10/02/2002 10:15 pm ET
MLBeat: Pierzynski unpopular
Bullpen shuffle in Game 1 confused even pitchers
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski approached one of the A's during batting practice Wednesday before Game 2 of the American League Division Series and extended his hand. The Oakland player shook it and offered a cursory greeting, but when Pierzynski tried to extend the conversation, he got a good look at the opposing player's back.
It's called big-leaguing someone, and big-leaguers do it better than anyone. Pierzynski should expect plenty of it as long as this series is alive.
"(Bleep him)," said the A's player in question. "He's a (bleeping) (bleep)."
Crude as it may be, that seemed to be the general consensus among the A's when it comes to A.J., and Game 1 fueled the fire. Somehow, the Twins catcher managed to irritate just about everyone in green and gold.
It started in the first inning, when Eric Chavez came in from second base on a bloop single to center from David Justice. He had to push Pierzynski out of the way to score.
"He was just lollygagging around the plate," Chavez said. "I was like, 'Dude, get outta my way.'"
"He was standing right on the plate," said A's manager Art Howe. "I don't know why, but he was."
Pierzynski admitted to being at fault -- "My bad," he told Chavez -- but that didn't go very far in terms of damage control. Pierzynski also earned the A's wrath by chirping at Oakland starter Tim Hudson after singles in the second and fourth innings; Hudson and catcher Ramon Hernandez were seen in the dugout having an animated conversation shortly thereafter.
So don't be surprised if, at some point in this series, Pierzynski wears a fastball. None of the A's would go on record about it, but the inferences were obvious.
"The guy gets a couple of (bleeders) and acts like he lit someone up," said one of the A's. "He'll get his, believe me."
Added A's general manager Billy Beane, who sat in on Howe's private session with Bay Area beat writers before Game 2: "To my experience, popping off is for the insecure."
Chad's not mad: There was a game of musical moundsmen going on in the A's bullpen during the sixth and seventh innings Tuesday. As the A's pondered replacing Hudson, they first had right-hander Cory Lidle up to get loose, then quickly replaced him with left-hander Ted Lilly, who eventually replaced Hudson and took the loss.
As Lilly struggled, right-hander Chad Bradford got up. Then he was down, and Lidle was up. Lidle worked the seventh inning and gave up a run, and Bradford never got in.
"I honestly don't know what was going on," Bradford said. Then he deadpanned the best line of the day: "Maybe they looked down there and said, "Oh wait, that's Bradford. He sucks. Get him out of there.'"
Bradford, a right-handed sidearmer, went 4-2 with a 3.11 ERA in 75 appearances this season, but his ERA was 1.79 before the All-Star break and 4.86 after it.
Lidle and Lilly were Oakland's No. 4 and 5 starters during the regular season, and the situations they handled in Game 1 are the types of situations Bradford handled during the regular season. But if you're looking for Chad to be chafed, you're looking in the wrong place.
"Those guys are starting pitchers; they've got great stuff," he said. "I mean, what am I gonna say? Of course I want to pitch, but it's not disappointing that they're in there before me. If anything, I think it's an advantage. We've got two more great arms down there."
Bradford pitched two shutout innings Wednesday.
Surgery for Saenz: When Game 2's first pitch was thrown, A's utility man Olmedo Saenz likely was just regaining consciousness. Saenz underwent surgery Wednesday morning to repair the Achilles tendon he tore while running to first base after hitting a foul ball in the eighth inning of Game 1.
"The surgery went very well," said A's trainer Larry Davis, adding that Saenz had a bone spur that complicated things. "He'll be put in a cast for six weeks, and we'll take it from there."
Saenz is in the last year of his contract with the A's, who have an option on him for next season, but Beane and Davis said Saenz's contract status will have nothing to do with the treatment he receives.
"First and foremost, our concern is with the player's immediate health," Beane said. "We'll deal with the other stuff when it's appropriate."
Added Davis: "We'll continue working with him through the rehabilitation. It's kind of an honor-bound thing. You try to return the guy back to life the way you got him."
The A's won't be able to replace Saenz on the roster unless they get past the ALDS, so Howe's right-handed options off the bench are limited to Randy Velarde, Adam Piatt and Eric Byrnes.
"It's a shame," said Howe. "You get to this point and you want to be a part of it. And Olmedo missed a lot of time down the stretch. It's got to be frustrating for him."
Saenz missed 23 games in September with a sprained finger.
History lesson: After being told that his players seemed undaunted by losing Game 1, Howe was quick with an explanation.
"More than anything, it's because we know who's going to the mound the next few days," he said, pointing to Game 2 starter Mark Mulder and Game 3 starter Barry Zito. "We know we've got quality starters going out there, and that's a shot in the arm."
Also of come comfort, albeit backward, is that the A's saw the Yankees come back to beat them in the ALDS last year after falling behind 0-2 at home.
"I don't think we're nervous," said shortstop Miguel Tejada. "They won Game 1, not Game 2 or 3. You have to win three games. We know that."
"We've got some history with that," Howe added. "We've seen it go the other way."
Around the horn: Bench coach Ken Macha, who has been granted permission to interview for the vacant managerial spots with the Tigers and Cubs after the ALDS, was named a candidate for the Brewers job Wednesday. Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin, who was hired last week, said he'd be asking the A's for permission to talk to Macha, too. Asked if he'd grant it, Beane said, "I don't see why not." ... Howe said his decision to lift Hudson after 77 pitches Wednesday didn't have anything to do with the possibility that Hudson will have to work Game 4 on three days of rest. "You're cognizant of it, but that's not what you're going by," he explained. "You're going by performance." ... Mark Mulder, who will work Game 5 on three days of rest if needed, threw 90 pitches over six innings to get the win Wednesday.
Mychael Urban is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This report was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.