02/22/2013 3:35 PM ET
A's embrace yoga as a part of daily workout
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Once Bob Melvin wraps up his media session each morning, the A's manager joins his players on the field for their daily yoga session.
It's a new trend in A's camp this year, one that provides significant benefits in terms of breathing, flexibility and injury prevention.
"It's baseball-specific and not just like going to a normal class," said Mike Henriques, the A's strength and conditioning coach. "The woman who leads everyone deals with a lot of golfers, so it's a lot of the same patterns and motions that we see in baseball."
Her name is Katherine Roberts, and she's been contracted with Nike Golf for many years. She also founded Yoga for Golfers to help athletes maximize their mind-body performance and has served as the yoga expert for the Dodgers and Padres in recent years, as well.
"It's a different option, instead of them listening to me all day," Henriques joked. "It's nice to get someone else out there to take them through some range of motion stuff and switch things up instead of doing the same things over and over again."
Henriques assumed the pitchers would be on board with yoga, which has become more mainstream in baseball. But the position players?
"I wasn't so sure," he said. "The guys I thought wouldn't take to it right away or appreciate it have actually been the guys that have come up to me and said they really like it."
"It's just more of a deeper stretch," A's pitcher Dan Straily said. "It's nice to kind of break up the routine, because when you're doing the same stretches every day, it becomes old really quick and you find yourself not really paying attention to it. Yoga can't hurt, that's for sure. Just another way to get loose for the day."
Straily is no stranger to the discipline, having gone to plenty of yoga classes at a studio just below his apartment in Eugene, Ore., early in the offseason.
Once the regular season begins, Straily and his teammates won't be gathered for daily yoga sessions like the ones they're experiencing now, since Roberts will remain in Arizona. However, she has provided the team with a DVD that includes three different yoga routines that accommodate pregame, workout and relaxing needs.
"They'll be on everyone's iPads," Henriques said.
Nakajima to get start in team's first spring game
PHOENIX -- On Friday, the A's released their first of many lineups that will be used this year, this one to be on display Saturday for the club's Cactus League opener against the host Brewers.
"Don't read too much into it," manager Bob Melvin warned.
Melvin is more concerned with the performance of the players that encompass it rather than how they're lined up for now.
He'll especially keep close eye on Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, who will start his first game as a big leaguer from the No. 2 hole, behind leadoff man Jemile Weeks, on Saturday. The A's have already been impressed with Nakajima's skill set, but how it translates to game action remains to be seen.
"Is there foot speed there to steal bases? Is he a hit and run guy, or is he a guy you want to let hit in runs?" Melvin said. "There are a lot of unknowns about him. We've kind of seen what he can do here, but you don't really get a good feel for it until you see him do it in games."
Nakajima's double-play partner will also be evaluated heavily this spring. Weeks, whose struggles in 2012 led to a demotion, needs to prove his worth as an everyday player again, and he'll have to do so with Scott Sizemore -- batting ninth at designated hitter on Saturday -- also fighting for the same job.
Normally Melvin doesn't put too much weight on spring numbers, but in this instance, with a head-to-head competition playing out, "it's all you have to go on," he said.
"Guys know they're in competition," he continued. "You play probably a little bit differently. You're not just in 'getting ready' type mode. There's more urgency, so the spots where you do have to evaluate it based on performance, you do."
Rounding out Saturday's lineup are Josh Reddick, playing right field and batting third, followed by first baseman Brandon Moss, left fielder Seth Smith, center fielder Chris Young and, ahead of Sizemore in the No. 8 slot, third baseman Josh Donaldson.
Every other regular, including Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie and Derek Norris, will start Sunday's game against the Angels.
"It's a bit of a Groundhog Day feeling at this point," Melvin said, "where you try to switch it up some but everyone's ready to get going and play in some games."
• Melvin has taken a beating from batting practice opponent Cespedes in recent days. On Friday, the slugger took it to a whole new level, taking Melvin deep with a donut on his bat. As for his final home run, well "that was borderline taunting," Melvin joked.
"It was like Babe Ruth calling his shot," he said.
• In exchange for letting the D-backs use the A's facilities on Thursday, Melvin negotiated and got them to let him use a DH for a game at Arizona this spring.