Live From Phoenix: Kennedy Hot, A's Not

Kennedy has been flawless thus far.

In today's report from Oakland A's spring training camp, we have a report on lefty Joe Kennedy, the run-down from Saturday's action and a few notes from minor league camp...

Inside Pitch

Joe Kennedy was a starter his entire career until the A's acquired him last year at the All-Star break, and making the adjustment to the bullpen wasn't easy. In his 11 relief appearances with Oakland, Kennedy gave up the lead twice, and he allowed eight of his 13 inherited runners to score.

He spent the rest of the season in the rotation, taking Rich Harden's place, but he's back in the bullpen this year.

He's able to prepare for it, which makes a big difference. In his first five spring outings, he entered in the middle of an inning with a runner on base three times -- and none of them scored.

In fact, Kennedy hadn't allowed a run through eight innings, and only six runners had reached base against him. He'd been so good, starter Dan Haren told Kennedy he needed to give up a run so he wouldn't carry a scoreless streak into the season.

"A few guys are telling me I need to give it up," Kennedy said, laughing. "Great teammates, huh?"

Kennedy is laughing a lot this spring. He's more relaxed, knows he isn't fighting for a job anywhere, and understands his role as the only lefty in the A's bullpen.

"I'd rather be in the bullpen on a great team than in the rotation for a bad team," Kennedy said. "When it comes down to winning, it doesn't matter what your role is -- as long as you are contributing to winning."

Teammates think Kennedy is throwing harder, which is common for a converted starter who no longer has to pace himself.

"I think he's throwing the best of any pitcher in camp," Haren said.

"He's throwing real hard. He's real deceptive. He throws across his body. I don't like playing catch with him. The ball cuts and it hits you in the thumb."

Added catcher Jason Kendall: "It's hard to catch him. I can't imagine what it's like to hit him."

Saturday's Notes

--The A's got clobbered by the Kansas City Royals, 17-7, on Saturday. However, they had a few offensive bright-spots. Eric Chavez continued to tear through Cactus League pitching with a long solo homer and a run-scoring double that missed going out by inches. Keith Ginter and Mark Ellis also added two-run homers for the A's.

--Starter Joe Blanton struggled in his outing, allowing eight runs (four earned) in three and two-third innings. Blanton had strong disagreements with the home-plate umpire and had a brief, heated discussion with the umpire upon being removed from the game.

--Santiago Casilla had his first poor outing of the spring, allowing two runs in one and two-third innings. Casilla had trouble with his command throughout the outing, getting in a number of hitters counts and uncorking a run-scoring wild pitch.

--Sacramento reliever Victor Moreno joined the A's for an inning during Saturday's game, but it was an outing he'd just as soon forget. Moreno struck out the first batter he faced, but then allowed five runs on six hits. He gave up a three-run homer to Chris Clapinski. He also had a wild pitch.

--Antonio Perez entered the game for Chavez in the sixth and spent the rest of the contest at third. He made a nice play in the eighth inning, ranging far to his left to cut-off a grounder and throw out a speedy runner. Perez has been working with A's coach Ron Washington this spring on improving his defense, especially at third.

--Before the game, DH Frank Thomas delighted the 7,000 plus at Phoenix Muni by putting on a home-run hitting display during batting practice. Milton Bradley and Dan Johnson also wowed the crowd with some long homeruns in BP.

--In minor league camp, outfielder Richie Robnett put on a throwing display during an outfield fielding drill with the AA-Midland squad. The 2004 first rounder threw strike after strike to home-plate from right-field in the drill.

--Third base prospect and 2003 first round pick Brian Snyder arrived at spring camp in the best shape of his playing career. The Stetson University grad missed virtually all of last season with leg ailments, but he is participating in all drills and appears to be back to 100%. Snyder was one of the A's best hitting prospects entering the 2005 season and is looking to get back to that level with a healthy 2006.

--The AAA-Sacramento squad had the misfortune of having to face SF Giants young phenom Matt Cain in their Friday contest. The River Cats fell 5-2. It was only the second day of games for the A's minor league affiliates. As outfielder Steve Stanley joked, facing Cain was "a tough assignment for your second day."

--The Sacramento River Cats have released a limited number of tickets for their March 30th Exhibition Game against the Oakland A's. To purchase tickets, contact the Raley Field Ticket Office in person or via phone at (916) 371-HITS, www.rivercats.com, Ticketmaster.com, all Ticketmaster Outlets and Ticketmaster via phone at (916) 649-TIXS.

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