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Baseball Notebook: Harden, Brown Lead A's to 5-1 Win
Rich Harden (1-0) struck out nine Red Sox enroute to the Oakland A's defeating the Boston Red Sox 5-1. Emil Brown atoned for his baserunning gaffe yesterday by hitting a three run home run in the third inning that wound up being the difference in the win. Manny Ramirez hit a solo home run and drove in his fifth run of the year in the sixth inning that closed the gap at the time to 4-1. The A's scored an insurance run in the eighth inning when Jeff Fiorentino singled in Kurt Suzuki, who hit his second double of the game prior to Fiorentino coming to the plate.
Jon Lester (0-1) took the loss after giving up 4 runs and 5 hits in 4 innings. Harden started only four games last season and the A's need him to be healthy with the starting pitching questionable after him and Joe Blanton.
The A's have to be encouraged in the fact that they outscored the Red Sox 10-7 in the two game set in Japan. The A's were only a baserunning blunder yesterday away from tying or winning the game yesterday. The main concern of the A's right now has to be the top of the batting order with only Mark Ellis picking up a hit in the first two games among the first three hitters. Travis Buck, the leadoff man, is 0-10 this season and Ellis is 1 for 7 and Daric Barton is 0 for 5 this season giving the three players a combined 1 for 22 at the plate. However Barton has walked four times.
Evan Longoria was sent down earlier this week by the Tampa Bay Rays to Durham their Triple A team. If there was a player that I would think who would find himself on the opening day roster it was Longoria. His batting average this spring was only .262, but he hit 3 home runs, drove in 10 runs, had an OBP of .407, a slugging percentage of .595, and an OPS of 1.003. It is becoming apparent this spring it is not easy to make a team during spring training.
Last year, Ryan Braun and Hunter Pence had great springs, but still were sent down and only when they were called up later in the spring did they nail down a starting job in the majors. In transactions yesterday, the Chicago Cubs signed Reed Johnson who had been released by the Toronto Blue Jays. Johnson hit .236 last season and hit two home runs in 275 at bats. He will join Matt Murton as an extra outfielder for the Cubs this season. Yesterday, the Cubs sent down Eric Patterson and Sam Fuld who were battling to win a spot in the outfield, but the signing of Johnson speeded up their demise.
Josh Fields of the Chicago White Sox was sent down despite having a productive season last year when called up. Fields didn't homer in 41 at bats this spring, but Joe Crede didn't do much better. So, the White Sox went with the veteran at third base. Also Josh Barfield was sent down by the [[Cleveland Indians
Kaz Matsui was placed on the 15 day DL by the Houston Astros. He probably won't be back till the middle of April. Mark Loretta, a lifetime .298 hitter, should fill in while Matsui is out of action. In a major surprise, the Milwaukee Brewers released Claudio Vargas, who was 11-6 last season and 3-1 this spring. His 3.86 ERA this spring was much better than that of Jeff Suppan (9.17), Manny Parra (6.10), Chris Capuano (9.00), Ben Sheets (6.55), and Dave Bush at 6.43. Surely, they had decided earlier to release Vargas. Now he has less than a week to find another team. The Brewers were overstocked in starting pitchers, so they had to cut someone, but they should have cut Vargas at least a week or two ago.
The A's have placed Eric Chavez, Chad Gaudin, and Kiki Calero on the 15 day disabled list. Chavez may have had too many surgeries in one offseason, and Gaudin needs to return soon to give the starting rotation a veteran presence after Rich Harden and Joe Blanton. Nate McLouth was told yesterday that he has made the opening day roster of the Pittsburgh Pirates and will start in center on opening day. McLouth hit .311 this spring and slugged .622.
Shawn Estes has been sent down for reassignment after having a bad spring in which he gave up 15 runs and 21 hits in 11 innings, spelling the probable end of his career since he has pitched only 6 innings in the majors since the 2005 season. His spring ERA of 12.27 made it an easy decision for the San Diego Padres to reassign him. In the last few minutes, Brandon Moss has been sent down to Pawtucket after playing in the two games in Japan.
If there ever was a decimated pitching staff, it is that of the St. Louis Cardinals, who yesterday placed six pitchers on the 15 day disabled list. They have lost Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder, Matt Clement, Joel Pineiro, Tyler Johnson, and Josh Kinney; some of these pitchers will be out a lot longer than 15 days. The first four names would make a strong rotation. It is now looking like Juan Encarnacion, who also was placed on the disabled list, may not play baseball again after a serious eye injury last season.