Last night at the Coliseum, it was the first time this season the A’s have featured their “lefty line-up,” as skipper Bob Melvin calls it. It’s a bit misleading if you’re not a baseball fan, as it means a lineup built to face a left-handed starter, so it’s stacked with right-handed hitters. With the A’s high turnover rate in personnel from last year, along with some injuries, Oakland installed two players who made their Major League debuts and three more who made their A’s debuts. The big league debutants were Rule 5 selection Mark Canha, a Bellarmine and Cal product who was slotted to begin at first base, while utility man Tyler Ladendorf got the start at second base.
Canha is a player A’s GM Billy Beane has had his eye on for some time. When Colorado beat Oakland to the punch and swiped Canha off of Miami’s roster in the Rule 5 draft, Beane immediately got on the phone with the Rockies and acquired him for former High-A Stockton closer Austin House. Canha had shown his power by crushing 20 bombs for AAA-New Orleans last term and Beane needed to find a cheap way to bring a right-handed power bat to Oakland. Well, so far so good after one game. Canha nearly hit a grand slam and another home run later, ending up with three hits and four RBI. Remember, he led all Cactus League players in strikeouts this spring, so it’s not fair to expect him to produce like that every time out. Heck, you wouldn’t expect any player to produce like that every time out.
Ladendorf, or “T.L.” as he’s known, has been in the A’s system for a long while, coming over from the Twins in a trade for Orlando Cabrera in 2009. He served a 50-game suspension last year after testing positive for banned substances. He owned up to his mistake and worked hard to successfully impress to the A’s front office that he was clean and talented enough to keep around. He’ll probably get sent down to AAA-Nashville when Josh Reddick returns soon, but that didn’t stop him from smashing an RBI-triple in his first Major League at-bat. He also became the first player since World War I to play second base and left field in his debut game.
But here’s the thing I loved about Canha and Ladendorf last night: they grabbed their opportunities with both hands. They were fearless. Any nervousness was not evident. I bring this up because many hotter A’s prospects have not had the same gung-ho attitude when they got called up. Recently in Oakland, Chris Carter, Grant Green and Michael Taylor were all very passive and shy when they arrived. All were highly-touted and had done extremely well in the minors. For Carter, he was frozen by his humility. I remember speaking to him in the clubhouse, and he told me, “I’m just glad to be here.” He went 0-for-19 with 12 Ks before being sent back down. He finally obtained some confidence and stopped swinging at garbage, and last year hit 37 home runs for Houston. He’s a good guy and I’m happy for him. Green (as detailed previously here) was a first-rounder who lasted only a few forgettable games with Oakland before being shipped to the Angels. Taylor was simply a Four-A player who never got a long run in the majors because he never impressed when he had his limited opportunities. He retired from baseball last month at the age of 29.
It is perfectly understandable for any player to get that deer-in-the-headlights look and be overwhelmed with fear when they make their big league debut. But baseball fans and executives have little patience for such men. Fortune favors the bold. You have to take what you want in this world. And last night in Oakland’s 10-0 win over a sloppy Texas team, it certainly looked like Mark Canha and Tyler Ladendorf want to be big league baseball players.