MESA, Ariz. – The pageantry was on display Tuesday for the grand opening of the renovated Hohokam Stadium. It was up to the A’s to take care of business on the baseball end.
They did just that in a 9-4 victory over the Giants to open the Cactus League schedule. And while the final result of this one will soon be forgotten, Oakland manager Bob Melvin hopes some of the things he saw become a trend.
The A’s hit for the cycle in the first inning off reigning World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, as leadoff man Craig Gentry singled, Marcus Semien clubbed a two-run homer, Ben Zobrist tripled to the wall in left-center and Nate Freiman hit a two-out double off the right field wall.
“You hope for things like that when you start off well and everybody hits and you get rallies that happen early,” said Zobrist, the A’s new second baseman. “You hope that just transfers into the feeling of the team, and the chemistry where the team believes you can do that.”
By game’s end, the A’s had collected 13 hits and opened their newly remodeled spring facility in style.
DROPPING LUMBER: Take your pick. Several Athletics did damage at the top of the order. Semien enjoyed a four-RBI day and homered twice. Gentry, hitting leadoff with Coco Crisp not playing, singled twice and stole a base. Zobrist doubled and tripled and cleanup man Billy Butler had a sacrifice fly.
CAMP BATTLE: Does ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte have a realistic shot to land a spot in the bullpen? It’s not out of the question if he pitches like he did Tuesday. Venditte faced just two hitters but recorded big outs pitching both left and right-handed. He coaxed an inning-ending groundout from Justin Maxwell (while pitching right-handed) to end the top of the third and then rang up Brandon Belt looking with a slider (while throwing left-handed) to begin the fourth.
“We were going to have him clean up an inning and that was it, or have a full inning,” Melvin said. “But you just couldn’t resist (sending him out for one batter in the fourth). You knew he was gonna come out left-handed the next inning.”
STOCK RISING: Gentry missed 32 games last season on the disabled list and then sat out the final 2 ½ weeks with a concussion. The A’s need the speed demon at full strength, particularly with the knowledge that center fielder Coco Crisp will require rest periodically.
Gentry showed his value Tuesday, going 2-for-3 and scoring two runs to help jumpstart the offense.
“It seems like when he gets on base, he scores,” Melvin said. “He’s a guy we need to keep healthy because he can do some really good things for us.”
QUOTABLE: “I said, ‘I got a switch pitcher coming in, so I don’t know what arm to use.’” – Melvin, on his conversation with home plate umpire Mike Everitt regarding his signal to the bullpen for Venditte.