'I just saw a competitor': Medina buckles down vs. White Sox

July 1st, 2023

OAKLAND -- Mark Kotsay has generally tried to refrain from in-game pep talks during his tenure as manager of the A’s, usually reserving such communications for when the team heads back into the clubhouse. On Friday night against the White Sox, however, the skipper encountered a situation in which he felt a need to go against that philosophy.

With clearly battling command issues at four walks and 55 pitches through two innings, Kotsay looked down the bench inside the A’s dugout shortly after the conclusion of the second. He spotted the rookie right-hander intently watching video on a dugout iPad and trying to dissect what was going wrong. At that point, Kotsay decided it was time to intervene.

“I grabbed the iPad,” Kotsay said. “I kind of sent a message to the kid. One I don’t normally do. I basically told him to go out and pitch. … Tonight was a situation where I felt like the kid needed to hear a different message.”

Following a four-run outburst by the A’s offense in the second that featured an RBI triple by Tony Kemp, Medina seemingly responded to Kotsay’s words of wisdom.

From innings three through five, the 24-year-old held the White Sox scoreless with only a hit and walk allowed on 45 pitches, finishing with five solid innings of one-run ball to pick up his second Major League win in the A's 7-4 victory.

In those final three innings, Medina underwent a shift in mentality. He worried less about trying to be fine with his secondary pitches and filled up the zone with strikes, trusting a high-powered fastball that averaged 96.6 mph and maxed out at 99 mph.

“I just saw a competitor,” Kotsay said. “He wasn’t out there overthinking. He wasn’t trying to feel for pitches. He just was getting the ball and throwing it. That was kind of the message. Where he comes from in the Dominican [Republic], you have to fight for everything you get. That mentality is what I wanted to see from him, and I think we did in the following innings.”

Medina’s biggest takeaway from the chat with Kotsay?

“He was telling me not to think too much,” Medina said in Spanish. “Just go out and throw the ball where the catcher is asking for it and be aggressive with my pitches. I have everything it takes to attack these hitters.”

Once settled in, Medina was able to get ahead in the count against hitters with increased frequency. That allowed him to be more unpredictable with his five-pitch mix, which also features a quality slider he threw 25 times to produce eight swinging strikes and five whiffs.

“I think he sometimes goes out there and tries to be a little too perfect,” A’s catcher Shea Langeliers said of Medina. “His stuff is so good -- fastball, curveball, slider, changeup. Just go out there, be relaxed and attack the strike zone. Trust yourself. Kots made a good point. He was like, ‘If they get a hit off you, tip your cap.’ He’s so good, and [he's] going to be so good. I think after that second inning, he kind of just took a load off and relaxed a little bit.”

Friday’s outing was an important sign of progress for Medina, one that the A’s are looking to see from the many young and inexperienced players that currently make up their roster. In his previous outing against Toronto last Sunday, Medina walked a career-high seven batters and was unable to execute in the big moments. 

This time around, he showed the ability to pitch around tight situations, including an escape job in the second to strand the bases loaded.

That progress was also evident within the offense, as the A’s finished the game with 10 hits -- in doing so, snapping a stretch of 19 consecutive games in which they had been held to 10 or fewer hits.

Seven different hitters in Oakland’s lineup collected at least one hit. JJ Bleday, who went hitless, drew a pair of walks, including one in the eighth that sparked a couple of insurance runs with a rally that saw RBI hits from Aledmys Díaz and Jace Peterson.

“There’s some reasonable expectations that are going to be set going forward,” Kotsay said. “It’s the second half, and we want to see that growth. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I thought the at-bats were better tonight with runners in scoring position and the add-on runs in the [eighth] were great.”