Cespedes batting fifth in Oakland debut
Nevermind the pitching-friendly confines of the Oakland Coliseum. Yoenis Cespedes, gradually acclimating to his new digs, says if he hits the ball well, “the ball’s gone.”
The A’s newest outfielder is more concerned about a different aspect of his big home: the weather. When asked about the cold conditions in the Bay Area, Cespedes smiled and told reporters through translator Ariel Prieto he’s going to try to “fix it.”
“He’s going to try to do something about it,” Prieto said, laughing.
Cespedes appears capable of many things, but controlling the temperature likely isn’t one of them. In the meantime, he’ll focus on what he can manage, like working his way up in the lineup. On Friday, for the club’s home opener and his first regular-season game in Oakland, Cespedes was spotted in the fifth spot of the order after batting seventh and sixth, respectively, in the two-game Opening Series in Japan last week.
“I’ve said all along, we expect him to be a middle-of-the-order bat,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s got tremendous power. He’s got the ability to drive in runs. We’re not trying to put too much on his plate. He’s got enough going on, but at some point in time we’ll sneak him up there and maybe inching him up day by day or game by game, he won’t notice when he’s in the four hole one day.”
Either way, it likely wouldn’t phase the right-handed hitter, who entered the day as one of only two batters — Cliff Pennington being the other — who has hit safely in each of the first two games.
“I feel a lot better, really relaxed,” Cespedes said.
The 26-year-old Cuban defector relayed feelings of “great and happy at the same time” when speaking of his Oakland debut and said he hopes the fans “support me in the good times and bad times.”
“I’m going to try to look for good pitches and make good contact,” he said. “No matter how I hit the ball, if I find the ball I’m looking for, if I hit it and if it’s gone, it’s gone.”
The spacious outfield, meanwhile, shouldn’t prove too heavy a task for the speedster, who has been relying on left fielder Coco Crisp for some insight into the park’s characteristics. Right fielder Josh Reddick, also new to Oakland, believes Cespedes is acclimating just fine and jokingly called him a “ball hog.”
“I guess that’s a good thing, right?” Reddick said. “He’s definitely taking charge out there, and that’s what you want out of your center fielder. You just have to learn to know where he’s out and get out of his way, because he’s a little bit bigger than I am, so I don’t want to be running into him.”
The full lineup for tonight’s home opener: Weeks 2B, Crisp LF, Reddick RF, Gomes DH, Cespedes CF, Suzuki C, Donaldson 3B, Ka’aihue 1B, Pennington SS
And for the Mariners: Figgins LF, Ackley 2B, Ichiro RF, Smoak 1B, Montero DH, Seager 3B, Olivo C, Saunders CF, Ryan SS
Melvin pointed to Reddick’s consistency when discussing his decision to hit him third. Last year, while with Boston, Reddick never hit higher than fifth, but when I talked with him about the move today, he said he almost treats the two spots the same. It’s the fourth hole, he said, that adds a little too much pressure for him to hit the long ball. While batting third, he can just worry about putting the ball in play enough for tablesetters Jemile Weeks and Coco Crisp to get around the bases.
Reddick’s positioning forced Melvin to place Pennington all the way down in the ninth spot – a move, he said, that not necessarily reflects Pennington but, rather, Reddick. He likes having Pennington batting next to fellow speedsters Weeks and Crisp.
…Like we saw against Seattle lefty Jason Vargas last week, it’s Jonny Gomes getting the nod at DH tonight. Expect him to see the majority of action vs. southpaws, with Seth Smith likely reserved for the right-handers.
…On the mound, it’s Brandon McCarthy again, with Bartolo Colon set for tomorrow’s start. McCarthy pitched 7 innings in his first start, and Colon went 8, marking the first time since 1991 the A’s had their starters pitch at least 7 frames in each of the first two games.
…One final note: Seven A’s players (Balfour, Blevins, Crisp, Fuentes, McCarthy, Pennington, Suzuki) returned from last year’s Opening Day roster. Those are the fewest returning players from a previous OD roster since OD rosters were first available in 1992.