10/12/06 6:41 PM ET
Notes: A's players brace for the cold
Friday's game in Detroit is expected to dip into the 20s
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
"Someone said [Nick] Swisher's out there doing snow angels," said A's baseball information manager Mike Selleck.
It was an exaggeration, but it did snow lightly. Mostly, it was just very windy and very, very cold, with the wind chill driving temperatures down into the 20s. It's not expected to be much milder on Friday.
Those who have competed in similar conditions before said it won't pose much of a problem. Catcher Jason Kendall, for instance, spent the first nine years of his career in Pittsburgh and said he's played in snow and 20-degree temps plenty of times.
Oakland's Game 3 starter, Canadian Rich Harden, spent his youth playing outdoor hockey and baseball in Calgary and Victoria, B.C., and he shrugged off any weather-related concerns.
"I'm used to it," he said. "As long as I get a good warmup and stay warm between innings, that's all that really matters."
For a Southern California native such as Eric Chavez, however, Friday's elements might be a bit of a shock to the system. Chavez has only played for the A's in his career and said the coldest environment he ever remembers playing in came in Oakland, which will never be mistaken for Detroit in October.
"All you can do is try to stay warm and block it out," Chavez said. "Just suck it up and play."
Outfielder Jay Payton has played for the Rockies, Red Sox and Mets, so he's familiar with cold conditions, too.
"A few degrees here and there, it's not that big of a deal," Payton said. "The biggest difference is going from facing a guy throwing 90 [mph] to a guy throwing 100."
Blanton ready to roll: A's manager Ken Macha said he'd be pleased to get five strong innings out of Harden on Friday.
"Having today off, we'll rest our bullpen," Macha said. "If we can get five out of Rich, we've got some coverage out there."
Harden, whom Macha said will not be on a pitch count, is looking for more than five.
"That's kind of the minimum," he said.
Righty Joe Blanton, a 16-game winner during the regular season, will be available should Harden falter early. He's eager to pitch and ready to pitch several innings, if need be, but he doesn't necessarily want to pitch at all Friday.
"If I come in the game, hopefully, it'll only be for a couple [of] innings," he said. "Hopefully, not at all, because I think we'd all like to see Rich go six, seven, eight innings and hand it over to the bullpen. I'll go full-bore as long as I can if I get in there, and I want the ball, but at the same time, I don't want the ball. If I don't get it, that's probably a good sign for us as a team."
Blanton did not appear in the A's three-game sweep of the Twins in the AL Division Series and threw two no-hit innings to finish Game 1 of the ALCS.
"I'll take the last three innings of a game [where] we've got a nice little lead," he said. "That would be the best situation."
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Update on Duke: Righty Justin Duchscherer was unavailable to pitch in Game 2 on Wednesday because of neck spasms, and Macha said he was sent to get an MRI on Thursday in Detroit.
Oakland athletic trainer Larry Davis said he won't get the test results until Friday, and Macha has his fingers crossed.
"Larry said [the spasm] is just mild," Macha said. "He played such a big role in our first series. ... He's a key part of our bullpen; I'm hoping there's no problem with that."
Dribblers: Harden said he'll try to stay warm between innings by moving around frequently and using "heat sleeves." Most of the A's who stepped outside Thursday did so with brand-new knit beanies, with the tags still attached. ... Harden also said he enjoys pitching at Comerica, where he's 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his career. "I like the way this park plays," he said. "I don't know. I think it's just a good atmosphere." ... Chavez said he didn't feel any sense of panic among his teammates, despite being down 0-2 in the series after dropping two games at home. "If we go down 0-3, though, that might change a little bit," he said with a laugh. ... Asked to explain why the A's are down two games to none, Payton smiled and said, "In a nutshell? They've played better baseball. They've pitched better, they've hit better, and they'd played better defense." ... Macha said Comerica's spacious power alleys require him to play his best defensive outfielders, so switch-hitter Bobby Kielty, who hit .325 against lefties this year, will not start despite lefty Kenny Rogers getting the call for the Tigers in Game 3. ... The start time for Friday has been changed from 5:19 p.m. PT to 1:30 p.m. PT so that FOX can air Game 2 of the National League Championship Series in prime time on the East Coast.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.