0

Emerald City rematch for Bartolo Colon and Felix Hernandez

Greetings from the press box at Safeco Field, the only location in the majors where it’s cold enough to hang meat …

So the A’s and Mariners engage in yet another “opening night.” First there was the regular-season opener in Tokyo, then the A’s home opener last week, and now the Mariners’ home opener to begin this three-game series. Word is that a sellout crowd is expected tonight, as Bartolo Colon and Felix Hernandez square off for the second time in less than a week. This is the third start of the season for each pitcher, and they’ve faced the same opponent every time. That is N-U-T-T-Y, any way you slice it.

Josh Reddick and Cliff Pennington are back in the A’s lineup after leaving Wednesday’s game with minor injuries, so it’s a pretty standard Oakland starting nine …

A’s: Weeks 2B, Crisp LF, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Smith DH, Suzuki C, Barton 1B, Donaldson 3B, Pennington SS; Colon RHP.

Mariners: Figgins LF, Ackley 2B, Ichiro RF, Smoak 1B, Seager 3B, Montero DH, Saunders CF, Olivo C, Ryan SS; Hernandez RHP.

A’s manager Bob Melvin is still mum on his starting pitcher for Tuesday, the first day the A’s need a fifth starter. Things point toward Tyson Ross getting the call though. He had a pretty good outing Thursday for Triple-A Sacramento, going five innings and allowing three runs on five hits. Most importantly, he didn’t walk anybody, and commanding the strike zone is the biggest key for Ross as far as the A’s brass is concerned. He would be on turn to pitch Tuesday, and that’s a big key here. Jarrod Parker also has been solid in two starts for the River Cats (3.00 ERA, 10 Ks, 2 BB in 12 IP), but Melvin’s comments suggest Ross is the guy. “I think over the course of the season all of those guys are still in play,” Melvin said, presumably lumping Brad Peacock into the mix as well. “I think scheduling, for this turn, may factor into it.”

–I’m being dramatic, it’s not really that cold here at Safeco. I’m sure writers in Minnesota have it much worse this time of year. But they lull you into a false sense of security here, leaving the windows closed and then throwing them open shortly before the game starts. The roof is open tonight, and it’s windy. Time to channel my inner Candlestick toughness. …

3

Postgame thoughts as A’s notch their sixth straight victory

Here’s a few odds and ends that didn’t all make it into my story for tomorrow’s paper. …

–How much should we pay attention to Cactus League winning streaks? Not a whole lot. But the A’s notched their sixth victory in a row with Thursday’s 11-7 win over Texas, and manager Bob Melvin thinks there’s something to be said for it. The A’s are 10-3-1, tied with Seattle for the best mark in the Cactus League heading into the Mariners’ game Thursday night. “We have a lot of new guys, and winning is important, whether it’s an intrasquad game or a spring training game,” Melvin said. “If we were 2-12, I’d probably be talking differently. But it does matter. It really does.”

Right now, I think fans should be more enthused about the hot hitting of Jemile Weeks and Cliff Pennington. Weeks, who is batting .419 and homered from both sides of the plate Thursday, is an obvious key in the leadoff spot. I’ve had Pennington pegged as the No. 9 hitter in my projected batting order. But the guy is hitting .464 right now (4 for 4 on Thursday). If he keeps this up, might Melvin be inclined to hit him higher in the order? I still like him hitting ninth, a speedy guy who can turn the lineup over and get Weeks some at-bats with runners on base.

Where would you like to see Pennington hit?

–Melvin applied some sugar-coating on Brad Peacock’s poor start Thursday — 2 1/3 innings, 5 runs, 3 walks. But Peacock was understandably disappointed in himself. He walked two men in the first and then allowed a three-run double to Nelson Cruz on a 1-2 pitch. “I was missing spots,” Peacock said. “I can’t walk guys.” He’s had two shaky outings sandwiched around one good outing. Right now, it’s tough to see him nailing down a rotation spot. If I were choosing winners today for the three open rotation spots, I’d go Tom Milone, Jarrod Parker and Tyson Ross. “He’s going through a little bit of a tough time,” Melvin said of Peacock. “He hasn’t had the greatest draws either with lineups. The results aren’t what he wants to see right now. The stuff’s still good.”

–The first base job is looking like a two-man battle between Brandon Allen and Kila Ka’aihue. That’s what I gleaned from Melvin’s comments Thursday morning when asked about Chris Carter’s spring camp. Carter is hitting .263 with no homers and one RBI. That average is actually better than Ka’aihue’s .211 mark, though Ka’aihue has one homer. But it’s clear, judging how playing time is being doled out, that Carter doesn’t appear to be in the big league plans. Melvin remarked recently that Carter’s at-bats were better in early exhibitions than they have been lately. He has seven strikeouts in 19 at-bats overall.

