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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Saturday Night Weaver: Ports 7, Quakes 3

The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes' Epicenter is a clean, newish park in the seemingly infinite sprawl of the eastern suburbs of Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. A life-sized bronze statue of Jack Benny greets visitors going through the turnstyles; it reminds you that once upon a time, this used to be the middle of nowhere, and Cucamonga was a punchline. No more.

Rich Lederer somehow managed to finagle press passes to last night's contest between the Stockton Ports (the A's high-A affiliate) and Rancho, but naturally the ballpark wasn't the attraction. No, it was Jered Weaver's first home appearance that was the draw. Calling this lopsided game a contest was being generous, as Weaver never really settled in, only lasting 2.1 innings and putting up a single zero frame (in the first). It's clearly going to take longer to get him back to form than a couple games. While he managed to accumulate five strikeouts in that time, he also gave up a home run to an old nemesis from his CSULB days, Kurt Suzuki. Weaver kept himself in shape during his long absence from competition by throwing simulated ballgames, but it's one thing to pitch simulated games and quite another to toss to actual hitters. "Major-league ready" he most assuredly is not at this point, and it may take some months before he's even qualified to get out of this level.

The A's like to win at all their levels, but it's not something the Angels are keen on. One consequence of the former showed up on the mound for Stockton in the guise of 27-year-old Keith Dunn. What is a 27-year-old doing pitching in single-A ball? Helping Stockton win, of course, but it also proved a point Stephen Smith has made lo these many, and that is the A's minors, despite all their wins, aren't necessarily a fertile breeding ground of talent. (Speaking of Stephen, I actually bumped into him but didn't introduce myself. I found it prudent to keep my mouth shut most of the time.)

The merry-go-round went almost exclusively the Ports' way all night, Stockton getting hits throughout; in fact, the each member of Stockton lineup had at least one hit before the night was over, including Suzuki and his homer. The Quakes didn't fare quite as well, though they did collect ten hits over the night, including yet another Brandon wood homer, his twenty-sixth of the season.

It was my first time in a professional club's press box. The rules include no cameras and no cheering, rules I found were somewhat less-than-religiously followed by the folks there, but it was an odd sensation to go to a game and almost literally have to check my emotions at the door. The local cable affiliate broadcasts Saturday night home games, so a broadcast trailer was there, and the usual radio guys were doing play-by-play for the TV; the Quakes had a fill-in announcer for their (very) local radio broadcast. Unlike Charlie Steiner, he only mispronounced one thing all night, and proved entirely amenable to changing it once Rich corrected him.

I expect good things from Weaver eventually, but last night wasn't the night for it. Boras's idiotic insistence on absolute top dollar has hurt Jered, no doubt about it.

Daily Bulletin recap Box


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