MESA, Ariz. – The A’s had an audience Saturday afternoon even though their Cactus League opener is still 10 days away.
The city of Mesa held a Day at the Diamond Festival to mark the A’s first season in Hohokam Stadium, and the team opened its gates for an open workout at its new spring venue.
Though the pitchers threw on the mounds out beyond the right field fence, a large group of position players took batting practice in the main stadium in front of the fans.
The fact that Oakland has had so many position players show up early pleases manager Bob Melvin. Position players aren’t required to report until Tuesday, but a large group (some of whom live in the Phoenix area year-round) are already in camp and participating on the field daily.
“I felt like we almost had a full squad out there yesterday,” Melvin said. “When you have guys who haven’t played together before, the more you can get them together early on, the camaraderie thing starts, the chemistry.”
DROPPING LUMBER: Fans may start hearing Renato Nunez’s name often in the coming seasons. The third base prospect already is making himself known to the A’s. Nunez, 20, put on a long distance show in batting practice Saturday. He mashed one ball over the giant scoreboard beyond the left field fence and struck the scoreboard on a couple other occasions.
Nunez was signed out of Venezuela at age 16 so he’s entering his fifth season in the A’s system. Rated the team’s No. 4 prospect by Baseball America, Nunez’s bat is definitely his calling card. His defense is a work in progress at third, and there’s a possibility he starts seeing some time at first.
CAMP BATTLE: Chris Bassitt, one of several pitchers obtained in offseason trades over the winter, had a strong showing in his first bullpen session of the spring. “He’s a tall, lanky guy with some deception,” Melvin said of Bassitt, who turns 26 on Sunday. “The ball jumps out of his hand really well.” After coming over from the White Sox in the Jeff Samardzija deal, Bassitt is squarely in the mix for a spot in the starting rotation.
LIGHTER SIDE: Outfielder Sam Fuld arrived in Arizona on Friday with his wife and three kids. Unfortunately their luggage didn’t make it. Their belongings were left behind in an airline luggage snafu, so the Fulds were still waiting for seven bags and two car seats to be delivered.
QUOTABLE: Melvin on the impression that Nunez has made so far: “We saw him last year as a 19-year-old, and he’d take a couple at-bats and have no fear at all. When I was 19, I was hiding in the bullpen and trying not to be noticed.”
ODDS AND ENDS: Right-hander Raul Alcantara, on the mend from Tommy John surgery that was performed last May, is throwing off the front of the mound right now. His throwing program will continue for the next seven months as he builds up arm strength, according to head trainer Nick Paparesta. Alcantara was rated the A’s top pitching prospect before hurting his elbow. … Bassitt already had spring training housing arrangements set up when he was traded from the White Sox to the A’s. Because he didn’t want to leave his old friends in a bind, Bassitt is sharing a place with some former Chicago teammates near Glendale, quite the sacrifice considering the commute it makes for him to get to Mesa every morning.