Blackley endures eventful inning against Angels
Allows three hits, but no runs -- and nearly knocked off mound by wind
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Perhaps an asterisk should be placed next to any stat that came out of Sunday's Cactus League game between the A's and Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
The culprit: Extreme wind conditions.
Just ask Travis Blackley, the A's starter who balked -- it wasn't called -- because a gust of wind nearly knocked him off the rubber.
"It was going to blow me over, I swear," Blackley said.
The southpaw's Cactus League debut wasn't too memorable, otherwise -- for better or worse. Blackley offered up three hits and struck out one but didn't give up a run against an Angels lineup featuring just one regular in Mark Trumbo. Los Angeles is keeping most of its starters out of Cactus League action for at least a few more days because of the lengthier spring.
Blackley was partially satisfied with his fastball -- "when I could get a good grip on it," -- and deemed his cutter to be working best. His curveball, naturally, will come last, but it looks like his pickoff move is already in midseason form.
The 30-year-old southpaw displayed one early to get leadoff man Tommy Field at first base for the first out, but he still proceeded to use 30 pitches in the inning, albeit with what he called a tight strike zone, preventing him from coming out for the second frame.
Blackley will be stretched out as a starter this spring and has a very good shot at making the team as a long-relief option, after going 6-4 with a 3.86 ERA in 24 games, including 15 starts, with Oakland last year.
"I would have liked another inning to find a rhythm," Blackley said, "but it's about baby steps. I'll take as many zeroes as I can right now, as ugly as it may be.
"You can't read too much into it. I'm not reading too much into it, anyway. The bullpen stuff is working the way I want it to, so it's just a matter of getting it down at game speed, which you can't really replicate in the bullpen."
Young leaves game with quad cramp
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Chris Young, making his first spring start for the A's as a right fielder on Sunday, lasted just one inning at the position before he was taken out with a quad cramp for precautionary reasons.
Michael Taylor hit for Young in the top of the second inning at Tempe Diablo Stadium just minutes after Young made an over-the-shoulder catch in right field to rob the host Angels of a run and end the first.
"It's just a cramp, something you don't want to mess around with this early in camp," said manager Bob Melvin, who already planned to rest Young on Monday, anyway.
Before departing, Young doubled home a run and scored in a three-run top of the first.
The 29-year-old outfielder, who only played center field in his previous seven seasons with the D-backs, will see time at all three outfield spots with his new team this spring, as he's expected to play a roving role of sorts around regulars Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick this year.
No minor goal: Montz looks to stick with A's
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The A's have made a habit out of collecting former Nationals catchers.
First they reeled in Derek Norris in the Gio Gonzalez deal and got another in non-roster invitee, David Freitas, when trading Kurt Suzuki to Washington. Then, in November, the A's agreed to a Minor League contract with backstop Luke Montz, who spent seven years in the Nationals' organization before latching on to the Mets for a year in 2010.
Montz has 10 professional seasons under his belt but only 10 Major League appearances, all with Washington back in 2008. He'll be 30 in July, his expiration date in the baseball realm seemingly around the corner should he remain in the Minors.
But a good showing in camp this spring should set Montz up for a potential big league opportunity in Oakland this year, with manager Bob Melvin deeming him the "priority" among third-catcher types. Should anything to happen to John Jaso or Derek Norris, Montz will get the first call.
"He's the next option behind those two," Melvin said. "You look at his numbers, he swings the bat pretty well and has some power. You know we like power around here."
Montz collected 29 home runs and 74 RBIs at Triple-A New Orleans in the Miami organization last year, after hitting 22 homers with 78 RBIs at Double-A Jacksonville the year before. Overall, he's a career .237 hitter with 139 home runs and 523 RBIs in 925 Minor League games between three different organizations.
He hasn't been behind the plate for all of them, though. Montz can also play first base, where he actually spent more time in 2012 with 52 starts, next to 40 at catcher, four in left field and 11 as a designated hitter. But catcher will be his primary position with the A's, who don't have much catching depth at the higher levels in the Minors.
Catchers Freitas, Ryan Ortiz and Beau Taylor, also in camp as non-roster players, have never played above Double-A, like Montz has.
"He's looked pretty good," Melvin said. "It's tough to tell in drills but he seems to catch the ball well, works very well with the pitchers and is in constant communication with them. He takes that part very seriously. He'll get quite a bit of playing time this camp."
• Jed Lowrie, acquired from Houston earlier this month, made his unofficial A's debut on Sunday, drawing the start at shortstop. Lowrie went 0-for-2 with a walk and made a handful of nice plays in the field, but was also charged with an error on a dropped popup in a gust of wind.
"It kept blowing out to right-center and that's one of those ones I gotta know where the wind is blowing and get around it," Lowrie said. "I had to run a long way, but it shouldn't matter."
Still, Lowrie was otherwise pleased with his Cactus League debut, saying, "I think it's a good place to build off of." He'll start at second base on Monday for a home game against the Indians, as he continues to see time at all four infield spots this spring.
• The A's 2012 first-round Draft pick, 19-year-old shortstop Addison Russell, made his Cactus League debut Sunday as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning and, after flying out to right field, remained in the game at designated hitter and notched a double in the eighth. He scored on top outfield prospect Michael Choice's second hit of the day.