March 2010

Saturday starters

Lineup vs. visiting Cubs: Patterson CF, Pennington SS, Ellis 2B, Suzuki C, Barton 1B, Cust DH, Gross LF, Buck RF, Petit 3B, Sheets SP

Lineup at Indians: Rosales SS, Sweeney DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Chavez 1B, Taylor LF, Brown CF, Powell C, Carson RF, Cardenas 2B, Jennings SP (Mazzaro to follow)

Some pregame notes:

Michael Wuertz, who has yet to pitch in a game, is slated to make his Cactus League debut Sunday against the visiting Reds. Dallas Braden will start the game.

Fellow rehabbing pitcher Craig Breslow will play catch from a distance of 80-120 feet today. The lefty is nursing medial tendinitis but is not expected to be out much longer. Meanwhile, no word on when Andrew Bailey (tennis elbow) will throw, but it could be soon.

Coco Crisp (hamstring/shoulder) could potentially be back in the lineup Sunday or Monday. Like I’ve mentioned before, he’ll probably DH his first game and then attempt to play defense for the first time all spring in the following game.

In order to stay on his throwing schedule, Gio Gonzalez – who last threw Thursday — will pitch in a Minor League game Tuesday on the team’s off day.

As a side note, the A’s on Saturday announced their 2010 ad campaign, titled “Green Collar Baseball,” and delivered a sneak peak of the commercials to the media. It’s pretty easy to make me laugh, but I have to admit that these ads are truly funny. Between Mark Ellis dressed in an 1870s uniform, Trevor Cahill staring down Dave Stewart and Bailey questioning something about a “nipple clipper,” there are plenty humorous moments to go around. More details on these ads, which will be online at the A’s site by season’s start, can be found here soon. Props to Hub Strategy, an advertising agency that teamed with the A’s, for their creativity on these.

Friday pregame: Injury updates

Joey Devine – who has yet to pitch in a game — is “getting better every day,” says manager Bob Geren. However, Devine didn’t throw again Friday, but Geren said Saturday or Sunday is a “possibility.” Devine has been treating a dose of
tendinitis in his surgically repaired arm and hasn’t been on the mound in more than a week. It remains to be seen
whether the A’s reliever will be ready to go come Opening Night.

Right-hander Michael Wuertz, who threw for the first time in a Minor League game Thursday (21 pitches), told manager Bob Geren that he felt “great” when he came into the clubhouse Friday. That means he’ll likely make his Cactus League debut by weekend’s end. “It sounds like he’s doing fine,” Geren said. “Hopefully we’ll let him throw soon.” 

Geren said Coco Crisp (strained left hamstring) ran sprints Thursday and is “two, three, four days away” from seeing game action again. The A’s new center fielder, who missed almost all of last season after undergoing surgeries on both his shoulders, will likely DH in his first game back and potentially play defense for the first time this spring soon after. “His hamstring is real minor,” Geren said. “And his arm’s good — that’s the good news.”

Thursday postgame notes

Manager Bob Geren described left-handed starter Gio Gonzalez as “unhittable” during the first three innings of Thursday’s game against the visiting D-backs, who drew a sold-out crowd of over 9,000. (Despite announced attendance, that’s more than the A’s get at some regular-season home games in Oakland.) Anyway, Gonzalez all but fell apart in the fourth frame, surrendering three of his four walks in that inning while appearing more than a little frustrated. After exiting with one on and two out in that inning, he talked with reporters and — without coming out and saying it directly — expressed discontentment with what he called “a touchy subject” on some of the calls he was getting. However, Geren said that happens sometimes and doesn’t excuse his mound composure. “I agree (with the calls), but that’s part of the game,” Geren said. “There were a couple close calls I told Curt (Young), but you need to shake that off.” Aside from that inning, Gonzalez said he was pleased with the way his changeup is coming along, noting that it got him plenty swings and misses, along with ground balls.

After Brad Ziegler induced a groundout to end the semi-ugly fourth frame, Tyson Ross came in and quietly tossed three solid innings, giving up one run on two hits while walking one and striking out seven. “He’s really come a long way in the past 10 months,” Geren said. “Today he showed just how dangerous his slider and sinker can be.”

This morning, Geren confirmed what Coco Crisp told me yesterday: The A’s center fielder could be back in the lineup by weekend’s end. You can read the full story from Wednesday here.

