May 2010

A dose of dribblers

Love me some day baseball, fresh fruit and a cup of chocolate frozen yogurt topped with some more fresh fruit. A handful of random tidbits from a Sunday afternoon game at Comerica that will hopefully help you forget about the 10-2 loss we just witnessed:

  • On a slow news day, manager Bob Geren spent a good portion of his pregame media chat trying to figure out how many combined days and, subsequently, years he’s spent in hotels during the span of his baseball career. The estimated answer, thanks to my handy dandy phone calculator: 7-plus years. That’s a lot of time spent with suitcases, white towels and card room keys.
  • In between the fifth and sixth frames, while Powell was busy putting on his gear, Adam Rosales warmed up Dallas Braden. Guess he really can play all positions …
  • Jake Fox’s parents have to be one of the most supportive in the big leagues. They’ve been here all series, sitting right below the press box, wearing Fox jerseys while cheering on their boy. I also remember them coming to a handful of Spring Training games, the first of which had them all decked out in green and gold — very impressive considering Fox had signed with the A’s just two months before.
  • Last night, following the game, it appeared that the A’s were more interested in watching replays of Kendry Morales’ walk-off grand slam trot-gone wrong than of Roy Halladay’s perfecto, although Andrew Bailey had a little fun with re-watching bits of Doc’s game over again. “I bet you that ball’s caught. … I bet he gets out here. … I bet you he doesn’t give up a hit” …
  • Gio Gonzalez designed what he believes is a perfect plan to prepare himself for Interleague action. Following his start in Boston on Tuesday, he wants to take to the field right away during BP the next day, bat in hand, and “hit one over the Green Monster.”

That’s all I’ve got for you today. Head on over to the A’s site for all your news and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for timely updates. Also, here’s the link to e-mail me an Inbox question that could appear right here at the blog. Enjoy the rest of your Memorial Day weekend!

Cheers to Halladay … and Braden (again)

I’m thinking Dallas Braden is in bed right about now dreaming of another perfect game. After all, he was only allowed to celebrate his first one for 20 days before some guy by the name of Roy Halladay decided to do the same thing. In all honesty, though, a huge congratulations goes out to Doc, who did the unthinkable Saturday by recording baseball’s second perfecto in less than a month. Unlike Braden, he’s exactly the the type of pitcher with whom you correlate extraordinary events such as these. At the same time, you have to start wondering, as A’s strength and conditioning coach Bob Alejo said, about the uniqueness of perfect games now. Will they become a monthly happening before too long? I doubt it, but I had to laugh at Alejo’s comment: “It’s like the four-minute mile. Everyone’s going to start doing it.”

Well, if that’s true, Mr. Braden has a chance to continue the trend tomorrow when he faces the Tigers at Comerica Park. He’s coming off a start in which he left early due to a sprained ankle, so a perfect nine might not be in the cards. That’s OK, though, because the A’s won’t soon forget Braden’s special feat thanks to a gift he awarded them last week in honor of their help May 9.

To celebrate the perfect game, Braden shared one of his favorite rare luxuries, Crown Royal XR (“Extra Rare”), with each of his teammates, who received a bottle of XR with a personalized embroidered Crown Royal XR bag — complete with a congratulatory message commemorating the historic event.

“There is no perfect game without perfect teamwork,” Braden said. “I hope this will always remind them of the historic moment we shared together.”

Braden.JPG

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Brought to you from Comerica: Friday Inbox

Heading into this season, I knew that my first year on the A’s beat would present — well, many firsts. Covering a perfect game was definitely not one I expected, but, hey, I’ll take it. The firsts I was anticipating mostly had to do with the traveling aspect that comes along with the job. Every new city presents new streets, new restaurants and new hotels. And every ballpark comes along with new press boxes and new clubhouses — both of which usually take time finding. I’m not afraid to say I’ve always been directionally challenged. So I only wish that the Garmin GPS — the one I pack every time I’m in a city that requires I rent a car — came with directions to said press boxes and clubhouses. Trust me, these things aren’t always the easiest to locate, and matters are only made worse when you’re wandering aimlessly in search of these places while walking through 90-degree Texas heat, as I was a couple of weeks ago. Luckily, I usually give myself plenty of time my first day anyway in order to walk around a bit and get to know the ballpark as a fan. Today was no different, as I arrived at Comerica Park — home of the Tigers — with plenty time to kill before embarking on my “find the media entrance” journey.

