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A's eager to lap up SB king's lessons

PHOENIX — Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson arrived at the Athletics' spring training facilities Saturday, and at least two dozen A's listened intently as he spoke on stealing bases, among other subjects.

A's manager Bob Geren said Henderson's focus will be on the basepath, but he won't be limited. That's fine with A's outfielder Rajai Davis, who led the team with 41 steals last year.

"He has a wealth of knowledge, and just to know what he knows is beneficial in any way," Davis said. "I want to know what he has to say about stealing bases, playing defense and situational at-bats."

Henderson gave Davis a couple of exercises to improve his balance and hip strength. It looked as though the two were skiing standing still.

"It's a speed skating technique I use to build my hips and legs," Henderson said. "In baseball you train the whole body, except for the hip and eyes. It's not just speed but the ability to concentrate on pitchers, how to get a good jump and explode out of the jump."

Henderson, who set major-league career records for stolen bases (1,406) and runs scored (2,295), said Davis was capable of stealing 75-80 bases.

"I had to get him on his toes to get his balance," Henderson said. "The biggest thing is getting rid of his fear to get thrown out. He has the heart to be a base stealer, and I want him to accept failure. Once you can accept failure, you can have fun and success."

Coco Crisp, signed as a free agent during the offseason, was another attentive student.

"He has a great idea of what he's doing," Henderson said. "I talked to him about sliding head first and how the closer you get to the dirt before you start your slide, the better it is. I've seen guys bouncing once or twice going head first."

CHIPPER NOT BUDGING: An offseason of reflection hasn't softened Chipper Jones' stance.

The Braves third baseman, who turns 38 in April, still says he will walk away from the game if he can't bounce back from a disappointing 2009 season.

"It was a true statement," said Jones, who had career lows of 18 homers and 71 RBIs. "If I don't play this game at the level I want to play it at, then I will walk away from it."

LOPEZ RETURNS: Felipe Lopez was excited to rejoin the Cardinals after signing a one-year, $1 million contract. The second baseman, 29, played briefly with St. Louis in 2008. "This has been my first choice since I played here in '08," Lopez said. "It's a great organization."

DODGERS: Left-hander Clayton Kershaw, entering his third season, won't be on as strict of a pitch count as in the past, manager Joe Torre said. Kershaw, 21, threw 171 innings in 30 starts last season.

METS: Right-hander Kelvim Escobar, who has weakness and discomfort in his right shoulder, still isn't playing catch on flat ground and appears doubtful to be ready for opening day.

RANGERS: Left-hander Derek Holland threw a lengthy bullpen session, his first work from the mound since spraining a knee last week. Holland, 23, threw from a full windup and the stretch under the supervision of pitching coach Mike Maddux.

REDS: Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman threw 30 pitches to batters; none made solid contact. "His fastball is heavy. It's got a lot of velocity," infielder Todd Frazier said. "It makes the changeup that much better. He looked really good out there for sure."

TIGERS: Third baseman Brandon Inge, 32, said he's ahead of schedule in his return from offseason knee surgery and expects to be completely healthy by the time the regular season begins.

A's eager to lap up SB king's lessons 02/27/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 27, 2010 9:20pm]

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