Sunshine, blue skies, green grass, and throwing errors.
If you're A's manager Art Howe, it was a lovely Monday except for that last part. The A's made three errant tosses on their way to a 7-1 loss to the Diamondbacks yesterday.
Lots of stuff to get to, so I'll cheat and make this a bullet-points column:
I'd mentioned wanting to see Carlos Pena in action. Well, I did, and it wasn't pretty. He looked very bad against Brian Anderson, terribly indecisive and hesitant. Pena struck out twice, walked once, and grounded to second base.
The good news is that Pena showed some range, especially to his right, and appears to be an above-average first baseman in that regard. He made a nice play on a foul pop by the stands with a runner on first; think about that for a second–a first baseman holding the runner breaks towards second base with the pitch. Pena did that, then came all the way back to snag the short pop-up. Nice.
He did make a throwing error after going to his right (one that could have been an error on Cory Lidle covering), and was slow recovering from a dive on another play, allowing an infield single. I would say that Pena has the skills to be a very good first baseman, and simply needs to work on his throwing.
That said, the A's would probably be best served by having Pena start the year at Triple-A Sacramento. He looks lost at the plate, and demoting Pena would solve a minor roster crunch created by Scott Hatteberg's huge spring. As long as Jermaine Dye is out, the A's can play Hatteberg at first base, DH David Justice, and get a legitimate center fielder like Eric Byrnes on the field. With Pena and no Dye, the A's have yesterday's outfield of Justice, Terrence Long and Jeremy Giambi, which is a double waiting to happen.
There's also the we're-not-supposed-to-talk-about-this point that giving Pena two months at Raley Field pushes his service-time clock back, and no matter what system we're playing under in 2005, the A's will benefit from the delay.
Brian Anderson, cut from BP's team in NL LABR, made us look dumb by tossing five shutout innings. He wasn't dominant, but he did show a good change-up, and mixed in a little side-arm fastball that caught a few of the A's left-handed batters by surprise. He needed a good outing going into the season, and this should cement Miguel Batista's bullpen role, at least until the Todd Stottlemyre fantasy ends.
The one A's left-handed hitter who looked good against Anderson was Eric Chavez. After upgrading his defense last year, Chavez was left with basically one weak spot: his performance against left-handers. He was .257/.299/.415 against them last year. In three at-bats against Anderson and Mark Holzemer–no, really–Chavez looked great, powering one double to center field, another to the right-center field gap, and pulling a solid single to right. If Chavez has learned to hit southpaws, then the question "who's the best third baseman in baseball?" gets that much tougher.
Or maybe, that much easier.
What farm do the Diamondbacks have where they grow infielders? Even with Matt Williams out and Craig Counsell–who doesn't look nearly as young up close–on the bench, the Snakes ran two whole infields out during this game. The question is, "who should play?" Junior Spivey looked good in batting practice, and had a single in the game. Danny Klassen has power and can play a couple of positions. Chris Donnels is in camp, and can hit.
Unfortunately, all these guys are in line behind World Series Heroes Counsell and Tony Womack. I'd like to see Spivey and Klassen get more playing time, because both guys can help a good team.
Along those lines, Jay Bell looks tentative, like he's lost his bat speed and is trying to hard to make up for it by guessing. His career could be in trouble. Frankly, if he's not going to play second base when Spivey is in the lineup, and we know he's not going to play there when Counsell is in the lineup, what's left is an aging third baseman who doesn't hit.
Mike Holtz did not help himself. If the A's are cutting to two left-handed relievers, one of him, Mike Venafro or Mike Magnante has to go. Serving up a shot to Luis Gonzalez did not help Holtz, nor did giving up hits to three left-handed batters in the eighth.
- Jose Guillen is still a hack (two walks all spring), but he's driving the ball and has impressed a lot of people. He's the kind of player who doesn't walk enough to be a consistent contributor, but who has the ability to hit .310 with great power in his best year, and that covers a lot of flaws.
Trying to get to the A's/Cubs game today…if I make it, you'll all read about it tomorrow.