athlete Kyler Murray is expected to declare for the NFL Draft ahead of today's deadline, clouding his baseball career with the A's, who used their first-round pick on the 21-year-old in last June's MLB Draft. But the A's aren't standing idly by as the clock runs out.

Sources told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi on Sunday night that MLB officials were vetting the A's proposal of a Major League contract for Murray and thus far believe the new deal was not discussed as an inducement to help the two sides strike a deal after Oakland picked Murray ninth overall last summer. That bodes well for a deal's potential approval by MLB officials.

Two-sport athlete Kyler Murray is expected to declare for the NFL Draft ahead of today's deadline, clouding his baseball career with the A's, who used their first-round pick on the 21-year-old in last June's MLB Draft. But the A's aren't standing idly by as the clock runs out.

Sources told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi on Sunday night that MLB officials were vetting the A's proposal of a Major League contract for Murray and thus far believe the new deal was not discussed as an inducement to help the two sides strike a deal after Oakland picked Murray ninth overall last summer. That bodes well for a deal's potential approval by MLB officials.

FAQ on Murray's unique situation

Murray can declare for the NFL Draft without violating the terms of his contract with the A's; doing so would keep his options open and he can decide between sports definitively in the coming weeks.

Such a contract with the Athletics would offer Murray additional money (and a spot on Oakland's 40-man roster) but would give him four Minor League option years rather than the usual three, because MLB rules grant a fourth option for players expending their third option year before completing five Minor League seasons. Under this scenario, Murray would run out of options after the 2022 season.

Only once they're added to a 40-man roster, players are given three Minor League "options." An option allows that player to be optioned to the Minor Leagues without first being subjected to waivers. When a player is optioned to the Minors for a span of more than 20 days, he loses an option, but an option applies to an entire season, meaning that a player can be sent to the Minors and recalled to the Majors any number of times over the course of a season while only losing one option.

It's key that any additional money coming to Murray now isn't considered part of his original signing bonus because of the penalties clubs face when exceeding their bonus pool allotments. The A's, who worked with a total bonus pool of $9,553,200 at last year's Draft, gave Murray a $4.66 million signing bonus after selecting him. That put in place an agreement that would allow Murray to play one more season of college football with Oklahoma. Then historic numbers came for the dynamic quarterback, and a Heisman Trophy. Now, he is drawing first-round projections from NFL insiders.

Video: Lee on the impact of Murray entering the NFL draft

When Murray was drafted by Oakland, he was not considered nearly as good of an NFL prospect as he is now, and the change in circumstances (and Murray's leverage) is what could allow the A's to give him more money, since there is no indication this was a long-term ploy to circumvent MLB's Draft rules.

Murray, who's ranked as the A's No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, was met in Dallas on Sunday by several Oakland officials attempting to lure him back to the diamond, MLB.com confirmed. Vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane and general manager David Forst were among the A's leading representatives.

In addition, MLB sent marketing executives from the league office to attend the meeting and present information regarding Murray's off-field earning potential, sources told Morosi.

Murray showed a glimpse of his baseball talent last spring while playing for the Sooners' baseball team, hitting .296/.398/.556 with 10 homers in 189 at-bats and recording 10 steals. He was second on the team in homers and slugging percentage behind only Steele Walker, a second-round pick (No. 46 overall) of the White Sox.

Last week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported the A's wouldn't take issue with Murray declaring for the NFL Draft, since a future in football would yet to be guaranteed, but there could be contractual hurdles in play regarding Murray's participation in the NFL Combine -- which is essentially a must for any Draft hopeful. Playing baseball and football in the same year is not an option.

Murray has the choice of a lifetime in front of him, and he would have to return his signing bonus should he forgo a future playing center field for the A's. However, the club would not receive a compensation pick in this June's MLB Draft. Oakland would, though, retain his professional baseball rights, meaning he could still play for the A's if football doesn't pan out.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics

Kyler Murray reportedly to declare for NFL Draft

A's prospect had expressed hope in pursuing dual career in MLB
MLB.com

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Kyler Murray, also the No. 9 overall Draft pick by the A's last June, is expected to declare for the NFL Draft before Sunday's deadline for collegiate underclassmen to do so, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Murray -- who is ranked the A's No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline -- had previously expressed hope that he might be able to pursue a dual career in MLB and the NFL. But a source with knowledge of Murray's situation told the Chronicle earlier on Wednesday that he'll have to pick one sport, because "the demands of learning and playing quarterback in the NFL would preclude him from playing professional baseball."

