Oakland A's Camp Notes: A's Pound Pads

PHOENIX – After absorbing a thumping at the hands of the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday, the Oakland A's rebounded on Wednesday to blow out the San Diego Padres, 13-1. Kirk Saarloos and Seth Etherton, who are competing for a spot on the A's pitching staff, combined to toss six strong innings and the A's second base competition heated up, as both Mark Ellis and Marco Scutaro had strong games.

The game began with surprise fifth starter candidate Kirk Saarloos on the hill. Saarloos, who came into camp as an injury question mark, has proven that he is healthy and has thrust himself into the middle of the competitions for the fifth starter slot and the final bullpen position. The Cal-State Fullerton alum began the game with a 1-2-3 first, retiring Mark Sweeney and Mark Loretta on fly-outs and striking out Brian Giles. The second inning began a little rougher for Saarloos, as he allowed a lead off single to Phil Nevin and a one-out, run-scoring double to former A's catcher Ramon Hernandez.

On the double, Nevin scored ahead of a relay throw home by second baseman Mark Ellis. Ellis, who is recovering from a separated shoulder, overthrew catcher Jason Kendall on the relay from short right field. Despite his trouble on that throw, Ellis turned in an otherwise impressive defensive performance on Wednesday, snaring a hard line-drive with a leap in the fifth and helping to turn a nifty 4-6-3 double-play in the third. He also played four innings at shortstop and handled his only chance flawlessly. Ellis has impressed the A's coaching staff with his arm strength lately.

After allowing Hernandez's one-out double in the second, Saarloos recovered to retire five of the last six batters he faced. He finished his start having allowed one run, three hits and no walks over three innings. He also struck out three. The sinkerball pitcher retired his last four outs on ground balls.

In the bottom of the second inning, Oakland erased a 1-0 deficit with a three-run rally that was jump-started by the bottom of the order. Left-fielder Eric Byrnes singled to lead-off the inning and advanced to second on a one-out single by Bobby Crosby. Crosby, who has struggled this spring, had a nice day at the plate and in the field on Tuesday. He made a great throw to finish off a double-play in the third and went 2-3 with a single and a ringing opposite field double.

With runners on first and second with one-out in the second, Nick Swisher stepped to the plate and worked a walk to load the bases. Swisher, who broke out of a slump with three hits on Tuesday, went 0-2 with the walk, but did fly out to the warning track in his second at-bat.

Ellis stepped to the plate with the bases-loaded and one out in the second and promptly drove a pitch to medium-deep centerfield for a sacrifice fly. Mark Kotsay extended the rally with a two-out walk to re-load the bases. Jason Kendall followed up with a two-out double, and the A's had a 3-1 lead.

Oakland would extend its lead to 8-1 with a five-run rally in the fifth, aided in part by some shoddy Padres' defense. With one out, Ellis ripped an inside pitch into left field for a single. After a Kotsay ground-out advanced Ellis to second, Kendall worked a two-out walk. Erubiel Durazo grounded to shortstop, but Sean Burroughs booted it for an error. With the bases loaded, Eric Chavez hit a high drive to left field. Ryan Klesko tracked it down but had it nick off of his glove for a three-run error. Eric Byrnes punished the Padres' further for their bad defense when he homered deep to left-center field to up the A's lead to 8-1. Byrnes leads the A's in homeruns with four this spring. He finished his day 2-3 with two runs scored and two RBIs.

Seth Etherton took over for Saarloos on the mound in the fourth inning and started off strong, retiring Giles, Nevin and Klesko on seven pitches. He retired the side in order again in the fifth, helped in part by nice plays by A's first base prospect Daric Barton and by Ellis on line-drives. Barton played five innings at first base and looked very natural around the bag. The 19 year-old prospect is being converted from catcher to first base this spring. Barton showed good instincts and footwork around the bag and was flawless in the field.

Etherton ran into some trouble during his final inning of work when he allowed a double and two walks to load the bases with only one out. However, Etherton showed his toughness on the mound as he wiggled out of the jam unscathed. The former Angels' first-round pick retired Nevin on a pop-up with one out and then ended the threat with a strike-out of Klesko. Etherton's final line was three innings pitched with no runs allowed, one hit, two walks and one strike out. It is the second straight impressive outing for Etherton.

The A's padded their lead in the bottom of the 7th when Charles Thomas worked the first of his two walks with one out. Marco Scutaro followed with a long two-run homerun to left-center, upping the A's lead to 10-1. Oakland added their final three runs in the bottom of the 8th. The rally began with a hard line-drive single by Bobby Kielty (batting left-handed). The switch-hitting outfielder was making his first spring appearance after missing most of camp with a calf strain. Kielty still isn't 100%, as he jogged slowly to first after the single and was immediately lifted for a pinch-runner.

With one out and a runner on first in the 8th, Jermaine Clark singled. Barton followed with a sharp single to center to drive in pinch-runner Omar Quintanilla. Barton was 1-2 on the day and collected both his first hit and his first RBI of the spring. The slugging left-handed hitter displayed a nice compact stroke at the plate. Barton's hit was followed by another walk to Thomas and an RBI single by Scutaro. Scutaro, who is trying to make it as hard as possible for the A's coaching staff to leave him off of the roster, went 2-2 with three RBIs on the day. He played four innings at second base.

On the pitching side, Kiko Calero and Ricardo Rincon combined to retire the last nine Padres' batters in a row. Both relievers were very efficient with their pitch count and worked through the order quickly. In all, the A's pitching staff held the Padres to one run on four hits in the game. They struck out five and walked two. Oakland will take on the Chicago Cubs at Phoenix Municipal Stadium tomorrow, with Rich Harden scheduled to take on Greg Maddux.

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