OF Matt Watson is looking to make an impact.
PHOENIX – Last season, Matt Watson was a forgotten man at Oakland A’s spring training camp. During his first season with the A’s, Watson wasn’t given much playing time in the major league spring training games before being reassigned to minor league camp. After a full year in the system, Watson is more of a known commodity and he is getting a better chance to show the A’s coaching staff what he can do. So far, Watson has taken full advantage of that opportunity.
“I have been a lot more comfortable [in camp] than last year, knowing more people, and it seems like I am getting a longer look [from the A’s coaching staff],” said Matt Watson after Wednesday’s contest against the San Francisco Giants. The A’s won the game against their cross-bay rivals, 5-1.
Watson, who doubled in his only at-bat in the A’s victory over the Giants, is third on the team in batting average amongst A’s players who have received more than 10 at-bats this spring. The left-handed hitting outfielder has posted a .417 batting average thus far and has doubled three times. He has also driven in three runs.
Although he has played well so far this spring, Watson is realistic about his chances of making the A’s 25-man roster out of spring training. The A’s are currently carrying five outfielders who are expected to be on the 25-man roster (Eric Byrnes, Bobby Kielty, Mark Kotsay, Charles Thomas and Nick Swisher), and they aren’t expected to carry a sixth outfielder.
“I still think I'm the odd man out at this point, and certainly I don't want anyone to get injured,” Watson said.
However, Watson said that he hopes that a good showing this spring will put him in a position to be called on by the A’s if they need another outfielder at any point this season.
So far this spring, Watson’s hot bat has caused the A’s coaches to take notice. A’s manager Ken Macha and hitting coach Dave Hudgens were quoted on MLB.com praising the Xavier alum’s hitting stroke. And with Bobby Kielty out nursing a pulled left calf, Watson has been given a fairly heavy workload in the outfield this spring.
“It seems like the coaches have taken a little bit of notice,” Watson said. “There has been a little publicity about me lately and the coaches have had some positive things to say, so I'm definitely happy about that.”
Watson has been bunking with former Sacramento River Cats teammates Joe Blanton and Nick Swisher in Phoenix this spring, although he will be moving into a hotel this weekend when his pregnant wife arrives with their infant son, Landon.
“My wife and Joe’s wife are good friends. However, with them and the dogs, it would be a little crowded if [his wife and son] moved in,” Watson said.
“And the hotel will be a little quieter [for his family]. Sometimes it’s hard to get Swish to stop talking,” Watson said with a laugh.
Dan Meyer Improves
A’s starting pitching prospect Dan Meyer had a strong bounce-back appearance on Wednesday, throwing three shut-out innings against the Giants. Meyer was pummeled for seven runs in two innings against Milwaukee in his first start last week, so his effort against the Giants was an encouraging sign.
Meyer started out a little sluggish, allowing a lead-off double to Ray Durham. An out, a walk and a wild pitch later, Meyer was faced with a first and third and one out situation with Giants slugger Pedro Feliz in the box. Feliz smashed a groundball into the hole near third, but Gold Glove third baseman Eric Chavez snared the smash and turned it into a nifty 5-4-3 double-play.
That play seemed to buoy Meyer, who was sharp during his next two innings. He struck out two in the second and then worked around a Mark Ellis throwing error to pitch a shut-out third inning.
Relief prospect Huston Street followed Meyer in the fourth and induced three straight pop-ups in retiring the side on 10 pitches. Closer Octavio Dotel did Street one better and retired the Giants on 7 pitches in a shut-out 5th inning. The only blemish against A’s pitching in the game came on a solo homerun by Feliz off of lefty John Rheinecker in the 7th inning. Rheinecker was otherwise very impressive, retiring all six other batters he faced in his two innings of work. Six A’s pitchers combined to limit the Giants to three hits.
On the offensive side of the ball, Oakland got on the board early on a solo homerun by Mark Ellis (who started at shortstop) in the 4th inning off of Giants prospect Merkin Valdez. Jason Kendall drove in another run in the 5th inning. Kendall is third in the American League in batting so far this spring with a .538 batting average. The A’s tacked on three more runs in an 8th inning rally that featured a run-scoring double by Kurt Suzuki and a two-run single by Shawn Garrett.
Mark Ellis made his first throwing error of the spring in the third inning. However, the throw came from the shortstop position and Ellis made several other long throws successfully during the game. The A’s are closely monitoring Ellis’ throwing motion as he returns from a major shoulder injury.
Kurt Suzuki continued to shine defensively behind the plate. He threw out his third base-stealer in three opportunities on Wednesday. Suzuki, who will start the season in either low-A Kane County or high-A Stockton, also had two hits and an RBI in the game. He is 3-4 with a walk so far this spring.
Prospect Daric Barton continued to work out and is getting closer to being ready to play in games. Barton is recovering from an appendectomy.