A's notebook: Matsui reacts to Braden's prank


A's notebook: Matsui reacts to Braden's prank

Feb. 20, 2011

PHOENIX -- Sunday was reporting day for position players at A's camp, but there weren't many position players to be found at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.That's just how Oakland manager Bob Geren had hoped it would be. Most of the team's position players have been at camp and working out daily, some arriving even before pitchers and catchers reported, so Geren "strongly suggested" to them that they stay away Sunday and rest up for Monday's first full-squad workout."I didn't tell them they couldn't come," Geren said. "But a lot of these guys have been working out every day, and I thought it would be a good idea for them to take advantage of what might be their last day off for a long time. The majority of them listened."BRADEN'S PET LIZARD
One of the handful of position players who was on hand was Hideki Matsui, and resident clubhouse clown Dallas Braden came up with a unique way to welcome him to the clubhouse.Playing off Matsui's nickname, Braden dressed a blow-up doll of Godzilla -- he said he bought it online -- in an A's jersey and cap, with a jock strap and white shoes, and had it waiting in front of the Japanese superstar's locker when he arrived."I got tired of waiting for the real Godzilla to get here, so I went out and got my own," Braden said.Matsui displayed a deft comic touch when he saw the creature, remaining silent and stoic just long enough to make everyone in on the joke wonder if they'd made a big mistake."There was a moment there," Geren said, "when we didn't know if he thought it was funny."Only then did Matsui break into a smile, allowing his deferential young new teammate to breathe again.MORE GODZILLA
Surrounded by the large crowd of Japanese media assigned to the Matsui beat, Geren said Matsui will bat fourth or fifth in the lineup, depending on who bats second and third.It's more likely to be fifth, because the second and third spots are almost sure to be occupied by Daric Barton and David DeJesus, though not necessarily in that order. The order doesn't much matter because Barton and DeJesus are left-handed hitters, as is Matsui, and Geren is a big fan of going left-right-left in the order as much as possible.Josh Willingham, a right-handed hitter, might have the best pure power on the team anyway, so he's a natural fit at cleanup.Matsui was signed to be Oakand's full-time DH, but on Saturday he said he hoped to play in the outfield some this spring, and Geren likes the idea of Matsui keeping his defensive skills from rusting up entirely. Matsui has appeared in 18 games as an outfielder since the end of the 2008 season.FINISH WITH A FLOURISH
The A's timed their workout perfectly, with the last pitch of the last scheduled bullpen session being delivered about 10 seconds before the darkish sky finally delivered on its morning-long threat.The pitcher who wrapped things up was right-hander Fautino De Los Santos, a tantalizingly talented 25-year-old who has a fastball that's been clocked in triple digits."Gasolina," Geren said to bench coach Joel Skinner as they watched De Los Santos unleash a series of punishing fastballs.Acquired in the trade that sent Nick Swisher to the White Sox before the 2008 season, De Los Santos is a converted starter who hasn't played above Double-A ball, but as soon as he shows he can harness his electric stuff and dramatically improve upon his 2010 average of 4.5 walks per nine innings, he'll be on the fast track for a job in the big-league bullpen.

Hoesen leads the ways as Earthquakes take down Real Salt Lake


Hoesen leads the ways as Earthquakes take down Real Salt Lake


SAN JOSE — Danny Hoesen scored his second goal of the season and assisted on Marco Urena's second goal, lifting the San Jose Earthquakes to a 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on Saturday night.

Hoesen opened the scoring in the 13th minute, off a long cross from Nick Lima. After touching the ball down, Hoesen gathered it off a defender's foot, stepped inside and unleashed a left footer into the top corner from just off the penalty spot.

Hoesen's long through ball down the right side sent Urena free and from a tight angle he rolled the ball past Nick Rimando in the 68th minute.

San Jose (6-6-5), which has battled injuries and call-ups to score just 16 goals in 16 games, won for just the second time in its last seven games.

Lima picked up two yellow cards in the second half and the Quakes played a man down from the 71st minute.

David Bingham made only one save in each half but was denied his seventh shutout when Jose Hernandez scored his second goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time for Salt Lake (5-11-2).

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

SAN FRANCISCO -- Practically speaking, the 50th loss is no different than the one before or the one after, but this sport is built on milestones, and this one came quickly.

The Giants lost their 50th game on August 12 last year. This season, it was clinched when Ryder Jones grounded out in his fourth career at-bat, handing the Mets a 5-2 win on June 24. 

Bruce Bochy called losing 50 of your first 77 games "hard to believe" and "embarrassing." Johnny Cueto, who went seven strong, said the reality was "hard and sad." Brandon Belt, who got Cueto off the hook for a loss, agreed with his manager.

"That's a pretty good word to use -- it is embarrassing to come out and lose every day, especially with the group of guys we have," Belt said. "When you're losing as much as this, it is embarrassing. We're trying to do whatever we can to turn this thing around."

Lately, that has meant changes to the roster. It is officially audition season, and in that respect, it was not a particularly inspiring day for the bullpen. The Giants felt they would have a better mix this year, but it hasn't played out. Instead, they're once again trying to find pieces for the next successful Giants bullpen.

With Hunter Strickland suspended and Derek Law in the minors, two young relievers, a middle-innings stalwart, and a newcomer pitched the final two frames. They gave up four runs.

Sam Dyson was the first on the mound in the eighth. Belt had homered a few minutes earlier, tying a good starter's duel. Dyson gave up a leadoff triple to Curtis Granderson and walked Asdrubal Cabrera before throwing two good sliders past Yoenis Cespedes for the strikeout. With two lefties coming up and the go-ahead run still on third, Bochy turned to Steven Okert. He immediately gave up a seeing-eye RBI single to Jay Bruce. Wilmer Flores doubled off George Kontos later in the frame to make it 3-1. 

In the ninth, Kyle Crick showed some of the wildness that kept him in the minors for seven years. He, too, gave up a leadoff triple, a sin you always pay for. A walk helped put another run into scoring position and a wild pitch extended the Mets’ lead to four. 

Before the game, Bochy talked of getting an extended look at Jones. He was 0-for-4 in his first big league game but he’ll be back out there tomorrow. It’s time to fight for a job, and the same holds true of some relievers who didn’t fare well Saturday. It is a group with a closer locked into a longterm deal and little else decided. 

Are Strickland or Law eighth-inning guys? Will Dyson be a worthwhile reclamation project? Will Kontos be back, and will he carve out a different role? Are Okert and Josh Osich capable of giving Bochy lefties he trusts? Is Crick’s improvement in Triple-A a sign of things to come? There are many questions to be answered over the next three months. 

“This is a good time for them, this is what players get up here for, to show what they can do,” Bochy said. “Because of our situation, we’re going to take a look at these guys and we know there are going to be growing pains.”