Streaking Barton Ready For Home Opener

Daric Barton's sore left hand isn't supposed to keep him out of the A's home opener, which means he'll have an opportunity to extend the longest on-base streak to start a career in Oakland history.

Daric Barton has reached base in all 20 big-league games in which he has played, picking up 25 hits and 14 walks in the process.

A's shortstop Bobby Crosby began his own career with an 0-for-16 streak, so he can vouch for how difficult it is to have the sort of success Barton has enjoyed.

"It's really tough when you haven't faced any of these pitchers before, but that's what kind of hitter he is," Crosby said.

"To be that patient when you've never seen these guys, that's hard."

Oakland's designated hitter, Jack Cust, also walks a lot, and he said he enjoys watching Barton hit because the rookie has such a good knowledge of the zone.

"Obviously, Daric has a great idea what he's doing up there," Cust said.

"He's a lot older hitting-wise, more mature, than other guys his age. ... He's not going to get himself out."

Barton sat out both games this weekend with hand soreness, which also kept him out for a week during the spring. He said the hand tightened up in cold weather, but he should be fine for the games against Boston at the Coliseum.

If he is unable to go, Mike Sweeney would be the likely starter, unless the A's prefer to get another left-handed hitter in, which would mean a rare start for Dan Johnson. With Barton and Sweeney getting the bulk of the at-bats, Johnson's roster spot is highly questionable when the A's activate Chad Gaudin to start at Cleveland on April 12.

Notes For The Home Opener
--RHP Joe Blanton will make his third start in an opener this year; he got the call for the A's first Cactus League game, the team's opener in Japan, and now the U.S. home opener against the Red Sox. Blanton was one of the A's players who was most affected by the time changes coming back, but he should be fine by Tuesday night. He gave up three runs, all in his final inning -- the sixth -- against Boston in Japan.

--Oakland is expected to go with the same lineup for the home opener as it did in Japan, because the Red Sox again will start Daisuke Matsuzaka. That means that Jack Cust will DH, Emil Brown will be in left, Ryan Sweeney in center and Mike Sweeney on the bench. Mike Sweeney is likely to be used in a pinch-hitting role, however.

--SS Bobby Crosby led the A's in homers this spring with four, and he had three hits in the two regular-season games in Japan. He said he's now getting his front foot down earlier; before, his foot was sometimes still in the air when the ball was being delivered, leaving him in a poor position to hit, especially breaking pitches away.

--Manager Dick Williams will be honored before Oakland's home opener as the team recognizes his recent election to the Hall of Fame. Williams will be one of several former Oakland greats to throw out ceremonial pitches on Tuesday night, along with Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, Dave Henderson and Terry Steinbach. The A's will be kicking off their celebration of their 40 years in Oakland.

--LHP Brad Halsey confirmed that the A's have released him. Halsey had surgery to repair a torn shoulder labrum last summer, but he has had some setbacks with his rehab. He is hoping to sign with another organization once he resumes throwing off the mound.

BY THE NUMBERS: 116 -- Walks coaxed by A's hitters this spring, the second-most in the league -- even though Oakland played four fewer spring games than AL-leading Cleveland and as many as seven games fewer than other clubs.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think we could surprise a lot of people. It's fun to prove people wrong. I don't know why people are underestimating us -- we're capable of winning if we're healthy. … If we play the way we're capable of, I don't see any reason we can't make a race of it." -- A's shortstop Bobby Crosby.

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