Also per the Chronicle's source, NFL teams wouldn't want Murray playing baseball and football at the same time "because of the steeper learning curve for a rookie quarterback."

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Kyler Murray, also the No. 9 overall Draft pick by the A's last June, is expected to declare for the NFL Draft before Sunday's deadline for collegiate underclassmen to do so, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Murray -- who is ranked the A's No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline -- had previously expressed hope that he might be able to pursue a dual career in MLB and the NFL. But a source with knowledge of Murray's situation told the Chronicle earlier on Wednesday that he'll have to pick one sport, because "the demands of learning and playing quarterback in the NFL would preclude him from playing professional baseball."

Also per the Chronicle's source, NFL teams wouldn't want Murray playing baseball and football at the same time "because of the steeper learning curve for a rookie quarterback."

Video: Callis on Murray's decision to enter NFL Draft

Even if Murray does declare for the NFL Draft, it doesn't rule out the possibility that he ultimately chooses professional baseball. But the Chronicle reports that a source said the 21-year-old is leaning toward football.

Murray, who guided the Oklahoma Sooners to a College Football Playoff appearance last month, is expected to be a high selection in April's NFL Draft, perhaps even a first-round pick. And with the annual NFL Combine taking place on Feb. 26, when Spring Training will be underway, he would almost certainly need to be in Indianapolis demonstrating his football potential if he is serious about playing in the NFL. A source told the Chronicle that the A's might consider allowing Murray to leave Spring Training and go to the Combine, something that would require approval from MLB.

Video: A's reportedly expect Murray to enter NFL Draft

The A's signed Murray for $4.66 million, with part of the agreement being that Murray would join Oakland for Spring Training after playing one last college football season at Oklahoma. Both Murray and agent Scott Boras reiterated at several points throughout the year that Murray would honor his MLB commitment, but his stellar season on the gridiron has made it much less of a certainty now.

If Murray decides not to play baseball, he will have to pay back his signing bonus. In addition, the A's would not receive a compensation pick in this June's MLB Draft despite losing Murray to the NFL. Oakland would, however, retain his professional baseball rights should he sign with an NFL team but want to play professional baseball at a later date.

Video: Kyler Murray choosing between football and baseball

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com.

Oakland Athletics

A's prospect Murray's OU career ends in defeat

No. 9 pick in 2018 MLB Draft finishes Heisman season vs. Alabama
MLB.com

A's prospect Kyler Murray and the Oklahoma Sooners fell short in their pursuit of a national championship, losing, 45-34, to No. 1 Alabama in Saturday's College Football Playoff semifinal matchup in Miami.

Murray, who was named this year's Heisman Trophy winner earlier in December, turned in a stellar individual performance in a comeback effort for the No. 4 Sooners (12-2). He threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns on 19-for-37 passing and rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

A's prospect Kyler Murray and the Oklahoma Sooners fell short in their pursuit of a national championship, losing, 45-34, to No. 1 Alabama in Saturday's College Football Playoff semifinal matchup in Miami.

Murray, who was named this year's Heisman Trophy winner earlier in December, turned in a stellar individual performance in a comeback effort for the No. 4 Sooners (12-2). He threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns on 19-for-37 passing and rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

• A's Top 30 prospects

Alabama (14-0) put Oklahoma in an early hole with 28 consecutive points to begin the game and entered halftime with a 31-10 lead. Murray helped fuel a 24-point second half, but it wasn't enough to keep Alabama from a fourth consecutive appearance in the championship game.

The Orange Bowl defeat capped a remarkable campaign for Murray, whom the A's selected with the No. 9 overall pick in June's MLB Draft. The redshirt junior finished the season with 4,361 yards, 42 touchdowns through the air and 1,001 yards and 12 scores on the ground through 14 games.

Despite his success in football, Murray has repeatedly reiterated his plan to move on from football and begin his professional baseball career with the A's. Oakland inked the outfielder to a $4.66 million signing bonus, an agreement that included allowing him to play one more year of football at Oklahoma.

Murray hasn't, however, ruled out playing in the NFL at some point. He would likely be a first-round selection if he entered the NFL Draft.

"It's never bad to have options," Murray said in a media session Thursday.

After serving as the backup to Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield -- who was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Browns in last spring -- in 2017, Murray broke out as one of the nation's top quarterbacks and gave Oklahoma the first back-to-back winners in the history of the award.

