OAKLAND -- They might be the most famous shoe salesmen since Al Bundy, but pitchers A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily have hung up their shoe horns. Instead of spending their offseason selling footwear, the two pitchers are preparing for their real jobs -- playing Major League Baseball.
Last offseason, Griffin worked at the Nike Running store in the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto. Straily worked at Dick's Sporting Goods in Eugene, Oregon. At the time, A's manager Bob Melvin hadn't even heard of the two minor league pitchers. Now they are strong candidates to open the season in the A's starting rotation.
How quickly things change.
"It's been nice to be able to just focus on our jobs of baseball instead of having to spend 30-40 hours a week doing something else," Straily said while sharing a table with Griffin. "To focus on working out and getting ready for the long season instead of being distracted with everything else going on."
"It's been a pretty easy transition, just not having to go to our jobs in the offseason is a good thing," Griffin added. "That's probably the biggest part."
This spring will be Griffin and Straily's first big league camp. Last year they weren't invited and didn't even want to look at the fields where the invitees practiced. In the spring camp in Phoenix, Arizona some of the minor leaguers get a chance to go across the street to the big league camp and sit in the bullpen to watch. Griffin and Straily didn't want to do that.
"I didn't want to waste a day of spring training because I get to go sit in the bullpen," Straily said. "I told them I'll go across the street when I've earned the right to be there."
There's no doubt the duo belongs there now. Griffin began the season in Double-A before working his way up to the A's roster. He went 7-1 with a 3.06 ERA in 15 starts, and became the first starting pitcher in Oakland history to start his career 6-0.
Straily, who led all of professional baseball with 175 strikeouts at the time of his first call-up to the A's, ended up with 190 punchouts in the minors, the most by an A's prospect since 1971. He ended up 2-1 with a 3.89 ERA in seven starts with Oakland.
Like Griffin, Straily also started the 2012 season in Double-A. They were named the A's Minor League Co-Pitchers of the Year.
Griffin took the mound in some of the A's most important games of the season. He pitched in the American League West-clinching 162nd game against the Rangers and took the mound in the American League Division Series against the Tigers. In those two starts he gave up six earned runs in seven and two-thirds innings, but the A's won both of the games.
"They just kept their confidence in me, even after a showing like the one on the last day of the regular season," Griffin said. "It's really good to know they have that kind of confidence in you. Especially in an elimination game."
So how are they spending their time now that they aren't selling shoes?
They have been doing offseason yoga. Griffin got Straily hooked on the exercise that helps flexibility. He also was there to support his friend on the most important day of his life, as Dan tied the knot with his wife Amanda.
"I was in his wedding," Griffin said proudly.
"He was a groomsman," Straily added.
When A.J. was asked how he fared in such a prominent role, he focused on the end result.
"They're married, yeah." Griffin said with a smile.
Griffin wasn't able to attend the bachelor party which took place in Portland, Oregon. But this photo from the wedding proves that his yoga work is paying off.