Pitchers and catchers report: Rainy day roundup

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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