April 2010

One cherry Tootsie Pop, please…

I’m starting to wonder if the A’s training room is handing out free lollipops or something. Or maybe stickers and Disney princess band-aids. That’s just my guess. I can’t seem to think of any good reason why the baseball gods, year after year, continue to sprinkle this A’s team with health problems. As expected, Kurt Suzuki became the 10th A’s player to go on the disabled list today. Justin Duchscherer could easily be next, and Dallas Braden’s numb foot didn’t exactly leave anyone feeling great after the lefty’s last performance.

After seemingly getting off to one of their healthiest starts in years, the A’s have quickly reminded us that the bad luck that has continually circled through the clubhouse hasn’t quite left. A total of 74 players have made use of the DL since the start of the 2007 season, and the A’s are now on pace to use it about 70 times this year alone. Anyone out there working on a medical thesis right now? Someone could easily do an exhaustive study on this injury-prone team.

Let’s take a look at who’s enjoying a Tootsie Roll Pop right now:

Kurt Suzuki is bored out of his mind thanks to an intercostal strain in his left side that will keep him out of the lineup until May 9 at the earliest. That’s when he’s eligible to return from the 15-day DL.

Mark Ellis didn’t make the team’s current road trip and is instead treating his strained left hamstring. He’s eligible to be reinstated from the DL on May 6, but the club isn’t making any promises that his name will be back in the lineup then. After all, Ellis returned April 20 after missing seven games due to the injury and left the game after five innings. No need to rush him.

Travis Buck, possibly the most frustrated of them all, is out with a strained right oblique muscle — which flared up during batting practice April 21 and had him on the DL by the next morning. He hit a monster of a home run the day before suffering the injury and appeared to be heading toward a hot streak, making the situation that much more disappointing. Story of Buck’s life, though. Right?

Coco Crisp probably wants to simply wave a magic wand over his fractured pinkie finger right about now, but he’s taking things in stride because he know there’s absolutely nothing he can do to make it heal quicker. He’s hopeful he’ll be able to resume baseball activity in less than two weeks, which means we could maybe see him make his debut in green and gold by the end of May.

Brett Anderson received quite the reward for signing a four-year contract extension last week. And I’m not talking about the $32 million he could potentially earn. Rather, Anderson is now being forced to celebrate his new deal with a strain near his flexor tendon that will force him to miss at least five weeks.

Michael Wuertz scared us all when he wasn’t pitching in any Spring Training games. That’s when we found out about the sore shoulder, which then turned into shoulder tendinitis, which then put him on the DL to start the season. The A’s top right-handed setup man is on his way back, though. He is scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Sacramento tonight and, if all goes well, he could rejoin the team for next week’s homestand.

Joey Devine is one of the nicest guys on the team, but his surgically-repaired elbow hasn’t been so kind to him. Devine entered camp quite enthused that he was ahead of his Tommy John rehab schedule only to be set back with tendinitis halfway through spring. Then, just as he was about to face live hitters last week, he felt more pain and found out the tendinitis has returned. However, that’s relatively good news considering he thought there might be a tear involved. Devine was transferred to the 60-day DL today to make room for Josh Donaldson on the A’s 40-man, so it looks like we won’t see him until after the All-Star break.

Josh Outman, like Devine, is recovering from Tommy John surgery and isn’t expected to rejoin the club until midseason. All reports on his recovery process, though, have been nothing but thumbs up.

John Meloan, remember him? He underwent Tommy John surgery last month and will likely be out until the middle of the 2011 season.

That should add up to nine. Trevor Cahill, who struggled in his season debut against the Jays tonight, represents the club’s 10th player to have used the DL this year. He started the season there with a stress reaction in his left scapula before being optioned to Sacramento and, eventually, being recalled to fill Anderson’s place.

The A’s also saw Kevin Kouzmanoff and Jerry Blevins miss time due to their own respective injuries last week. Now, the team will wait on news from Dr. Thomas Byrd, who will examine Duchscherer’s MRI on Monday in Nashville. If surgery is required, folks, you won’t be seeing him back in a uniform this year.

Watching Duchscherer choke up after last night’s game was rough. This guy’s essentially been to mental hell and back, and now he’s dealing with yet another hip issue after just five starts. If he’s out of the mix, Vin Mazzaro is likely to get the call up. Maybe then we’ll appreciate all this depth talk Billy Beane spoke of so much during the offseason.

On the upside, Eric Chavez is still going strong. Of all the players who have fallen victim to the injury bug, who would have thought the A’s veteran would not be one of them? Chavez very much appears to have a great peace of mind regarding his role on this team, and it’s good to see him enjoying himself on the field again. He also got a haircut recently, as I observed today. “Actually,” he said with a grin, “I got it last week, but thanks for noticing.”

Hey, it’s hard to keep track of trips to the DL, let alone visits to the salon…  

Meet Ben, y’all …

Ever since the season started, I haven’t been around the blogosphere as often as I’d like. In fact, I’ll admit that my presence has pretty much been close to nonexistent. And for that, I apologize. But by visiting the A’s site every day like I’m sure you all do, you’ve probably noticed I’ve kept busy enough. Still, through all the craziness that is the 162-game baseball season, I’d like this to be a space where you can visit often for leftovers you can’t find in any game story or the like.

The A’s are making this thing fun right now, and you can tell they’re having a good time doing it. They’re real big supporters of each other, and perhaps the biggest of them all is Mr. Ben Sheets. On Wednesday, he was given the option to fly ahead of his teammates back to Oakland to ensure a good night’s sleep before his start at home against the Orioles tomorrow. His response: “Why would I take an early flight when I have a front row seat for the best game of the day?” He was, of course, referring to the rubber match game between his A’s and the Mariners. Suffice to say, it was an easy decision, one he didn’t even have to think twice about — which says plenty about the kind of teammate he is.

