Two Battles For Roster Spots, A Game That Felt Real

With somewhere around 1,800 comments in the game threads, do you think people miss baseball? It was great to see all my Wednesday/Friday night people commenting.

Before the game started tonight, Susan Slusser shared an interesting Tweet:

(Forst) did emphasize there are 10 days left before any decision is made (Patterson v Fox)

She also links to the SF Gate Drumbeat article:

Speaking of Fox, I asked Forst how much spring performance will weigh when it comes to the out-of-option guys, Fox and Eric Patterson. He said that it does matter, but that there are 10 days left before the team has to make a decision. I'd assumed coming into the spring that Fox had an edge, especially because the A's just acquired him this winter, but right now, there's no comparison when it comes to the Cactus League stats. Patterson has played well at three different spots (especially at second base) and he's tied for the team lead in hits, with 13. Fox has two hits; his average stands at .063. And his defense has been mediocre at third, maybe adequate in the outfield and much better than I'd thought at catcher.

(I'm ignoring the "adequate in the outfield" comment; I watched him play there live. I'd use words like "horrific", "six-year-old T-ball", "don't quit your day job", and "I hope your team has a DH".)

But I still want Fox on the team. I think we need the power more than we need Patterson (and if Patterson needs to stay, what about Gross?). Fox did not play in tonight's contest, but Eric Patterson did himself no favors (and lost my vote) with his inability to get a bunt down; not once, not twice, but three times in his eighth inning at-bat. I don't hold too much stock in Spring Training numbers, but I find an at-bat like Patterson's tonight unacceptable for someone trying out for the position of utility player. If we're going to go the hit-and-run, base-stealing, smallball-to-scratch-out-runs route in the 2010 season, then our players had better play solid, fundamental baseball. And for Patterson to fail so badly at something that should be automatic for him was disappointing. I'd rather have the power hitter on the bench; at least he can tie the game in the late innings. (Need I say more about Fox's minor league power numbers?)

I was not disappointed with our pitching; however. They should have billed tonight's game as the battle for the fifth starter job, since it turned out to be a chance to showcase both pitchers, and Gio Gonzalez vs. Trevor Cahill turned out to be much more of a riveting contest than we ever could have guessed.

Gio Gonzalez started the game and pitched into the fifth inning, throwing an uneconomical 80+ pitches in his 4+ innings. However, from all accounts, he looked great; he struck out five batters, while walking two and allowing two hits and a run. His only jam was in the second inning when he allowed a sacrifice fly, and at one point, he retired eight in a row; his curveball looked like a "Zito curve" (tm Nico). All in all, a very strong audition for a spot in the starting rotation.

Cahill relieved Gio with one out in the fifth inning and struggled early with his command. He walked the first batter he faced, then allowed a bloop single and a laser single for another Dodgers run. He would give up a double and a run in the sixth, as well, but would pull it together for a dazzling finish. He pitched the rest of the game, allowing just the two runs on four hits, walking two and striking out six, and matching Gio just about pitch for pitch in their contest for the last starter spot. 

Edited to add a crucial point from Helloooo 1st:
Gio did his work against the Dodgers’ good lineup while Cahill did his against the scrubs.

We talked a lot about this during the off-season, and most of us just took for granted that either Duchscherer, Sheets, or Braden (who has now permanently lost feeling in two toes) would be unable to start the season, but miraculously enough, it is shaping up to be a real competition. It was also mentioned on the broadcast that it is highly likely that the one not picked would join Mazzaro in the Triple-A rotation, which I think is 100% the right decision.

My pony in this race has been--and still is--Gio Gonzalez. I want Trevor Cahill to pitch well; the A's need him to pitch well; it is certain that he will be in the rotation at some point and he will be a fixture for the A's in upcoming seasons, but if I had to choose a pitcher right now to throw in Anaheim two Fridays from now it would be Gonzalez. But there isn't a "wrong" choice; they both have looked every bit a major league pitcher.

Oh, did you want the game recap? The Dodgers struck for their three runs while their pitchers were hurling a no-hitter. Cust broke it up with a single and Suzuki hit a homerun the next inning for the A's first run. Chavez scored their second run (pam5981: NOOOOOOOO CHAVY DON'T SLIDE!!!!), and Rosales drove in the tying run with a sac fly. (Oh, and Taylor had a hit, too.)

The A's threatened in the ninth, but a sliding catch ended the game in a tie. 3-3 is your final score. We do it again tomorrow!

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