River Cats Notebook: A's Come To Town

In this edition of Sacramento River Cats Notebook, we have a first-hand account of the Oakland A's battle with the Sacramento River Cats, news that a 2005 River Cat will be returning to AA-Midland to start the season and a preview of some of the River Cats' roster. THIS IS A FREE PREVIEW OF PREMIUM CONTENT

A's Top River Cats, 5-1

More than 13,000 fans braved the cold and rain to witness the Oakland A's battle their AAA affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats, on Thursday night. The A's won a briskly played game by a score of 5-1. A's ace Rich Harden took the mound for Oakland and was predictably dominant, working efficiently through six-plus innings. The A's flame-thrower struck out nine and walked only one. He allowed three hits and a run. Outfielders Charles Thomas and Matt Watson were the only two River Cats to get really solid swings against Harden. Thomas lined-out and doubled versus Harden and scored Sacramento's only run. Watson brought Thomas home with a solid single to right. Danny Putnam also singled against Harden to account for Sacramento's three hits.

On the other side, Sacramento starter Shane Komine was solid, as well. He worked five innings, allowing three runs (two earned), while striking out two and walking one. The right-hander had his dazzling curveball working on Thursday, and he changed speeds frequently to keep the A's hitters off-balance, inducing a number of weak pop-ups and groundballs. His defense let him down on a few occasions and he probably would have finished with only one run allowed with tighter fielding behind him.

Komine also displayed an impressive pick-off move that he used to nab Nick Swisher and nearly catch Jason Kendall. Komine's near pick-off of Kendall was effective in keeping Kendall a little closer to the bag, which allowed Sacramento catcher Jeremy Brown enough time to throw Kendall out stealing later in the pitch sequence.

"I'm just excited for the season. I'm ready to go out there and have fun and see where it takes me," Komine said before his start on Thursday.

Komine was named as one of the A's top-ten prospects by Baseball America during the off-season, a little more than one year removed from having Tommy John surgery. He had a strong finish to his 2005 season with Midland and then carried over that success with a stand-out performance in the Arizona Fall League.

"I got a lot of confidence built up for this year. I was really surprised [to be named in the top-ten prospects by Baseball America]. It was a great honor to be so well thought of."

Easily the most impressive defensive performance of the evening came from a player who wasn't even in the original starting line-up, left-fielder Danny Putnam. Putnam entered the game in the seventh and made two outstanding sliding catches in left. One catch was so good that he was able to parlay it into a triple play.

With no outs in the seventh, A's infielder Antonio Perez stepped in against Victor Moreno with Freddie Bynum at second and Marco Scutaro at first. Perez hit a sinking line-drive to left that had all of the makings of a run-scoring single. Putnam charged the ball hard and made a diving catch. He got up quickly and fired to second to Kevin Melillo, where Melillo was able to force out Bynum. Melillo then realized that Scutaro had passed second and was retreating quickly back to first. Melillo fired to first baseman Daric Barton and the River Cats had a historic triple play.

The River Cats finished with five hits, with Melillo, Putnam, Watson, Thomas and Jed Morris each collecting a knock. The A's had 12 hits, with Kendall, Jay Payton and Nick Swisher leading the way with two a piece. Frank Thomas and Milton Bradley were the only two A's starting position players to sit out today's game, but both took batting practice before the game.

River Cats' Roster Coming Into Focus

Although the Sacramento roster is far from being set with the A's still carrying 33 players in major league camp, there are some players who are being penciled into the River Cats' line-up already. Sacramento manager Tony DeFrancesco stated that catcher Jeremy Brown will be part of the River Cats' roster for the first time. The A's 2002 first round pick had been stuck in AA for the past three seasons. DeFrancesco also confirmed that top prospect Daric Barton will be in AAA to start the season.

"We are counting on Daric Barton to be a big part of this team," DeFrancesco said.

DeFrancesco pointed to one position player in particular that he feels will impact the River Cats fortunes significantly this season: outfielder Charles Thomas. DeFrancesco said that Thomas will be playing primarily in center and should lead-off a lot this year.

" I think that [Thomas] needs to prove that he can do what he's done before. He needs to get on-base, steal bags and do what he is capable of doing on the field," DeFrancesco said.

DeFrancesco also indicated that leftfielder Brian Stavisky will likely be a part of the River Cats' starting outfield. The Sacramento manager noted that one of the coaching staff's goals this season is to "make [Stavisky] a solid major league outfielder" defensively. Stavisky is the 2004 California League Most Valuable Player, and he hit .316 for Midland in 2005.

DeFrancesco talked about some of his starting pitchers, as well. He clarified that off-season acquisition Chad Gaudin pronounces his last name "Go-Dan." When asked about the health and progress of pitching prospect Dan Meyer, who struggled most of last season with a shoulder injury, DeFrancesco indicated that he thought Meyer was healthy and capable of a strong season.

"Dan threw much better for me in the major league [camp] when I saw him there then he did in a minor league game for me, but I think he's healthy and he can do what he also needs to do [to get back to the level of play he was at in 2004]," DeFrancesco said.

DeFrancesco also pointed to John Rheinecker as another starter who has a lot to prove this season. Rheinecker missed most of last year with a tendon injury in a finger on his pitching hand. The left-handed starter will be spending at least part of his season in Sacramento for the fourth straight year.

"Last year was John's year to make the big leagues. He was 4-0 with a one-something ERA and he hurt his finger and missed the whole rest of the year, so he knows he has something he has to prove," DeFrancesco said.

"Guys who come back to Sacramento three or four times, they know that it's time to make your move or probably time to move on, so I think he has something to show the team this season."

DeFrancesco indicated that Thursday night's starter Shane Komine would either be the River Cats' Opening Day starter or would pitch on the season's second day. The River Cats' goal on Thursday night was to get Komine stretched to five innings, which Komine accomplished in 82 pitches.

Colamarino Headed Back To Midland

Before the game, Brant Colamarino learned the disappointing news that he would be heading back to AA-Midland after spending the 2005 season split between Midland and Sacramento. The A's first base prospect hit 21 homers last season and has a career minor league OPS of 814.

The team told Colamarino that they wanted him to get as many games in at first base as possible, and with Daric Barton slated to be the River Cats' starting first baseman in 2006, it was going to be hard for Colamarino to get consistent playing time at first in Sacramento. Although obviously disappointed not to have another crack at AAA to start the year, Colamarino took the news in stride.

"It's part of the game. With me and Daric Barton on the same team, it probably wouldn't get us a lot of playing time, so we are each going to go to a place where we can get a lot of playing time and get better," Colamarino said.

The slugging first baseman scalded AA pitching at the start of last season, hitting .321 with 10 homers in only 46 games. He fell off of that pace after being promoted to Sacramento in July, hitting only .243 with 11 homers in 74 games for the River Cats. Colamarino also struggled in 2004 the first time he arrived in AA, hitting only .273 with eight homers in 70 games for Midland. He had hit .355 with 11 homers in 50 games for A-Modesto earlier that season. Colamarino was candid about his pattern of struggles during his first go-arounds at AA and AAA.

"It's probably just confidence. It's the same game every time you move up, but there are different faces and you can get intimidated a little bit," Colamarino said.

"You start seeing guys who have been in the big leagues and you have to adjust. Once you adjust, you start to feel like, ‘hey, I can do this' and it starts to get a lot easier."

Colamarino spent this off-season rehabbing an injured left-shoulder that he had surgery on to repair some wear and tear on the labrum. It was the second time that he has had surgery on that shoulder. He was in a sling for six weeks during the off-season, but he has been at full strength this spring.

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