“We were looking to try to see if his at-bats were better at the big league level. That’s really the only thing that’s been missing,” Melvin said. “He’s ended up feeling comfortable at every level, but (not) at the big league level at this point.”

Interestingly — and surprisingly — Melvin does not count Daric Barton out of the competition. Barton has been slowed all spring by complications as he comes back from shoulder surgery. His throwing has been limited, but he is tentatively set to play defense for the first time Saturday. Melvin does acknowlege, however, that a stint in extended spring training is possible for Barton.

The smart money remains on Allen to be the A’s opening day first baseman …

2

Lefty Tom Milone is making a good impression with A’s

Left-hander Tom Milone, one of four players the A’s obtained from Washington in the Gio Gonzalez trade, has earned good reviews early in spring training. Catcher Kurt Suzuki praised Milone’s command and compared his change-up to that of Dallas Braden. On Tuesday morning, A’s manager Bob Melvin noted that Milone’s fastball doesn’t jump out but it can be deceptive: “He definitely knows where the ball is going. If he stays at 86 or 87 (mph), he’s probably got 89 in his pocket when he needs it. It seems like he’s a polished guy.”

Milone is a candidate for one of at least two rotation spots that are available. If Dallas Braden doesn’t return by mid-April, there will be three spots open behind Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon. Jarrod Parker and Brad Peacock, also obtained in trades, and Tyson Ross and Graham Godfrey are all fighting for those spots as well.

3

Brandon McCarthy throws first bullpen session; rotation candidate Tom Milone impresses

Likely opening day starter Brandon McCarthy was among the A’s pitchers throwing bullpen sessions Sunday during the team’s first workout of the season. McCarthy said he felt good — nothing extraordinary in his mind — and added that he should be ready in plenty of time should he get the call for the opening day start March 28 against the Mariners in Tokyo. A’s manager Bob Melvin has hinted strongly that McCarthy will pitch that game.

Newcomers Tom Milone, Brad Peacock and Ryan Cook also threw from the mound, as did 2011 first-round pick Sonny Gray. Catcher Kurt Suzuki was particularly impressed with Milone, who along with Peacock is competing for a rotation spot. “For the first day of camp, to start spotting up like he was today is pretty impressive,” Suzuki said.

The left-handed Milone is no flame thrower — his strength is his ability to locate his fastball, cutter, curve and changeup. Suzuki said Milone has a terrific changeup, describing it as “Dallas-like,” in reference to fellow A’s lefty Dallas Braden.

Melvin, who took over the club from Bob Geren last June, is in his first spring with the A’s. Early impression: The man is everywhere. Melvin shifted all around the six pitching mounds at the team’s practice facility, getting a look at as many pitchers as he could. A short time later, he was back at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, wandering the infield as position players took batting practice. The A’s have a condensed spring to prepare for their early season opener, and Oakland has more new faces than usual after making several offseason trades. Melvin is trying to familiarize himself with the entire roster. “I’ll look up some bio stuff (on different players) and try to have a conversation on a personal level, and I think that makes them more comfortable,” he said.

There were overcast skies in the morning, but that cleared up and the A’s first workout took place on a sunny afternoon fit for a postcard.

5

A’s trade Outman, Moscoso to Rockies for outfielder Seth Smith

Some A’s news for your Monday morning:

They’ve traded pitchers Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso to the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Seth Smith, who may very well be in their Opening Night lineup at one of the corner outfield spots. I’m not surprised the A’s dealt for Smith, 29, since they’ve been rumored to be interested in him. But I am surprised they dealt both Moscoso and Outman for him. The A’s have holes in the rotation (even if they do finalize a one-year deal with Bartolo Colon), and Moscoso and Outman were considered two candidates to fill out the starting five. The rotation should now go Brandon McCarthy, Dallas Braden (when he’s healthy) and Colon, with two spots to fill. This trade tells me the A’s are comfortable looking at the promising but inexperienced arms they’ve received in other trades this winter to possibly fill in those spots. Consider Jarrod Parker (obtained from AZ in the Trevor Cahill trade) and Brad Peacock and Tom Milone (both received from Washington in the Gio Gonzalez trade) to be prime candidates for rotation spots out of spring training. Graham Godfrey and Tyson Ross will also be in the mix.

Here’s a look at Smith’s career stats with the Rockies. Coco Crisp will start in center field for the A’s, and he could be flanked by Smith and Josh Reddick, with Michael Taylor and Collin Cowgill also possibilities.