March 2011

A’s set Opening Night roster

Out: Tyson Ross, Eric Sogard, Wes Timmons, Matt Carson, Josh Donaldson

In: Bobby Cramer, Andy LaRoche, Landon Powell

25-man Roster:

Pitchers (12):

Starters: Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Braden, Brandon McCarthy

Relievers: Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour, Jerry Blevins, Craig Breslow, Bobby Cramer, Michael Wuertz, Brad Ziegler

Catchers (2): Kurt Suzuki, Landon Powell

Infielders (5): Daric Barton, Mark Ellis, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Cliff Pennington, Andy LaRoche

Outfielders (5): Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, Conor Jackson, Ryan Sweeney, Josh Willingham

Designated hitter: Hideki Matsui

Disabled List: Andrew Bailey (15-day), Rich Harden (15-day), Adam Rosales (60-day)

Cahill named OD starter; Barton out with leg soreness

Following weeks of speculation, A’s manager Bob Geren announced Thursday morning that righty Trevor Cahill has been awarded the starting nod for the club’s Opening Night meeting with the Mariners on April 1.

“Trevor was, in my mind, going to start Opening Day, if everything went well physically, for the entire offseason,” Geren said. “I liked what he did last year. I liked his demeanor on the mound. The mental side of the game that he takes out there each time makes him ideal to start any game of the year. If there’s a little extra hoopla and flyovers and fireworks on Opening Night, he’s the perfect guy to handle that.”

Cahill, 23, wasn’t even on the A’s Opening Day roster last year. Rather, he began the season on the disabled list, where he spent a couple of weeks nursing a stress reaction near his left scapula. Following a brief stint at Triple-A Sacramento, where he made two starts, he was called up to fill in for the injured Brett Anderson. By season’s end, he was an All-Star hurler garnering Cy Young talk.

Cahill pitched to a 2.97 ERA and 18-8 record in 30 starts, which ranked him fourth in the American League in wins. That number represented the most by an A’s starter since Mark Mulder captured 17 in 2004, and it marked the first time a pitcher aged 22 years or younger won 18 games since Brett Saberhagen went 20-6 for Kansas City as a 21-year-old in 1985.

The young righty will go on five days of rest and face Seattle ace Felix Hernandez at the Oakland Coliseum a week from Friday. In five career starts against the Mariners, Cahill is 1-3 with a 2.95 ERA and has struck out 16 through 30 2/3 total innings. Geren has yet to decide who will follow him in the rotation.

“I think the goal is just to take it as any other start,” the soft-spoken Cahill said. “I think, regardless, your first start of the season, everyone is going to have a little bit of adrenaline, so I just need to make sure that’s in check.”

Cahill was part of a 2010 starting staff that led the Majors with a 3.47 ERA, which represented the lowest such mark by an American League team since 1990, when Boston compiled a 3.32 ERA. All four key members of that rotation — Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden — have returned, and Geren noted he would have felt comfortable handing any one of them the esteemed start.

“He was obviously honored and happy to get that nod, but I also told him that all of our pitchers are very good,” Geren said. “They’re all similar as far as age and experience, so I told him to not take it as any added pressure whatsoever. Take it as a compliment, but don’t do anything different than if you were pitching the second game or the third or fourth. Just be yourself, and he completely understood and agreed with that.”

Said Cahill: “There are a bunch of guys to choose from. Everyone had a good year, so I think it’s about lining things up. I know [Geren] feels confident in winning with whoever he puts out there, so I don’t think it’s a huge deal, just an honor more than anything.”

Morning tidbits: Tyson Ross will start today’s road contest against the D-Backs, and Bobby Cramer will follow. At this point, it seems both are essentially fighting for the long-relief spot in the bullpen since Brandon McCarthy appears to be the front runner in the fifth-starter battle. … McCarthy will start tomorrow’s home game against the Angels, and Dallas Braden will go in a Minor League game. … Daric Barton is out with leg soreness, but Geren said it’s nothing serious and he’s simply day-to-day right now. … Rich Harden threw from 120 feet today and felt good, Geren said. He’ll likely do long toss one more time before pitching from flat ground and making his way back on the mound.

Lineup: Ellis 2B, Suzuki C, DeJesus RF, Jackson 1B, Matsui LF, Kouz 3B, Carson CF, Pennington SS, Ross P

OD starter speculation continues

The plot has thickened surrounding the A’s Opening Day starter decision. Just yesterday it seemed as though Brett Anderson or Dallas Braden could seemingly be the only ones considered for the nod, given the fact that the rotation schedule for the rest of camp would prevent Trevor Cahill or Gio Gonzalez from making the esteemed start because of too little or too many days of rest. Alas, the schedule was changed this morning, and Braden — originally scheduled for Saturday — will work Friday, and Cahill will go Saturday on six days of rest. That means he’s back in line for consideration for the OD start. Cahill, at the start of camp, was initially the unanimous pick by a few of us writers when we were considering the candidates. Geren, staying mum on the topic per usual, only said, “Yes, we’re making adjustments for the start of the season at this time.” He’s likely to make the official announcement either Friday or Saturday — if it is Cahill, I wouldn’t be surprised if he announces it after Saturday’s game.

It’s an otherwise slow news day around camp — just the way it should be as spring dwindles down. Joey Devine is throwing in a Minor League game today, and there’s still nothing to report on Andrew Bailey, who hasn’t started throwing again. Bailey initially said it would be a matter of days, not weeks, before he picked up a ball again. But it’s already been a week, so it’s likely he’ll take some more time and start the season on the DL so as not to rush anything.

Here’s the A’s lineup against the Cubs: Crisp CF, Sweeney RF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, Jackson 1B, Pennington SS, Sogard 3B, Gonzalez P

Breslow’s charity to host bartending night

Lefty Craig Breslow’s Strike 3 Foundation, which provides funding for pediatric cancer research, will host “Celebrity Bartending Night” on Wednesday at American Junkie in Scottsdale, Ariz., in conjunction with real estate venture Issues Concerning Athletes. Players scheduled to make guest appearances behind the bar include Breslow, Andrew Bailey, Dallas Braden, Cameron Maybin, Cody Ross and Dontrelle Willis.

The event will be held from 9-11 p.m., and American Junkie will be donating 10 percent of all bar revenue, as well as 20 percent of all pre-booked tables, to Strike 3 Foundation. Additionally, VIP tickets — which includes access to celebrities — will be available for purchase at the door for $50 per person.

For booking information, you can contact Erica Brooks at ICAbaseball@aol.com

Matsui out of lineup; Breslow makes debut

Hideki Matsui is out of the lineup with neck stiffness, though he said he’s feeling much better today and should be ready to go again tomorrow. He’s slated to play in the outfield for a few innings in Thursday’s game against the D-Backs — they wouldn’t allow the A’s to carry a DH — and he said he’s not concerned about his neck affecting those plans.

Matsui’s spring numbers aren’t great — he’s hitting just .143 — but it’s important to remember that Cactus League performances rarely carry over into the regular season. He noted through his translator this morning that he never pays much attention to his numbers around this time of the year. Rather, he focuses on how his swing feels and his timing — both of which he said are coming along. “As far as readiness,” he said, “I feel pretty good.”

The Japanese slugger isn’t the only one without a healthy dose of hits this spring. Conor Jackson (.156) and David DeJesus (.200) haven’t produced much, and Josh Willingham (.220) and Mark Ellis (.225) aren’t too far behind. I don’t think anyone’s worried at this point, though, because it’s really about regaining that comfort level at the plate and studying pitches.

Joey Devine will throw in a Minor League game today after pitching in a simulated game on Monday. As I mentioned in this story, he said he still feels like he has a lot of work to do before being ready to throw in a big league game. Much of that comes with just wanting to feel good for consecutive outings — physically and mechanically. It’s unlikely he’ll start the year with the team, but the fact that he’s healthy is a positive sign.

In other bullpen news, Craig Breslow is scheduled to make his spring debut today. He’ll likely get one inning of work in against the Reds.

Here’s who will start the game: Crisp CF, Barton 1B, DeJesus RF, Willingham LF, Sweeney DH, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, Kouz 3B, Pennington SS, Anderson P

Game canceled; Anderson to pitch tomorrow

As expected, this afternoon’s A’s and Dodgers game has been rained out. As a result, Geren said Brett Anderson will make his start on Tuesday against the Reds, and Gio Gonzalez will be pushed to Wednesday against the Cubs. That means Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer, who were initially scheduled to pitch that day, will likely throw in a Minor League game, though nothing has been decided for certain beyond Wednesday. Trevor Cahill will make his sixth start on Thursday, and Dallas Braden or Brandon McCarthy will pitch Friday, with one of them going in a Minors game. With the changes, it looks like the schedule sets Anderson up nicely to be the team’s Opening Night starter. For awhile it appeared Gonzalez could get the nod, but now he would have to go on just three days of rest to do so. This also means we could hear from Geren sooner than Friday or Saturday about the fifth-starter spot, as the way he sets up his rotation toward the end of the week could reflect the rotation that will start the season in Oakland.

A’s @ Dodgers: Pregame notes

It’s a windy morning here at Phoenix Muni and rain is in the forecast near game time. It sounds as if the A’s will still make the trek over to Glendale, though, in the event they still play. Coco Crisp is still out with a tight hamstring. Actually, he’s at the dentist this morning, but Geren said he’s “hopeful” Coco gets back in game action tomorrow. Matt Carson, who’s just getting over the bug that’s been making it’s way around A’s camp, gets the start in center today.

