April 2011

Crisp sits again; Willingham, Suzuki return

The A’s received a pair of welcomed faces back on Friday when Josh Willingham and Kurt Suzuki returned to the lineup. Willingham had missed the team’s previous two games with back tightness but, with the help of Thursday’s off day, he was ready to go for the first of four games against the Rangers. Suzuki, meanwhile, was plugged into the DH spot for multiple reasons. He and his wife, Renee, welcomed baby girl Malia Grace into the world yesterday, and Geren figured Suzuki could use what’s sorta a half off day. Even more, he wanted to have as many righties in the lineup as possible against Texas lefty C.J. Wilson.

Willingham returned to left field, while Conor Jackson got a start in right and David DeJesus played center in Coco Crisp’s absence. Crisp is still nursing a tight left quad, but Geren said he was feeling better on Friday and was expected to do some running drills. Depending on how those went, he could return to the lineup as soon as tomorrow.

Also on the injury front, Andrew Bailey threw another bullpen today and came out feeling great. He tossed 35-40 fastballs and also played around with his curveball a bit from flatground in an effort to start getting a feel again for his breaking pitches. Bailey isn’t sure how soon he’ll face live hitters, so for now he’ll simply continue on this three-day cycle that has him upping the intensity level with each bullpen.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

A’s: Ellis 2B, Barton 1B, Jackson RF, Willingham LF, Suzuki DH, DeJesus RF, Kouzmanoff 3B, Powell C, Pennington SS

Rangers: Kinsler 2B, Andrus SS, Young DH, Beltre 3B, Cruz RF, Murphy LF, Torrealba C, Moreland 1B, Borbon CF

A’s @ Mariners: Pregame notes

Bob Geren said last night he’d likely hand Conor Jackson and Andy LaRoche starts today against Seattle lefty Jason Vargas, but LaRoche isn’t in the lineup and Geren mentioned that, after some thought of giving Cliff Pennington a day off, he’d stick with the regulars on the left side of the infield since groundball heavy-hurler Trevor Cahill is on the mound. Geren also mentioned that he wants to keep giving Kevin Kouzmanoff consistent at-bats to help him find a groove at the plate.

Kouzmanoff isn’t the only one struggling these days. But Geren feels there are a handful of guys — he noted Matsui, Pennington and Ellis — who are showing good signs at the same time, which is exactly what this team needs. Sometimes one or two hot hitters can get the rest of the guys going.

Tonight’s lineups:

A’s: Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Jackson RF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS

Mariners: Suzuki RF, Figgins 3B, Kennedy 1B, Cust DH, Saunders CF, Rodriguez SS, Gimenez C, Peguero LF, Wilson 2B

Postgame quick hits

A small handful of notes following Tuesday’s 5-0 victory over the Red Sox:

  • The A’s have won eight of their last 12 games since starting the season 1-4 and are over the .500 mark for the first time all year.
  • They are now 26-22 (.542) against the Red Sox since 2006, which is the best record by any American League team over that span. They have also won 17 of their last 23 games against Boston when playing in Oakland.
  • A’s starting pitchers have a remarkable 0.27 ERA (one earned run in 32 2/3 innings) over their past five games and now boast a 2.01 ERA on the season.
  • Hideki Matsui, who got off to a slow start, had a two-run double in the eighth and now has eight RBIs in his past nine games.

A’s still hopeful Braden’s injury is “nothing serious”

The A’s on Monday confirmed what Dallas Braden’s gloomy face read just one day earlier.

The Oakland southpaw will not be making his next start in Seattle on Friday, as the club officially placed him on the 15-day disabled list with a stiff left shoulder.

Lefty David Purcey, acquired by the A’s from the Blue Jays in a flurry of transactions on Monday, took Braden’s place on the 25-man roster and will be housed in the bullpen. In a subsequent move, righty Rich Harden (shoulder) was transferred to the 60-day DL.

Braden exited Saturday’s outing after five frames because of the shoulder stiffness and paid a visit to the team orthopedist on Sunday, results of which A’s assistant general manager David Forst said were not definitive.

“We’re still hopeful that it’s nothing serious,” Forst said, “but we don’t have any answers yet.”

Braden, 27, was 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts this season, yielding 18 hits while racking up 15 strikeouts and five walks. It marks the third career DL stint for the lefty, who said on Sunday that he had never previously experienced shoulder problems in his big league career.

