The third day of our trip brought us back to Phoenix Muni as the Athletics took on the Texas Rangers. We made sure to arrive extra early at the ballpark in hopes of securing some autographs from the players. I may look at the team in a more objective point of view most of the time when writing about them, but I still take time to be a fan and get autographs like I did when I was younger. We had a very successful venture that day without a doubt. I was able to nab Travis Blackley, Ryan Cook, and the big fish Yoenis Cespedes prior to the game. Blackley was especially engaging with the fans, and even snapped a picture of me and my group that he put on the Athletics official Instagram that he was running for the day. Cespedes really impressed me as well, spending upwards of 20 minutes signing autographs after warmups. I was able to get his just before he finally obeyed the repeated calls from the dugout to get ready for the game as first pitch was fast approaching.
As for the game itself, it was a rather lackluster performance by the A’s, but thing was abundantly clear, Dan Straily is not ready to be a regular member of an MLB starting rotation. The inconsistency that got him into trouble last season during his time with the A’s is still haunting him this year. He pitches behind hitters, gets hit hard in the zone, shows flashes of the electric stuff that made him nearly untouchable at last season’s trade deadline, then loses it and gives up a crooked number. In this case the defense didn’t help him, but he didn’t help himself. He’ll make his one start while Bartolo Colon serves the last of his PED suspension, but until he polishes his command he really should not be anywhere but Triple A.
Our fourth day in Arizona took us on the “road” to Salt River Fields as the Athletics took on the Arizona Diamondbacks in their shiny new Spring Training facility. Salt River Fields has gained quite the reputation as being perhaps the finest of all the Spring Training venues, and while I have only seen three of them, it seems hard to imagine topping this one.
My first thought upon entering was that this place as it is right now is much nicer than the O.co Coliseum. Of course the Coliseum has a special place in my heart since I’ve been going there since I was very young, but let’s be realistic here. We had a bunch of separated individual seats so we decided to forego assigned seating in favor of the large grassy hills that served as the outfield bleachers there. It was a hot but very enjoyable experience.
This game would end in a anticlimactic 2-2 tie, but the intrigue still was there because the A’s were facing their 2012 Opening Day starter Brandon McCarthy for the first time since his departure for the Diamondbacks. McCarthy looked good, even though the A’s would get to him for a couple runs eventually.
Bartolo Colon made the start for the A’s, and his perfomance wasn’t exactly reassuring. Without even looking at his stats, it is clearly evident that he’s not the same pitcher we saw in 2012. The Dbacks made a lot of solid contact against Colon, and serious questions have to be raised about whether he can give the A’s quality innings in 2013 if he continues to look as he did. Again, this is coming from just what I saw from him in person.
Eric Sogard continued to tear the cover off the ball this Spring, and the murmur of people calling for him to be on the Opening Day roster got just a little bit louder. The double he hit really should have been a home run, but the design of this stadium called for a 20 foot brick wall to be in play 410 feet away in dead center field, so it wasn’t. Sometimes a guy just can’t catch a break.
The tie at Salt River Fields was unfortunately the last game we got to see in Arizona before returning home. While the A’s didn’t embarass themselves by any means, they didn’t dominate either. I still believe regardless of how this Spring Training turns out, the A’s will be in the thick of the pennant race in 2013 with another chance to play in the postseason. Opening Night is just over two weeks away, and regular season baseball can’t come soon enough.