03/30/07 1:48 AM ET
Notes: Benitez gets warm reception
Oft-booed reliever greeted with cheers from fans on Thursday
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
Catcher Bengie Molina pointed out the importance of regulars uniting.
"It's good for us to get used to each other, what we're going to see out there on the field and pick each other up," Molina said.Molina elaborated that playing together not only builds chemistry but teaches players subtleties about one another.
"Hitting behind certain guys, you get used to how they pitch to him and then you go help him hit," he said. "That's how it works -- getting used to every single thing."The regulars meshed well together in the first inning against the Mariners, collecting five consecutive two-out hits. The Giants' two-run output could have been higher, but Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki ended the inning by running down Randy Winn's bases-loaded line drive to right-center field. Big board: AT&T Park's new Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision scoreboard captured spectators' attention with its remarkably sharp images and new graphics. "If the A's had a scoreboard like this, I might become an Oakland fan," said Steve Ferguson of Half Moon Bay. "I'm just kidding." "Overall, it's a fantastic improvement," said Nick Freeman of San Francisco. "Perhaps a little bit bright. But it could just take some getting used to." The auxiliary scoreboards displaying pitch velocities and pitch counts were turned off after a few innings after some noticeable inaccuracies were posted, such as Zito throwing some deliveries at 54 mph.
"The scoreboard was tweaked out all day," Zito said.Fun with numbers: Lance Niekro might not even make the Opening Day roster, let alone play regularly this season, but some arcane statistics suggest that he could have a big year. According to John Dewan of ACTA Sports, Niekro is among 36 players who have been identified as primed for "breakout" seasons, based on their performance in exhibition games. To qualify, a player must have a spring slugging percentage that's at least 200 points higher than his career mark. In Niekro's case, he entered Thursday's action with a .651 spring slugging percentage, far exceeding his lifetime figure of .429. Coming up: The Bay Bridge series opens on Friday night, with Oakland visiting AT&T Park. The pitching matchup is an attractive one, featuring young, hard-throwing right-handers Rich Harden of the A's and Matt Cain of the Giants.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Becky Regan contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.