Also of note: Adam Rosales continues to get a good amount of playing time and productive at-bats, making it harder to imagine him not being on the 25-man roster come Opening Night. He was 2-for-3 in the win and has now reached base safely in nine of his last 10 games. So I’m wondering: How many of you genuinely see Rosales making a true competition out of the starting shortstop job? Cliff Pennington is 3-for-7 over his last three games and still seems to have the vote for the starting job from A’s management, but Rosales’ consistent play this spring is hard to ignore. At the same time, Rosales is not out of options. Eric Patterson is, but will that even factor into Oakland’s roster decisions in less than two weeks? Let me know what you think.

   

Wednesday postgame notes

When speaking to manager Bob Geren following the A’s 6-1 loss to the Giants today, I learned that Rajai Davis’ injury isn’t actually quad-related, as the team originally announced, but rather tied to abdominal pain near the left side of his stomach. Davis was missing from the clubhouse during the times I was down there throughout the game, but the injury doesn’t sound too serious and I’ll make sure to get you all an update tomorrow morning.

As for the game, I think Brett Anderson made everyone forget about the countless team injuries for an hour while he pitched four solid innings of two-hit ball — three of which he retired Giants hitters in order. While talking to media after his performance, Anderson seemed very pleased, and rightfully so, with the command he showed using all of his pitches. The most notable difference between the Brett Anderson of 2009 and the Brett Anderson of what Dallas Braden likes to refer to as “oh-ten” is the strides he’s made with his changeup. That one pitch allowed Anderson to really keep his pitch count down today. In fact, he only threw 50 through four. “Last year I was throwing too many pitches,” he said, “so I could never really go very deep in a game.” Geren was also impressed with his pitcher, saying he was “outstanding” and did a “great job of using his pitches all over the plate.”

Kevin Kouzmanoff made his second throwing error of the spring in the third inning, but made up for the mistake by going 2-for-3 at the plate with an impressive RBI hit to left-center that he turned into a double. The A’s new third baseman, who entered the game with a career .273 regular-season mark against starter Barry Zito, is looking more and more comfortable at the plate every time out there.

Kouzmanoff, along with fellow scheduled Opening Day starters Mark Ellis, Kurt Suzuki, Ryan Sweeney, etc., will get a second consecutive start against the visiting Diamondbacks tomorrow at Phoenix Muni. Fifth-starter candidate Gio Gonzalez is slated to take the mound, and he’ll be followed by Tyson Ross, Henry Rodriguez and Brad Ziegler.

That’s all I’ve got for you… Happy St. Patty’s Day to all!

http://twitter.com/JaneMLB  

Inside the training room

The A’s sure made up for their off day Tuesday by providing plenty of news on the injury front first thing Wednesday morning. For those who can’t keep track of it all, here’s a quick rundown:

  • Andrew Bailey is out five to seven days with lateral epicondylitis, a condition usually caused by overuse that involves soreness on the outside of the upper arm near the elbow.
  • Craig Breslow will not throw two to four days as he treats medial tendinitis in his elbow.
  • Joey Devine was supposed to play catch for the first time in a week after experiencing tendinitis in his surgically repaired elbow, but he took another day off and will attempt to throw “free and easy” up to 80 feet on Thursday.
  • Justin Duchscherer tossed three innings (45 pitches) in a Minor League intrasquad game Wednesday morning and came out of it feeling great. He’s hoping to make his Cactus League debut Monday when the A’s travel to play the Mariners and believes he’ll be good to go come the start of the season.
  • Michael Wuertz has yet to pitch in a game and was scratched from his scheduled appearance in the same intrasquad game in which Duchscherer pitched. Manager Bob Geren said the right-hander’s shoulder isn’t bouncing back well, but after checking in with Wuertz this afternoon, it sounds like he could see game action as early as tomorrow. He mentioned he deals with this same shoulder issue every spring after getting in a lot of work the year before but believes 19 days (the time between now and Opening Day) is plenty of time to get on track.
  • Rajai Davis was a late scratch in Wednesday’s game due to what was announced as tenderness in his left quadriceps. He was replaced in center field by Eric Patterson.
  • Coco Crisp continues to progress with his strained left hamstring and is still following his throwing program to get his surgically repaired shoulder ready for Opening Day. Crisp has only seen time in the DH spot this spring.

That should do it. Hopefully I’ll hear more on Davis by the end of the day. The news about Bailey and Breslow took everyone by surprise this morning, but I think both will be back on the mound in no time. As for Wuertz, I wasn’t too convinced about him being Opening-Day ready, but after speaking with him, it sounds he’ll be just fine.

And not that there’s anything funny about either of Bailey or Breslow’s injuries, but I find it slightly amusing that both are experiencing elbow soreness at the same time. It was just a couple days ago I was joking with them that they seem to be attached at the hip. Wherever you see Bailey, usually Breslow is close by, and vice versa. Even during the offfseason, the two pitchers lived just 10 minutes from one another in Connecticut and worked out with each other almost every day. They’re also roommates here in Arizona…and now training room buddies.  

Monday morning tidbits

First, your starting lineup against the Reds in Goodyear, with Ben Sheets (who manager Bob Geren hopes will go four innings) scheduled to make his third start of the spring:

Davis CF
Ellis 2B
Suzuki C
Kouzmanoff 3B
Sweeney RF
Cust DH
Barton 1B
Fox LF
Rosales SS

Also scheduled to throw: Jennings, Ziegler, Rodriguez, Blevins, Hernandez, McBeth

Today will mark Kurt Suzuki’s first back-to-back start behind the plate, as Geren is beginning to get his projected starters gradually acclimated with playing on consecutive days. The team has a day off tomorrow, and Geren said you can expect to see a lot of the other regulars (Mark Ellis, Kevin Kouzmanoff, etc) start to play back-to-back days beginning Wednesday.

Dribblers: Geren noted that Coco Crisp is “progressing well” and is back to his throwing program. He should be returning to the lineup in the “near future,” Geren said. … Jason Jennings, who has suddenly put himself in a good position to battle for a roster spot, will start one of Oakland’s split-squad games (likely on the road against the Indians) on Saturday, when Sheets is slated to take the mound in the other game (at home versus the Cubs). Vin Mazzaro is also scheduled to throw that day as well. … Joey Devine, who is currently treating tendinitis in his surgically repaired pitching arm, is scheduled to throw what Geren deemed “light to medium” toss on Wednesday, the same day Justin Duchscherer is supposed to throw in a simulated game at 10 a.m. over at Papago Park’s Minor League facilities.     

The most recent A’s cuts: right-handed pitchers Clayton Mortensen (optioned to Triple-A) and Fautino De Los Santos (sent to Double-A) and left-hander Pedro Figueroa (also reassigned to Double-A). Meanwhile, Oakland offered Rule 5 pick Bobby Cassevah back to the Angels, who in turn accepted the right-hander. More on all four of these guys can be found at the A’s site shortly. 

Duke faces live hitters

I’m technically off today, but Justin Duchscherer sure isn’t, so I’m taking a quick break from my errands before I head off to Trader Joe’s to update you all on the session he threw today. It marked the first time all spring he’s faced hitters, and from all reports I’ve read, Duchscherer’s 30-pitch session couldn’t have gone better – aside from being hit by a line drive off the bat of Max Stassi. The right-handed Duchscherer blocked the ball with his hand before it ricocheted off his right shoulder so it wouldn’t come straight at his face.

After facing Stassi and Ryan Sweeney, Duchscherer told reporters he feels healthier than he’s felt in five years and hopes to be game-ready by Opening Day.

“I see myself as one of the best pitchers in baseball,” Duchscherer told the Associated Press. “My only concern is if I have time to get ready to throw six
innings. I’m hoping I don’t have to start the season somewhere else.

“I threw with the intent of throwing to every location with all my
pitches. My body feels great. No elbow pain. No
back pain. It was nice not to have to think about if I was going to get
through the pain and focus on doing my job.”

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, the next step for Duchscherer — if all goes according to plan — will be a simulated game in Phoenix on Tuesday when the A’s have a scheduled off day. 

As react to Nomars retirement

Nomar Garciaparra officially announced his retirement today, and while the news didn’t surprise many around the A’s clubhouse, it gave them reason to talk about the role he’s played not just as a player but also as a person for the game of baseball. I was around Nomar a bit last year when he was with the A’s and was always struck by the way he carried himself as a true pro and as a mentor to a lot of the younger guys. Some around the clubhouse hadn’t heard the news when approached about it, but everyone pretty much had the same thing to say: Great guy. Great player. The A’s were truly lucky to have him around for a year…

Said manager Bob Geren: “He had a fantastic career. He’s obviously best known for what he did in Boston, so it’s good to see him retire as a Red Sox. He was a great player on the field, and when he wasn’t on the field he made some great contributions in helping the young guys in the clubhosue.

General manager Billy Beane also had nothing but gracious words to say about Nomar and really stressed how blessed he is to know him as a person. “He was a great talent,” Beane said. “He had a huge impact on the game.”

Injury news: Buck, Stassi, Meloan

2 p.m. I just learned that outfielder Travis Buck was scratched from Tuesday’s lineup due to dizziness in Surprise, Ariz., where the A’s are playing a split-squad game against the Royals. He was replaced in right field by Corey Brown, who went 3-for-4 with an RBI ground-rule double, two runs, a stolen base and a walk.

Buck is 1-for-5 at the plate in three games this spring and is fighting for an outfield spot along with Eric Patterson and Gabe Gross. He has made the A’s Opening Day roster in each of the last three seasons, but four stints on the disabled list and options to Sacramento in each of the last two years have limited him to just 156 games in that time at the Major League level. He does have a history of head problems, as he suffered a severe concussion in 2008 in Triple-A and also collided with Chris Denorfia last year in Sacramento. 

5:30 p.m.: Manager Bob Geren had no news on Buck, so I’m assuming he’ll be good to go tomorrow, but if I hear anything differently come morning, I’ll keep you updated.

In other injury news, 18-year-old catching prospect Max Stassi left the A’s game against the Rangers in Phoenix in the ninth inning with a right knee contusion after getting hit by a foul ball. The injury came just two frames after Stassi hit his first homer of the spring. “The baseball gods are funny like that,” he said after the game.

Stassi doesn’t think he’ll be game-ready again for about a week, so the next time he sees action will apparently be in Minor League camp, considering he noted that “the bad thing is I’m going down tomorrow.” Geren hasn’t said anything about cuts, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if some were made tomorrow considering Minor League camp is officially underway.

6 p.m. Also just got word that right-handed pitcher John Meloan left the game in Surprise accompanied by a trainer in the eighth inning with a 1-0 count on the batter. Will hopefully have more information on him first thing tomorrow.

Another note from that game: Jack Cust hit a ball over the right-field wall that bounced on the sidewalk over the fence across the four-lane street on one hop and into the water park.

A source who was at the game says the homer was the “farthest anyone can remember seeing a ball hit here.”
 

Postgame notes / Split-squad info

Manager Bob Geren suggested there is a “competition” at shortstop but said Cliff Pennington — as expected — is the “front-runner” for the starting job. He’d like to get Adam Rosales time at both short and second base in the meantime.

Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez are among a few A’s pitchers in camp working on a changeup. Both talked about the process following their Cactus League debuts on Monday, so look for more on this come Tuesday.

After today’s 10-3 loss to the Cubs, Geren mentioned that Justin Duchscherer could possibly throw off the mound tomorrow. It will all depend on how he feels in the morning, especially since he threw on flat ground today. As for Joey Devine, the hope is for him to face hitters sometime during the next week. Another rehabbing pitcher, Josh Outman, is apparently making miracle-like strides. In the sixth inning of today’s contest, the PA guy announced that Outman was entering the game in left field. It was actually Jake Fox, but the mistake definitely got some heads turning…

Tomorrow the A’s will partake in their first split-squad games. Half the team will stay home to face former Oakland pitcher Rich Harden and the Rangers while the other lucky half gets to board a bus and take a ride to Surprise, home of the Royals. I’ll be reporting from the home game, where Geren and plenty big-name guys are slated to be. Trevor Cahill is on the bump, and these position players are on the list to join him at Phoenix Muni:

Chris Carter, Eric Chavez, Mark Ellis, Jake Fox, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Adam Rosales, Steve Tolleson, Jemile Weeks, Matt Whitney, Joel Galarraga, Max Stassi, Kurt Suzuki, Matt Carson, Coco Crisp, Eric Patterson, Ryan Sweeney, Michael Taylor

Meanwhile, if you’re making the trip to Surprise to catch Vin Mazzaro throw in his second spring game, here’s a list of the position players who will be over there:

Daric Barton, Adrian Cardenas, Grant Green, Dallas McPherson, Cliff Pennington, Gregorio Petit, Eric Sogard, Josh Donaldson, Landon Powell, Anthony Recker, Corey Brown, Travis Buck, Jack Cust, Rajai Davis, Gabe Gross

Exactly who will be in both of the starting lineups has yet to be revealed, but I’ll let you know immediately through Twitter (http://twitter.com/JaneMLB) as soon as I find out tomorrow morning.

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