Oakland A's Camp Notes: Kielty Heating Up

PHOENIX – Oakland A's outfielder Bobby Kielty entered spring training knowing that he would have to make a strong impression at the plate in order to gain a share of the playing time in the A's outfield this season. That mission hit a set-back after the first practice this spring when Kielty came up lame after a running drill. He missed the first two weeks of spring training games, but he is now back in the line-up, healthy and swinging a big bat.

When Oakland traded for Bobby Kielty in November 2003, it was with the thought in mind that he would be the A's everyday left fielder. Kielty started his A's career off well, winning the starting job with a strong spring training and beginning the season well, posting a 1.118 OPS in the season's first week. However, one week later, Kielty collided with A's shortstop Bobby Crosby and came away from the collision with severely bruised ribs. Kielty tried to play through the pain, but his swing got off-kilter and he soon found himself watching more games then he was playing. He finished the season hitting only .214.

Kielty's swing began to come around during the last month of the season, as he hit .357 in September and .333 in October. However, by that point, Kielty was no longer a factor in the A's regular playing rotation and he wasn't a significant contributor to the A's down the stretch. Coming into this season, Kielty is looking to regain the form he displayed as a member of the Minnesota Twins, where he posted an 889 OPS for the Twins in 2002.

The red-headed switch-hitter pulled his left calf during the A's first workout of the spring. He was held out of game action until this past week in order to get the calf completely healthy. Kielty made his spring training game debut on Wednesday against the San Diego Padres and singled sharply to right field from the left-side of the plate. That single was a positive sign for Kielty, as he had struggled all last season to hit from the left-side of the plate. However, it is Kielty's power from the right-side of the plate that could help the A's offense the most this season.

Kielty flashed that power on Saturday against the Chicago Cubs, as he went 2-4 with a homerun and five RBIs. The three-run homerun and a two-out, two-run single came from the right-side of the plate against the Cubs' starter Glendon Rusch. He is now 4-6 on this early spring season with a walk and is looking like he is well on his way to correcting what ailed him during his disappointing 2004 season.

Other Notes

The A's offense pounded Chicago Cubs starter Glendon Rusch during their split-squad victory over the Cubs, which Oakland won 11-4. Oakland collected 16 hits and 11 runs in the game, nine of those runs coming off of Rusch in only two plus innings pitched. The A's had six hitters with multiple hit games, including Eric Chavez (3-3 with a walk, two runs scored and two RBIs), Erubiel Durazo (2-4), Jason Kendall (2-4 with two RBIs), Bobby Kielty (2-4 with five RBIs), Eric Byrnes (2-4 with two runs scored and an RBI), and Dan Johnson (2-4 with a double off the right field wall). A's shortstop Bobby Crosby also had a nice day at the plate, going 1-2 with an RBI double and two walks.

Starting pitching prospect Dan Meyer had an up and down day against the Cubs. He retired the Cubs in order in the first and the fourth and was an error away from retiring the side in order in the third. However, he struggled in the second, allowing a long homerun to Cubs prospect Jason Dubois and two other hits before inducing an inning-ending double-play to limit the damage to two runs. Meyer finished the game allowing five hits and three runs (two earned) over 4.1 innings pitched. He struck out one and didn't walk any batters, but he did hit a batter and had a wild pitch. It is looking more and more like Meyer will begin the season in AAA, although it is still likely that the James Madison product will be in the A's rotation at some point in 2005.

The A's bullpen turned in a nice performance, allowing only one run over 5.2 innings pitched. Justin Duchscherer went three innings, allowing one run, two hits and a walk while striking out two. Kiko Calero entered the game in the 8th inning with runners at the corners and one out and prevented the run from scoring by inducing a strike out and a pop-up. Tim Harikkala finished off the game with an unusual line: one inning pitched, three hits allowed, but no runs scored. Harikkala fell victim to some unlucky bounces, as he allowed two infield hits and a bloop hit, which loaded the bases with only one out. However, he induced a soft line-out and a ground out to end the inning unscored upon. He is still in competition for the final bullpen spot.

Due to the split-squad games, Oakland had several members of the A's minor league camp play in the late innings of the game against the Cubs. Prospect Javier Herrera made his big league camp debut and struck out in his only at-bat. He played in centerfield. Off-season minor league free agent signing Andrew Beattie made two excellent plays at third base during the game. Jack Cust, Marcus McBeth and Francis Gomez also played.

Oakland dropped the second split-squad game, 4-3, to the Colorado Rockies in Tucson. The game was tied in the bottom of the 9th inning when Jim Serrano allowed a walk-off homerun to the veteran Charles Johnson. Starter Joe Blanton went four innings, allowing two runs and six hits. He struck out three and walked none. Blanton has, for all intents and purposes, won a spot in the A's rotation for the start of the 2005 season.

Reliever Juan Cruz took over for Blanton in the fifth and was impressive in three innings of work. He allowed one run and three hits, while striking out five and walking none. Serrano had pitched an inning and a third before giving up the game-winning homerun to Johnson. In total, the three A's pitchers combined to strike out eight and they walked none.

Nick Swisher, Hiram Bocachica and Scott Hatteberg had multiple hit games against the Rockies. Bocachica also stole a base. All three hitters appear to be coming out of early spring training slumps. Catcher Adam Melhuse accounted for all of the A's scoring, as he hit a three-run homerun in the fifth inning.

Mark Ellis had a difficult day against Colorado. He went 0-5 and committed an error at shortstop. Mike Rouse also made an error from the shortstop position. Second baseman Marco Scutaro went 1-5 in the game.

Catcher John Baker made an appearance behind the plate for the first time in a week. He did not have an at-bat. Outfielder Steve Stanley and infielder Mark Kiger made the trip with the team and entered the game. Both players are in the A's minor league camp. Stanley walked in his only at-bat.

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