A's Insider notebook: Projected lineup delivers


A's Insider notebook: Projected lineup delivers

March 13, 2011

PHOENIX -- The A's have quite happily gotten used to all the extra attention that's coming their way in the wake of general manager Billy Beane's offseason makeover, and even more happy buzz blossomed when manager Bob Geren posted his lineup for Sunday's game against the visiting Rockies at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. It featured all nine of the hitters expected to start on Opening Day: Center fielder Coco Crisp led off, followed by first baseman Daric Barton, right fielder David DeJesus, left fielder Josh Willingham, designated hitter Hideki Matsui, catcher Kurt Suzuki, second baseman Mark Ellis, third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and shortstop Cliff Pennington. Geren conceded that his batting order for the real opener might not mirror Sunday's; he's fairly big on alternating right- and left-handed hitters as much as possible, and Suzuki, Ellis and Kouzmanoff all hit from the right side (Pennington is a switch hitter). But that will work itself out in due time. Clearly, being able to pencil in all of his regulars on the same day struck a giddy chord with the skipper. "It's nice to get everyone out there together," Geren said. "It's been difficult with split squads and guys getting healthy, guys playing every other day for the most part here early. But you're going to see a lot more of that in these last couple weeks. A lot of them are going to start playing two or three days in a row, so we'll have everyone out there at the same time quite a bit. "It's pretty exciting, for sure." Adding to the air of excitement, the game was Oakland's first of the spring televised by Comcast SportsNet California, and several national media outlets, including MLB Network, were on hand. Living legend Peter Gammons was patrolling the grounds under the gorgeous desert skies before ducking into Geren's office for a closed-door chat before the morning workout, the venerable sportswriter's mere presence an indication of the club's status as a legitimate playoff contender. "People are pretty pumped around here, and they have been since Day One," said A's lefty Dallas Braden. "This is the first time most of us have experienced anything like this, and we're going to do whatever it takes to keep all these people coming back." That won't be difficult if the new-look lineup produces the way it did Sunday. Crisp, Barton and DeJesus singled to open the bottom of the first inning, and a wild pitch and a two-out single from Ellis gave Oakland a 3-0 lead. Barton and Matsui later homered, Matsui's being his first in green and gold, Crisp tacked on another couple of knocks to jack his Cactus League batting average to a slow-pitch softballish .519, and by the end of the fifth inning the regulars had nine runs on the board. That was a week's worth of runs at times in 2010, prompting Beane to add DeJesus, Willingham and Matsui to the middle of the order. "Dangerous," is how Braden described the improved offensive potential. "You pick up three guys like that, you know you're going to start doing some damage." RAMPING UP
As the end of camp draws closer, Geren plans to start managing games a bit more the way he'll manage during the regular season. "We haven't done a lot of hit-and-running, stealing bases, things like that," he said. "We'll be ramping that up with the regulars playing deeper into games. We might even do a little more of it than we'd do during the season, just because you need to work on things, and this is a good time to do that, when the games don't really mean anything." Another facet of the game that might get greater emphasis is one not easy to work on during camp: dealing with "sun balls," which can be a bear at the Oakland Coliseum. The A's work out every morning before their Cactus League games, the majority of which start at about 1 p.m., but as Geren noted, it's not like the outfielders can work on battling the 3 p.m. sun at 10 a.m. Thus, Geren said, outfieldfirst-base coach Tye Waller might occasionally be relieved of his game duties in the middle innings so he can take some of his charges to the back diamond at Phoenix Muni. MORNING MOVES
The A's announced a couple of roster moves early Sunday, sending right-hander Fautino De Los Santos and lefty Pedro Figueroa to minor-league camp.
NEWS: A's option RHP De Los Santos and LHP Figueroa
De Los Santos, part of the trade that sent Nick Swisher to the White Sox in exchange for a package that included Gio Gonzalez, appeared in four Cactus League games and gave up three earned runs (four total) on eight hits and two walks over 3 23 innings. A 25-year-old from the Dominican Republic who consistently touches the upper 90's with his fastball but needs work on his command, he entered camp as a darkhorse bullpen candidate. Expected to open the season at Triple-A Sacramento, De Los Santos will be closely watched by Oakland's brass and could merit a call to the big leagues if he can resolve the control issues. "When guys throw that hard," Geren said, "they can come quick." Figueroa was optioned to Double-A Midland. FOR STARTERS
Based on the current throwing schedule mapped out by new pitching coach Ron Romanick, Gonzalez, who has a 0.96 ERA in three spring starts, is in line to start on Opening Day. Last year's top starter, All-Star righty Trevor Cahill, worked Sunday and gave up three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five over four innings, pushing his spring ERA to 7.59. Geren hasn't announced his rotation, and he insisted Sunday that Cahill's struggles and the recent thumping of Braden by the Texas Rangers have done nothing to dampen his enthusiasm about his gifted young starting staff. "Everyone's right where they need to be, health-wise and pitch-count-wise," he said. The competition for the No. 5 job remains open, but righty Brandon McCarthy appears to have a slight edge based on his big-league experience. Also pitching well is Bobby Cramer, who made a good impression during a late-season callup in 2010. Lefty Josh Outman, working his way back from Tommy John surgery in 2009, was the early frontrunner but has struggled with his mechanics of late.

