Athletics

Barton hurt, Outman rocked in A's split squad loss

Barton hurt, Outman rocked in A's split squad loss

March 6, 2011BOXSCORE A'SVIDEOMLBPAGE MLBSCOREBOARD
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Heath Bell said he was nervous. It didn't show in his performance.Bell struck out a pair of hitters in a scoreless inning and the San Diego Padres rallied for a 7-6 win over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.The two-time NL All-Star had missed San Diego's first seven exhibition games with a strained left calf. Bell, who was second in the NL with 47 saves and tied for eighth in voting for the NL Cy Young Award, threw 10 of 12 pitches for strikes."I felt really good," he said. "I wanted to go out there and throw low strikes and I think I accomplished that except for the breaking stuff."Padres starting pitcher Mat Latos wasn't as sharp. Latos was pulled after getting just two outs. He allowed three runs on two hits and two walks. In his previous start, Latos walked four batters.Latos, who was 14-10 with a 2.92 ERA last season, felt like he made the proper technical adjustments but wasn't getting calls from plate umpire Ron Kulpa."I executed what I needed to do," Latos said. "I was finishing, following through. I feel like I was throwing a lot more strikes than what was being called. There's nothing I can do about it."Padres manager Bud Black doesn't see any issues with Latos' pitches. But he does believe Latos isn't pitching in rhythm and has some issues he must resolve before his next outing."Mat again was a little too erratic," Black said. "He doesn't look comfortable.Athletics first baseman Daric Barton left the game early after getting hit in the calf by Logan Forsythe while leaping for a high throw in the fourth inning."He just got kicked in the calf," Skinner said. "It's nothing serious."Oakland would like to see Bobby Cramer replicate his outing Sunday as much as possible. The left-hander, who is fighting for the fifth spot in the A's starting rotation, allowed a hit and a walk in three scoreless innings."Cramer threw the ball well out there," Oakland bench coach Joel Skinner said. "And he fielded his position so everything went good."Cramer's main competition for the spot, Josh Outman, didn't fare as well. Outman allowed four runs on five hits and three walks and only lasted 1 1-3 innings.San Diego's Jorge Cantu belted a two-run shot off Outman in the second inning. The Padres won in the ninth inning on Mike Baxter's one-out sacrifice fly to right field.Josh Willingham, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Kurt Suzuki each had an RBI for Oakland. Suzuki went 2 for 3 with a double. San Diego is hopeful center fielder Cameron Maybin can return to the lineup Monday after missing five games with concussion-like symptoms.Maybin took batting practice Sunday after a second straight day of improved health. It was the second time Maybin has swung a bat since he hit his head on a post on the outfield fence during a pregame workout Wednesday morning. Maybin said he experienced blurry vision and headaches for 72 hours after hitting his head."The last two days I've felt pretty good," Maybin said. "Hopefully I'll be back out there soon."Maybin said he took 50-60 swings in the batting cage Saturday. The Padres have held Maybin out of the lineup as a precaution."Hopefully (Monday) he can get in there," Black said.

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

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A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

OAKLAND — Matt Olson is aware of the company he’s keeping in the A’s record books.

His reaction is a mix of reverence and a shrug-of-the-shoulders type humbleness.

That’s the personality of the A’s rookie first baseman. Even as the conversation about him and his awe-inspiring home run pace grows louder, he remains the same steady, grounded presence.

“I’m happy for him,” A’s hitting coach Darren Bush said. “The guy’s worked his butt off. He’s the same today as was when he first got called up.”

Olson cleared the fences once again Friday night, his two-run homer off Nick Martinez in the second inning helping the A’s to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. At this point, it’s much more newsworthy when Olson doesn’t homer than when he does.

He’s crammed 24 homers into just 57 games this season. Taking into account his first call-up last September, and Olson’s 24 homers over the first 68 games of his career are the second-most in the history of major league baseball over that span to open a career. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger also hit 24 and only the White Sox’s Jose Abreu, with 25, hit more over his first 68.

Olson’s 13 homers in September are the most by any rookie in major league history for the month, and there’s still eight games left in it. But Olson’s hot streak dates back to Aug. 27. He’s hit a major league-best 16 homers in 23 games since then.

Among rookies in A’s history, only Mark McGwire (49) in 1987 and Jose Canseco (33) in 1986 have hit more than Olson’s 24. But neither Bash Brother, nor any other player in Oakland history, ever hit 15 homers in a 21-game span as Olson recently did.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Olson said before Friday’s game. “I grew up with a Mark McGwire poster on my wall. It’s a little surreal.”

Who saw this coming?

Olson went 2-for-21 without a single RBI in his first taste of the bigs last September. Then he shuttled five times between Triple-A and the majors this season before getting called up once again Aug. 8 and being told he’d get a shot as the A’s regular first baseman with Yonder Alonso having been traded. The constant shuttling took its toll, though Olson never let on about that publicly to reporters.

“You could see (the frustration),” said Ryan Christenson, his manager at Triple-A. “When he walks in and you tell him ‘You’re getting sent up,’ and he’s like, ‘Well, how many days is it for this time?’ He wouldn’t voice it necessarily, but you could sense it.”

Olson, with help from Bush and others, made an adjustment coming into this season. He began holding his hands out farther away from his body to begin his swing. With his 6-foot-5 frame, Olson had found himself getting jammed inside. Then in trying to adjust to that, he couldn’t square up pitches on the outer half.

“Now, his hands are firing from where he wants them to,” Bush said. “He doesn’t have to fight. You want your hands to have a clean path. Now he can stay in there, stay behind the ball, let his hands work for him.”

Olson, a 23-year-old from Lilburn, Ga., takes this sudden burst of success — and attention — in stride.

“I’ve been hit with so many stats here in the past week, I can’t even keep track of who’s done what, and honestly what I’ve done,” he said. “I kind of try to ignore all that.”

That’s OK. Others are taking plenty of notice.

 

As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

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As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

LOS ANGELES — The Giants left their dugout quickly after Friday’s loss, escaping a celebration on the mound and a fireworks show in the sky. As Dodger Stadium shook with cheers, Bruce Bochy sat in the visiting clubhouse and smiled. He nodded at his laptop, which earlier had been used to pull up highlights of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani. 

“He’s good,” Bochy said, laughing. “I absolutely would play him every day.”

Earlier in the week, when it became known that Bobby Evans and Jeremy Shelley were headed to Japan to scout Otani, Bochy said he couldn’t imagine a player pitching and then moving to the outfield between starts. What changed? 

Perhaps it was the tape Bochy saw. Otani throws 100 mph and hits homers with ease. Or perhaps it was the game he watched Friday. The Giants lost for the 94th time, with the big blow coming from a 22-year-old Dodgers star. Cody Bellinger’s blast was the difference in a 4-2 win, and the Giants don’t have a Bellinger, or anything close. Otani, 23, is a long shot for a team that very well could finish with the worst record in baseball. Still, he’s the kind of talent that could help pull the Giants closer in a hurry. He’s the  kind of talent they haven’t developed in years, and Bochy certainly sounded a bit wistful as he talked of the power Bellinger has put on display. 

“You call up a guy and he does that — that just doesn’t happen,” he said. “It’s a rare deal.”

The ninth inning of the Dodgers’ clincher reinforced that point for the Giants. They got a homer from Pablo Sandoval, but he’s playing only because Christian Arroyo — the Giants’ best prospect bet this year — is hurt. Ryder Jones, their 23-year-old prospect, struck out to end the night, dropping his average to .180. 

That set off a celebration for Bellinger and the Dodgers. They have won five straight NL West titles, with three of the last four clinched against the Giants. 

“Congrats to them,” Bochy said. “They’ve had a tremendous year across the board, and they’ve played great baseball. They brought some guys up that really did a great job for them. It’s well deserved.”

Bochy said it was not difficult to watch this one. The division has been wrapped up for months, with only a September slide keeping the Dodgers from clinching earlier. 

“We knew what we were facing here,” Bochy said. 

The Giants have two more against the Dodgers and then six more before a long winter. The Dodgers, on the other hand, will host an NLDS series here at Dodger Stadium. Both Bochy and starter Jeff Samardzija made the same observation, that the Dodgers will have a hard time cutting their deep roster down to 25 postseason players. 

That’s a nice problem to have. It’s a foreign one right now for the Giants, who have a serious talent gap and no clear solutions internally. It’s no wonder, then, that Bochy has all of a sudden become so intrigued by a wondrous talent overseas.