Nakajima 'slightly nervous' in A's Cactus League opener
Share This Post

PHOENIX -- Hiro Nakajima is a superstar in Japan and a veteran of 11 years of professional baseball with the Seibu Lions. Yet, he had some jitters as he took the field in front of a mere 6,132 at Maryvale Stadium in the A's Cactus League opener.

"The environment, the ambiance, it was just fantastic and it pumped me up," Nakajima said through interpreter Hiroo Nishi after exiting the game.

The Japanese-born shortstop went 0 for 2 with a walk and a strikeout in his first game of 2013. He didn't have to stay anxious for too long, as he was the second batter in the game and had a ball hit to him in his second play on defense. He reached base in his first plate appearance and cleanly fielded the first ball hit his way.

"Nothing panics him," A's manager Bob Melvin said after the A's 2-1 loss to the Brewers. "It's going to take him some time to learn the opponents and so forth, but he is on the right track."

Nakajima and Jemile Weeks impressed early in the game. Weeks made a diving play to snag a quick grounder, then flipped it over to Nakajima who completed the double play.

[PRATT: Weeks fighting for second base job]

"It was a tough play," Weeks said. "It was hit hard and I was just trying to stay with it. I got to it and with the shortstop you have to try to trust him, and we haven't played that much together. I tossed it up there where I thought he would be and he was there."

Nakajima received the ball from Weeks, avoided the incoming runner and tossed the ball to first to complete the double play. It was the highlight of the day for the A's, and a learning experience for Nakajima.

"I was also trying to observe how the baserunner was going to attack and slide into second base," Nakajima said through his interpreter. "I understand that American base runners are very aggressive. While getting away from the slide I just wanted to make an accurate throw."

Nakajima described his communication with Weeks, and later Grant Green as perfect. He also shed light on another communication he had before the game with Brewers right fielder and fellow countryman Norichika Aoki.

Nakajima and Aoki spoke on the phone on Friday night to exchange greetings because it would be their first time facing each other in Arizona. They agreed to get a dinner together during spring training. So who picks up the check in that scenario?

"Because he is one year above me, I guess it will be Aoki," Nakajima said with a laugh.

Nakajima had reason to be cheerful as he passed his first big test in game action -- winning the approval of his skipper.

"I thought he looked good, I really did," Melvin said. "He made some good plays early on, looked smooth around the base, worked well with Weeks, made a nice little double play when Weeks made a good play, so far so good."

-- A's second baseman Scott Sizemore had a lot to be proud of too on Saturday. He appeared in his first game since September 28, 2011. As the team's designated hitter, he went 1 for 2 with a walk. He will get his first crack at playing his natural position of second base on Sunday.

-- Saturday's starting pitcher Jesse Chavez threw two innings and gave up one earned run. Ryan Braun, clubbed a solo homer off Chavez that landed in the grass in centerfield. Braun is 5 for 8 with two homers and seven RBI in nine regular season plate appearances against Chavez.

"He's got some good numbers against me," Chavez said.

Chavez said he has some command issues in the second inning, but other than that he was happy with his first outing.

-- Some A's minor leaguers rose to the occasion on Saturday. Shane Peterson doubled in the seventh inning and Michael Choice drove him home with a single. Scott Moore also flashed some leather by diving to snag a grounder before touching the bag with his glove and then sitting up to throw the ball to second to complete a double play.

"That was a nice play," Melvin said. "Looks like the ball is down in the corner, he almost caught it behind him and turns it into a double play. You look at his numbers and he can do some things. He's got a little juice in his bat too."

Up Next:

The A's travel to Tempe to take on the Angels at 1:05 p.m. Here's their starting lineup for Sunday:

Coco Crisp CF
Chris Young RF
Seth Smith DH
Yoenis Cespedes LF
Jed Lowrie SS
Scott Sizemore 2B
Daric Barton 1B
Derek Norris C
Adam Rosales 3B