Hiroyuki Nakajima could begin the season in the minors

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When the Athletics signed Hiroyuki Nakajima to a two-year, $6.5 million contract over the winter, the assumption was that he would open the season as the team’s starting shortstop. However, after a rough introduction to the majors, it’s increasingly likely that it’s not going to happen. In fact, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle hears that he could begin the season in the minor leagues.

The buzz in the clubhouse today was that the A’s are seriously considering having Hiro Nakajima open the season at Triple-A Sacramento.

The Japanese shortstop was out of the lineup today and isn’t in Tuesday’s’s tentative lineup, either. A’s management had been hoping Nakajima would feel comfortable with the transition to big-league baseball by now, but it hasn’t happened.

Nakajima is batting just .150 (6-for-40) with one double, one RBI and an 11/4 K/BB ratio during Cactus League play and is hitless over his last eight games. Shea hears that the Athletics want the 30-year-old “in a groove” before he plays his first regular season game in the major leagues and feel that Triple-A could provide him the opportunity to get comfortable. For what it’s worth, Nakajima homered in a minor league exhibition game on Saturday during which he also played some second base.

If Nakajima isn’t included on the A’s Opening Day roster, Jed Lowrie would likely start at shortstop. Scott Sizemore could get an opportunity to start at second base, though Eric Sogard and Adam Rosales could also be in the mix for playing time.

Marlins, Giants get into heated beanball war

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You may have heard that Giants closer Hunter Strickland broke his hand punching a door in frustration after Monday night’s subpar performance. He’ll miss six to eight weeks as a result. Strickland came in to protect a 4-2 lead but ended up giving up three runs. The tying run was knocked in by Lewis Brinson on a single to right field. Brinson moved to third base on a go-ahead single by Miguel Rojas, which prompted manager Bruce Bochy to take Strickland out of the game.

On his way to the dugout, Strickland started chirping at Brinson. Much like Bryce Harper and Strickland, Brinson and Strickland have a bit of a history. Last Thursday, Brinson handed Strickland a blown save with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. Brinson was happy to help his team tie the game, pumping his fast and saying, “Let’s go” at no one in particular. That rubbed Strickland the wrong way. Everything seems to rub Strickland the wrong way.

During Tuesday night’s game, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez threw at Brinson with the first pitch, a 92 MPH fastball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher issued warnings to both benches. Manager Don Mattingly came out to argue, suggesting that his team hadn’t done anything wrong so it was unfair to essentially take the inside part of the plate away from his pitchers. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly could be seen saying, “You’re next” to catcher Buster Posey.

The Giants scored twice in the bottom of the second against Dan Straily to extend their lead to 3-0. Posey came to the plate with a runner on first base and one out. Straily hit Posey with a 91 MPH fastball on the first pitch, prompting ejections of both Straily and Mattingly. Posey was hit on the arm. If the pitch had come in a bit lower and hit Posey on the wrist or hand, Posey might have had to go on the disabled list for a couple months. Or if the pitch had hit Posey a couple of inches higher, in the head, then who knows what would have happened.

Things calmed down from there, thankfully. The two clubs have one more game against each other in San Francisco on Wednesday and that will be the final time they meet this season. If anything further is going to happen — and hopefully, nothing happens — then it will come tomorrow.

Straily will almost certainly be facing a suspension and a fine, as will Mattingly. It’s less clear if Rodriguez and/or Bochy will be reprimanded for throwing at Brinson, even though it was fairly obvious the pitch was intentional. Regardless, the punishments amount to just one missed start for the pitchers, which isn’t nearly enough of a detriment to deter beanball wars.