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Inside Baseball | AROUND THE HORN / ROSS NEWHAN

Crosby Has Helped the A's Get Over the Loss of Tejada

June 13, 2004|ROSS NEWHAN

OAKLAND — Stepping into Miguel Tejada's shoes, Bobby Crosby continues to get his feet on the ground in increasingly impressive fashion. The rookie shortstop has helped stabilize an Oakland A's infield operating without second baseman Mark Ellis, who is out for the season because of a dislocated shoulder, and third baseman Eric Chavez, who is expected to sit out four more weeks because of a broken wrist.

Despite the injuries, the A's have bolted into first place in the American League West. At 36-24, they have their best record through 60 games since 1992, they have gone 9-1 since Chavez was injured and dominated the Cincinnati Reds last week, sweeping a three-game series by a score of 40-16.

Of course, the A's against the National League Central is a mismatch.

After winning the first two games of a weekend series against another Central patsy, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the A's are 17-0 against the NL Central and coveting realignment.

Crosby, 24, Oakland's first-round selection out of Long Beach State in 2001, has helped lead the charge. He had recovered from a .183 start through 23 games to hit .317 since and .353 in June, and is leading AL rookies in almost every offensive category. He went into the weekend batting .265 with nine home runs and 26 RBIs.

Said former Dodger first baseman Eric Karros, more an observer than a participant with the A's:

"I was sold in spring training ... just the way he handles himself, the way the ball jumps off his bat and his ability to make all the plays in the field. I compare him to the situation a year ago when I went to camp with the [Chicago] Cubs and heard all about Bobby Hill. Then I saw Bobby Hill play, and while not to take anything away from him, there was a lot more hype than substance. With Crosby, it's all substance. He can flat-out play.

"I know it's probably unfair to say he could become [an Alex Rodriguez or Nomar Garciaparra], but he's definitely going to be an offensive-type shortstop who could hit fifth in a lineup, even third."

Physically imposing at a listed 6 feet 3 and 195 pounds, the outgoing Crosby said he wasn't thrilled with his progress but wasn't kicking himself either. He knows the position is his, and his schooling in a major college program and by a father, Ed Crosby, who played in the majors and scouts for the Arizona Diamondbacks helped prepare him for the pressure of succeeding Tejada. Of that challenge, Crosby said:

"I still get questions now and then, but since spring training I really haven't thought about it. I knew coming in that if anyone was going to look at my stats throughout the year and say 'Bobby's doing this and Tejada is doing that,' they'd be out of their minds.

"There's no way I was going to come in my first year and do what Tejada did his MVP year [of 2002]; it's not going to happen.

"The thing I try to focus on is if I play my game, at the end of the year I think my stats will be comparable to when he was coming up, and I think so far I'm on the right track to having a pretty good first year. I just have to stay on an even keel and not try to do more than I'm capable of doing at this point."

*

This division contender signed several high-priced free agents during the off-season, including a pitcher whose expanded waistline is now affecting his performance, club officials believe.

The Angels and Bartolo Colon?

No. It's the Baltimore Orioles and Sidney Ponson, who was reacquired by the Birds for three years at $22.5 million after his second-half trade to the San Francisco Giants last year.

The 27-year-old right-hander is 3-7 with a 6.47 earned-run average and was recently battered twice in eight days by the New York Yankees.

Of course, the Orioles should have known what they were getting. Ponson weighed 250 when they traded him to the Giants, 265 when he reported to camp this spring and is now at 255, club officials say.

Ponson dismisses his performance as simply a bad stretch that has nothing to do with his weight, but Oriole broadcaster and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer told the Washington Post that it was a "slap in the face" to the club when Ponson reported "in the kind of shape he did."

"There are too many variables in this game that you can't control to let yourself be undone by a variable you can control," Palmer said in words resonating from Baltimore to Anaheim.

*

A galaxy of baseball and entertainment luminaries is expected to attend Monday night's 15th annual fund-raising banquet for scout John Young's invaluable -- athletically and academically -- program known as Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities. Larry King is the master of ceremonies for the Universal Studios dinner. Ticket information: (310) 854-6000.

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