There’s a lot to like about Sheets. His career stats speak for themselves, so there’s no denying his status as something special as a pitcher. And even though we haven’t seen him post All-Star numbers yet this season, it’s early, and I firmly believe he’ll get better with each start. But I don’t want to talk about Sheets the pitcher. You know enough about that guy thanks to all the statistics floating around on a million different websites. I want to talk about Ben the person — because the person is just as special as the pitcher, and that much is evident the minute you meet him.

You won’t meet Ben without meeting his Southern drawl, which finds a way to deal out at least one “y’all” about every 15 words — something I, along with pretty much everyone else lucky enough to be around him on a daily basis, have come to embrace. “Reckon” squeezes its way into the mix every once in awhile, too, as does “ain’t.” And oh is he loud. He’s probably got one of the smallest statures on the club but there’s no doubt he’s got the largest voice. He’s not afraid to use it, either. Ben will talk to just about anyone, and he’ll also lend a high five in most cases.

He loves talking baseball, but he also likes talking some good fried chicken and mac and cheese, too. Ben’s Southern upbringing hasn’t exactly molded him into the healthiest of eaters. “Look at me,” he usually says. “Do I look like I eat carrots and crap?” He enjoys his Starbucks almost as much as the fried stuff, so it’s easy to assume he’s enjoying his current stay in the Starbucks capital of the world.

The Sheets file will have to abruptly be closed for now, as the Mariners are closing in on their second straight win over the A’s at the moment. But I urge you to head out to the Coliseum tomorrow to root this Southern boy on as he looks to garner his first win in green and gold. He knows the A’s don’t get a ton of fans, but he mentioned he really likes the ones that do come out. “They’re hardcore,” he said. “That’s what I like to see.”

A’s lineup gets a new look for series finale

ANAHEIM — Manager
Bob Geren gave his lineup quite a makeover Sunday morning in a combining effort
to give a handful of his starters some rest while putting out a team he
believes can lock up a winning three-game set against left-handed starter Joe
Saunders and the Angels.  

The A’s
entered the game 1-1 against Los Angeles, who received a walkoff hit from
Hideki Matsui in the bottom of the ninth inning Saturday evening to shatter
Oakland’s four-game winning streak.

As expected,
catcher Kurt Suzuki received his first day of rest after manning the plate six
consecutive days. He was replaced in the lineup by Jake Fox, who had only
appeared in one game as designated hitter before Sunday.

“He needed a
day off in my opinion,” Geren said of Suzuki. “He’s a manager’s favorite type
of player because he wants to play every day. You have to admire that. He’s
caught six straight, including a day after night game. That’s pretty hard on
him, so he needed this.”

Geren placed
Fox in the sixth spot behind Mark Ellis, who was elected to DH for just the
third time in his career — the last coming five years ago — to “give half his
body rest,” the A’s skipper said.

Adam Rosales
got his first starting nod at second base, one of five positions Geren feels
comfortable placing him. He made his A’s debut Friday night, entering the contest
as a defensive replacement for Ellis in the bottom of the ninth inning while
representing the last Oakland player on the Opening Day roster to appear in a
game.

Also getting
a rare start in left field was Eric Patterson, who has tallied three
appearances this season as a pinch runner in late innings, including Tuesday
night when he scored the winning run in the 10th frame against Seattle. Geren
felt the need to rest Buck while at the same time giving Patterson a chance to
knock around Saunders, against whom he’s 4-for-5 in his career.

“He’s our
most successful outfielder against Saunders,” Geren said. “It’s a small sample
size, but he brings a lot to the team and hits for a high average.

“He was
pretty much our most productive player in the Minors last year and achieved
everything he could at that level, so he just needs an opportunity at this
level.”

Patterson
batted .284 with four doubles and two triples in a team-leading 27 games this
spring while appearing 17 times in center field, 10 at second base and four in
left field. His solid versatility left the A’s no choice but to lend him his
first Opening Day roster spot.

“It makes it
a little more difficult when you’re always switching positions like he was
doing,” Geren said, “but he’s aggressive and doesn’t’ lay back. That’s a good
thing.”

Meanwhile,
Gabe Gross will have to wait for his first outfield start while Rajai Davis and
Ryan Sweeney continue to put up consistent numbers at the plate, where they
have combined to rack up 16 of the club’s American League-leading 59 hits.

“Raj is
playing real well and Sweeney has been very consistent, so it’s hard to take
someone out of the lineup who’s swinging the bat well,” Geren said. “[Gross] is
a good worker and has a good attitude. It’s a long season, so his time will
come.”

Meet your 2010 A’s

With all the commotion going on this weekend, it may have been hard to keep track of who is on the Opening Day roster and who is not. So just to be clear heading into tonight’s opener, here are your 25:

Pitchers (12): Ben Sheets, Dallas Braden, Justin Duchscherer, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Brad Ziegler, Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow, Chad Gaudin, Edwar Ramirez, Jerry Blevins, Tyson Ross

Catcher: Kurt Suzuki

Infielders (7): Daric Barton, Mark Ellis, Cliff Pennington, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Adam Rosales, Eric Patterson, Jake Fox

Outfielders (4): Travis Buck, Rajai Davis, Ryan Sweeney, Gabe Gross

DH (1): Eric Chavez

Note: Fox is the club’s backup catcher to Suzuki, and Patterson can also play in the outfield.

See y’all tonight at the Coliseum!

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