Tidbits from a rather quiet Sunday that saw way too much rain pound Phoenix Muni for the majority of the day:
Ben Sheets threw live BP and said everything felt great. Among those who stood in against him: Ryan Sweeney, Daric Barton, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Jake Fox. As I’ve noted before, Sheets has turned out to be quite the character around the clubhouse. On the mound, though, he turns into a completely different creature. Very intense. Less than five minutes after walking off the mound, though, he was back to his joking self. And if anything, he learned to stay away from the Mexican burrito spread right before he heads out to throw…
Bob Geren was very impressed with Trevor Cahill’s BP session today and said his performance was “the best I’ve seen from him.” Looked like he had all his pitches working for him, and he was getting quite the response from guys watching him in the dugout.
As you’ve probably already read here, the A’s signed veteran right-handers Jason Jennings and Brett Tomko today. Buzz is already circulating about what these moves mean for the current pitching staff. Are these additions simply Billy Beane’s way of adding more depth to a team with a longstanding injury history, or might this bring to question Justin Duchscherer and Sheets’ health? Hard to say right now, but I’d like to hear your thoughts.
I was told today that the A’s exhibition opener against the Cubs on Thursday will be on the radio for the first time in more than a decade. So for those of you within range of KTRB-860 in the Bay Area, you’ll be able to listen to all the sights and sounds of Oakland’s opener.
And if you didn’t get a chance to see this video of Rickey Henderson lending some advice to Rajai Davis, make sure you do so.
One final note to leave with you: As Jayson Stark observed today, this is the last Sunday without a baseball game to watch until November 7.
That’s right, Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson will be in A’s camp tomorrow as a special instructor for base running and is scheduled to stay through Tuesday. So if you’re in the area and want to capture Rickey tutoring the youngins, he’ll be at Papago through Monday before heading over to Phoneix Muni with the team on Tuesday. Most everybody — at least anyone expected to steal a base this season — is expected to get some work in with him.
Brett Anderson and Vin Mazzaro were among the A’s pitchers who threw live BP today, although most hitters just stood in without swinging — as is the norm on the first day — just to get a feel for the ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand. I talked to several of Mazzaro’s teammates who said the righty looked “fantastic.” He said he threw all his pitches and really felt comfortable out there, so don’t count him out just yet for the fifth rotation spot, although he’ll have to put up big numbers this spring to out-duel Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez.
Michael Taylor put on quite a show while taking some swings in the cage today. He hit a monster homer but then was robbed of another after Jack Cust jumped up to grab the long ball…more live BP to come tomorrow, barring any big rainstorms.
Jack Cust was welcomed back to Oakland with open arms– literally — upon his return to the A’s clubhouse on reporting day at Phoenix Muni. Within seconds of his arrival, he was flanked by teammates, hugs and plenty shouts. Not to be forgotten, though, was newcomer Kevin Kouzmanoff, who quietly entered his first day with the A’s. He spoke to media within an hour upon his arrival and talked about his excitement in joining a new team, as well as how he’s transformed into one of the game’s most respected defensive third basemen. More on both Cust and Kouzmanoff can be found at the A’s site.
Some leftover tidbits from the day:
Justin Duchscherer looked just as happy as he did yesterday when he was still under the influence of some drugs from his nerve ablation procedure Tuesday. This time, though, he was simply excited to wake up and realize the pain in his sacroiliac joint area is no more. Duke threw 35 tosses at 80 feet and afterward said he felt fine.
Bob Geren said left-hander Lenny DiNardo did some throwing today and is now working on a sidearm motion with bullpen coach Ron Romanick to expand his look.
Full-squad workouts are officially underway tomorrow at Papago Park starting at 9:45. Brett Anderson, Vin Mazzaro and Brad Ziegler among pitchers scheduled to throw live BP. Updates from there to come tomorrow…
2 p.m.: Geren recently met with us for a bit again before calling it a day. He said he was spread thin today but did get to see Ben Sheets throw a simulated session to Corey Wimberly. Geren said the A’s right-hander had great movement on all three of his pitches.