Sharks dominate Ducks for two wins in two nights

Sharks dominate Ducks for two wins in two nights


ANAHEIM -- Mikkel Boedker had two goals and an assist, Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-2 on Sunday night.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Kevin Labanc and Melker Karlsson also scored for the Sharks, who have won five of six. Aaron Dell stopped 33 shots.

Rickard Rakell and Ryan Getzlaf scored for Anaheim. John Gibson stopped only 17 of 22 shots and was replaced after giving up his fifth goal. Anaheim had a four-game home winning streak snapped.

Four goals came in the third period. First, Anaheim pulled within one when Ondrej Kase stole the puck from behind the net and quickly fed Getzlaf, who fired it past Dell.

One minute later, the Sharks answered when Thornton's slap shot went in.

Boedker's second goal gave San Joe a 5-2 lead, and Karlsson's goal on goalie Ryan Miller made it a runaway.

The Ducks first found the net in the final minute of the second period, but that took a two-man advantage and a bit of luck.

Rakell was camped a few feet below the crease when he snapped a shot. San Jose's Justin Braun stuck out a stick, but it deflected the puck off the back of Dell's arm and into the net.

It was Rakell's team-high 17th goal this season.

San Jose appeared to take a commanding 3-0 lead on a power play in the second period. Boedker fired a shot from the top of the right circle that whistled past Gibson.

The Sharks took a 2-0 lead early in the second period when Anaheim's No.1 line turned the puck over. Thornton snapped it out to Labanc, who popped free for a breakaway. He beat Gibson on his short side for his fifth goal.

The Sharks took a 1-0 lead late in the first period on a nifty give-and-go when Tomas Hertl skated down the far side and sent a pass through the legs of Anaheim's Brandon Montour and right to Vlasic in front of the net.

Vlasic snapped it past Gibson for his seventh goal of the season.


Sharks: Return to San Jose on Tuesday night to play the Jets.

Ducks: Remain at home to play the Rangers on Tuesday night.

49ers veteran expected to play in Pro Bowl thanks to Eagles


49ers veteran expected to play in Pro Bowl thanks to Eagles

Veteran 49ers left tackle Joe Staley is expected to benefit from the Philadelphia Eagles’ trip to the Super Bowl.

Staley, originally chosen as an alternate, is expected to be named to his sixth Pro Bowl to take the place of Eagles Pro Bowl tackle Lane Johnson.

The Pro Bowl will be played Sunday, Jan. 28, in Orlando, Florida. Members of the Super Bowl participant Eagles and New England Patriots will not play in the All-Star game. The Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl on Sunday with a 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

The other Pro Bowl offensive tackles representing the NFC are Dallas’ Tyron Smith and Los Angeles’ Andrew Whitworth, who replaced Washington’s Trent Williams.

Staley got off to a rough start last season as the 49ers opened on a nine-game losing streak. The idea of his career coming to an end began to creep into his mind, he said recently on the 49ers Insider Podcast.

But Staley said he had a talk with coach Kyle Shanahan that got him refocused for the remainder of the season. The 49ers finished with a five-game win streak to finish with a 6-10 record, and Staley played well down the stretch.

“I’m so far gone from where I was in that moment early in the year that I’m just focused on next year and, hopefully, years after that,” said Staley, 33, an 11-year NFL veteran. “I feel like I can still play.

“I think this last half of the season I played some of the best football of my career. I feel very confident in what we’re doing schematically with the people surrounding us, and it shows in my own play.”

Staley would join fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who was the only 49ers player named to the Pro Bowl when the teams were announced in last month.