Forst noted that a decision on who will fulfill Braden’s role in the rotation has not been made but acknowledged that Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer — who are currently stationed in the bullpen — are likely candidates.

Both have appeared in three games this season, with Ross pitching to a 3.60 ERA and 1.60 WHIP with six strikeouts through five innings, while Cramer has compiled a 2.45 ERA and 0.55 WHIP in 3 2/3 innings pitched.

Cramer turned heads as a September callup last year with a 2-1 record and 3.04 ERA in his first four Major League starts. But Ross, a 2008 second-round pick, is thought to be an integral part of Oakland’s future rotation and has showcased improved fastball location since last year, when he made 26 big league appearances and garnered two spot starts, during which he was 0-2 with a 7.04 ERA.

With Monday’s off day, the A’s could also realistically choose to skip Braden’s spot until April 26 and keep Sunday starter Trevor Cahill on his normal fifth-day cycle by pitching him Friday in Seattle.

“This is disappointing for Dallas,” Forst said, “but we’re hopeful that it’s not long-term. We’re confident we have the depth to compensate for the time that he’s out.”

A’s acquire Purcey from Toronto, place Braden on DL

The A’s engaged in a trade with the Blue Jays on Monday by returning Minor League hurler Danny Farquhar to Toronto in exchange for former first-round Draft pick David Purcey.

Purcey, four days shy of his 29th birthday, was designated for assignment by Toronto last week after struggling with command out of the bullpen, tallying four walks in just 2 2/3 innings.

The left-hander, who is out of options, takes the active roster place of Dallas Braden, who was placed on the disabled list with a stiff left shoulder on Monday. In turn, the A’s transferred right-hander Rich Harden to the 60-day DL.

Purcey came up through the Blue Jays’ system as a starter but was converted to a reliever last season. Overall, he was 5-10 with a 5.42 ERA in 59 career games with Toronto.

Farquhar, 24, heads back across the border just five months after Oakland acquired him alongside pitcher Trystan Magnuson for outfielder Rajai Davis. The righty had thrown eight scoreless innings with nine strikeouts in four relief appearances for Triple-A Sacramento this year.

Rosales still awaiting green light for baseball activity

A May return seems unlikely for utility player Adam Rosales, who confirmed on Sunday afternoon that he still hasn’t been cleared for full baseball activity and likely won’t be for at least another four weeks.

That’s when Rosales is next scheduled to see his doctor, who told the infielder last week that his right foot has recovered at 90 percent. Rosales was hoping he’d be at 100 percent by then but bones around his surgically-repaired navicular bone are still gaining strength.

“It’s frustrating,” Rosales said, “because I really want to be out there.”

The 27-year-old Rosales underwent surgery on Dec. 8, and he was initially expecting to face a recovery time of three to four months. Now, June seems the likely goal.

Before the onset of his injury, which initially crept up in August, Rosales was batting .271 with seven home runs and 31 RBIs in 80 games and was the first A’s player since 1995 to start at least one game at six positions.

In his stead, Andy LaRoche has fulfilled the utility role, making starts in nine games at four different positions, including three at third base, where manager Bob Geren noted he wants to give LaRoche an “extended look” while regular Kevin Kouzmanoff continues to find an offensive and defensive groove.

Braden update: Unfortunately, there really isn’t one. Braden was scheduled to see the team orthopedist on Sunday for shoulder stiffness, but an A’s official said after Sunday’s game that results would not be available today.

Postgame quick hits: Trevor Cahill has now struck out seven or more in three of his four starts this season. … Andy LaRoche committed Oakland’s 18th error of the season in Sunday’s game, which is the most in the Majors.  … The A’s are 5-1 in day games and 3-7 at night. Last year, they were 35-21 under the sun and 46-60 at night.

Sweeney, Powell receive first starts; DeJesus leads off

Looking to get his club its first series win of the season, manager Bob Geren shook up his lineup in Sunday’s finale against the Twins, handing Ryan Sweeney and Landon Powell their first starts of the 2011 campaign.

Geren also inserted David DeJesus into the leadoff spot while giving Coco Crisp his first day off. DeJesus played center and Sweeney, a former lineup regular, manned right field, where he made 76 of his 77 starts last year.

“It’s good to see Ryan in there,” Geren said. “I think both Sweeney and DeJesus are pretty equal in center, but Ryan’s arm in right brought it that way.”

