Today was the beginning of a beautiful journey. At noon, the Oakland Athletics officially opened their Cactus League season. The 2013 season may not have actually started yet, but it feels a whole lot closer now. The A's played a game today!
There is bad news, though. I'm at kind of a loss as to how to recap this game. You see, the downside of Spring Training is that, since the games don't count or matter, nobody pays to broadcast them. This game wasn't on TV, so I couldn't watch it. It was broadcast on the radio, but my tiny 21st century attention span makes it really hard to focus on man I'm hungry, I'm going to go make a sandwich. Hey, are you watching the Oscars tomorrow?
Wait, what were we talking about again? Oh yeah, beer. I mean, the Brewers. And the A's. Playing baseball. Oh, that's right, I was recapping the game. Unfortunately, all I have to go on is the play-by-play, the snippets of radio broadcast which my stupid brain retained, and the comments on the Game Thread. Since the game itself doesn't really matter, I'm going to give a brief rundown of the play-by-play before moving on to individual comments about A's players and their accomplishments/failures.
The thing to remember about Spring Training is that it's all about getting ready for the games which actually count. It's not completely about winning or losing, but also easing into routines, building up arm strength, working on new pitches or batting stances, and getting or staying healthy. Spring Training stats and game results are most interesting when they relate to one or both of the following things: positional battles (in this case, middle infield and bullpen), and top prospects.
That being said, a game did occur today. Here is what happened. First off, Jesse Chavez started for Oakland. That should give you an idea of how seriously to take things at this point in the spring (winter?). In the first inning, he gave up a homer to Ryan Braun, because duh. In the 4th, reliever Justin Thomas walked a pair with one out; his replacement, Fernando Rodriguez, uncorked a wild pitch to move the runners up before allowing an RBI groundout to former Angels prospect Jean Segura. In the 7th, Oakland's Shane Peterson doubled to right off of something called a Santo Manzanillo, and top prospect Michael Choice singled sharply up the middle to score him. That was it. Oakland had 5 of the game's 8 hits, but Milwaukee won 2-1.
Let's have a look at the two interesting parts of Spring Training: positional battles, and top prospects.
All three of the leading second base candidates played today. Jemile Weeks started at 2nd, Grant Green replaced him in the 5th, and Scott Sizemore was the DH. Weeks had a very positive day, lining a double to right to lead off the game and making what was apparently a very impressive play on defense to start a 4-6-3 double play in the 2nd. He grounded out a couple of times, once into a double play, but at least he was hitting it on the ground and not flying out to medium-deep right-center. It's about all that you could hope to see from Weeks: slap hitting and a nice defensive play. (Edit: That is meant as a positive, as in "Weeks did both of the things which I was looking for him to do.")
Sizemore got three plate appearances. He struck out swinging in the 2nd against Mike Fiers, hit a ground-ball single in the 5th, and drew a walk in the 7th. Grant Green had one plate appearance, in which he worked a 3-0 count, thought he'd drawn the walk on 3-1, and then struck out on a foul tip; he also fielded a grounder on defense, drawing praise from Ray Fosse on Green's strong arm.
In his first taste of American baseball, Hiro Nakajima drew a walk in the 1st off of Fiers, but finished 0-for-2 with a strikeout.
There were several notable minor-leaguers in this game. Choice and Peterson made the biggest impacts with their 7th inning hits, but both also struck out in their second plate appearances. Michael Taylor struck out in his only plate appearance, and Luke Montz and Andy Parrino each went 0-for-2. Scott Moore looked impressive, however, drawing a walk in his only plate appearance and playing "a very slick first base," according to Susan Slusser. Moore is a guy who I'll be keeping a close eye on this spring as a potential backup infield option, so it was nice to hear that he got off to a good start.
On the pitching side, Oakland sent 6 men to the mound to cover 8 innings. They were:
Jesse Chavez: Still terrible. Move along.
Justin Thomas: Recorded 4 outs and issued 4 walks. Next.
Fernando Rodriguez: Failed to strand one of his inherited runners, but did end the inning with a strikeout.
Bruce Billings: Threw 2 sharp innings. Billings, acquired in 2011 for Mark Ellis, was impressive as a starter last year for Sacramento. His name doesn't come up a lot due to Oakland's depth of quality starters, but he could be a dark horse candidate to get some emergency starts in Oakland in 2013 (especially if Sonny Gray isn't ready to go when the bell rings).
Mike Ekstrom: Threw a 1-2-3 inning. I just can't shake the feeling that this guy is going to play a significant role in Oakland's bullpen at some point in 2013, just like Jim Miller and Evan Scribner did last year.
Arnold Leon: Issued a leadoff walk to a person named Scooter, which is just unacceptable. I'm assuming he was a child, based on his name. Arnold Leon should really be able to get out a child. He made up for it by inducing a double play and a flyout, but does that really make up for walking a little kid?
And there you have it. That is everything interesting that happened today. Wait, Brandon Moss got a hit. And Seth Smith drew a walk at one point. There, that's literally everything I can think of. What else do you want from me??
The first game is in the books, and it feels so good. Sure, Oakland technically lost the game, but it's irrelevant. A day went by and nobody got injured. That's a win in Oakland terms. And guess what? They play two tomorrow. Welcome back, baseball.