Five Spring Training storylines for Giants, A's

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Five Spring Training storylines for Giants, A's

With pitchers and catchers set to report to Arizona, it's time to examine five Spring Training storylines for both the Giants and A's.

San Francisco Giants
Is Brian Wilsons arm back to full strength?
All the offseason talk surroundingthe Giants involves Buster Poseys health, offensive improvements, and contracttalks with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. But lets not forget that Brian Wilson did not pitch in agame from Aug. 15 to Sept. 18 with elbow issues. Even when on the mound, Wilson did not have thevelocity or control that made him one of the games most intimidating closersin 2010. While Wilsonclaims he feels fine, the Giants plan to hold him out of early Spring Traininggame action. A healthy Wilsongives the Giants a leg up in all the one-run games that are likely to littertheir N.L. West schedule. But if Wilsonstill isnt one hundred percent healed, the Giants bullpen -- and chances toreturn to the playoffs -- would take a major hit.

Will Buster Posey look like he did in 2010 when he returns? I havent seen Buster Poseyslatest X-rays, but if we are to believe him and the Giants staff, Posey shouldbe ready to start behind the plate on Opening Day. However, the Giants needPosey to do more than just start; they need him to produce like themiddle-of-the-order threat he was in 2010. If Poseys health keeps him out ofthe lineup too often or if his bat speed and core strength isnt yet up to parwith where it once was, the Giants offense will be in trouble. Will Brandon Crawford establish himself as a starting shortstop? While his glove is obviouslybig-league caliber, Brandon Crawfords bat leaves a lot to be desired. Theoffensively starved Giants can hardly afford a hole in the lineup, andCrawford, in all likelihood, is just that. But a strong showing in SpringTraining could give the UCLA product a confidence boost heading into theregular season, which he needs if he expects to avoid a return trip to theminor leagues. Is Aubrey Huff in shape and ready to return to his 2010 form? From MVP candidate in 2010 tolaughing stock in 2011, Aubrey Huff has had an interesting two years in Orange and Black. Whetherits the pilates routine or cutting down on the cigarettes and cheap beer,were already hearing plenty of Best Shape of His Life stories about Huffheading into Spring Training. But even if Huff arrives in Arizona looking like Mr. Universe, there arelegitimate concerns that he is too far past his prime to rebound and producelike he did in 2010. Will Brandon Belt make the 25-man roster? Brandon Belt had a tough rookieseason. He struggled at the plate to start his Major League career and justwhen he started to get hot, an injury derailed his momentum. Huffs SpringTraining performance will help Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy decide what to dowith Belt, who has the potential to start at first base, in left field or in Fresno if things dont gohis way. Oakland AsIs Yoenis Cespedes the real deal? The As turned what looked to be adull team into a must-watch product when they signed Cuban defector YoenisCespedes to a four-year deal. The international spotlight will be on the26-year-old slugger as soon as he reports to Spring Training. While he hasfaced some Major League pitching in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, most ofCespedes monster numbers have come against inferior competition. How he faresagainst MLB starters looking to get their Spring Training work in should givefans a glimpse of what type of player he will be in the big leagues. What will the starting lineup and rotation look like? Before the Cespedes signing, theAs may have started the season with Coco Crisp batting in the middle of theorder. Even with Cespedes on board, there are a lot of questions about who willbat where. Other than speedster Jemile Weeks in the leadoff spot, the rest ofthe lineup remains a mystery. The same goes for the starting rotation. BrandonMcCarthy and Bartolo Colon are scheduled to open the season against theMariners in Japan,but the 3-5 starters are still up in the air. Will Dallas Braden be healthyenough to join the rotation some time in April? Will Tommy Milone, Tyson Rossandor Graham Godfrey stake a claim to a slot? While Spring Training lineupsand rotations will feature a few players unlikely to end up playing in Oakland during theregular season, manager Bob Melvin should provide some hints as to what his 1-9and 1-5 will look like come Opening Day. What can Bob Melvin do with a full season at the helm? Melvin went 47-52 in the final 99games of the 2011 season after taking over for the fired Bob Geren in June oflast season. He took over a team that was decimated by injuries and filled withplayers that had issues with their previous manager. With that in mind, Melvingetting the As to play near-.500 ball is pretty impressive. While he willstart the season with a clean slate, he is also dealing with less talent on theroster with the departures of Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill, among others. WhileSpring Training won-loss records are meaningless, it will be interesting towatch Melvin work in his first season in Arizonaas the As manager. Is Bartolo Colon capable of repeating his 2011 season? Bartolo Colon cant fill the voidleft by Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill on the mound, but he will surely try toat the clubhouse buffet table. Sorry, pardon the cheap shot. Colon, the 2005 Cy Young award winner withthe Angels, had an impressive season with the Yankees in 2011 after notpitching in the majors in 2010. He went 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA against some toughoffenses in the A.L. East. The As dont seem to have an ace for 2011, butthey will need Colon to come into Spring Training as in shape as he possiblycan and put up numbers at least as good as he did last season in pinstripes. Will the As new prospects be ready to contribute immediately? Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole, TommyMilone, Derek Norris, Jarrod Parker, Collin Cowgill, Ryan Cook and Josh Reddickare among the plethora of prospects that are now part of the As system aftergeneral manager Billy Beane shipped away players like Gonzalez, Cahill, AndrewBailey, Ryan Sweeney and Craig Breslow. Many of these players need some moreminor league seasoning, putting them in line for major roles with the As in2014 and beyond, when the team hopes to land a new stadium in San Jose. However, some of the acquisitionsmay get a shot to contribute right away. There is no doubt the loss of suchfan-favorites as Cahill and Gonzalez will hurt, but if some of the youngstersput together a strong Spring Training and make the Opening Day roster, it couldhelp fans with their postpartum depression.
Rael Enteen is a web producer with CSNBayArea.com. Follow him on Twitter @RaelEnteenCSN.

