Kevin Melillo homered and doubled in his first AFL game and followed that performance with a 1-3 night to boost his early AFL average to .429. The A's second base prospect drove-in two of the Phoenix Desert Dogs' three runs in the first contest. The Desert Dogs were shut-out in the second game to fall to 1-1 on the early season. Melillo was Phoenix's starting second baseman in the first contest, but played third base in the second game. He played second exclusively for Midland in 2006 (minus a brief stint in the outfield in an extra-inning game).
A's catching prospect Landon Powell got the start in the Desert Dogs' second game and the switch-hitting catcher collected a single in three at-bats. That Powell is playing in the AFL is a great sign for the former South Carolina star. There were concerns that Powell would never be able to handle the rigors of catching full-time after missing all of the 2005 season with a serious knee injury. However, he appeared in 102 games this season and came out of it strong enough to participate in fall baseball. He earned praise for his defense while playing for Stockton this season and will be looking to show he can hit elite minor league pitching in Arizona.
A trio of A's relief prospects have also made an appearance for the Desert Dogs. Closer Marcus McBeth, fresh off of a break-out season that saw him save 32 games in three levels, earned the save in Phoenix's opening day win. McBeth had a one-two-three inning and he struck out a batter. He could be a sleeper candidate to compete for a spot in the A's bullpen next season and, at the very least, should spend significant time as the Sacramento River Cats' closer. McBeth throws a mid-90s fastball and has an outstanding change-up. This is only the second full-season of pitching for McBeth, who was drafted as an outfielder. He appeared in four games as a replacement player in the AFL last season.
Connor Robertson, who served as McBeth's set-up man in Midland most of the season, worked a scoreless inning in the Desert Dogs' second game. He walked one and struck out one. Robertson has posted outstanding numbers throughout his short career in the Oakland chain and is another candidate for a spot in the A's bullpen, perhaps as soon as mid-season next year. Robertson has racked up prodigious strike out numbers throughout his minor league career.
Mike Mitchell, who was an All-Star closer for the Stockton Ports and a set-up man for Midland in 2006, worked an inning on Wednesday, as well. Mitchell allowed one run in one inning of work. He allowed one hit. Mitchell had a 3.22 ERA in three levels this season with 18 saves. He allowed only two homers in 67 innings. A 2003 pick, Mitchell struggled with injuries early in his career, but is healthy now and pitching well.
2005 A's Organizational Pitcher of the Year Dallas Braden was scheduled to be on the Phoenix roster, but he has been replaced by Midland reliever Jared Burton, who appeared in 53 games for the Rockhounds, all in relief. Burton has yet to make an appearance for Phoenix. Braden made only 10 starts this season after rehabbing his sore left shoulder for the first half of the season.
A's top outfield prospect Travis Buck is also on the Phoenix roster, but has yet to play. Buck was in the midst of an outstanding season for Stockton and Midland when he was sidelined with a sports hernia in July. Buck is one of the top prospects in the AFL this season, according to many publications.
The Desert Dogs are managed by Sacramento skipper Tony DeFrancesco. DeFrancesco himself could be auditioning for a spot on the A's roster next season. The long-time A's minor league manager would be a candidate to replace Ron Washington on the A's coaching staff should Washington be given a managerial job this off-season. Washington is considered a strong candidate for a number of managerial openings.
A's Lose Again To Detroit; Down 0-2
The A's didn't expect to have home-field advantage in this ALCS and now, after losing two straight games at home, they don't have any advantage at all. Oakland stumbled to its second straight defeat to the Tigers last night, this time by a score of 8-5. The A's got plenty of offensive fireworks, especially from outfielder Milton Bradley, but their pitching and defense let them down for a second straight day.
The A's fly to Detroit to face long-time nemesis Kenny Rogers on Friday. Oakland will be looking to become the first team in LCS history to lose the first two games at home and come back to win the series. Rich Harden will take the hill for the A's in a must-win Game 3.
Ex-A's Pitcher Cory Lidle Dies
Just before the A's took on the Tigers, they were stunned with the news that former A's starter Cory Lidle had died in a plane crash in New York City earlier that day. Lidle was a big part of the A's starting rotations in 2001 and 2002. He had a 32.1 inning scoreless streak in 2002 that helped the A's win 20 straight games in August and September. Lidle was acquired by Oakland before the 2001 season as part of the Johnny Damon-Ben Grieve-Angel Berroa trade. He was 34 years old. The A's honored Lidle before last night's game with a moment of silence and a video tribute.