Oakland A's MLN: Vancouver's Rough Opener

The Vancouver Canadians' opener was one to forget, but Sacramento and Stockton are continuing to play like champions. Find out all of the details of Tuesday's action in this edition of Oakland A's Minor League Notebook...

Canadians Have A Rough Debut

Vancouver opened their 2005 season on Tuesday, but it was a game that most of the players on the squad would sooner forget. Starter Joe Newby was roughed up for eight runs in three-plus innings and the Canadians were never able to pull themselves out of the early hole. First baseman and 2004 30th round pick Haas Pratt hit a homerun and drove in two to highlight the Vancouver offensive attack. It wasn't enough, as the Canadians lost, 10-4.

Reliever Shawn Martinez had a strong debut in relief of Newby. He retired nine of the 11 batters he faced and struck out three. Martinez was with Vancouver last season and he made 15 appearances for the Canadians. He was a 23th round pick in 2004.

Wes Long also had a good game for Vancouver. Long had spent most of the season with Kane County, but he was sent to Vancouver last week. He went 2-4 with a double, an RBI, a run scored and a walk. His hit with no-outs in the sixth inning was the Canadians' first hit of the game and ignited their four-run rally. Long was hitting .193 for Kane County before his demotion. He spent last season with the A's Rookie League team in Arizona.

Spanos, Barton and the Ports Remain Red Hot

Coming into the start of the season, the Stockton Ports appeared to have the best hitting line-up from top to bottom of any Oakland A's affiliate. After an inconsistent beginning to their season, the Ports are starting to hit the way many predicted they would. After their 12-3 win over Inland Empire, the Ports have now scored 69 runs in their last six games.

Two of the biggest reasons for the Ports recent offensive surge have been the play of third baseman Vasili Spanos and first baseman Daric Barton. Spanos is now hitting .316 on the year after a 4-5 night on Tuesday. The burly Indiana alum hit his ninth homer of the year and he drove in his 54th, 55th and 56th runs of the season.

Barton has been so hot over the past 10 games that he has raised his batting average nearly 30 points. With two hits on Tuesday, Barton has now upped his batting average over .300 to .301. He also picked up his 55th and 56th walks of the season and he now has an on-base percentage of .430. Barton also made his first appearance at catcher on Tuesday, as he was a ninth inning defensive replacement for catcher Kurt Suzuki.

Before he left the game, Suzuki launched his seventh homerun of the season, a solo shot in the 7th. In total, the Ports collected 12 hits and 8 walks in the game. They scored in six of the nine innings and every Port in the starting line-up either scored a run or collected a hit with the exception of Eddie Cornejo.

Sacramento Streaks To 40th Win

After a slow start, the Sacramento River Cats have turned up the heat and are now comfortably ensconced in their customary spot in first place. The River Cats won their eight game in nine tries and are now 40-33 on the season. They now have a four game lead over Tucson in the Pacific South division. Starter Steve Sparks threw a strong seven innings to earn his sixth win for the River Cats and Britt Reames picked up his first save with a scoreless ninth, as Sacramento defeated the slumping Las Vegas 51s, 5-3.

The knuckleballer Sparks had his good stuff on Monday and catcher John Baker did a good job handling Sparks. Sparks allowed only two runs on six hits. Perhaps most telling was that he had zero wild pitches and Baker had no passed balls. Mario Ramos allowed a run without retiring a batter, but Chris Mabeus and Reames combined to throw two scoreless innings to nail down the win for the River Cats.

The Sacramento offense was sparked by lead-off hitter Freddie Bynum, who has been outstanding in that role over the last few weeks. Bynum, who was playing left field on Tuesday after playing shortstop on Monday, went 3-5 with a double, an RBI and a run scored. Bynum's RBI came with two-outs and was his 25th on the season. The utility player is hitting .291 this season. The River Cats also received an RBI triple from Baker (his second of the season) and an RBI double from Shawn Garrett. Jack Cust contributed two hits and Charles Thomas stole his fourth base since his demotion to Sacramento. Thomas is hitting .364 and has scored 11 runs in 11 games for Sacramento.

Recently demoted pitcher Juan Cruz will get the start for Sacramento tomorrow against Las Vegas. It will be his first start of the year after pitching out of the A's bullpen all season. Cruz was a starter in the Chicago Cubs organization and was one of the best starters on the Licey team in the Dominican Winter League.

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