A's pitchers enroll in Hitting 101
Starters learn fine art of the sacrifice bunt for Interleague Play
CLEVELAND -- Dana Eveland, Rich Harden and Justin Duchscherer are the three starters who'll face the Braves in Oakland's first taste of Interleague Play, with Eveland getting the ball for Friday's opener in Atlanta.
As such, they're the three A's pitchers who have been taking batting practice this week, and the reviews have been mixed.
Duchscherer, a reliever for most of his big league career before this season, has never batted in a Major League game but said he "squared some balls up" this week.
Eveland, who was up with the Brewers in 2005 and 2006 before spending part of 2007 with the Diamondbacks, is 0-for-8 with four strikeouts in his career, but Duchscherer said Eveland has the most pop among the pitchers.
Eveland agreed, adding that he batted ".500 or something stupid like that" as a senior in high school.
"I've gotten to hit three of the past four days," Eveland said Thursday before the finale of a three-game series against the host Indians at Progressive Field. "I'm definitely rusty, but it's starting to come around."
Harden, a right-hander who hits from the left side, has only batted in Interleague Play during one season, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in 2004. And based on what his teammates have seen this week, he'll be hard-pressed to drop down the first successful sacrifice bunt of his career Saturday against former A's ace Tim Hudson.
"I saw him hitting some line drives; he's got a nice little stroke," reliever Andrew Brown said. "But his bunting technique is the strangest thing I think I've seen."
Duchscherer admitted to being a poor bunter, too, but Eveland said Duchscherer's not nearly as bad at it as Harden.
"He's a disaster," Eveland said with a laugh.
Eveland doesn't have any sacrifice bunts in his career, either.
"None of us are very good at it, so we need more work," Eveland said. "As a pitcher, you obviously get fired up about swinging the bat, but really, all they want us to do is get a bunt down when the situation calls for it -- and not get hurt."
A's manager Bob Geren suggested that his pitchers consider taking at least one strike in non-bunting situations, and he's told them to be smart should they reach base.
"We've talked about baserunning," Geren said. "The main thing you want them to do is remember they need to take care of themselves so they can go back out and pitch."
Greg Smith started against the Indians on Thursday, but if Geren runs out of position players in Atlanta and needs a pinch-hitter late, he might just turn to the rookie left-hander. Smith, who was in the Arizona organization with Eveland, has a career .333 batting average (12-for-36) with four doubles and a home run in the Minor Leagues.
"Greg can flat-out rake," Eveland gushed. "He actually knows what he's doing up there. The rest of us are trying to hit. When he's up there, he's a real hitter."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.