A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Friday, April 08, 2005

Giants game last night

My wife was offered some free tickets at about 4 pm yesterday for the game last night. I have been trying to get into the Giants and not be such a hater, so I said, "Let's go." I even picked up some Giants for my fantasy team. I don't know if the temperature was a higher number or the windspeed. It was either 40 degrees with a 40 mph wind or 50 degrees with a 50 mph wind. Whatever it was, it was really really cold out there. I bought a Giants ski hat, again trying to root for these guys.

Omar Vizquel made a barehand play on a ball up the middle and got the out at first, and that was the lone highlight of the game. Jeff Weaver completely shut them down. You could almost read it on the Giants faces, "We'd be pretty good if only we had our gimpy 40 year old bald guy."

Maybe the fighting latino women in the outfield stands and the massive amount of cops that begat could be counted as another highlight. The Giants fans appeared to be apathetic yet surly. They seemed to be at the game to yell mean things first about LA, then Jeff Kent, then their own team as the game wore on. Who could blame them? It was really cold, they weren't scoring or really threatening, and they were missing their gimpy 40 year old bald guy.

On to Tampa Bay...

Two great wins the last two nights. Tonight, Haren gutted his way through six innings, mixing getting out of jams with dominating. The A's, helped by a bizarre Oriole miscue when Jay Gibbons cut off a throw to first, scored four times in the eighth, highlighted by a Byrnes homer to dead center. And then Kiko Calero came in.

Calero was absolutely unhittable. He was spotting his fastball, and was understandably wild with his slider -- with that much movement, I can't see how you could control it. The hitters -- good hitters -- were completely overmatched. Tejada swung at a 3-1 pitch that almost hit him; we've seen him do this before, of course, but he was astonished at where the ball ended up. Really, he reminded me of Francisco Rodriguez; simply untouchable, if a bit wild.

This bullpen is really something.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Nick Swisher says the AL Rookie of the year will be.....

Robert Baun on the Extra Innings radio show is going to have Nick Swisher on the show every Tuesday this year. Since the A's had no game yesterday, Nick was on tonight. Robert quizzed him on all the post season awards. He had an opinion on all of them, until the last one, when Robert asked, "who will win the AL Rookie of the year?" Nick said, "pass." That was an interesting answer. He doesn't want to say he will win it, but he is not about to say anyone else will either. He is on pace to hit 162 home runs in 2005.

Kirk Saarloos pitched the game of his life tonight. He may pitch a bigger game and pitch better, but how much better than a 6 inning one-hitter can you do? His stuff was MOVING. Every pitch broke either left or right or down. Those Orioles were swinging wildly from the heals and either fouling it off or just whiffing most of the time. Just when the future appeared the darkest for this 2005 team, they get a big lift.

How about Huston Street's debut? He had the beginnings of a ralley on his hands with Sosa up with 2 on and 2 out, but he struck out Sammy Sosa. His first career appearance and he ends a threat by striking out Sammy Sosa! Wow.

Hank Greenwald on the radio said this about Scutaro, "Now up, the guy who refuses to go to triple A, Marco Scutaro." He had 2 walks and 2 knocks. A major leaguer for sure. I wish Crosby the speediest of recoveries, but in the mean time, we can make do with Scutaro. Can't wait to see Haren tomorrow night.

Into the Fray

One game into the season and Crosby and Harden have problems without a clear picture of when they will be 100%. If there is any silver lining to all this it is this: Marco Scutaro was too good and valuable last year to play in AAA this season. I hate to see injuries but I have faith that the A's can be competitive with Scutaro covering SS.

Harden is a different story, I hope this blister problem is recoverable quickly. But Saarloos is a pitcher, I think he could be a poor man's Greg Maddux. The A's made a great deal when they got him from the Astros for a player they were going to lose anyway, Harville. Having to use the number 5 starter on the number 2 game of the season is not optimal, but I wouldn't be surprised if he wins tonight.

Monday, April 04, 2005


A pretty sour Opening Day for A's fans, as the green and gold were blanked by Rodrigo Lopez and Baltimore, 4-0. Barry Zito surrendered all four runs in 6 innings, including a two-run homer to slap-hitting Luis Matos. Meanwhile the lineup managed a meager one walk and eight hits (seven singles).

