Oakland A's

A’s Mark Canha enjoys a smashing major-league debut

Oakland Athletics' Mark Canha drives in a run with a double against the Texas Rangers during the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 8, 2015, in Oakland, Calif.
Oakland Athletics' Mark Canha drives in a run with a double against the Texas Rangers during the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 8, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. AP

-- Arguably the most impressive achievement of Mark Canha’s major-league debut came after the game. Manger Bob Melvin said the right-handed hitting Canha, with his performance in the A’s 10-0 win over the Texas Rangers, had earned himself another start Thursday against a right-handed pitcher.

"That’s a great way to start," Melvin said of Canha’s night overall.

Canha, the San Jose native and Cal product, had three hits and four RBIs on Wednesday night, joining Ben Grieve as the only A’s players since 1914 with four or more RBIs in their MLB debuts. Canha came within inches of making his first major-league hit a grand slam: The ball bounced off the top of the wall in right-center field, and Canha settled for a three-run double that keyed the A’s five-run third inning.

"I really wanted the first one to be a grand slam," Canha said. "I thought that would have been cool."

The umpiring crew actually got together and decided to review the play to make sure, but Canha said he realized from watching the replay on the stadium scoreboard that he hadn’t quite cleared the wall.

"It’s a good feeling either way," he said.

Canha, the Rule 5 draft pick who hit six home runs in spring training, said he experienced some nerves Wednesday afternoon when he came out for warm-ups and saw his name on the scoreboard, but they mostly went away after batting practice. Still, his debut got off to a turbulent start. The first batter of the game, Leonys Martin, bunted down the first-base line. Canha tried to field it and dive to tag Martin -- only he didn’t pick up the ball cleanly.

"First at-bat of my major-league career I’m sprinting and trying to pick up a ball and then diving headfirst," Canha said. "I was like, ‘Oh God, I look like an idiot out here.’"

It turned out to be the only hit A’s starter Scott Kazmir allowed in seven innings. "I kinda cost Kazmir his no-hitter," Canha said. "But I just tried to focus on the task at hand."

After popping out in his first at-bat against Rangers lefty Ross Detwiler, Canha came up with the bases loaded in the third and hit a fly ball that hit the very top of the right-center field wall and bounced back into play. Canha pulled into second base and immediately gestured he thought it might be a home run.

"First big-league (game), you’re an inch away from hitting a grand slam, I might’ve been a little animated too," Melvin said.

"I thought it was gone," said teammate Tyler Ladendorf. "You watch him take BP and you see him get into some. That noise, it sounds familiar."

Canha settled for the three-run double, then added a single in the fifth inning and another RBI double in the sixth. The latter he pulled to left field, staying balanced on an 84 mph slider from reliever Logan Verrett, this time missing a homer by about two feet.

Overall, it was quite a first impression for Canha, and enough to convince Melvin to put him in the lineup for a second straight game. The A’s are down two left-handed hitting outfielders right now without Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick, so against right-handers they will have at least one right-handed hitting outfielder in the lineup.

"Tomorrow," Melvin said, "that’ll be him."

* It was a good night all around for players making their debuts. Ladendorf also made his major-league debut and hit an RBI triple in the third inning in his first at-bat.

"I hit that ball and immediately it was just that feeling of, ‘No way,’" said Ladendorf, 27, who has been in the A’s organization since 2009. "That’s what you wait your whole life for, and it was everything I thought it would be."

Ladendorf and Canha are catch partners in warm-ups, and Canha said as soon as they got to the Coliseum on Wednesday and saw they were both in the lineup, "We were both just giving each other that ‘Let’s go’ look.’" Canha seemed as excited for Ladendorf after his triple as for his own big offensive night.

"That was awesome," Canha said. "To see him get it in his first major-league at-bat, that was really cool. Also to get us going, get that first run in, that was huge."

Ladendorf said that for both him and Canha, "It was nice to just get our feet wet there and not really have the feeling of having to prove ourselves." He drove in two runs and he got the ball from his first hit.

"That’s going to Mom," he said. "Whatever she wants to do with it."

* Overshadowed by the 10 runs, 14 hits and two impressive debuts was the outing from Kazmir, who allowed just the bunt single in seven scoreless innings while striking out 10 and walking two.

The basis of Kazmir’s outing was his fastball. He came out throwing it in the 93-to-94 mph range, a tick above normal, noticed the Rangers were behind on it, and pitched off that velocity for the rest of the game.

"Being able to throw a changeup off something that’s 93, 94, is huge," Kazmir said. "As long as you keep that same arm action, it plays, no matter almost where it is in the strike zone. It just keeps them off-balance."

Kazmir did have a brief hiccup in the fourth inning. After getting Adrian Beltre to fly out on a pitch, he appeared in obvious discomfort and was visited on the mound by Melvin and an A’s trainer. Kazmir threw two warm-up pitches and stayed in the game, but went into the clubhouse after the fourth inning to the training room.

Kazmir said his lower back tightened up on him, likely from sitting through the A’s five-run third inning on a chilly night. But he stretched it out in the training room and said that afterward "it felt fine."

"I’ll take it," Kazmir said. "I’ll take the runs any day."

After recording a 1.00 ERA in spring training, Kazmir looked just as sharp in his season debut, with the jump in velocity only enhancing his other pitches. Kazmir said he usually likes to start a game throwing easier and work his velocity upward in the middle innings, but he felt good in the first inning Wednesday and ran with it.

"With the assortment of pitches he has," Melvin said, "when he’s throwing that hard, you had better guess right."

* Chipping in with two RBIs was new outfielder Cody Ross, who was signed Wednesday and reported to the Coliseum to find himself starting in right field and batting second.

Ross had an RBI single in the third and drove in Ladendorf on a groundout in the seventh inning. It was an all-around night for the A’s offense, as the only starter without a hit was leadoff man Craig Gentry. It was also the first game this season for the A’s using their right-handed-heavy lineup, giving new players like Ross, Ladendorf, Canha and catcher Josh Phegley their first chance to contribute to a win.

"It gives guys confidence," Kazmir said. "Especially games like this, when you’ve got a big lead, you get some guys in there that haven’t had the experience and it’s perfect to be able to get their feet wet and get some confidence."

* The A’s have two shutouts and have allowed three runs in three games. Their scoring output, on the other hand, has gone: 8, 1, 10.

"We’re going to be able to score some runs," Melvin said. "There’ll be some times where good pitching shuts it down, but as you see we have two different lineups we can run out, and it was good to see the righty lineup get some this and score some runs today."

* It’s Kendall Graveman’s turn to make his A’s debut in the series finale Thursday. The right-hander had a 0.36 ERA this spring to earn himself a rotation spot, and will face the Rangers’ right-hander Nick Martinez. First pitch is at 12:35 p.m.

Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.

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