Fautino De Los Santos and Pedro Figueroa looked great today, according to Geren. “Real live arms,” he said. As for Dallas Braden, who also threw a bullpen today, Geren said he looked good from a distance.
We ma be seeing Coco Crisp in
the DH spot during the first week of Spring Training games. Geren said
his hitting is ahead of his throwing schedule, and the team doesn’t
want to rush anything with his surgically repaired shoulder that kept
him out for all but a few weeks last season in Kansas City. Plus, as
Geren noted, “We obviously know what he can do defensively. We’re not
worried about that.”
Tomorrow should be a rather quiet day
around here, as Clayton Mortensen is the only pitcher scheduled to
throw. Geren said the extra day of rest for the pitchers was built into
the schedule. Position players are scheduled to report, and all are
expected to make it on time. Non-roster catcher Joel Galarraga is still dealing with visa problems in Mexico.
11:20 a.m.: Not much news out of A’s camp this morning when we met with Bob Geren, so we spent most of his pre-stretch media session talking about some of the intricacies of the game, which brought up the memorable base running blunders in the 2003 playoffs against the Red Sox. Always good to get Geren animated and out of his shell a bit. Anyways, some morning tidbits for you:
Justin Duchscherer, who underwent a nerve ablation process to alleviate pain in his SI joint yesterday, showed up in the clubhouse this morning very much still out of it, but said he’ll come out tomorrow and see how he feels. He’s only a couple days behind the other pitchers, so he’s not too worried about the setback. “I have six weeks,” he said.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser asked Jake Fox this morning if he had any options left. Us media had been told that Fox did have an option left, but come to find out he actually doesn’t. That very much changes the complexity of camp regarding bench spots. If Eric Chavez calls it a career this spring, Fox’s spot on the roster is pretty much guaranteed. But if Chavez deems himself healthy for the season, Fox’s future might not be so certain. The team would like to have Adam Rosales around to spell the middle infielders, so Fox’s chances of making the team will heavily depend on Chavez. If the A’s want to send him to the Minors, he must first clear waivers. Same for Eric Patterson, who was consider the team’s only player out of options before this Fox news surfaced today.
Left-hander Lenny DiNardo, who has been dealing with a strained arch in his left foot, is “50 percent better than yesterday,” Geren said. At the pace he’s going, the manager said DiNardo should be out and about again in a day or two.
BP just got underway, and it looks like Travis Buck and Daric Barton are among those getting some hacks in today. Rajai Davis flew in from Connecticut yesterday and made his first appearance today, leaving just a couple position players left to report. Official reporting date for position players is tomorrow. Kevin Kouzmanoff and Jack Cust are two of the big names yet to be seen around camp yet…
Evening update: Some leftovers from today:
Joey Devine threw 20 pitches today and told me he’s feeling more comfortable every time out there. Geren didn’t get a chance to see him throw but said Devine is “50-50” for Opening Day. It’s safe to assume the right-hander won’t be appearing in any spring games during the first week, but Geren noted that even if he doesn’t see action the first week or two, he can still stay on schedule to be ready by season’s start.
I finally asked Ben Sheets how he managed to get Ryan Sweeney’s No. 15 — the number Sheets has worn for as long as he can remember. “I know people,” Sheets said with a big smile. He didn’t even have to talk to Sweeney before the outfielder handed it over, but Sheets said he still owes something to his new teammate for the number. “My kids saw me at the press conference on TV and were crying, saying, ‘Daddy, you said you’d be wearing No. 15! That’s No. 21…” The A’s roster now has Sweeney as No. 21.