A's use three solo shots to avoid sweep vs Mets

A's use three solo shots to avoid sweep vs Mets

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Rookie Matt Chapman quickly atoned for a baserunning blunder by hitting a tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning that sent the Oakland Athletics over the Mets 3-2 Sunday, ending New York's four-game winning streak.

With the July 31 trade deadline nearing and far back in the NL wild-card race, the Mets now start a 10-game trip, and there's no telling whether veterans such as Jay Bruce and Lucas Duda will remain on the team when it returns to Citi Field.

Marcus Semien and Khris Davis also homered for Oakland, helping Bob Melvin post his 999th victory as a big league manager. Semien connected on the sixth pitch of the game, and Davis hit his 28th home run in the fourth.

Michael Conforto hit his 19th homer of the season and fifth of the Mets' 6-4 homestand that followed the All-Star break.

Oakland led 2-1 when Chapman opened the fifth with a double and moved up on a wild pitch by Rafael Montero (1-7). But with no outs, Chapman wandered too far from third base and was picked off by catcher Rene Rivera.

After the Mets tied it on an RBI grounder by Jose Reyes, Chapman launched a drive with two outs in the seventh. Chapman showed pop in the minors, and has homered four times since making his major league debut last month, including a drive Saturday night.

The Athletics made another mistake on the bases in the ninth when Jed Lowrie tried to steal second — with pinch-runner Rajai Davis already there, resulting in an out.

Rookie Daniel Gossett (2-5) gave up two runs and five hits in six innings. He snagged a line drive by Curtis Granderson just above his head in the fifth, preserving Oakland's one-run lead.

Santiago Casilla, a possible trade target in the next two weeks, worked the ninth for his 16th save in 21 chances. After Wilmer Flores singled with one out, pinch-hitter Yoenis Cespedes hit a flyball that got fans hollering it might leave the park, but it was caught way short of the warning track.

The A's improved to 3-10 in interleague play, still the worst mark in the majors. The start of the game was delayed 61 minutes because of rain.

Despite the defeat, it was not a total loss for Montero. He was 0 for 28 at the plate in his major league career before lining a two-out single in the fifth. He broke into a big smile and the ball was thrown into the Mets dugout for safekeeping.

