5/10/2014 1:37 A.M. ET
Gio relishes opportunity to be back in Oakland
By Alex Espinoza / Special to MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Gio Gonzalez was the most popular man at O.Co Coliseum on Friday as the Nationals made the franchise's first trip to Oakland.
The lefty made his big league debut with the A's in 2008, and stayed with the organization until being traded to Washington in a multi-player deal that also includes current Oakland catcher Derek Norris and lefty Tommy Milone. From the sounds of it, Gonzalez was shaking a lot of hands as he returned to the Coliseum for the first time as a visitor.
"Saw some grounds-crew guys, clubbies, security guards -- I basically talk to everybody. Even guys in the parking lot," Gonazlez said. "It's a pretty cool feeling when people still remember you, and they acknowledge that it was fun while I was here."
Washington general manager Mike Rizzo and Oakland counterpart Billy Beane have been frequent trade partners in recent years, as the two teams have swapped players on seven different occasions since December 2010. Other players that have suited up for both squads include Nationals southpaw Jerry Blevins and A's lefty Fernando Abad, who were in Oakland and Washington, respectively, last season.
During his four seasons by the bay, Gonzalez became a fan favorite while forming an impressive young core of pitching with Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson. Even though it's only been three seasons since he was dealt, only three of Gonzalez's ex-teammates are still on the A's -- Coco Crisp, Daric Barton and Eric Sogard.
"I think it's a great atmosphere, always had a lot of love out here," Gonzalez said. "It's one of those moments you take in at the time, because it will be gone by the next series."
LaRoche uses DH spot to give quad break
OAKLAND -- Adam LaRoche might have started as the Nationals' designated hitter during Friday night's contest against the A's, but he had plenty to do in between at-bats.
The slugging first baseman, who ranked 10th in Major League OPS (.941) entering the series, has been battling a quadriceps injury the past couple of weeks. So when he wasn't in the batter's box or in the on-deck circle Friday night, chances are LaRoche was up in the visitor's clubhouse getting in-game treatment.
"It's a little cooler over here, so that may be the best thing to come up [to the clubhouse] and keep a hot pad on it, maybe jump on the bike and keep it moving in between at-bats," LaRoche said. "Could actually be good if it's cool outside."
LaRoche said initial, quick-twitch movements on the field -- whether it be out of the box as a hitter or trying to track down a ball on defense -- have been giving him problems lately. After speaking with manager Matt Williams before Friday's lineup was posted, they decided to take advantage of the designated hitter while playing in an American League park.
"It's hard in cool weather if you have to sit out here on the bench," Williams said. "If you don't have that opportunity, it's a different story, but we've got all those things available tonight, so we'd like to take as much stress off him as possible."
Going forward, Williams said LaRoche will likely be back at first base on Saturday while catcher Wilson Ramos or outfielder Jayson Werth could occupy the designated-hitter spot. As much as LaRoche wants to stay in the lineup, he also concedes that playing virtually every day isn't giving his quad much of a break.
"It doesn't surprise me that it's lingering, and that it'll probably be around longer," LaRoche said.
Still, he said it feels better than in days past, so he'll just stay the course for now.
"If it wasn't," LaRoche said, "I'd probably try something different."
LaRoche was eventually pulled from Friday night's game in the seventh inning, with the Nationals trailing, 7-0. He went 0-for-2 with a groundout and a strikeout before being replaced by Zach Walters.
Williams has close ties to Melvin, A's coaches
OAKLAND -- The Nationals and A's might be Interleague opponents who rarely face each other, but it's clear that both managers have mutual respect.
Washington skipper Matt Williams and his Oakland counterpart, Bob Melvin, were teammates from 1987-88 in San Francisco, while Melvin was also Williams' bench coach for the D-backs when the current Nats manager was a third baseman for Arizona during the 2001 World Series-winning season.
Back then, Melvin was often the bearer of bad news for Williams.
"He was the turk late in my career. He would come to my locker and say, 'Hey, the computer got you, so you're not going to play tomorrow,'" Williams said. "We have a good relationship. He's always been willing and able to answer any questions, if I have them, or help in any way he can. There's not going to be any help this series, but he's always been there for me, for sure."
But the coaching connections don't stop there. A's bench coach Chip Hale was a Minor League manager in the Arizona organization while Williams worked there in recent years. Williams also said Oakland hitting coach Chili Davis "took me under his wing and taught me a lot" as a developing player with San Francisco when they were teammates.
"All of those guys are a big part of the reason why I am here today," Williams said.
• Williams said outfielder Nate McLouth is recovering from the lacerated hand he suffered while making a highlight-reel catch sliding into a wall on Monday. Even though he was out of Friday's starting lineup, Williams said McLouth would "for sure" be back for Saturday's matinee.
"He hit today," Williams said Friday. "It's still a little sore -- its an open wound. Still a little sore, but he can go today if we needed him to go."
Alex Espinoza is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.