It gets worse, though. Bobby Crosby was forced to leave the game in the fifth inning, not because of his hand injury but because of upper back pain. Let's hope it's not serious.

And there's more. 38 minor leaguers were suspended for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. 37 of them are guys with no major-league future, but the other one was A's outfield prospect Javier Herrera, one of the true five-tool players in the system and the MVP of last year's Northwest League. Herrera will miss 15 days. David Castillo, another A's farmhand (but not a prospect) will be out 60 days for a repeat offense.

Rich Harden was supposed to have a bullpen session today to test out his blistered pitching hand and determine his availability for Wednesday's game. I haven't yet seen anything on the results of that session.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Let's get this party started!

36 hours until first pitch in Baltimore. I am excited.

The opening day roster was announced today. Huston Street and Keiichi Yabu grabbed the final two spots in the bullpen, with Kirk Saarloos having locked up the fifth starter spot with a pair of solid outings. Marco Scutaro is on the roster, but it seems to be a foregone conclusion that he'll get sent down once Saarloos needs to make a start.

Speaking of locking up, Harden signed a 4-year, 9-million contract, which buys out two of his three arbitration-eligible years. The club has an option for 7 million for his final arbitration-eligible year; the contract doesn't extend into his free agency. This contract is similar to (a bit cheaper than) the Hudson/Mulder/Zito contracts.

Time to play some baseball.

Big news day

The biggest story is that Rich Harden has been signed to a four-year contract extension. The contract will pay him $500k this year, $1M in 2006, $2M in 2007, and $4.5M in 2008 as well as a $1M signing bonus. In addition, the team has a $7M option for 2009 with no buyout.

I think this is a great signing for the A's; in fact, given the market price for starting pitching, I was amazed that Harden's arbitration years could be bought out so cheaply. Even if Harden never improves upon his 2004 numbers, the A's have a solidly above-average starting pitcher locked up through his prime years for an extremely affordable average annual salary of just over $2M. Of course, we all expect Harden to improve, since he's only 23, simply oozes talent, and has never had any injuries to his pitching arm or shoulder. Everybody agrees that Harden has brilliant stuff, and he's consistently been one of the toughest pitchers in the AL to hit. If he can cut his walk rate even a little, he'll be a star--and will not be getting paid like one. Of course, if this best-case scenario does come to pass, he'll be too expensive for the A's when he hits free agency in 2009, but that's a problem for another time--you certainly won't see me rooting for him to plateau.

The other news is final roster cuts. These aren't even particularly final, actually; more on that below. But here we go:

C (2): Kendall, Melhuse
INF (6): Hatteberg, Ellis, Ginter, Crosby, Chavez, Scutaro
OF (5): Kotsay, Byrnes, Swisher, Thomas, Kielty
DH (1): Durazo
SP (5): Zito, Harden, Haren, Blanton, Saarloos
RP (7): Dotel, Cruz, Calero, Duchscherer, Rincon, Yabu, Street

The short version is: Kirk Saarloos won the battle for 5th starter, Seth Etherton (the last guy eliminated from that competition) didn't make the bullpen, Huston Street did. The long version is: it's very complicated. First of all, there are 26 guys listed above (plus Chad Bradford on the DL); that's because Saarloos was a non-roster invitee to camp and isn't technically on the roster yet. He doesn't have to be until he actually plays, which won't be until April 10 according to the schedule. When he is added to the roster, chances are that Scutaro will be optioned to Sacramento. Also, at some point I suppose Street either has been or needs to be added to the 40-man roster, since I don't think he was on it yet. Reliever Tim Harikkala was outrighted off the 40-man and sent to Sacramento.

But that's not all. Harden has a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand, which has been bothering him a little and calls into question whether he'll be able to pitch the second game of the season against Baltimore. He thinks he'll be fine, but if he isn't, then Saarloos will throw that game on Wednesday night instead of his scheduled start the following Sunday, and Scutaro's time with the team will be extremely brief. We'll see what happens; the whole situation won't shake out until Harden throws his bullpen session on Monday, at which point a decision will be made regarding the blister.

Also still undecided is the opening day starter at second base, Ginter or Ellis. Whew. That seems like a lot of uncertainty given how close we are to Opening Day.

All in all, a busy day. But the roster is shaping up, both for this season and well into the future.

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