Bob Melvin shares a special link with Mr. 3,000, Ichiro

Ichiro Suzuki and A's manager Bob Melvin go way back. Ichiro's best year came when Melvin was managing the Mariners in 2004.

Ichiro Suzuki and A’s manager Bob Melvin go way back. Ichiro’s best year came when Melvin was managing the Mariners in 2004.

Ichiro Suzuki got to 3,000 hits Sunday at age 42.

Before turning 27, Ichiro had exactly zero big league hits. To that point, he’d done all his playing in Japan.

When he came to the U.S. as a member of the Seattle Mariners, his first manager was Lou Piniella, who compared him favorable to Brad Pitt in terms of star power.

Ichiro’s second manager was Bob Melvin. The current A’s skipper’s first managerial job was replacing Piniella. Melvin was in Seattle for two seasons, 2003 and 2004. In those two years, he and the right fielder built up a bond while Ichiro was busy hitting – he had 474 hits in those two seasons, part of a 10-year streak in which Ichiro collected at least 200 hits every year.

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Game 67 wrapup: Doolittle getting closer to being himself again; Ichiro skillfully dekes Moss, Reddick; Straily using extra rope with skill

Two games doesn’t make for a big sample size, but the A’s are feeling better about Sean Doolittle all the time.

For the second time in as many games, Doolittle came out of the A’s bullpen against the Yankees and retired every batter he faced. On Tuesday it was three men. On Friday it was four, including striking out Chris Stewart of the Yankees to end the seventh inning both nights.

Doolittle is not far removed from a stretch of five games in which he’d allowed 10 runs to score. But he said he feels no lack of confidence.

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A’s lefty bats come out of exile starting Wednesday

Tuesday night’s game against the Yankees with C.C. Sabathia pitching was the fifth straight game for the A’s against a left-handed starting pitcher.

In the feast-to-famine department, as the schedule currently stands, Oakland will see just one left-handed starter in the next 21 games, including a stretch of 16 consecutive games against right-handed starters.

It could be a time for John Jaso to break a personal record.

“I was thinking about it, and I think my personal record for consecutive games (catching) is like four or five,’’ Jaso said Tuesday before another day on the bench. Derek Norris, known as Dino in the A’s clubhouse, has caught all five starts against lefties.

It’s been a good three weeks for Norris to get at-bats as the starter as the A’s have faced left-handed starters in 12 of their last 18 games. Wednesday night, that all comes to an end. Jaso, a lefty who usually gets starts against right-handers will start the next two games against Yankees’ right-handers Phil Hughes and Hiroki Kuroda, then after lefty Joe Saunders starts for Seattle Friday, the glut of right-handers set to face the A’s starts.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said he can’t remember a time when one of his teams went back and forth between facing most lefties to now facing mostly right-handers.

Of late, the only left-handed Oakland hitter to get regular at-bats has been right fielder Josh Reddick.

“I’ve been telling our lefties they’re going to be returning from exile,’’ Melvin said.

One of those has been Jaso.

“It’s about time for me to get some time in,’’ Jaso said, laughing.

So far this season, the A’s have gotten more offensive production out of Jaso (274, one homer, 15 RBIs) than from Norris ((.193, two homers, 10 RBIs).

But as Melvin said, there hasn’t been the normal ebb and flow between facing right-handers and left-handers that one usually sees, so both men have had trouble getting their swings honed.

It sounds like for Jaso, at least, that is about to change.

Jaso will get most of the at-bats against right-handers, but not all of them.

“It’s important for him to get some at-bats,’’ Melvin said. “Maybe play in in day games after night games. I haven’t been doing that lately with us facing three right-handers in Milwaukee and four lefties in Chicago. But we’ve definitely got to keep Norris in the mix.


–When Ichiro Suzuki first game to the big leagues with Seattle, Lou Piniella  was his manager, the A’s won 116 games and Ichiro was Rookie of the Year and MVP, so Piniella remains one of Ichiro’s favorites.

Another high on Ichiro’s list is the man who replaced the legendary Piniella in Seattle for a couple of years, current A’s manager Bob Melvin.

“How’s Bob doing?’’ Ichiro asked before Tuesday’s game.

Told that the A’s, before two weekend losses in Chicago had been on a roll winning 18 of 21, Ichiro answered his own question.

“He’s doing OK,’’ the Yankee veteran said.


–Two quotes of the day.

Melvin on playing the Yankees: “For everybody in baseball, you have 29 rivals and the Yankees.’’

Josh Donaldson on making the conversion from catcher last spring to potential All-Star third baseman: “Every time I see a foul ball go off (John) Jaso or Dino (Derek Norris), I go, `What was I thinking?’ ’’


Game 31 wrapup: Jaso’s friendship with Ichiro tested by catch; Reddick searching but still patient

A’s catcher John Jaso thought he’d done on Saturday what Adam Rosales did on Friday, hitting a homer as the first man to bat for the A’s against the Yankees.

The ball was long enough, but it was pulled back into the Yankee stadium playing grounds by Ichiro Suzuki, the Yankee right fielder with home Jaso was a teammate in Seattle last season.

When Ichiro came up to the plate in the second inning for the first time, Jaso said he had some choice words for him.

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A’s face Felix Hernandez in his Cactus League debut

Are the A’s getting a preview of what’s to come opening night? Felix Hernandez takes the mound today for his first start of the spring, and there’s a great chance he’ll also be pitching the April 1 opener at the Oakland Coliseum. Ichiro Suzuki is in Seattle’s lineup today and Hideki Matsui is at DH for the A’s, which is creating a buzz among the many Japanese reporters on hand.