The 26-year-old Sweeney, who is occupying a bench role alongside Conor Jackson, had started each of the previous three A’s openers before this year and was batting a team-leading .294 with one homer and 36 RBIs in 82 games last season before undergoing season-ending right knee surgery at the end of July.

Sweeney is considered the club’s best left-handed option off the bench, given his career .298 average against righties. In comparison, he owns a .248 mark when facing left-handers. He entered Sunday’s contest with a career .200 average against Twins right-handed starter Scott Baker, but that number spanned just five at-bats.

Powell, meanwhile, had never faced Baker, but Geren said the backstop couldn’t be more mentally prepared for his start behind the plate, as he carefully watched video of each pitch from starter Brandon McCarthy’s last outing.

DeJesus’ standing at the top of the lineup marked his 641st career start in the leadoff hole, where he owns a career .294 mark and .807 OPS with 54 home runs, 290 RBIs and 40 stolen bases in 2,540 at-bats.

“He’s the second-most experienced guy in that spot,” Geren said. “Anywhere in the top of the lineup, he’s done it.”

DeJesus has hit safely in each of his four games during the road trip (5-for-16) after going 1-for-12 in three games in Oakland, and he also has a 24-game hitting streak against the Twins. Overall, the A’s outfielder is 108-for-340 (.318) vs. Minnesota.

-Rain is in the forecast for today’s series finale in Minnesota, but the A’s are hoping it stays away long enough to allow them to complete their first series win of the season. Here are your lineups:

A’s: DeJesus CF, Barton 1B, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Sweeney RF, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Powell C, Pennington SS

Twins: Span CF, Mauer C, Morneau 1B, Thome DH, Young LF, Kubel RF, Cuddyer 2B, Valencia 3B, Casilla SS

Cahill nearing multiyear deal

The A’s have reportedly reached agreement on a multiyear deal with All-Star hurler Trevor Cahill, pending a physical.

The A’s have not confirmed the deal, as first reported by ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick, and an announcement wasn’t expected Saturday.

Cahill, 23, told MLB.com before Saturday’s contest against the Twins that he was unaware a deal had been completed, though he noted he knew details were close to being finalized. Furthermore, he said physical results have yet to come back yet.

The A’s right-hander is under team control through the 2014 season and was set to go through his first arbitration process this winter. He was handed Opening Day starter duties this year after turning in a breakout 2010 campaign, when he compiled an 18-8 record and 2.97 ERA in 30 starts.

Cahill, who is currently making $440,000 for the season, would become the fifth player whom the A’s would hold under contract beyond 2011. Oakland signed fellow starter Brett Anderson to a four-year, $12.5 million deal last April and locked up catcher Kurt Suzuki for four years and $16.25 million in July. Relievers Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes, meanwhile, are both under contract through 2012 with a club option for 2013.

-I’d imagine that Gio Gonzalez would be next in line for a contract extension, though Daric Barton is a possibility as well. The sooner the better for Gio, whose stuff will demand bigger bucks with each start if continually progressing the way it has been.

-Geren said Ryan Sweeney and Landon Powell will both start tomorrow. For Saturday, though, he went with his go-to lineup and said he isn’t too concerned about the offensive woes, noting the team has faced a handful of tough pitchers lately.

A’s lineup: Crisp CF, Barton 1B, DeJesus RF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS

Twins lineup: Span CF, Mauer C, Morneau 1B, Young LF, Cuddyer RF, Kubel DH, Valencia 3B, Hughes 2B, Casilla SS

Suzuki returns to lineup after ankle scare

Kurt Suzuki still appeared to be limping around a bit on Saturday, but that didn’t stop him from getting back in the lineup. His ankle is a little sore, but he was told that it can’t get any worse, so he figures if that’s the case, then he can tolerate the pain. He said that, even though it’s just the beginning of the season, it’s important to be in there helping the team off to a good start. And anyone who knows Suzuki and his dedication to the club, particularly his pitchers, would say that they’re not surprised at all by his constant want to play every day.

Andrew Bailey threw from 120 feet again this afternoon, and Geren said it was “the best day yet” for the righty. Bailey, along with fellow rehabbing hurler Rich Harden, will join the team for its upcoming road trip through Toronto, Minnesota and Chicago. Meanwhile, Adam Rosales will stay behind and work with one of the team’s assistant trainers during that time. His next doctor’s appointment is on the 14th, and he’s hoping that’s his last one and he’ll be cleared for all baseball activity then. May is still the goal, he said, but these past few months have taught him not to get his hopes up too much.