A's expect unexpected in exhibitions

A's expect unexpected in exhibitions

TOKYO -- Dana Eveland doesn't know quite what to expect when he takes the mound Saturday to start an exhibition game against the Yomiuri Giants, but he can tell you anything you might want to know about sumo wrestling.

"I watched it all morning at the hotel," Oakland's rookie left-hander admitted Friday before the team's workout at the Tokyo Dome. "I slept way too much on the plane. When we got to the hotel, I couldn't fall asleep until 2 a.m. [local time] and was up at 5, wide awake.

"Pretty cool option, though, watching sumo. It was great. I was into it."

Eveland, 24, is the team's presumptive fifth starter, and he'll be the first A's pitcher to take the mound during the team's week in the Far East as part of Opening Series Japan 2008, a two-game series between the defending champion Red Sox and A's, March 25-26, that officially opens the regular season.

First, though, come a pair of exhibition doubleheaders Saturday and Sunday, with the Sox taking on the Hanshin Tigers in the first game Saturday afternoon before the A's face Yomiuri in the nightcap. All four games will be shown
live on MLB.TV, with the Red Sox-Tigers game Friday night beginning at 8:05 p.m. PT/11:05 p.m. ET and the A's-Giants beginning at 3:05 a.m. PT early Saturday morning. The A's will then play Hanshin at 8:05 p.m. PT Saturday, followed by Sox-Yomiuri at 3:05 a.m. PT/6:05 a.m. ET Sunday morning.

Tokyo Dome is Yomiuri's home park.

"It's gonna be pretty exciting, I'm sure," said Eveland, who was part of the six-player haul the A's got from the Diamondbacks in the deal that sent ace Dan Haren to Arizona. "I'm going to try to treat it like a Spring Training game ... but I've heard about these fans and how crazy it is, so there'll definitely be a little more adrenaline."

According the A's outfielder Travis Buck, one of a handful of Oakland players who have previously been to Japan, there'll be a lot more adrenaline that Eveland can possibly imagine.

"I was here with in 2004 with Team USA, and we were in Tokyo, so we all went to a Giants game here to see what it would be like, and it was crazy," Buck said as his teammates filed out of the spartan visitors' clubhouse toward the field during early batting practice. "I mean, they were cheering non-stop, they had the thunder sticks going, there were bands in the bleachers -- it was wild."

Bands in the bleachers?

"Oh, yeah," Buck said with a huge smile. "One for one team, in left field, and one for the other team, in right field. All the guys from our team went out there and sat with them, too. We had to, just to see how electric it was.

"I don't know if it's gonna be that crazy for the exhibition games here, but can you imagine what it's going to be like when Dice-K's on the mound [for the March 25 opener]? Wow."

Eveland won't have to deal with the frenzy sure to be whipped up Tuesday when Japanese icon Daisuke Matsuzaka starts for the Red Sox opposite Oakland's Joe Blanton, but if the attention heaped on the big league players here Friday is any indication, even the exhibition games will bring huge, loud crowds.

As A's closer Huston Street bent down to tie his shoes before the workout, for instance, no fewer than five Japanese photographers got down to ground level and started snapping away.

Just a few feet away, Oakland shortstop Bobby Crosby, taking the scene in with a mischievous grin, said, "Are you that sweet over here, Street?" and started tying his own shoes in a playful plea for similar attention. When it didn't immediately come, Street moved closer to Crosby, to the point that the tips of their turf shoes were touching. Both untied and re-tied their laces, shutters buzzing the whole time while Crosby tried in vain to stifle laughter.

Nearby, veteran Mike Sweeney tried to convince rookie Daric Barton to drop his fear of sushi, and several photographers were documenting that scene, too.

"They just love baseball here," Eveland said. "That's obvious. So to be here and get to not just see it but be out there and be a part of it? It's definitely cool. I don't know anything about the guys I'll be facing, but I know it's going to be fun."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.