It took less than two minutes for me to realize it could easily be one of my favorite parks out of the 12 I’ve seen so far. It’s got an abundance of character, not to mention gorgeous architecture and a classic unassuming baseball atmosphere. When I think of summer baseball, I picture it being played in a park like Comerica, which also boasts a great backdrop of downtown Detroit. What has made my first experience here all the more satisfying is the ease at which I made my way to the press box. Furthermore, the weather is perfect AND there’s a frozen yogurt machine right behind me. Any press dining room that offers fro yo gets the thumbs up from me.

Anyway, on the field we have a tied 3-3 game right now. Here’s a couple of questions that made its way to my Inbox this week while I was enjoying some rare time off:   

Can we get an update on our prized prospects, Chris Carter and Michael Taylor? How are they doing in Triple-A? Do they have a shot at the bigs this season? Are they still the saviors of our offense?
– Jeff H., Fremont, Calif.

Well, Jeff, neither currently have numbers that scream “savior” for any club, even a powerless one like the A’s. Carter, though currently tied for the Pacific Coast League lead in RBIs (39) and third in home runs (10), is batting just .246 through 46 games with the River Cats. The good news is that he’s showing signs of the power hitter the A’s will eventually need, but the bad news is that he’s collected 57 strikeouts in 175 at-bats. Carter will need to show more discipline and create a better strike zone in order to demonstrate he can not only be a consistent hitter in the PCL but in the big leagues as well. He’s also been playing some outfield in an effort to strengthen his versatility, as we all know that goes a long way with the injury-prone A’s. That’s why Billy Beane likes guys like Adam Rosales, Eric Patterson and Jake Fox — guys who can play multiple positions. The club still sees Carter as a first baseman, but it’s only protecting its future by giving him starts in the outfield.

Taylor, meanwhile, hasn’t played a game since May 11 due to a strained calf and, as a result, has been doing nothing but resting since then. It’s one of those injuries that needs to be taken care of completely before being tested again with baseball activity. Otherwise, it’s likely going to stay with him all season. Luckily, Taylor has taken good care of himself during the past couple of weeks and could be lifted off the disabled list as soon as this weekend. Before being sidelined, he was posting similar numbers to those we’ve seen from Carter: .232 average, 22 RBI and 24 strikeouts in 125 at-bats. Needless to say, both still need plenty of seasoning before being deemed ready to make that jump to Oakland. I think both still have a shot at getting called up this year, but while I figured we might see them by June at the earliest, I now think that, if promoted, it won’t be ’til the end of the season, possibly as September callups.

Why the big hush-hush
about Braden’s ankle? Is there more going on than what is being reported?

– Jeanne P., Central Valley, Calif.

We’re talking about Braden here, the guy who has said in the past that it would take cutting off his numb left foot for him to never play again. So was I surprised to hear that he played with a sprained ankle? No. Do I think there’s more going on with it than a simple sprain? No. Braden is brutally honest with not only us media folk but also with himself, so if he knew he couldn’t help his team win that day, he would have said so beforehand. The guy has more guts than anyone I know, and I believe he assumed he’d be fine for his start. I also believe him when he says he’s ready to go again Sunday.
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To submit your Inbox question, please follow this link. Also, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for timely A’s updates.  

Tuesday Inbox: Release Chavez?

Because the busy season doesn’t allow for a weekly Inbox appearance on the A’s site, I’ve decided to start taking time on a regular basis to answer one or two of your questions regarding all things green and gold right here. Dozens of questions about the A’s fill my mailbox each week, so make sure you stop by often to see if yours is one of the chosen. If it’s not, it’s probably because of one of the following reasons:

  • You want to know about the “stadium issue,” as it is usually referred to in most of the e-mails I get. I assure you that, at the moment, there are no updates on a potential new A’s stadium. When I hear of anything, I’ll let ya know.
  •  Your only goal is to get me to join you in bashing a player whom you think Billy Beane should rid of ASAP. Sorry, folks. You’re on your own.
  • You’re asking about an injury update or other news tidbit of which I’ve already addressed in a story on the A’s site. Basically, if I’ve already answered the question somewhere else, chances are you won’t find it here. 

Otherwise, have at it. And please feel free to pass along any non-baseball but, rather, human interest-type questions you may have regarding Daric Barton’s favorite food or Kurt Suzuki’s biggest pet peeve. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll do my best to find it. Onto the Inbox, May 25 edition:

Do you think the A’s might release Eric Chavez at some point this season, as they did last year with Jason Giambi? I don’t see him playing again.
Vernon S., Piedmont, Calif.

