MESA, Ariz. – The A’s tried to make an early dress rehearsal feel like the real thing Saturday.
They timed their pitchers and monitored whether hitters stayed in the batter’s box during an intrasquad game at Fitch Park, so as to adhere to the new pace-of-play rules that Major League Baseball will enforce this season.
On an overcast day in the desert, manager Bob Melvin also had reason to be pleased with some of the individual performances he saw over the four-inning contest.
Oakland plays its first exhibition Tuesday against the Giants, and umpires will begin enforcing the new rules to speed up the game. Penalties won’t be handed out in spring training, and players will be granted some slack in the early going of the regular season.
Half-inning commercial breaks will be kept to 2 minutes, 25 seconds for local broadcasts, and pitchers must complete their warm-up pitches by the final 30 seconds of those breaks. Batters must keep one foot in the batter’s box after pitches they take, though there are limited exceptions to the rule.
“We were a little long with some of our pitchers,” Melvin said. “The batters were cognizant of staying in the box.”
The A’s will play another intrasquad game Sunday in advance of Tuesday’s exhibition opener.
FLASHING LEATHER: A couple nice plays were turned in by the brand-new left side of the A’s infield. Third baseman Brett Lawrie and shortstop Marcus Semien each earned praise from Melvin, as did outfielders Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry for notable plays that they made.
Semien’s defense will be a storyline worth watching all spring as he tries to nail down the starting shortstop job. Though he’s played short extensively in the minors, he has much less experience at the position in the majors.
STOCK RISING: A’s players and coaches got their first in-game look at switch pitcher Pat Venditte, and he impressed. Venditte warmed up left-handed but then began his inning throwing right-handed when Carson Blair, a right-handed hitter, stepped in. He wound up recording a 1-2-3 inning, throwing left-handed to get Sam Fuld and right-handed to strike out the switch-hitting Andy Parrino. Venditte declared he would throw right-handed – rules stipulate the pitcher must declare first in the rare switch pitcher vs. switch hitter battle – so Parrino batted left-handed. Venditte struck him out to finish his afternoon. He’s impressed so far this spring.
“There’s a lot of movement” on his pitches, Melvin said. “It’s tough enough to pitch at this level one-way, let alone two. It’s significant.”
[STIGLICH: A's switch-pitcher Venditte gets visit from dad]
ODDS AND ENDS: Reliever Chad Smith, claimed off waivers from Detroit, arrived at camp Saturday morning. The 25-year-old right-hander made his major league debut last season and posted a 5.40 ERA in 10 appearances. He struck out nine in 11 2/3 innings. Smith was born in Thousand Oaks but has two aunts who live in Northern California, including one in San Francisco. His mother recently came across a picture of Smith as a 5-year-old wearing an A’s shirt. “I’ve heard nothing but great things about the organization as far as the coaching staff, front office, everyone involved,” he said. … The grounds crew brought out the tarp late Saturday afternoon to cover the infield at Hohokam Stadium. Forecasts call for a chance of rain Sunday and then a much heavier chance Monday.