The lineups:


DeJesus CF
Jackson 1B
Matsui DH
Kouzmanoff 3B
Carter LF
Carson RF
Powell C
Tolleson 2B
Green SS

Moscoso RHP


Ichiro RF
Figgins 3B
Gutierrez CF
Carp 1B
Wilson 2B
Ryan SS
Saunders LF
Gimenez C
Mangini DH

Hernandez RHP

–Things are a bit rocky for left-hander Josh Outman right now, and he doesn’t hide that. He’s allowed 11 hits, six walks and six earned runs in three outings (4 2/3 innings). It’s not all that shocking that Outman is struggling after being sidelined since June 2009 by elbow surgery, but he’s still frustrated.

“It sounds kind of stupid to say I felt good (against San Diego on Sunday), but physically my arm felt fine,” Outman said. “Just mechanically, I’m not where I need to be and it’s obvious by the performance. It’s just when I get up to game speed, I’m not where I need to be with making pitches and throwing ball where I need to throw it. The result is not great. It’s good that it’s not the end of March yet. But at the same time, I feel like my command has kind of gone backward as the exertion level is going up.”

–I considered Outman the front-runner for the No. 5 starter spot entering camp, and if he rights the ship I think he still is. But Bobby Cramer and Tyson Ross have sure looked good so far in their push for the job. A’s manager Bob Geren has been impressed with Ross, saying the right-hander hit 95 mph seven times Sunday against the Brewers. And Brandon McCarthy remains in the mix as well. Rich Harden has yet to get back on the mound since suffering a side muscle injury, so his chances of being ready for the start of the season look remote.

–Daric Barton is day-to-day after bruising his right calf during a collision at first base yesterday. Barton jumped for a high throw from Kevin Kouzmanoff and got hit while in the air. “It should be minor,” Barton said. “It’s kind of like a charlie horse, a knot. Just some tightness. The runner hit me. It could have been his foot, knee, shin … Whatever it was, he got me pretty good. He knocked my feet out from under me.”

–Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow were scheduled to throw in a simulated game today, and if that goes well, manager Bob Geren said they’d pitch in their first exhibition Thursday.

–For what it’s worth:

*Outfielder Matt Carson is tied for second in the Cactus League with three doubles.
*Coco Crisp is 7 for 15 (.467) through five games.
*Mark Ellis is 5 for 12 (.417) in four games.
*Conor Jackson is 0 for 14 through five games, but he’s hit a few balls on the nose.
*Michael Taylor is 1 for 13 since hitting a three-run homer last Monday.
*Hideki Matsui is 0 for 8 through four games with four walks.

–I’m heading home for a few days, but Carl Steward is on the scene and will be providing your daily coverage in the paper and on the blog …


Ichiro gets 2,000th hit

Ichiro Suzuki didn’t waste time getting his 2,000th major league hit, ripping a double down the right-field line on the second pitch of today’s game at the Oakland Coliseum. He reached the milestone in his 1,402nd big league game, making him the second fastest in major league history to reach 2,000 (All Simmons did it in 1,390 games). But remember, Suzuki also had 1,278 hits in Japan before coming to the majors. Surprisingly, the A’s didn’t make much of an acknowledgement of Ichiro’s feat other than a brief and small mention on the video board. But he got a nice standing ovation from the crowd and removed his helmet at second base to acknowledge it. …

Landon Powell continues producing whenever he plays: He hit a rocket into the seats in right-center to tie the game, 1-1, in the bottom of the fourth. That’s where we stand …


Sunday pregame update: Thoughts on Gio Gonzalez; Ichiro nearing milestones

Pretty ideal afternoon for baseball at the Coliseum, as the A’s try to split this four-gamer w/Seattle. …

–When we talk about the future of the A’s pitching staff, we tend to focus on Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Vin Mazzaro. But let’s remember that Gio Gonzalez’s development will also help shape the future of this staff. Gonzalez hasn’t looked as sharp in recent outings as he did during that four-start stretch that bridged July and August, when he picked up three wins. He’s still had good stuff — look at his strikeouts (24 in the last three outings). But his command has been off (17 walks over the last four outings).

So I’d say his remaining starts of 2009 will be pretty huge as far as setting him up for next season. I still like Gonzalez’s potential as a starter long-term as opposed to relieving. Some of that will depend on how he develops his change-up as a third pitch, and Bob Geren talked about how Gonzalez continues to work on that pitch. In key situations, he’ll still rely on his fastball and curve, but being able to give hitters another wrinkle to think about will make that fastball and curve even more effective …

–There’s been a larger group of Japanese media covering this A’s-Mariners series than usual, as Ichiro Suzuki is just one hit shy of 2,000 for his major league career. He’s also six hits shy of his ninth straight 200-hit season, which would set a new major league record. A few of us were talking before the game about Ichiro’s potential to rack up these kind of stats into his 40’s. I expect him to do that. You look at the way he flicks at the ball right now on a lot of his hits, and that’s something he can keep doing even as he loses some bat speed. So this string of 200-hit seasons may not stop any time soon if he stays healthy, which he’s done to this point. …

–Here’s today’s lineups

Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Sweeney RF
Hairston DH
Powell C
Ellis 2B
Barton 1B
Patterson LF
Pennington SS

Gonzalez LHP

Ichiro RF
Gutierrez CF
Lopez 1B
Sweeney DH
Beltre 3B
Hall 2B
Johjima C
Wilson SS
Saunders LF

Fister RHP