As discussed extensively in this article, Eric Chavez took some grounders at first with infield coach Mike Gallego looking on. I watched him from the dugout and noticed some footwork trouble, but Chavez brought up the matter after while talking to media and recognizes the fact that improved footwork, like he learned from Ron Washington, can boost his defense skills. That said, he’s 100 percent committed to helping the team this season. In the two short years I’ve known Eric, he’s always been completely honest, and I can truly say he’s really excited — giddy even — about the possibilities ahead of him. Chavez obviously had great years at third base, but he knows those days are behind him, so he’s ready to embrace the utility role. He said he’ll spend some time taking balls at shortstop this spring, but Geren noted he’d like Chavez to focus on hitting and first base for the time being. And if you’re wondering about how his body is responding at the plate, Chavez said he’s ready to face live pitchers.
Among the other position players (who officially report Thursday) at the park today: Mark Ellis, Ryan Sweeney, Travis Buck, Daric Barton, newcomer Adam Rosales, Chris Carter, Mychael Taylor, Coco Crisp and Cliff Pennington. Also met infielder Steven Tolleson, who the A’s claimed off waivers from Minnesota this offseason. He played with Landon Powell at South Carolina and also competed against Pennington in college. Tolleson said he’s just excited about a change of scenery…
10:30 a.m.: From a cold Tuesday morning chat with manager Bob Geren here at Phoenix Muni:
Non-roster lefty Lenny DiNardo has been sidelined with a strained arch in his left foot. He’s day-to-day and Geren noted that the injury is nothing serious.
If all goes according to plan, newcomer Ben Sheets’ first start will come against his former team, Milwaukee, on March 5. Sheets, along with Trevor Cahill, was scheduled to throw a bullpen today, but both have been pushed to tomorrow for no other reason than to have them lined up for their starts. The Brewers matchup will feature quite a few recognizable faces: former Oakland manager Ken Macha, pitching coach Rick Peterson and third base coach Brad Fischer.
Joey Devine, as noted before, told me this morning that everything’s still going great with his rehab schedule. The current plan for him is to throw 30 pitches on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Justin Duchscherer’s procedure should get going in about 45 minutes, so hopefully I’ll have an update on him this afternoon…
4:00 p.m.: Justin Duchscherer’s scheduled nerve ablation procedure for noon today has been delayed until tomorrow at 11:30am, according to Bob Geren — who couldn’t say why it was moved back. The A’s right-hander has been dealing with an irritated sacroiliac joint, which connects the base of the spine to the pelvic bone. He was bothered by the same problem last year while rehabbing from minor elbow surgery and has had three cortisone shots for the joint, but it is no longer responding to the treatment. The ablation will burn off the nerve ends of his SI joint using radio waves to produce heat that will destroy the nerve and relieve the pain. The right-hander insists it’s a minor setback and was told that recovery time usually varies from one day to one week, but the team has to be concerned given his injury history. Plus, the burnt nerve will eventually grow back, so it is possible Duchscherer will have to undergo the procedure again sometime down the line.
Also from Geren: Dallas Braden, one of 13 guys to take in a bullpen session today, threw 35 pitches and “looked good.” When I asked Braden about how his healing foot responded, he replied: “The arm feels great.” … Also making a strong impression was Tyson Ross. “His delivery looks cleaner and cleaner every time he’s out there,” Geren said. … While passing by, pitching coach Curt Young noted that both Pedro Figueroa and Fautino De Los Santos had good outings. The latter, who the A’s will be careful with because he had elbow surgery in 2008, showed off his breaking ball inbetween some hard strikes.
Weather forecasts indicate the rain may be gone for good, so the A’s will presumably be back out on the field tomorrow morning at 9:30 for stretching at Phoenix Muni. Three days ’til position players report…
10:40 a.m.: Thanks to a pretty steady rainfall in Phoenix this morning, the A’s packed up their equipment at Phoenix Muni about an hour ago and headed to Papago Park, where they’ll skip PFP (pitchers fielding practice) and simply stretch and do some conditioning before pitchers begin their throwing programs. Among those scheduled to throw bullpens today are the recovering Dallas Braden, along with Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow.
