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Griffin spends relaxing day in NYC, at Fan Cave

Easygoing A's righty plays guitar, talks French cuisine on eve of start in Bronx

NEW YORK -- A.J. Griffin was a few subway stops away from Brasserie Les Halles, the French bistro on Park Avenue in Manhattan's Murray Hill district where TV travel chef Anthony Bourdain once served as executive chef. Oh, if only Bourdain were there on this night. Oh, if only Griffin could bump into him on the sidewalk.

"I'm going to maybe try to find something to do. Hopefully I'll run into Anthony Bourdain. He's one of my favorite guys in the world," Griffin said, sort of dreamily, while enjoying a carefree off-day Thursday before his next start Friday night at Yankee Stadium. "I think he's got the dream job."

Griffin, the A's second-year pitcher, is by all accounts one of the most multi-talented guys you will bump into along the Major League Baseball trails. And he's just 25. While visiting the MLB Fan Cave, the right-hander played another guitar solo as he had done during last year's pennant chase, this time entirely in Spanish. He taped an upcoming video skit as other players do when visiting the Cave, but in his case it was like bringing in a Broadway talent, made for it.

"I like learning stuff," Griffin said. "I'm not a big video-game guy, really. I like watching Travel Channel ... and 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.' I love that show. I'm an easy-going guy. I just like to hang out and play guitar a little bit. I really enjoy going to restaurants and trying new foods, too. I just like exploring culture and just having new experiences.

"I like French food a lot. I'm hoping to maybe go check out Les Halles, the place Anthony Bourdain used to be a chef at, or maybe check out another French restaurant or something tonight, just play it by ear, just wander around and enjoy the city ... and see how great it is."

The last time he came to New York with the A's, it was a "grindy schedule" with a night game and two day games, so there was little time for sightseeing. Oakland has won both games he has started against the Yankees, the first time last July 19 on the West Coast, where he shut them down, and the second time when the A's survived his "shaky" start. He gave up a four-spot in the fourth inning that day, Sept. 23. This time, he comes in with a 2-2 record, looking to bounce back after a pair of losses to American League East opposition.

"So far, the first few outings were pretty good for me," Griffin said. "Then I had a little scuffle there in Boston two times ago. But I feel like I made some good strides against the Orioles the other day. I'm just looking to go deep in games and give my team a chance to win. That's all I can do every time I go out there. Regardless of what happens, just being focused for the next pitch every time.

"That's what our whole team is doing, and I feel like that's why we have so much success. We kind of simplify the game a little bit and just take it one pitch at a time and just do the best with every pitch and every opportunity we get."

There is another notable difference in this start at Yankee Stadium. The Oakland offense is par none. Entering their last game, the A's were leading the Majors in runs, doubles, walks, extra-base hits and steals. What does it feel like to have that kind of offensive support behind you?

"Oh my gosh, man," Griffin shoots back, the thought always there. "Every time we're out there playing, when the game's over, [Josh] Reddick comes in and he's like, 'Don't worry, Griff, we rake.' It's good to have that kind of run support, obviously. We're just trying to enjoy our time and play some good baseball and give Oakland fans something to be proud of."

In Griffin, a native of El Cajon, Calif., who was drafted out of the University of San Diego, Oakland fans have the lead guitar on the team, so to speak.

"I've always been really passionate about music," he said. "I picked up my guitar when I was about 12 years old, and it's just something that you can do anytime. It's fun. I usually bring my guitar on the road, and we just play a little bit. We've got a few guys on the team who play guitar pretty well. We've got John Jaso and Evan Scribner -- forgive me if I'm forgetting anyone else -- and that's who I usually jam with.

"It's a good way to get to meet guys and have some fun and enjoy your downtime a little bit. I'm usually the guitar guy, so I'll bring one of my guitars and they'll come over and we'll hang out and play a little bit and watch TV and do that kind of thing."

As for his Spanish solo that he broke out this time, Griffin said he started learning that language as a freshman in high school, and it benefits him in a big way within today's MLB culture.

"There's a lot of Latino players -- it's just easier for me to communicate with them a little bit," he said. "Getting to know guys like Yoenis Cespedes and Bartolo Colon, it's been helpful. I kind of started late. I really dedicated myself, and to me it came easy. It was nice. A lot of my friends from high school are Latino. One of my best friends is from Mexico City. Growing up in Southern California, you have a lot of people to practice Spanish with, so it's been a helpful tool."

Speaking of Colon, Griffin said he marvels at what the veteran just did in April (3-0, 20 strikeouts and one walk). Colon turns 40 on May 24.

"I mean, he goes out there and throws strikes," Griffin said. "He's competitive. It's pretty impressive what he does with that fastball. He just throws fastballs, it seems like. It makes me kind of jealous. He's a competitor. He's always ready to go every fifth day. He's just one of those guys you can always count on."

Now it is Griffin's turn again. He will be acclimated to the Eastern time zone. He will be rested. Thursday was a glorious day in the Big Apple, walking weather, French cuisine calling.

Maybe he will run into Bourdain. If not this time, then next time. Somewhere.

"I don't really have too much of a routine" the day before a game, he said. "I just go about it, try to clear my mind, just enjoy my time. Especially on a day off. We don't get many days off during the season. It's a good day to just relax, chill out and try to relax for a while."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of Read and join other baseball fans on his community blog.
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