Esteban Loaiza tries to shake off the shoulder soreness he experienced the last time out to face the Padres and their ace Jake Peavy.
It might be time to look back and realize what we've learned so far during spring training:
- Yes, it's spring training, but Antonio Perez is showing that he wasn't nearly as bad as his inconsistent experiences last year showed. Dude is sporting an OPS over 1.000. Who knows how to take the stats since they've been accumulated during spring training in Arizona where the ball just jumps for guys, but I was a firm believer all last year that Perez is a good hitter who was just the kind of player who needed regular action to remain sharp. This is an interesting problem because Perez doesn't really have a way to get regular ABs unless he is traded or someone is injured. If Crosby comes back and proves he is healthy, then Perez is behind Scutaro as a back up. And Donnie Murphy is also proving that he might be a quality pickup by the A's. The team is definitely not lacking right now for options coming off the bench in the infield. The problem is that the only one that is the proven commodity who doesn't seem Ginterized if he isn't playing is Scutaro. And that's a valuable skill to have.
- We're going to find out really quickly if spring training stats mean something or not. If Joe Kennedy continues to get whacked like a pinata every time he takes the mound, the A's might feel desperate enough to make a move for someone else out there. The problem is that there aren't really options that are that much better for a fifth starter. The A's could use their remarkable depth in the bullpen to make a move for a quality starter, but don't count on it. I still think the front office thinks that Jason Windsor isn't very far away from being a contributor. But I still wouldn't be terribly surprised if the A's start out with Joe Kennedy as the sixth starter. Remember, Beane doesn't usually panic during spring training or even April. Course, it might be smarter to at least get other options ready just in case.
- Durazo just might wind up being the A's first baseman in 2007. And it isn't because of his patience. Dan Johnson brings that quality as well. It could be that the Grail is sporting a .516 slugging compared to DJ's .368 slugging. The A's need some power out of that first base position. As Beane often says these days, power is the great equalizer. And Durazo hasn't embarrassed himself playing the position. I would think that DJ would probably have more trade value as well and if Billy Beane wants to get some depth, DJ is young and cheap. Oh and Durazo is doing that rare stat anamoly this spring by having an average higher than OBP. That's a rare accomplishment that Billy Beane knows only a few have done (he was one of them).
- And yes, it is spring training, but Nick Swisher is once again doing his high OBP, high slugging, low average trend. I don't really care if he has a low batting average as long as his RISP gets a lot better. I felt like Geren was addressing Swisher in particular with his discussion with me about the young players who get overanxious. I'll be watching this closely this year.
- Haren and Harden...they make me feel really good about the A's chances this year. Loaiza, Blanton and fifth starter to be named later? Not so much. Look, I realize that pitching in Arizona can be the equivalent of pitching at Coors Field pre-humidor, so the guys with "ace" stuff can look really good because they miss bats. But the guys who don't necessarily through 95 or 99, they are going to have a tougher time. Plus there's the whole build arm strength during the first portion of the spring. But the A's rotation looks really great with the top two. Not so much from the rest. If Loaiza can be a good number three, then it doesn't matter as much because Blanton should be able to provide an adequate number four and the number five guy can be skipped when the schedule permits, so that isn't as damaging.
- Haren deserves to be the opening day starter. He's been healthy and a huge contributor to the A's success over the last two years. If he can cut down giving up the long ball this year, he could be one of the best pitchers in the majors especially since he added a cutter this offseason. Haren has so many pitches that he's just becoming a right-handed version of the starting pitcher he was traded for.
- Mike Piazza looks to be completely rejuvenated by being a DH. We'll see though. Maybe he'll find a lengthy second career without having the tools of ignorance strapped to him.
- I am really excited about Buck, Barton and Suzuki. I know that they're young and we probably won't see any of them until later this year, but I don't feel as down on the A's minor league system as I was. If the A's can have all three of these kids as a part of the team in 2008, it will be quite an influx of talent. Course that doesn't help the A's with their need for more starting pitchers.
Enjoy the game and Gettin' Ziggy with It. We're so close to the regular season, I can almost taste it.