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David Brown

Oakland lefty Gio Gonzalez talks to baseball — and it talks back

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Everybody's heard about "The Bird," former Detroit Tigers right-hander Mark Fidrych, who came to fame in the 1970s.

Among his many endearing/eccentric qualities, Fidrych talked to the baseball. And not simply in Ed Norton fashion by telling it "hello"; Fidrych reasoned with the ball, like a coach might do with a player, or a teacher with a student.

The Bird sadly died in 2009.

But happily, the Oakland Athletics have picked up on one of his most notorious ways.

Apparently following the lead of perfect gamer Dallas Braden(notes), left-hander Gio Gonzalez(notes) said he talked to the ball during an 8-2 victory against the Texas Rangers on Sunday afternoon.

"I had a pep talk with the baseball today," Gonzalez said. "It's the first time. I guess [Braden is] rubbing off too much on me."

Gonzalez allowed two runs over six innings, throwing 65 of 95 pitches for strikes, and credited some of his success to a pregame strategy chat with Braden, who had tossed a shutout against the Rangers the night before.

After being victimized by Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton(notes), who hit a 403-foot home run in the sixth, Gonzalez said he had a heart-to-cork chat with the cowhide — like Braden does sometimes.

"After Hamilton's homer, I got the ball and started yelling at it," Gonzalez said. " 'C'mon, do your job.' Then the baseball told me to calm down.

"I'm losing my mind."

Perhaps, but he's also finding his way in the majors. Gonzalez finished the inning and his outing having contained one of the better offenses in the majors on a hot day in an offense-friendly ballpark. He also helped the A's pull within 7 1/2 games of first place.

"I was just trying to follow in the footsteps behind a guy who pitched a great game," Gonzalez said of Braden. "The Rangers are a great-hitting team, but we've been doing our homework. We sat down and went through it with Dallas. He gave me a pep talk on each one of them and it worked."

And it doesn't hurt to talk to the ball, either. As Fidrych might say, baseballs are people, too.

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