Ray Ratto

A's infield a battleground for backups


A's infield a battleground for backups

Feb. 17, 2011

PHOENIX -- If things go as planned, there won't be much competition for starting jobs in the everyday lineup at A's camp this spring. It's pretty clear who's pegged to play where on Opening Day.The competition for backup roles on the infield, however, is wide open.Oakland manager Bob Geren acknowledged as much Friday morning at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, where he expects to see quite a few players battle it out for the right to serve as understudies to second baseman Mark Ellis, shortstop Cliff Pennington and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.Were Adam Rosales healthy, he'd be a lock for the top utility role, but despite an encouraging visit to his doctor Thursday, he's likely out for the first month of the regular season. More than two months out from foot surgery, Rosales was granted permission to ditch his crutches, but he'll remain in a walking boot for at another two weeks, making early March the earliest he'll be allowed to start baseball activities.Thus, it'll be up to a hodgepodge of relative unknowns, non-roster pickups and prospects to find a way to impress Geren and his staff once Cactus League play opens Saturday, March 26.RELATED: A's Cactus League schedule
Shortstop is an area of particular concern, with Pennington expected to miss the first week of games while continuing to strengthen his surgically repaired left shoulder."You're going to see a lot of different guys playing shortstop this spring," Geren said.Among them will be Josh Horton, Steve Tolleson, Eric Sogard, Grant Green and Andy LaRoche, with Sogard the only candidate currently on Oakland's 40-man roster.Geren said roster status will have nothing to do with his decision-making on the matter: "The best guys will be on the team."Horton, who played Double-A ball last season, is probably the best pure shortstop of the bunch.LaRoche, who has the most big-league experience and track record of moderate success despite a down year in 2010, has seen most of his playing time at third base.Sogard, who batted .300 at Triple-A Sacramento last season, played all three positions with the RiverCats but saw the majority of his action at second base.Tolleson, who played in 11 games at shortstop for the A's last season after tearing up Triple-A pitching to the tune of a .332 batting average and .915 on-base-plug-slugging percentage, also can play second and third and a little bit of outfield.Green, the 13th overall pick in the 2009 draft, might be the shortstop of the future for the A's -- "He's definitely one of the top prospects in the organization," Geren said -- but he's not yet played beyond A-ball and is the darkest of horses in the race."We don't have a clear frontrunner," Geren said. "Everyone in camp is going to get a pretty good look."

MLS respects timing more than dominance, Quakes have a counterpuncher's chance


MLS respects timing more than dominance, Quakes have a counterpuncher's chance

The San Jose Earthquakes cheated the reaper Sunday, which is news in and of itself. I mean, they’re a playoff team so rarely that getting to a 35th game is quite the achievement, and they should not begin the arduous process of sobering up until Tuesday morning.

I mean, their playoff game with Vancouver is Wednesday night, so slapping themselves back into form is probably a priority.

They got an improbable stoppage time goal from Marco Urena Sunday against Minnesota to sneak through the back door into the final Western Conference playoff spot Sunday, their first appearance in the postseason in five years. It was as electrifying a moment as Avaya Stadium has seen since it opened, and one of the best goals in franchise history if only for its importance.

That said, the Quakes also enter the postseason with a losing record (13-14-7) and the worst goal difference (minus-21) for any playoff team in league history. They are the most cinder-based of the league’s Cinderella stories, and are dismissed with prejudice by most observers as being as one-and-done as one-and-done can be without being none-and-done.

This is a league, though, that has respected timing more than dominance. In 2016, the Montreal Impact finished last in the East and got to the conference final; in 2012, Houston (which was a relocated Quakes team) just snuck in to the postseason and reached the final; in 2005 and 2009, the worst (Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake) ended up first.

In other words, the Quakes’ pedigree, modest though it is, still allows it a counterpuncher’s chance. Its attack, which is third-worst in the league, playoffs or no, is matched by its defense, which is fourth-worst in the league. Their years as a de facto vehicle for Chris Wondolowski are coming to a close, sooner rather than later. They are in no way an elegant team. They are working on their second coach of the year (Chris Leitch).

But therein lies their mutating charm. Their postseason pedigree stinks, but there is a no compelling reason why they cannot cheat a result or two. After all, the lower scoring a sport is, the greater chance for an upset, and the Quakes’ history screams that no franchise could use one more.

So they head for Vancouver, a raucous crowd and a difficult side, carrying with them only their humble resume and the indomitable cheek demanded of the upstart. I mean, anybody in their right mind would much prefer the Whitecaps’ chances, but you gotta be who you gotta be.

Plus, the Quakes are getting a 35th game, which is more than they had a right to expect, all things considered.

NBA fines Curry and Iguodala for incident in Memphis


NBA fines Curry and Iguodala for incident in Memphis

Programming note: Warriors-Mavs coverage starts today at 4:30pm with Warriors Pregame Live on NBC Sports Bay Area.

Steph Curry owes the NBA some money.

The two-time MVP was fined $50,000 for throwing his mouthpiece near the end of Saturday night's game in Memphis, the league announced.

He won't be suspended.

Andre Iguodala was fined $15,000 for verbally abusing a game official.

"I want to play tonight. Don't think a suspension is necessary," Curry said following shootaround on Monday. "I'm pretty sure based on the precedent that was set last time I threw my mouthpiece, there'll be a fine.

"The timing is getting a little tight thinking about preparing for tonight, but just gotta wait and see."

Curry was fined $25,000 for throwing his mouthpiece during Game 6 of the 2016 Finals.

He did not need to rewatch the incident from Saturday to know he was in the wrong.

"In the grand scheme of things, it's Game 3, we were playing terrible," Curry explained on Monday. "I was frustrated because I was fouling, I thought I got fouled on the last play and the reaction was definitely a little over the top.

"Stuff happens. Try to continue to be myself, show some fire, but do it in a way that doesn't take away from the team and misrepresent who I am."

Kevin Durant -- who was also ejected from the game -- apparently won't receive any additional punishment.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders and a Web Producer at NBC Sports Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller