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Is 2008 bye, bye baby?

OK, let’s start with the optimist’s refrain.

IT’S ONLY SPRING TRAINING!!

Alright, enough of that.  If you are optimistic about the Giants these days, then you’re one of those folks who thinks, really, a win in the California Lotto is going to happen this week. This team is hideous right now, and if you read about the deathly silence in the clubhouse, it seems that fact may be setting in with the inmates.

Barry Zito’s latest miserable outing is only the tip of the ‘berg. Zito is well on his way to being the biggest free-agent bust in baseball history, and the fact that he’s tinkering with his motion again means his head is not right. Again! He can point to excess motion  and “fewer moving parts,” but perhaps it’s all code for “He’s not very good anymore!”

Now, I like Barry a lot. He’s a little out there, and he’s become much more aloof than in his early days as an Athletic, but he’s not anti-social or stand-offish. So he’s the kind of guy I’d like to see have success. I just don’t see it happening. His fastball is average, and his curveball is nowhere near what it was. Talked to scouts in Arizona, and they think that the early struggles Barry is having is not a mirage but rather what he is. Yikes!

Same can go for the Giants, who to this point have the worst record in the Cactus League and have shown they struggle with the routine play. You have to feel for manager Bruce Bochy, who has nowhere near the solutions to all the questions and must be wondering how he got himself into this mess.

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Cactus League loss

It’s in the books. A’s lose 7-1 in their Cactus League opener to Milwaukee. I imagine they’ll mull it over for all of 10 seconds, before moving on to the next task at hand — a morning workout before the home opener vs. the Brewers at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

Dan Johnson hit a solo homer for the only A’s run, a good start for his bid to earn a roster spot. Tomorrow, we get to see Mike Sweeney for the first time.

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A very ordinary Joe

Joe Blanton’s exhibition opener is in the books, and the A’s pitcher can rest content to know that spring training, in his words, “is what it is.”

The A’s opening-day starter was ripped six runs in two innings against the Milwaukee Brewers in his first Cactus-League outing. He was scheduled to pitch three innings, but because he was battered about, it took him only two to reach the 45-pitch limit.

The Brewers tattooed Blanton for four extra-base hits among the eight he allowed. Again, no reason for panic, because the ball flies in Arizona and pitchers are working on specific things. That said, pitchers are normally ahead of hitters this time of year, so to see balls hit so hard so often was a tad noticeable.

“I just threw strikes,” Blanton said. “That’s all I wanted to do. I mean, it starts getting frustrating. I really wanted to work on fastball command, and they were just swinging at everything, and I was throwing strikes. So, it kind of forces you to start throwing offspeed pitches.”

Blanton likely will go again in four days.

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The A”s Cactus Opener

It’s amazing the things you notice when you’re waiting for Cactus League ball to start. Earlier today, A’s starter Joe Blanton offered up one of the most impressive sights you’ll ever see.

Blanton’s pre-game long toss took him to nearly the center-field warning track. There, he threw the ball near straight as an arrow to catcher Justin Knoedler who was standing down the left-field foul line. Blanton unleashed the ball at least 70 yards in the air with each toss, and at least outwardly, it seemed to take as much effort as tossing BP to a 7-year-old.

Anyway, that’s the only impressive thing about his day so far. Blanton was ripped for three runs by Milwaukee in his opening inning, the lowlights of which where Prince Fielder’s laser double to left-center and Ryan Braun’s home run to dead center.

Now, repeat the mantra: It’s only spring-training.

By the way, the A’s may have suffered their first injury of the Cactus League. Ryan Sweeney, one of the men in the Nick Swisher deal, seemed to hurt himself when he clipped first baseman Fielder while running to first and has been replaced by Aaron Cunningham. 

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Play Ball

The saying around baseball is that you don’t fall in love with a guy in the spring or during the last month of the season. Therefore, the A’s say they’re keeping their expectations for Daric Barton in check.

But the lineup that manager Bob Geren posted before their first Cactus League game against Milwaukee today gives you a hint as to what they really think. Barton is hitting third, and while it is just spring training, the opening games usually reveal a hint as to what the ideal lineup would look like.

For the record, here is the starting nine for the Cactus opener.

RF Travis Buck

2B Mark Ellis

1B Daric Barton

LF Emil Brown

DH Dan Johnson

SS Bobby Crosby

3B Jack Hannahan

CF Chris Denorfia

C Justin Knoedler

RHP Joe Blanton

Couple of thoughts. 1) Don’t worry about Brown hitting cleanup when the season starts; he’s there because Jack Cust got scratched with the flu. 2) Johnson gets the initial call (at DH) over Mike Sweeney.

Manager Bob Geren told the media it shouldn’t read anything into the latter move. The thought is that Johnson and Sweeney will get a boatload of AB’s during the exhbition season, and the fact that Cust originally was down to play left field is indication of that. The A’s, more than likely, will have to make a tough decision regarding one of those two, and the competition starts now.

More updates as the Cactus League opener progresses.