Bust to breakout: Loaiza shows stuff

ALCS notebook

Baseball

October 11, 2006|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,Sun reporter

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Not many players can match Oakland A's right-hander Esteban Loaiza for dealing with ups and downs the past year or so.

He's the guy that the Washington Nationals picked off the scrap heap in 2005, signed to a one-year deal and watched win 12 games for an upstart, first-year franchise.

The Nationals wanted him back, and picked up their end of a mutual option. But Loaiza chose free agency and got a three-year $21 million deal (with a $375,000 buyout on a fourth year) from the usual penny-pinching A's.

A lot was expected of Loaiza, 34, and he failed miserably in the first half. He was 3-5 with a 6.43 ERA in 10 starts and spent time on the disabled list with weakness in his right shoulder. He also was charged in June with DUI and excessive speed when he was caught driving his Ferrari more than 120 mph.

He looked like the biggest free-agent bust of 2006. But he turned his season around in August, going 4-0 with a 1.48 ERA. And now he is the A's starter in today's second game of the ALCS.

"He could have easily just gone through the motions, but he wants to compete," said A's manager Ken Macha. "He's a competitor, and he's showing that by the performance he had in the last two months of the season."

Loaiza credits his year in Washington with getting him the big contract.

"My experience was really good [with the Nationals]," Loaiza said. "I had a good experience with Mr. [Frank] Robinson , with some of the coaches there and some of the players."

Hot stuff

Loaiza was asked about last week's very public coffee shower, in which volatile outfielder Milton Bradley accidentally knocked over Loaiza's cup of coffee with a projectile batting glove. The coffee spilled on Loaiza, the game's starting pitcher - and was caught on film. He jokingly said yesterday that he hadn't pondered suing anyone for the incident.

"Having three jerseys on, I kind of reacted pretty quick when it got on me," Loaiza said.

Talking about Joe

During pre-game news conferences, both ALCS managers were asked about New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and his announcement yesterday that he'd be returning to the Yankees dugout for 2007.

"Nobody represents baseball any better than Joe Torre," said Detroit's Jim Leyland, whose team knocked the Yankees out of the playoffs last week.

Torre reportedly was about to be fired by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner after losing in the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, but Torre told reporters yesterday that Steinbrenner will bring him back in 2007.

"He's in a tough situation over there," Macha said of Torre. "The expectations are out of this world every year, so I'm glad Joe is going to be back. He's a gentleman and a class guy and baseball needs him."

Quick hit

Injured second baseman Mark Ellis (broken finger) has been replaced on the A's playoff roster by rookie Mark Kiger. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the A's released left-handed reliever Scott Sauerbeck.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

Playoff Schedule

AL

Oakland vs. Detroit

Yesterday (Detroit leads, 1-0) Detroit 5, Oakland 1 Today Detroit (Verlander 17-9) at Oakland (Loaiza 11-9), 8:19 p.m., FX Friday Oakland (Haren 14-13) at Detroit (Rogers 17-8), 8:19 p.m., chs. 45, 5 Saturday Oakland (Harden 4-0) at Detroit (Bonderman 14-8), 8:05 p.m., chs. 45, 5 *Sunday Oakland at Detroit, 4:19 p.m., chs. 45, 5 *Next Tuesday Detroit at Oakland, TBA, 8:19 p.m., chs. 45, 5 *Oct. 18 Detroit at Oakland, TBA, 8:19 p.m., chs. 45, 5

NL

New York vs. St. Louis

Today St. Louis (Weaver 5-4) at New York (Glavine 15-7), 8:19 p.m., chs. 45, 5 Tomorrow St. Louis (Suppan 12-7) at New York (Maine 6-5), 8:19 p.m., chs. 45, 5 Saturday New York (Trachsel 15-8) at St. Louis (Carpenter 15-8), 4:19 p.m., chs. 45, 5 Sunday New York (Perez 3-13) at St. Louis (Undecided), 8:05 p.m., chs. 45, 5 *Monday New York at St. Louis, 8:19 p.m., chs. 45, 5 *Oct. 18 St. Louis at New York, 4:19 p.m., chs. 45, 5 *Oct. 19 St. Louis at New York, 8:19 p.m., chs. 45, 5

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