Hideki Matsui gets to work on first day with A’s
Crisp was far from the only one thrilled to see Oakland’s new designated hitter in uniform and on the field. Pitcher Dallas Braden greeted the slugger in the clubhouse on reporting day with a life-size blowup Godzilla representing Matsui’s nickname, even dressing it in his No. 55 jersey.
Matsui tipped his cap to the large contingent monitoring his every move after a session in the covered cage at Papago Park, then smiled as he went through sprint work on a welcome sunny day in the desert following a weekend of heavy rain and cold. He even pulled out his glove to play catch and later did defensive drills with the outfielders.
“It’s like the first day of school. It’s great,” second baseman Mark Ellis said of the hype. “There are a lot of people all over the place. Getting people to talk about the A’s, that’s good. It will be different.”
The Athletics have high hopes that Matsui and fellow newcomers David DeJesus and Josh Willingham will boost the middle of the order and make them a contender in the AL West. Oakland managed only 109 homers and 663 runs last season, the team’s second fewest in the last 28 non-shortened seasons.
While the A’s got their first look at their upgraded roster all together, there’s not ever much to take from Day 1. Hitters typically stand in the batter’s box and spend more time tracking pitches than taking actual swings.
“They’re all standing upright. That’s good,” A’s assistant general manager David Forst said with a smile. His club used the disabled list 23 times last season, two shy of the franchise record set in 2008.
Manager Bob Geren said he spent a little more time addressing his team Monday morning and welcoming all the new faces.
With added depth throughout the roster, a talented starting rotation and bullpen, and a lineup that looks to produce more offense, the A’s could make a push for their first AL West title since reaching the AL championship series in 2006 and getting swept by Detroit.
Oakland finished second last year to the eventual AL champion Texas Rangers, staying in the race until late despite all the injuries.
The attention in Japan is an added bonus for the small-market franchise.
“It’s nice with Hideki joining our team, having a little green and gold contingent over there is going to be fun,” the skipper said.