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Griffin uses guitar to tune up for battle with Yanks

For most starting pitchers, the pregame ritual on the road is the same.

You take the team bus to the ballpark, meaning you’re the last man to get to the clubhouse. You watch some video, go over notes on your opponent and sit down for a conference with the pitching coach and catcher.

Maybe in the downtime you might fiddle around on the iPad or plug the headphones into the iPod and lose yourself in some tunes.

A’s right-hander A.J. Griffin is not from that mold. Griffin spent the better part of an hour in the visitor’s clubhouse in Yankee Stadium being musical, and it seemed as if the Yankees were the furthest thing on his mind.

    Griffin was sitting on one of the four long leather sofas in the clubhouse when the clubhouse was opened to the media. He was playing his guitar, singing first in English, then in Spanish, then in French, and later back to Spanish and English again.

For a while he was sitting right next to outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, so much so that manager Bob Melvin said “I thought he was serenading him.’’

And how is Griffin?

“He’s pretty good,’’ Melvin said. “But don’t tell him that.’’

Catcher John Jaso, another music fiend who took over playing the guitar at one point when Griffin took a break, said both Griffin’s guitar playing and voice were pretty decent.

“He can play,’’ Jaso said. “And he’s got a nice guitar.’’

Melvin said Griffin is no Randy Johnson or Curt Schillling, two pitchers famous for their solitary pregame rituals.

“Randy Johnson would not be one of those guys,’’ Melvin said. “And neither was Curt Schilling. The thing about Griffin is that you can’t tell (from his actions) what day he’s pitching. He is the same every day.’’

Melvin told the story of Griffin’s first big league start against the San Francisco Giants. Buster Posey hit a two-run homer off him in the first inning, and Griffin came in and told his new teammates that was all the Giants were getting that day. Then he went out and pitched well enough to make it so.

It’s too soon to tell, perhaps, but that attitude seems to foster a sense of fearlessness in Griffin, who was a winner right from the start when he jumped from the minor leagues to Oakland last year (7-1, 3.06) and who has been a little less consistent this year (2-2, 4.65).

But if being able to be relaxed in Yankee Stadium is a virtue, Griffin is a virtuoso.

John Hickey

Returning to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.