A's Eric Sogard makes strong case for second base job
Infielder stars in 13-13 slugfest against Diamondbacks
Published: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 7:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 7:39 p.m.
PHOENIX -- If there's anyone in A's camp who has done more to help his cause with less publicity than second baseman Eric Sogard, the name doesn't come readily to mind.
On a Friday when none of the A's did much damage, the left-handed-hitting Sogard hit an opposite-field double against the Diamondbacks in his only at-bat off the bench.
The second base candidate came back Saturday to get a start against the Angels and promptly pulled a double to right against Angels ace Jered Weaver. Sogard wound up with four at-bats, adding a second double, but was out of the game when the A's scored three times in the bottom of the ninth to force a 13-all tie.
Yes, it's been a good spring for Sogard, who in a crowded competition at second base has more than caught the eye of manager Bob Melvin.
"Sogard is right in there,'' Melvin said. "Maybe he hasn't read his name in the newspaper as much as he should have, but that's my fault. He's always been right in there. He's certainly made a case for himself.''
There is a sizable crowd at second base, including Jemile Weeks (.389), Scott Sizemore (.148), Jed Lowrie (.333) and Adam Rosales (.300), all of whom have more experience than the 26-year-old Sogard. But no one is having a better spring than Sogard with his .423 average and five doubles.
Sogard made the club out of spring training last year but wound up spending most of his time at Triple-A Sacramento (.331).
Weaver and A's starter Travis Blackley both gave up three first-inning runs. The difference in their outings was that Weaver gave up five runs in the second while Blackley blanked the Angels in the second and third innings.
The difference in their situations is that Weaver is the Angels' opening-day starter and Blackley isn't even guaranteed a spot in the A's bullpen, although he was a big pickup for Oakland last year in nine relief appearances and 15 starts.
"I don't have the luxury of giving up an eight-spot in two innings and still being the opening-day starter,'' Blackley said with a bit of humor.
While Weaver could shrug off giving up homers to Josh Reddick, Luke Montz and Yoenis Cespedes, Blackley is trying to make sure he starts the season on the big league roster. The Australian has pitched in North America for a decade now, and that's never happened.
"There are 16 days left, and I've got to show them I'm the same guy I was last year,'' Blackley said. "I need to show that I'll compete and that I'm mentally there.''
He's going to have to show at least that much, if not more.
"The second and third innings were better,'' Melvin said. "But you don't want to see anybody give up three runs in the first like that.''
Opening-day starter Brett Anderson said he's on the road to being ready for April 1 against Seattle after pitching five innings in a minor league game against the Cubs in Mesa.
After being troubled by a sore neck and back, he allowed five hits, four walks and two earned runs.
"Today was just to eliminate the doubts,'' Anderson said, although he added he didn't have many. "The last two starts will be to hone in on my pitches. My command wasn't very good, but I'm not worried about results.''
Melvin said that after 62 pitches for Anderson on Saturday, he would get in the area of 85 pitches in his next start and, presumably, close to 100 his final start the A's last day or two in Arizona.
It was another tough day for No. 2 starter, Jarrod Parker, who threw three innings against the White Sox in Glendale, giving up nine hits, two walks and seven runs (five earned). The A's lost 11-5 while getting outhit 17-7, and Parker's ERA soared to 10.00.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson homered for Oakland's final run.
Closer Grant Balfour will pitch in his first game of spring training Monday against the Mariners. "I'm ready,'' he said, a month after arthroscopic knee surgery. Melvin said that while there's no certainty that Balfour will be ready come April 1, "he's on the path to being our opening-day closer.''
Scott Moore's solo homer fueled a three-run, game-tying rally in the ninth against the Angels.
Left-hander Garrett Olson asked for and was given his release. He's going to pursue spending the year pitching in Korea.
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