PHOENIX -- Presiding over his baseball empire, Billy Beane feels the rejuvenation of spring. Youth again percolates through the Oakland A's system, reinvigorating the minor leagues -- and the boss.
This has been an unusual spring with a condensed calendar. The A's leave for Japan on Wednesday night to open the regular season against the world-champion Boston Red Sox on March 25 in Tokyo. Final cuts must be made by Wednesday, not April 1. Also, the A's organization had more than 170 players in camp, including 131 at its minor-league complex. That's about 30 more than normal.
"We needed a lot of players," said Beane, the general manager. "We needed that infusion of talent, particularly in pitching. We got more sooner than later."
Beane keeps his eye trained on the future, which he sees as worldwide. A season opener for America's game in Japan might seem strange to A's fans, but Beane considers it a perfect pitch.
"The entire world has access to baseball," he said. "It would be foolish not to build our sport and play beyond its borders. I love the fact that we're continuing to push our borders. That's a lot bigger talent pool."
Although players might feel the pressure of competition and a shortened 26-game spring schedule, Beane was relaxed during a visit Friday. Taggert, his border collie, welcomed visitors to Beane's Phoenix Municipal Stadium office with a steady wag.
By Beane's standards, it was a relaxed winter, too.
"(The offseason) wasn't that busy," he said with a shrug. "We made two big trades; traded two players, acquired nine."
He likes those numbers.
"We needed to start rebuilding," Beane said. "We had a great decade's run, but it was time to get started."
On Dec. 14, the A's sent All-Star pitcher Dan Haren and fellow right-hander Connor Robertson to the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Aaron Cunningham, infielder Chris Carter and left-handers Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland and Greg Smith. To kick off 2008, Beane traded popular switch-hitting outfielder Nick Swisher to the Chicago White Sox on Jan. 3 for right-hander Fautino De Los Santos, left-hander Gio Gonzalez and outfielder Ryan Sweeney.
Also, outfielder Mark Kotsay was traded Jan. 14 to the Atlanta Braves for pitchers Joey Devine and Jamie Richmond.
Most of the newcomers will start the season in the minors. Several are expected to spend at least part of 2008 with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats.
Baseball operates on a cycle, Beane reasoned, much like the seasons. Spring is all about rebirth.
"We've gone through this before," Beane said. "We weren't going to be particularly good if we didn't do anything. We could win 75, 80 games. That's not OK with me. The goal is to have something special. To pawn off mediocrity is not something we should be doing."
SHORT HOPS -- Boston manager Terry Francona said right-hander Josh Beckett (back pain) won't travel to Japan, where he probably would have started the season opener against the A's. ... Kansas City manager Trey Hillman said he was no longer considering Hideo Nomo for a spot in the starting rotation. Nomo will compete for a roster spot as a reliever.
ANGELS (ss) 5, GIANTS (ss) 2, at Scottsdale, Ariz. -- Matt Cain, who gave up five runs (four earned), became San Francisco's first pitcher of the spring to go six innings. But the Giants' starters are still falling into deep deficits early. They allowed 17 runs total in the first inning in three games over the weekend -- eight by Pat Misch in one game Saturday, four by Barry Zito in another that day and five by Cain.
ROYALS 13, GIANTS (ss) 3, at Surprise, Ariz. -- Most of the San Francisco regulars stayed in Scottsdale for a home game against the Angels. "I hardly recognized any names in the entire lineup," Kansas City starter Zack Greinke said. "I've heard of their leadoff hitter (Fred Lewis), and I faced (Justin) Leone in Double A. I hadn't pitched in a 'B' game, so I guess it was my time."
A'S 9, RANGERS 7, at Phoenix -- Former Giant Todd Linden, hoping to catch on as an extra outfielder with the A's, tripled home the go-ahead run and then scored on an error in the bottom of the eighth.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.