OAKLAND -- Mark Mulder joked that the only thing that could have made Saturday’s matchup between Barry Zito and Tim Hudson better would have been the Giants and A’s agreeing to do away with the designated hitter for a day.
"I wish they could’ve faced each other," Mulder said. "Because Huddy always used to brag about how he would’ve raked Zito."
The reunion of the A’s former "Big Three" was completed Saturday morning as Mulder arrived at the Coliseum to watch the meeting of his one-time rotation mates. Mulder will join Zito and Hudson on the field to throw out ceremonial first pitches Sunday, when the A’s hold a pregame ceremony in their honor.
For Saturday, though, Mulder was merely a spectator -- and said he’ll be rooting for both Hudson and Zito.
"Without a doubt," Mulder said. "I’d just love to see them both put up some zeroes, and that’s really it. Both kind of go out -- especially Zeet -- kind of go out on that high note."
Mulder, who last pitched in the majors in 2008, said simply the longevity of both Zito’s and Hudson’s careers is "really special." The Big Three were together in Oakland from 2000-04, helping lead the A’s to the postseason in the first four of those seasons. The group disbanded after 2004, with Mulder going to St. Louis, Hudson going to Atlanta and Zito remaining in Oakland for two more seasons.
"I just remember how much fun (those seasons) were," Mulder said. "A lot of those years we were so young and kind of immature, I guess you could say. But we knew we were good. And it wasn’t just the three of us -- it was that whole team at the time, those early 2000s years.
"Maybe that didn’t help us come playoff time, not having that experience or playoff stuff. But those were just some good times."
Those A’s teams never did reach the World Series. They became known for sparking the "Moneyball" phenomenon, and when a movie based on Michael Lewis’ book was made in 2011, the three pitchers who were so key to those teams’ success were conspicuously absent from the plot. Mulder said that never bothered him, and he had a very realistic take Saturday on the Big Three’s place in A’s history.
"I never once thought to myself, I can’t believe they’re not making a big deal out of us," Mulder said. "It wasn’t really that many years. I mean, it was four, five years.
"It’s cool that they’re doing (the ceremony Sunday). It was a small part of the history of the A’s, to be honest with you. Yeah, there were three of us and we were young. I know they tried to compare us to the Braves guys. But that wasn’t really close. We had a nice little run, and we enjoyed it while we had it."
These days, Mulder said he splits his time largely between his work as an ESPN analyst, his family and the golf course. He said he hasn’t done much throwing to prepare for the first pitch Sunday, "besides throwing to seven-year-olds." Mulder attempted a comeback in spring 2014 but was derailed by injury. He said what Zito did this season, coming back after a year off and spending the whole season at Triple-A before the A’s finally called him up on Sept. 16, is "amazing."
"I don’t think I would’ve done it, if I was in his shoes," Mulder said. "But I think that goes to show you his love for the game, and how much he dedicates himself and puts everything into what he’s doing. And I think this is the reward for that, and I think that’s great."
* It turns out Stephen Vogt got healthy enough to catch again just in time for the A’s. Carson Blair, who had been handling the catching duties with Vogt and Josh Phegley sidelined, has a medial meniscus tear in his left knee and is out for the season.
A’s manager Bob Melvin said Blair felt something while doing blocking drills before a game last week. Blair caught the game, but his knee "got a little puffy and sore on him." The A’s did an MRI on Friday, and it showed the tear.
Melvin said the A’s are still figuring out where Blair will have the procedure, but "it’ll be as soon as possible." The silver lining is that Blair, a late-season call-up who spent most of the season at Double-A, now has the offseason to recover. And Blair made a favorable impression on A’s staff while he was here.
"You’re thrown in there and catching guys like Sonny Gray, and playing against teams like the Astros and Texas that are in a pennant race," Melvin said. "So you have to grow up in a hurry. I thought he did a really good job."
* Melvin said Sonny Gray, who experience some left hip discomfort in his start Friday night, was still "a little sore" Saturday. It was still unclear whether Gray will make his next scheduled start against the Angels.
"We’ll give it some time," Melvin said, "see how he feels in the next coming days."
* The A’s 5-4 win on Friday night officially eliminated the Giants from the wild-card race. The Giants’ magic number for elimination from the division race is now two -- meaning the A’s could do the job themselves by sweeping the Giants this weekend. Is that something the A’s would enjoy?
"You know what, we just want to win games, no matter who we play," Melvin said. "Certainly there’s a bit of a rivalry between us and them that goes back a long ways. (But) we want to finish well in front of our fans here, we know there’s going to be great crowds here, and we want to win games. I don’t know that the most important thing is trying to knock them out of the playoffs."
* The A’s lineup against Hudson:
And the Giants’ lineup against Zito: