Rewind: Cespedes delivers in front of 'home' crowd

Rewind: Cespedes delivers in front of 'home' crowd
June 27, 2014, 10:00 pm
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There are a lot of Cuban fans over here. I know they want to see me play, and they don’t have that chance very often because we play most of the time on the West (Coast). I want to try to give the best for them.
Yoenis Cespedes

So frequently is Yoenis Cespedes throwing out runners that his manager is becoming a tough critic.

Commenting on Cespedes’ throw to the plate Friday to nail Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, A’s skipper Bob Melvin dished out praise and took a light-hearted poke at his left fielder.

“For him, we’ve seen better,” Melvin said with a grin. “It was still an unbelievable throw. There are not many guys that make that throw. … I don’t want to say it was pedestrian for him, but we’ve seen it.”

Cespedes’ fingerprints were all over a 9-5 A’s victory over the Marlins, a win that was much tougher to secure than the score would indicate. Cespedes went 2-for-4 and scored three runs, and he plated the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth when his single to right scored Coco Crisp on a close call at home that was overturned after a replay review.

[INSTANT REPLAY: A's start strong, finish strong over Marlins]

His offense alone has been critical to Oakland throughout June. He’s hitting .330 for the month (31-for-94), and during his current 11-game hitting streak, Cespedes is 16-for-43 with 13 RBI.

But what everyone will be talking about in Friday’s game, once again, is his throwing arm. He racked up his major league-leading 10th outfield assist when he uncorked a strike to the plate to get Stanton, who tried to score from second on Garrett Jones’ two-out single.

It’s well-documented that Cespedes seems to save his best for high-profile games, and a regular-season contest at Marlins Park before a crowd of 18,666 wouldn’t typically fall in that category. But several members of Cespedes’ family live in the Miami area. The outfielder makes his own offseason home in nearby Pompano Beach. This weekend is as close to a true “home” series as it can get for Cespedes in the major leagues.

He’s a motivated man, as he explained after the game.

“There are a lot of Cuban fans over here,” Cespedes said through interpreter Ariel Prieto. “I know they want to see me play, and they don’t have that chance very often because we play most of the time on the West (Coast). I want to try to give the best for them.”

When it comes to All-Star voting, Cespedes is putting the heat on Toronto’s Melky Cabrera for the American League’s third starting outfield spot. And if he doesn’t end up on the AL squad, there is still the dicey issue of the Home Run Derby.

[RELATED: A's poised to have multiple All-Star starters]

Cespedes, who electrified a national audience in winning last year’s Derby at Citi Field, badly wants to compete this season. A’s general manager Billy Beane, in e-mail correspondence with the San Francisco Chronicle, made it clear that he’d prefer Cespedes not participate, but said the final decision is Cespedes’.

This will be fascinating theatre to watch unfold as the All-Star festivities approach. The A’s have every reason to want Cespedes to steer clear of the Derby. He’s in a nice groove at the plate right now, and as Melvin noted: “He’s not trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark to left field. He’s looking for a ball out over the plate, and if it’s there, to drive it the other way like he did (Friday).”

The A’s don’t need the Home Run Derby messing with Cespedes’ current mindset at the plate. More importantly, they don’t need him getting injured in the event. Remember that he missed the first four games last season coming out of the All-Star break with a wrist injury, and though the A’s publicly didn’t draw a link between the injury and his participation in the Derby, it didn’t take a stretch of the imagination to connect the dots.

Were Cespedes not to participate, the Derby surely will be worse off for it. But the left fielder doesn’t need such a showcase to flaunt his skills. They’re on display on any given night during the regular season, and not just when he has a bat in his hands.

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