Geren said decisions about the Opening Day starter and fifth rotation spot will likely be announced Friday or Saturday. As I mentioned yesterday, Tyson Ross and Brandon McCarthy appear to be the likely roster choices. I thought the team might want to keep Ross out of the bullpen, but it’s hard to ignore what McCarthy’s done. He’s tallied more innings than any other pitcher this spring (20 2/3) while compiling a 3.05 ERA. He’ll get one more start here in Arizona, as will Ross, who is scheduled to go Wednesday. After getting a taste of the big leagues last year, Ross said he’d be happy in any role, whether that’s as a starter or in a long-relief bullpen role.

Geren also noted that the 35 players who are still in camp are likely all headed back to the Bay Area for the Bay Bridge exhibition series next week, though he didn’t rule out cuts. They usually take about 30 anyways, and considering guys like Adam Rosales and Rich Harden are included in that 35 number, it makes sense to bring everyone along. That group will include Wes Timmons and Andy LaRoche, who are hanging in there even though it looks like Eric Sogard — who is already on the 40-man — is the front runner in the backup utility competition. Sogard is starting at second today, and he’ll also get some time at third in the game.

Joey Devine is throwing down the street at Papago Park in a Minor League game and, if all goes well, he could return to Cactus League action sometime this week. I talked to Joey this morning and, even though camp breaks in less than a week, he’s really not pushing himself. He just wants to get back to feeling how he did in his first three outings before biceps tightness caused his mechanics to go by the wayside. At this point, it seems there’s a good chance he’ll start the season in Triple-A so that he can feel comfortable with his mechanics over an extended period of time. Remember, he hasn’t pitched in a big league game in more than two years, and his biggest concern right now isn’t to make the 25-man roster but to stay healthy. He said if that means getting some time in at the Minor League level, then so be it.

A’s lineup @ Camelback Ranch in Glendale: Pennington SS, Suzuki DH, DeJesus RF, Jackson 1B, Kouz 3B, Carter LF, Carson CF, Powell C, Sogard 2B, Anderson P

A’s down to 35 players in camp

Lots of cuts today: Here’s the list of who’s heading out: Josh Outman, Guillermo Moscoso, Michael Taylor, Steve Tolleson, Grant Green, Michael Choice, Jemile Weeks, Trystan Magnuson, Yadel Marti, Fernando Cabrera, Jai Miller, Anthony Recker

The
A’s now have 35 players remaining in camp, which includes 32 players on the
40-man roster and three non-roster invitees
(Andy LaRoche, Wes Timmons and Matt Carson).

Crisp day-to-day with hamstring strain

A’s
outfielder Coco Crisp was scratched from Sunday’s split-squad game against the
D-Backs and deemed day-to-day with a left hamstring strain.

Crisp was
scheduled to return to the lineup on Sunday after experiencing tightness in the
hamstring while swinging a bat in Friday’s contest against the White Sox. He
went 0-for-2 in the game before exiting in the bottom of the third inning and
received a day off Saturday.

The
31-year-old center fielder, who suffered multiple injuries during a shortened
2010 campaign, has posted a .410 batting average and .769 slugging percentage
in 13 Cactus League games.

With Crisp
out of the mix, Michael Choice was placed in center field in the ninth spot of
the lineup. Shortstop Eric Sogard resumed Crisp’s leadoff duties.

—————————

As you probably already know, Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso were sent to the Minors today. Geren would like to see Outman get stretched out, and there just aren’t enough innings at the Major League level for him to continue doing so in A’s camp. More on the moves can be found here. With Outman out of the fifth-starter mix, I’d imagine Tyson Ross and Brandon McCarthy to be the front runners at this point. I’d think the team would prefer to keep Ross in the starting role, so it’s possible that he starts the year in the rotation and McCarthy stays on as a long-relief option in the bullpen — though McCarthy has been very good this spring and has yet to walk anyone in 11-plus innings. That, of course, means Cramer would be the odd man out here. This is all speculation, though, and Geren has given no indication as to who might be leading the pack.

Breslow sees game action; Ross also throws

Hurlers Craig Breslow and Tyson Ross spent the team’s off day throwing in a Minor League game at Papago Park. According to reports from Papago, Breslow threw 28 pitches in one inning of work — his first time seeing game action this spring. He has been brought along slowly because of his workload last year, and he also recently developed a hamstring strain — though the injury didn’t keep him from getting in his bullpen sessions.

According to manager Bob Geren, who watched Breslow alongside pitching coach Ron Romanick, the lefty “threw the ball well, and his leg felt good.” He’s still nursing the hamstring a bit, so he was instructed not to make any plays where he would have to cover first base. There weren’t any such plays, though, so it wasn’t even an issue. Breslow will again throw Saturday, and he says it could either be in another Minor League game or an exhibition game.

Ross, meanwhile, threw 80
pitches in five innings and gave up a couple of hits. Geren said “it was a good outing … and the ball was moving well.”

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