I have to admit that I considered this same scenario the day Eric was sent to the DL, but after thinking it over I quickly realized that the chances of the club releasing him are very slim. Eric has represented the epitome of a team player from day one. He’s made the commitment to himself and the team to recover from injuries that would have easily sent most players into retirement, and he’s also played hurt without any fuss. It’s easy to assume he’s spent his final days on the field, but Eric says he’s not done. He clarified this week via text that he plans on playing again, “if and when” he’s healthy. Eric has done everything his body has been willing to allow him to do in an effort to uphold his $66 million contract. He’s a franchise player, not to mention one who has a strong relationship with Mr. Beane, so the only way Eric is released is if he asks to be. But don’t go holding your breath on that one. I think that by being back on the field again this year and surrounding himself with his teammates again made Eric truly realize how much he loves the game and this club, and how he’s not going to let injuries take away his career that easily. He’s truly dedicated to helping this team win, so we can only hope his body gives him the chance to do so. Cutting him would prove costly, much more so than it did with Giambi last summer. So even though his production was down upon the time of his DL move and his body has turned mightily fragile, I don’t see the A’s releasing him.
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To submit your Inbox question, please follow this link. Also, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for timely A’s updates. I’m not with the team in Baltimore for the next three days, but I’ll be back on the beat in Detroit when the club starts a four-game set Friday
 

Braden’s Top Ten List on Letterman

As seen on The Late Show with David Letterman tonight, Top 10 thoughts that went through Dallas Braden’s head during the perfect game:

10. Grandma’s right. Stick it, A-Rod.
9. I did it! Oh crap, it’s only the fourth inning.
8. Seriously, how cool a name is Dallas Braden?
7. Now, maybe Justin Bieber will know who I am.
6. I must not tell the world I’m Iron Man.
5. This is something they can never take away from me. But for $50,000, you can have my glove.
4. Next pitch, eyes closed.
3. Even I’ve never heard of me.
2. I should at least give up one hit so I don’t have to do Letterman.
1. Maybe I can give Kate Hudson a call.

A’s now owners of a bountiful bullpen

When Tye Waller walked out with the lineup this morning, he sported a rather large smile on his face — not an uncommon sight, but one that this time came with a look that signaled something was up. “Now there’s a little something different in there today,” the A”s bench coach said. “But I’m not going to tell you. You reporters are smart enough to figure it out yourself.” And with that, I — along with everyone else — quickly scanned the bullpen list and noticed an extra name. That’s right, folks, we now have an eight-man bullpen in tow with the welcoming addition of Henry Rodriguez. The A’s shipped out Vin Mazzaro last night following his short-lived season debut, one that was filled with one too many walks for Mr. Bob Geren’s taste.

The A’s skipper is hoping the club will be able to string along a four-man rotation until Justin Duchscherer — scheduled to get a cortisone shot this afternoon — is back in action. Oakland has two days off soon (tomorrow and Monday), so the next time they’ll need a fifth starter is May 15 in Anaheim.

As for Mazzaro, his control is not where it needs to be. Nor is his mindset. He seemed to think he threw pretty well last night, but every pitch following the second inning said otherwise. He needs to realize that settling for a mediocre performance is not acceptable up here — something I don’t think ever sank in during his struggling period last season.

Nevertheless, the A’s now have a fully stocked bullpen, and Geren said all arms — aside from maybe Wuertz — are available for today’s game. I’d assume the manager would prefer to place Rodriguez in a non-pressure situation in his first appearance, but as we saw last night, sometimes that’s not an option. Rodriguez consistently throws in the mid-90s and often hits 100 on the gun, but he also often has command issues, as was the case in spring. Getting him to throw strikes will be key.
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On another note, I’d like to introduce you all to Alex Espinoza, who will be helping me out as an associate reporter for the remainder of the season at all home games. Alex comes to us from grad school at Arizona State, and he’ll be contributing to A’s coverage in a number of ways, so be on the lookout for his work. In the meantime, I’m hoping that Alex’s presence frees me up a bit to not only blog more but work on some more in-depth and feature stories. So it’s a win-win situation for everyone. MLB.com runs a great internship program, one that I can thank for my start here. As some of you may recall, I was Mychael Urban’s intern two years ago and have since climbed the ranks because of that experience.  
 

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