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

Oakland Athletics

Murray says he hasn't ruled out football career

Heisman Trophy winner signed $4.6 million contract with A's
MLB.com

Kyler Murray, selected ninth overall in last June's MLB Draft by the Athletics, is preparing to play for Oklahoma against defending national champion Alabama in Saturday's College Football Playoff semifinal game at the Capital One Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback spoke at a media session Thursday, indicating he has not ruled out the notion of playing in the NFL.

"It's never bad to have options, but right now my main focus is this game," said Murray, who also said his mindset with respect to playing in the Majors hasn't changed since inking a contract with Oakland that includes a $4.6 million signing bonus.

Kyler Murray, selected ninth overall in last June's MLB Draft by the Athletics, is preparing to play for Oklahoma against defending national champion Alabama in Saturday's College Football Playoff semifinal game at the Capital One Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback spoke at a media session Thursday, indicating he has not ruled out the notion of playing in the NFL.

"It's never bad to have options, but right now my main focus is this game," said Murray, who also said his mindset with respect to playing in the Majors hasn't changed since inking a contract with Oakland that includes a $4.6 million signing bonus.

Murray's agent, Scott Boras, told Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports that Murray will be in Major League camp with the A's starting Feb. 10 and will not be working out for football teams.

According to an ESPN report, Oklahoma's assistant head coach Shane Beamer said Murray's ability compares to that of former NFL quarterback Michael Vick, particularly with his speed, accuracy and arm strength. Offensive coordinator Cale Gundy told ESPN that a scout he spoke with said Murray would be a first-round selection if he entered the NFL Draft.

Video: Callis discusses Kyler Murray difficult decision

Murray, a center fielder on the baseball diamond, put together one of the greatest seasons by a quarterback in college football history after he and the A's agreed he would play one more season for the Sooners. He totaled 4,053 passing yards and 40 touchdowns, being intercepted only seven times. He also rushed for 892 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Come Saturday, Murray will try to lead Oklahoma into the national championship game. His sole focus will surely be on making that a reality. But he has certainly had a lot to weigh as the end of his collegiate career approaches.

"You try to tell yourself it will be easy," Murray said of emotionally juggling the potentiality of playing professionally in two different sports. " ... I'd be lying if I said I didn't expect to have success on the baseball field and the football field."

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

Oakland Athletics

Boras reiterates Kyler's future is in baseball

Despite Heisman win, two-sport star will begin career on diamond next spring
MLB.com

Kyler Murray is the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner, the AP college football Player of the Year and he's about to compete in the College Football Playoff. But his agent, Scott Boras, once again reiterated Murray will still be giving up the gridiron to begin his professional baseball career with the A's next spring.

"Kyler has agreed and the A's agreed to a baseball contract that gave him permission to play college football through the end of the collegiate season," Boras told NFL.com's Ian Rapoport this week, as noted in a story published on Sunday following Murray's Heisman win. "After that, he is under contract to play baseball. That is not a determination to make. It's already done."

Kyler Murray is the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner, the AP college football Player of the Year and he's about to compete in the College Football Playoff. But his agent, Scott Boras, once again reiterated Murray will still be giving up the gridiron to begin his professional baseball career with the A's next spring.

"Kyler has agreed and the A's agreed to a baseball contract that gave him permission to play college football through the end of the collegiate season," Boras told NFL.com's Ian Rapoport this week, as noted in a story published on Sunday following Murray's Heisman win. "After that, he is under contract to play baseball. That is not a determination to make. It's already done."

Video: Forst on how Kyler Murray is ready to play baseball

Oakland signed Murray for $4.66 million after making him the No. 9 overall pick in the 2018 Draft, while also agreeing to let the two-sport star play one final season at quarterback for Oklahoma. That season turned into a storybook one, with Murray piling up accolades and leading the Sooners into their upcoming Orange Bowl matchup against top-ranked Alabama on Dec. 29.

Video: Top Prospects: Kyler Murray, OF, Athletics

Despite all that -- and despite comments from Murray earlier this week indicating he might want to try for a dual MLB-NFL career -- Boras has been firm that the 21-year-old will report to Spring Training with the A's in 2019. Murray is currently ranked Oakland's No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline.

"From a contractual perspective, it is set," Boras told Rapoport.

Murray said in his media availability prior to the Heisman award ceremony, "I'd like to do both [football and baseball], if possible. But I don't know how possible that is."

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Oakland Athletics