Bob Geren talked with reporters this morning for a good while before venturing over to Papago. Some noteworthy comments from the skipper:
As I mentioned Saturday, Jake Fox has been in camp helping catch bullpens. When asked about Fox’s catching abilities, Geren said he definitely wants to see what the newcomer can do behind the plate. “That’s why he’s here,” Geren stated. The A’s manager said Fox will be catching a few Spring Training games when not getting time as DH or at the corner infield slots and even left field. Geren threw BP to Fox yesterday and said he likes the way he hits. “You can tell a lot about how a guy approaches the plate during BP,” Geren said. Fox will be fighting for a utility spot with Eric Chavez and Adam Rosales this spring.
Max Stassi, the youngest guy in camp at age 18 (he was born in 1991!), has already made quite the impression on Geren, who will be watching the young catcher closely. Geren, once a big league catcher himself, says he usually forges a strong bond with catchers. “He doesn’t have the appearance of being 18 years old,” Geren said. “You would think he’s much older.” Stassi will have plenty to learn behind the plate alongside Kurt Suzuki and Landon Powell, but Geren said the team will be careful with how they approach his offensive game. “We don’t tend to make major adjustments with someone of that age,” he said.
As a side note, newly acquired outfielder Coco Crisp and his playful personality showed up to camp today, as did Chris Carter, who will be watched closely this spring. Justin Duchscherer’s nerve ablation procedure is schedule for noon, so hopefully I’ll have more on him by the end of the day.
And even though Ben Sheets insisted yesterday that he “hates” Spring Training, he was quite eager to get on the field this morning about a half hour before stretching was scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. “What are we waiting for?” he announced. “I could have slept in a bit longer this morning. I’m ready to go right now!”
Seems like just a day ago I was teasing my sister about the rain she was getting in Northern California. And there I was, texting her from my patio while working under the perfect 75-degree sun in Arizona. Silly me, for not thinking karma would actually come back to get me so soon. But such was the case this morning as I stepped out of the car bright and early on pitchers/catchers reporting day under dark clouds just waiting to topple me with big, cold raindrops. Out of courtesy, they waited a whole hour before letting loose, but that didn’t help the fact I was standing sans umbrella and rain coat while waiting for A’s players to enter and leave the clubhouse facilities, which were closed all day due to physicals. Luckily, all seven of us media people didn’t have to shiver much longer before being allowed to stand in a small hallway just around the corner from the clubhouse. The players must have loved it, as we created somewhat of a red carpet entrance by standing on both sides of the walkway. At the same time, they must have also rolled their eyes after passing us, knowing full well it would be hard to escape without coming back from their physicals to talk to us. A few got by, but we did catch up with several notable guys. Here’s a good-size collection of what I heard today:
Bob Geren reported that Justin Duchscherer has been experiencing stiffness off and on in his lower back for a couple of weeks, the most recent time being this morning after throwing a 20-pitch bullpen session yesterday. He’ll be reevaluated tomorrow morning before pitchers and catchers begin their first official workouts at 9:45 a.m. Geren didn’t sound overly concerned, but the team must be slightly worried given Justin’s history with back injuries. Should be interesting to see if he is limited to certain activities tomorrow.
Ben Sheets held an informal media session after his physical and appeared very confident heading into tomorrow’s workouts with zero restrictions. He is following the same throwing program as the other A’s pitchers and will throw his second bullpen session (his first one came Friday) tomorrow. The A’s big offseason acquisition admitted it was a little strange “putting on the green” after being in Milwaukee for so long, but he said he’s excited for the challenge of a new league. Sheets added that he tries different things every spring but usually comes out of it with the same two pitches (fastball and curveball) he’s used since he was 11 years old. “They ask about the changeup and I’m usually eh about it,” he said. “I’ll throw it here and there.” He’s tried all forms of a cutter but insists they all look the same – “straight as a string.” However, he might try learning what he called his 12th cutter since he likes what he sees of Duchscherer’s cutter. Said Sheets: “I believe in location and a breaking ball, and we’ll go from there.”