Montero then scampered to third when Conforto struck out on a wild pitch that bounced toward the New York bench. Granderson's bid for a tying hit was caught by the right-handed Gossett, who took off his glove, rotated his left shoulder to work out a kink, spit, tilted his hat and shook his head as he slowly walked off the mound.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Athletics: Righty reliever Ryan Dull (strained knee) could rejoin the A's for the finale of the upcoming four-game series in Toronto. ... 1B Ryon Healy didn't start for the second straight game after getting hit in the head by a bad hop Friday.

Mets: Cespedes and INF Asdrubal Cabrera didn't start, with manager Terry Collins saying the veterans told him they could use a day off.

UP NEXT

Athletics: RHP Chris Smith (0-0, 2.77 ERA) starts in Toronto vs. LHP Francisco Liriano (5-5, 6.15). Smith made his first major league start earlier this month at age 36.

Mets: RHP Jacob deGrom (11-3, 3.37) has won seven straight starts. He has a 1.51 ERA in that span, striking out 50 and walking 10. He'll face Padres LHP Clayton Richard (5-10, 5.35).

A's blow five-run lead, watch Mets walk off with victory

A's blow five-run lead, watch Mets walk off with victory

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Wilmer Flores hit a solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the New York Mets rallied from an early five-run deficit to beat the Oakland Athletics 6-5 Saturday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Pinch-hitter Lucas Duda delivered a tying single with two outs in the eighth off left-hander Daniel CoulombeJay Bruce hit a two-run homer in the sixth to begin New York's comeback, and Jose Reyes tripled twice.

Flores connected on a 96 mph fastball from Simon Castro (0-1), sending a line drive to left field for the second game-ending homer of his career. That sent a frenzied crowd of 39,629 home happy - hours after fans lined up early in the heat outside Citi Field to get their Noah Syndergaard as Thor bobbleheads.

Matt Joyce hit a leadoff home run and Matt Chapman added a prodigious shot for Oakland, which scored four in the first off struggling Mets starter Zack Wheeler.

Sean Manaea took a shutout into the sixth but then wilted after throwing a career-high 115 pitches Sunday in his previous start, a win against Cleveland.

Hansel Robles (6-1) tossed a hitless inning to win for the second straight day.

MAN ON THE MOVE:
With Mets second baseman Neil Walker nearing a return from the disabled list, perhaps Monday in San Diego, Asdrubal Cabrera made his first major league start at third and played flawless defense after working out at the position once. Cabrera's only previous appearance at the hot corner came during his rookie season in 2007 with Cleveland. "He's a middle infielder who's going to play third base. Got great hands, great arm. He'll be fine," manager Terry Collins said. Cabrera initially balked at shifting from shortstop to second when he came off the DL about a month ago.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Athletics: Ryon Healy had a pinch-hit single after getting hit near the left temple by a bad-hop grounder Friday night. Healy went through the concussion protocol and was cleared, manager Bob Melvin said. ... Melvin said he would have news after the game regarding RHP Jharel Cotton, on the DL since July 4 with a blister on his right thumb. Cotton threw a bullpen Friday. Oakland needs a starter for Monday night at Toronto. ... INF-OF Chad Pinder (strained left hamstring) homered Friday on his rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville and could come off the DL when Oakland begins a homestand next weekend. "That's kind of the target area," Melvin said.

Mets: Walker (left hamstring) went 1 for 3 with Triple-A Las Vegas at Memphis in the first game of rehab assignment. The switch-hitter has been on the DL since June 15. ... LHP Josh Smoker threw a scoreless sixth in his first outing since coming off the disabled list Thursday. Smoker had been sidelined since June 14 with a strained left shoulder.

UP NEXT:
Oakland rookie right-hander Daniel Gossett (1-5, 5.79 ERA) makes his eighth career start in Sunday's series finale against RHP Rafael Montero (1-6, 5.40). Gossett has given up 10 homers in 37 1/3 innings after yielding only four in 60 2/3 innings at Triple-A.