Notes: Blanton gearing up for season
Righty shows midseason intensity in Sunday's start
PHOENIX -- One run in, no outs and a runner in scoring position. It was just the situation Joe Blanton needed.Two strikeouts and a ground ball later, Blanton was bouncing off the mound after limiting the damage. "Usually in Spring Training, you're still just working on things and the situation doesn't mean much," Blanton said after the Oakland Athletics' 3-2 split-squad victory over the San Francisco Giants on Sunday. "That time, I put myself in the situation like I'd face in the regular season. I picked the intensity up a notch to see if I could get out of that inning without giving up another run." Mission accomplished and another sign that Blanton is prepared to shoulder his share of the burden when it comes time to take his turn on the mound. Entering his third season with the A's, Blanton knows he's a big part of the pitching staff. Blanton was greeted with back-to-back doubles by Eugenio Velez and Fred Lewis. He got Kevin Frandsen to ground out to shortstop. He threw a nasty backdoor slider to catch Todd Linden looking on strikes. Pedro Feliz also went down on strikes. "I'm starting to locate my pitches," Blanton said of his second start of the spring. "In the first inning, I fell behind hitters, but the rest of the game felt pretty decent. I know where my pitches are going." Knowing his place in the rotation is secure, Blanton works to fine-tune his mechanics and tinker with pitches rather than having to make an impression. "In '05 I came in, and it was a situation where there were a few guys fighting for two spots," Blanton said. "I had to be ready to go from the first game. I had to be season ready. Now, I can take my time to work on stuff. I'm focusing on getting my curveball back to where it was." He threw a couple of wicked curves to Linden, setting up the slider for the strikeout. Third baseman Donnie Murphy was 3-for-4 and scored two runs, including the game-winner in the bottom of the ninth. Murphy led off with a single, was bunted over to second by Kurt Suzuki and scored when Javier Herrera ripped a single into center field. Marco Scutaro and Erubiel Durazo also drove in runs for the A's.
In Sunday's split-squad game at Tempe Diablo Stadium, Eric Chavez, Nick Swisher and Daric Barton hit solo home runs, doubling Oakland's total on the spring to six. Right-hander Shane Komine allowed a run on four hits over three innings. He walked one and struck out two.The A's scored four runs in the eighth to win, 7-6. Back in action: A's infielder Lou Merloni participated in his first full workout on Sunday, nearly a week after getting hit by a pitch on his helmet. Merloni has been limited to hitting off a tee as he recovered from a slight concussion, which left him groggy and puffy for a while. The seven-year veteran was signed to a Minor League deal and invited to camp as a non-roster player. Manager Bob Geren has seen Merloni play, so missing a week of Spring Training wouldn't hinder his chances. "I've seen him at every level," Geren said. "He's an overachiever-type guy; a managerial-favorite-type guy. He knows how to play the game, and he has a good work ethic." Plenty of Perez: Infielder Antonio Perez played in his 10th game of the spring on Sunday and leads the A's in plate appearances. It's all by design. "Sometimes I wonder if I'm playing him too much," Geren said. "We've got him a lot of action. It's good for him to get a chance to play regularly. He's able to play everywhere, and that's what he needs to do." Take 5: Rule 5 players Ryan Goleski and Jay Marshall will continue to get plenty of action during spring games as the A's determine whether they are worthy of a roster spot or will be offered back to their original teams. "I want to keep them as long as possible," Geren said. "They won't be taking anything away from anybody. They can decide on the last day if they want." Goleski went hitless in his first 14 at bats and is 2-for-26 overall through Sunday's action. "Before he got the two hits, it looked like he was putting too much pressure on himself," Geren said. "Since then he seems much more relaxed. He's going to be given a great shot at making the team. We just told him to be himself." Roster moves: The A's optioned left-hander Dan Meyer, and right-handers Santiago Casilla and David Shafer to Triple-A Sacramento, and reassigned right-handers Kaz Tadano and Connor Robertson, left-hander Dallas Braden, and outfielder Vince Faison to their Minor League camp. Up next: Southpaw Joe Kennedy (0-0, 22.09) looks to reverse his spring fortunes on Monday when he takes the mound against the Seattle Mariners in Peoria. Kennedy has allowed a team-high nine earned runs in 3 2/3 innings over his previous two starts. Kennedy is a front-runner for the fifth spot in the A's rotation. Seattle sends righty Felix Hernandez to the mound.
Rick Eymer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.