On another note, Sheets said he attended the Super Bowl. He grew up a life-long Saints fan and even used to wear a Saints jersey to the ballpark every Sunday when he played with the Brewers. We’ll have to see if that tradition continues here in Oakland. Sheets on the game: “Great results. Maybe I’ll get that feeling soon.” A’s fans can only hope…
Vin Mazzaro has completely recovered from the shoulder tendinitis that shut down his season early last year. Like every other pitcher (aside from maybe Duchscherer now), he is not limited in any way.
Brett Anderson told us he’d like to work on his changeup to have another weapon against right-handed hitters. He said he feels a little more relaxed entering camp knowing that he has a better grip on job security, which allows him the chance to work on different aspects of his game. Brett recently turned 22 and celebrated with family and friends at a dinner in Stillwater, Okla., where he spent his offseason.
The always entertaining Dallas Braden provided a much-needed 20 minutes worth of comic relieve for us reporters in the hallway. First of all, on a more serious note, he spoke of the left foot that caused him to put a hold on his season last year after only 22 starts. He still feels lingering effects from the nerve irritation that developed last year and still has no feeling in two of his toes. On top of that, Braden had a nasal endoscopy in December because of a deviated septum and resulting breathing problems. He can now breathe and sleep comfortably, but that wasn’t before he experienced a few days of post-procedure effects. If you don’t like blood, I advise you to skip to the next paragraph, but this story is too good not to share. After his operation, Braden had to keep a cotton ball under his nose. One day, his grandmother ran to the store to get more cotton balls and Dallas decided to remove the one he had on. The result: a “waterfall” of blood everywhere. He called his grandma and yelled: “You gotta come back here. I don’t know what’s going on. You gotta take me to the hospital.” Upon grandma’s return, blood was all over the sink and she thought he had shot someone or something. Now, a flood of blood should normally not be so humorous, but leave it to Dallas to make it such.
Josh Outman, another recovering pitcher, talked about his recovery from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery and the resulting surgical effects in the form of shoulder soreness, which shut him down for six weeks. However, he says he still plans to be back with the team by midseason — hopefully in the rotation rather than the bullpen. For more on Outman, see a full story on him later tonight at the A’s site.
Heard more from Michael Taylor today. He basically said he’s going to be the best he can be to win a roster spot, but if the team doesn’t deem him ready, that’s OK too because it will give him more to work on at Triple-A Sacramento. With all the outfield commotion going on this spring, I see Taylor starting the year in Sacramento, mostly because I believe the A’s want to preserve his service time and make sure he’s up for good once he arrives. Until that time, I suspect he’ll tear it up with the River Cats.
We also talked to Andrew Bailey for a bit. He once again described his whirlwind of an offseason and how he’s not taking anything for granted this spring despite a guaranteed roster spot. “There are guys here like me last year,” he said. “You never know who’s behind you.” Bailey spent the offseason working out with fellow bullpen mate Craig Breslow, whose offseason home was about 10 minutes from Bailey’s.
Position players spotted in camp today: Eric Chavez, Mark Ellis, Eric Patterson, Cliff Pennington, Landon Powell and Travis Buck
That should do it for now. Expect more tomorrow as pitchers and catchers begin workouts at Phoenix Municipal, where I’ll be reporting from all day — hopefully under the sun. Take care, and enjoy what’s left of your Saturday night.
Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for lots of updates throughout my days in camp. It’s a perfect way to stay connected to the team as news unfolds: http://twitter.com/JaneMLB
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Lots of A’s — pitchers, catchers, position players — have been working out at the team’s Papago Park facilities in Phoenix even though pitchers/catchers don’t have to officially report until tomorrow. It’s easy to see why given the weather (77 degrees today) and easily accessible fields there. When I took my first trip to the park yesterday afternoon after a quick flight from Oakland, I made my way around the fields accompanied by only a squirrel or two. Today, though, the lots were filled when I wandered over there mid-morning. Some highlights:
I quickly ran into Justin Duchscherer, who is sporting a little more scruff than usual. He looks great and genuinely says he feels better than great — physically AND mentally. If you recall, Justin was ready to return to the team in August after recovering from elbow surgery. The only thing keeping him away from the field was his battle with depression, which he has since treated. Physical health is not an issue for him, and he will have no restrictions come Sunday when pitchers and catchers work out together for the first time. Justin lives in Arizona, so he’s been doing plenty of baseball activity all offseason. Today was one of the few times he’s been out to Papago with everyone, but trust me when I say he appears to be physically and psychologically healthy.
Brad Ziegler is dealing with what he calls typical allergies he always gets when he comes out to Arizona, leaving him with a slightly raspy voice. He got an allergy shot yesterday, though, and is not letting it affect his workouts. He threw a bullpen today right before Joey Devine, who received a good amount of encouragement from pitching coach Curt Young and bullpen coach Ron Romanick. Romanick has played a key role in guiding Devine along his rehab schedule. To read more about his quick recovery from Tommy John surgery, you can go here. Also, here’s a picture of Devine throwing off the mound today.
Jake Fox has to be one of the friendliest guys in the game. At least that’s the impression I got after he found me to introduce himself. Usually the reporters are the ones who have to make the effort to jump start the initial introduction process, but Fox came right over in catcher’s gear, which is why I didn’t even recognize him in the first place. He helped out with some bullpen sessions today before taking BP, and you’d think the guy has been around the team for years. Definitely a likable guy who should make friends fast and bring an all-around good personality into the clubhouse.
It didn’t take long to spot the highly anticipated Michael Taylor, who spent more than an hour taking BP while showering the outfield grass with hits left and right. Luckily there was a good amount of guys shagging balls – a group that included Cliff Pennington, who took part in his first full day of workouts Friday. Taylor looks just as you probably imagined — big. You can spot him a mile away, but at the same time he’s no Big Hurt or Big Papi. More trimmed and toned. Here’s a picture of him signing an autograph for an eager fan, who begged Taylor to wait around for a minute while he ran to his car to get one of Taylor’s baseball cards.
Travis Buck has been working out at the facilities for a couple of weeks and looks to be in great shape. I didn’t recognize him at first due to a hairstyle change. Gone are the Goldilocks days. Buck’s going with a much shorter ‘do now and is hoping the change will be a sign of good change to come at the plate, where his struggles have been the topic of much discussion this offseason after the A’s signed FA outfielder Gabe Gross.
I also had the chance to meet Max Stassi, the A’s fourth-round pick in last year’s draft. He was busy catching a few bullpens before I caught up with him and, not surprisingly, he’s yet another nice guy. Lots of those on the A’s roster every year it seems. And while Stassi is here as a non-roster invitee having only spent time with the A’s short-season Vancouver team, there’s no denying his excitement and work ethic. Looks like he’ll be a great addition to the big league team in a couple years.
Others floating around the facilities included Andrew Bailey, Ben Sheets, Trevor Cahill, Daric Barton, Mark Ellis, Eric Chavez, Tyson Ross and Jared Lansford (Carney’s boy), among others. As I mentioned before, pitchers and catchers report tomorrow, but it should be a quiet day over at Phoenix Muni. The players have been advised to take the day off, as they won’t get another off day until March 16 after they begin official workouts Sunday. However, I’ll be over there bright and early tomorrow, so look for more updates again here by afternoon and all throughout the day on Twitter. Hope to gather more pictures for you as well.
Off to find some dinner here in the desert. Any food recommendations around the Tempe/Scottsdale/Phoenix area are always welcome, as are any comments/rants/opinions about the A’s.