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Walsh making most of chance with A's

Sacramento infielder, released by Cardinals, hits two homers in win
June 3, 2014

Three months before Colin Walsh nearly cycled for Sacramento in Wednesday's 7-5 River Cats win over Fresno, the second baseman was stunned by news he received. After four solid seasons in the Cardinals' system, he got some bad news.

"I texted my agent, I said, 'I got released' -- it was a little bit of a shock," Walsh said of his Spring Training surprise. "We kind of went on the offensive, do whatever everybody does when that happens."

The Stanford product, cut by St. Louis in late March, got a call from the Oakland Athletics later that same day.

"They didn't have anything for me at the time, but they called and said they liked me, they were interested in signing me," Walsh said. "It took a few days, and I was just waiting at home for a call from my agent. It was a very nerve-wracking period."

The 24-year-old switch-hitter, two years removed from hitting .310 with 16 homers and 69 RBIs at Class A, tried to stay positive. It was a long week of waiting for his cell phone to light up.

"Six or seven days later, everything worked out," he said. "I signed a contract, and two days later, I was in Midland, Texas."

But Walsh was told to leave Midland, too, in mid-May, but for good reasons. He's now in Triple-A Sacramento, where the A's are happy to have him with their top affiliate.

Walsh, finally with a chance to play, went 4-for-4 with a pair of homers, three RBIs and three runs scored in just his fourth Triple-A start to help Sacramento edge Fresno in a two-run matinee win. The second baseman hit an RBI double in the second inning, singled in the fourth, greeted reliever Brett Bochy with a leadoff homer in the sixth and then, in need of a triple for the cycle, took Mason Tobin deep to start the eighth.

"It was good, it was my first game in nine or 10 days, so I wanted to get my timing back," he said. "I got a couple good pitches to hit, and it's always better when a big day comes in a tight game like today. You're thankful you can help your team win."

The game marked a season high in hits, RBIs and runs scored and was his first four-hit game since Aug. 28, 2012, while with Class A Quad Cities. It was also his first two-homer effort since he ripped a pair on May 6, 2012.

Walsh, originally a 13th-round pick by the Cardinals in the 2010 Draft, signed with Oakland as a Minor League free agent April 8 and began his season with Double-A Midland. He earned a promotion to Sacramento after hitting .287 with a homer, 10 RBIs and a .353 on-base percentage in 24 Texas League games. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI in his Triple-A debut May 16 but landed on the River Cats' disabled list eight days later with a sore right hamstring. The California native was finally activated Sunday and returned to the lineup on Tuesday to produce one of the best games of his five-year career.

"I was on the DL for eight days, it wasn't anything serious, it's better to rest, but whenever you take time off, you hope it doesn't take three or four games to get your timing back," he said. "You want a good one out of the gate -- one or two hits is what you're looking for, put together a good day and get a good feeling about it."

Walsh did that and more. His big day was key for the River Cats (36-23) as Fresno (30-30) took an early lead on Mark Minicozzi's homer in the first and continued to chip away all afternoon. Sacramento center fielder Shane Peterson went 3-for-5 with three RBIs and also missed the cycle by a triple, while No. 9 hitter Ryan Ortiz added two singles and an RBI as the Cats totaled 15 hits.

For Walsh, the breakout afternoon is everything he could have hoped for back in Spring Training.

"I was scrambling," he said. "Any time you don't have a job, it's a tough situation. The Oakland A's had made some moves and had a need, and after I got released, to be able to go to their Double-A affiliate, the level where I finished last year -- that was all I cared about."

Walsh had 101 at-bats over two months with Midland as a fourth infielder, but injuries and openings through the system gave him a chance.

"A lot of injuries happened and I entered the lineup and started 25 games in a row, I played well, and a need arose in Triple-A and I got promoted up here. I don't know what my role is overall. I think it's kind of a fluid situation, but whenever I get an opportunity to get in the game, I want to try and do my best and put the best foot forward.

"We have a bunch of really good players here, especially in the middle infield, so you can't expect playing time," Walsh added. "I know guys here have big league experience, so I just want to get into the game and do well. A first impression definitely helps, as opposed to going 0-for-11 or whatever."

Walsh said he checked some scouting reports on the relievers he faced Tuesday.

"Any time they bring in a new guy, I figured he'd start me off with a fastball and get ahead. He did -- it was a good pitch, it was a 1-1 count and I was looking for something middle-in," he said of his first Triple-A homer. "Everything [Bochy] throws kinda cuts, I was trying to get something middle-in and stay inside. He threw a cutter middle-in and I tried to stay inside the ball to right-center."

In the eighth, Walsh said his teammates told him he was a triple away from hitting for the cycle.

"You never go up and say, 'I'm going to hit a triple here,'" he said. "[Tobin] came in and he throws real hard and has a lot of run and sink so I knew he'd come after with a fastball. I tried to put the barrel on one. He's throwing 96-97 mph, so if you put the barrel on it, good things will happen."

And good things, overall, are happening for the infielder. Even he's starting to believe it.

"Everyone has confidence, but to get the affirmation that you belong and can play at this level - that's the biggest thing for me," he said. "And the confidence of when I go into the game, knowing I'm talented enough to play at this level."

Danny Wild is an editor for Follow his MLBlog column, Minoring in Twitter.