SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Mark Mulder pitched six innings in Oakland's victory over San Francisco on Tuesday (March 27) at Scottsdale Stadium, allowing four runs with four strikeouts, seven hits and three walks. He was phenomenal in the first couple innings, yakking the Giants with a big, slow curveball that had San Francisco standing in the box with the bat in their hands. His two strikeouts in the second inning consisted entirely of called third strikes.
So what did the 6-6 southpaw want to talk about after his impressive effort?
"Michigan State's real good," he said of the Spartan basketball team which will be defending their National Championship at the Final Four this weekend. "They don't have a Matean Cleaves, but they're experienced and it's great to see."
You guessed right. Mulder is a Michigan State alum.
"It's great to see," he says. "We never dominated Michigan when I was there, but now it's really looking good."
Mulder was in East Lansing in 1997 and 1998, when he was an All-American pitcher for the Spartans.
"I think the Big 10's a tougher basketball conference," he says, "but its not as good as Western and Southern leagues in baseball. It's just too cold. We didn't even get out and play games until our first trip West."
On Tuesday, Mulder felt "too strong."
"I threw extra in the bull pen because I just didn't want to ocome out throwing so hard," he explained. "When I'm throwing that hard, my pitches tend to straighten out."
Mulder does not feel that he has experienced the usual "dead arm" period of Spring Training that seems to be the latest thing "experts" talk about. Rather, he attributes his ineffectiveness of mid-March to the fact that he, like many of his teammates, had the flu.
Since recovering from the bug, the A's are looking less like a baseball team and more like Napoleon's Army during the Italian Campaign, rolling through the Cactus League in true pillage style. Tuesday's win puts them at 19-9, the best Spring record in baseball, and offensively they are at peak performance.
"That means nothing," said A's broadcaster Ken Korach.
"Having the best record in Spring really is not an indicator," agrees Mulder. "Teams lose games when they bring in substitutions in the late innings. There's only a day left in Phoenix, and we're all just anxious for the regular games.
"I'm where I wanna be. I feel real good. I battled in the fourth inning, but it's good to make adjustments. I felt I was more rested for this start. I threw some bad curves early so I just started to throw it softer and it worked out.
"When batters are taking strikes against me, that tells me I'm hitting my spots."
It tells anybody watching that his stuff is excellent, which it is.
Mulder also got a base hit, but lost the RBI when Adam Piatt was thrown out at home by Barry Bonds.
Offensively, Jason Giambi looks to be in mid-season form. He slammed a long home run. Newcomer Johnny Damon contributed three hits, scoring on every sequence.
The team looks absolutely fantastic, but these games, as Korach correctly points out, do not mean anything. Hopefully, Oakland will still be firing on all cylinders when they arrive at Safeco Field to begin the season against Seattle.
"Damon is such a factor for us," says Mulder of Oakland's leadoff man. "He steals more and gets to ball other guys don't get to."
Damon also allows Terrence Long a chance to bat fifth, where he is more protected and can show his considerable power.
Spring is, naturally, a time for optimism, but right now it does not appear that any optimism for Mulder or his team is false.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism