Results tagged ‘ Ben Sheets ’

Sheets, Bailey and crickets, oh my

Maybe Sheets won’t be retiring after all…at least that’s the impression I got after he spent some time chatting from Louisiana with reporters today. He understands he’s 32 and, with another flexor tendon surgery, likely wouldn’t be able to return to the field until the 2012 season. But this guy has a real love for the game- you saw it on the field with his fiery mound demeanor, and I had the privilege of seeing it off the field in the clubhouse. So even though I said yesterday it wouldn’t surprise me if he opted for retirement, which I still don’t think is out of the question, I should have added that it wouldn’t surprise me if he underwent another procedure. If he forgoes the surgery, I’d love to see him coaching – not necessarily at the big league level but perhaps college or even a Little League team. He’d be awesome in that role – he loves to win, and he knows how to do it while having fun. Plus he’s got two boys of his own, and he seems to be great with them. Ben said he plans to be around the A’s clubhouse next week and for much of the rest of the season, so I’m sure he’ll keep us updated on what’s in store for his future.

In other news, Andrew Bailey is proving that the injury bug is still alive and well in the A’s clubhouse. All reports indicated his back was improving, and he even said yesterday he could “probably” pitch in a game if need be. But today Geren said he’s still day-to-day, and I’m wondering if the A’s would be best suited to give him time on the DL to fully recover. After all, back injuries should not be messed with – just ask Eric Chavez. Brett Anderson will officially be activated from the DL to start against Chicago on Friday, so the A’s could potentially place Bailey on the DL tomorrow and, in the meantime, simply hand over his roster spot to Anderson. Then again, they just might wait it out with Bailey, as they did with Mark Ellis and Conor Jackson before finally sending them to the DL. Either way, this isn’t time to sport a depleted bullpen. Craig Breslow and Michael Wuertz have already been handed a large work load this week, and the A’s can’t expect to run them out there every single night.

On a slightly less serious note, I personally can’t wait to get out of Texas, where flying – yes, flying – crickets have taken over. They’re on the field, in the dugout, in the press box, in the parking lot, in my dreams….everywhere. And they’re nasty little things. Well, they’re actually pretty big. Anyway, Chicago may be just as warm as Texas, but I can manage so long as crickets aren’t involved.

More thoughts on Sheets’ departure

Sheets may have been the only true veteran on the club’s pitching staff, and he may have been given the largest one-year contract the A’s have ever handed a free agent they signed from outside their organization. But, by night’s end, no one was talking about the numbers or the dollars. Sheets really gave the A’s so much more than that, and I think it goes without saying the clubhouse just won’t be the same anymore — not without Sheets there yelling, “Good morning, champions!”

Kurt Suzuki was asked about the loss of Sheets after tonight’s game, and before the question was finished, he blurted out a “Wow.” He said he hadn’t been told of the pitcher’s season-ending injury, which I think surprised all of us reporters. But once he regained his thoughts, here’s what he had to say about Ben:

“That’s a
bummer. We’re not just losing his arm. It’s more of his clubhouse leadership,
the role he plays on the team leadership-wise. He’s always upbeat. He’s always
going to pick up the team. He’s great to have around, especially for us young
players. It almost sounds corny, but he kind of brightens up your day when he
walks in because he always has something funny to say, and he’s always talking
loud, joking around. That’s the biggest thing, losing that leadership, because
that’s huge in baseball.”

I really can’t say whether Sheets will go through with another surgery or not. Even if he got it done fairly soon, I don’t know if he’d be ready to audition for another team before Spring Training. And, given, his recent history, I just don’t know that many teams would show up for the audition. Sheets, at least in my eyes, seems to be at peace with his situation. He wasn’t around to talk today, but when he was placed on the disabled list Saturday, there was a calm about him that reminded me of Eric Chavez during Spring Training. Eric made it known that he was content with whatever happened, whether he stayed healthy or not, because he knew he gave his team every effort possible. Sheets is the same way. He’d probably pitch until his arm fell off, but at the end of the day, he knew another injury to his elbow was possible. He also has two young kids, and when he wasn’t playing in 2009, he spent a lot of time with them at home, and he’s said before that he doesn’t regret the time missed on the field at all, mainly because of the time it allowed him with his family. So if he opts for retirement, which I’m fairly certain he’s considering, I wouldn’t be surprised at all. He basically pitched with pain all year, and for him to give the A’s the innings he did says a lot about his competitiveness.

I wish him the best, and I know he’ll make good out of any situation that comes his way in the future. 


Sheets out for year with torn flexor tendon

The worst possible scenario was confirmed Wednesday when Bob Geren announced that Ben Sheets will
miss the remainder of the season with a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow.

According to
the A’s skipper, a second elbow surgery — the first caused him to miss all of
2009 — has not been scheduled, and there was no indication that one will be in
the near future. Sheets will be a free agent at the end of the year, so he
could potentially choose to elect retirement rather than face another procedure
and the process of finding a team.

Nothing of
the sorts has been determined, though. After all, the news was just settling in
with Geren, who has already watched Justin Duchscherer and Ryan Sweeney go down
to season-ending surgeries.

.

“He’ll be
missed both on the field and off the field,” he said. “He’s been a great teammate
for a lot of the young guys. A lot of them looked up to him for his
competitiveness and, off the field, he was just a pleasant guy to be around.”

Sheets, who
posted at least six innings in each of his last 14 starts, was initially placed
on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with a strained right elbow following a
pair of outings that brought about inflammation in his troubled elbow.

Surprisingly,
the A’s pitcher — who missed all of 2009 following elbow surgery — put
together rather impressive numbers during those starts, which resulted in just
a combined two runs. But those numbers, no matter how they read in a box score,
didn’t say as much as the one that read on the radar gun, Sheets insisted at
the time.

“I was still
successful with the diminished velocity,” he said. “It didn’t fool me, but I
was still able to pitch. When I knew my stuff wasn’t there, I knew it wasn’t
going away. … Swelling’s no good. I know that. Your arm just don’t swell.
Things just don’t swell for no reason.”

Sheets also
expressed that at no point this season did he feel a strong progression toward
his old self, the one that was a four-time National League All-Star while with
Milwaukee. He was 4-9 with a 4.53 ERA in 20 starts for the A’s and has allowed
an American League-leading 57 extra-base hits.

“The whole
year’s been frustrating,” he said. “From where I was before spring, it’s never
really taken any jumps you always hear about. To say I felt good for extended
periods of time would be false. I felt good here and there — a couple innings
here, a couple innings there, but nothing sustained throughout the year.”

With lefty Brett
Anderson’s impending return to the mound Friday in Chicago, the A’s still boast
five healthy starters, the other four being Trevor Cahill, Dallas Braden, Gio
Gonzalez and Vin Mazzaro.

Duke starts, Crisp back in lineup

Lots of tidbits to share this morning, but first your starting lineup vs. the Mariners in Peoria:

Crisp DH, Barton 1B, Suzuki C, Kouz 3B, Sweeney RF, Patterson CF, Gross LF, Rosales 2B, Pennington SS, Duchscherer SP

  • Mark Ellis was scratched from today’s lineup due to tightness in both hamstrings. Adam Rosales is now in there playing second base. If there was ever such a thing as a good time for this kind of injury, it’s now – the A’s have tomorrow and most of Wednesday morning off before playing the Giants that night.
  • Brett Anderson was scheduled to make his fourth spring start Monday, but he woke up with neck stiffness so he’ll pitch in a Minor League game tomorrow. Therefore, Justin Duchscherer will not only make his first pitching appearance today, but he’ll make his first start since 2008. As a result, it appears the pitching rotation is taking form and could look something like this come Opening Day: Ben Sheets, Dallas Braden, Duchscherer, Anderson, [insert fifth starter]. That’s a nice R-L-R-L in the first four slots, and assuming Trevor Cahill grabs that last spot, another righty could fill the rotation. Anderson will pitch in the Double-A game tomorrow while Gio Gonzalez will get his work in at the Triple-A game over at Papago Park on the team’s scheduled off day.
  • As you can see, Coco Crisp is back in the lineup today after having been sidelined with a strained left hamstring March 10. Manager Bob Geren said both he and Rajai Davis will start Wednesday’s night game against the visiting Dodgers in the outfield, marking the first time all spring we could potentially be seeing the same outfield slated to start Opening Night.
  • The A’s have another night game Thursday at the Giants’ stadium in Scottsdale, where Jason Jennings will make his second start. Earlier in the day, Sheets will toss six innings in a Minor League game to “make sure he gets his six ups and downs in a controlled environment,” Geren said. 
  • Joey Devine, Craig Breslow and Andrew Bailey are all throwing today. Devine threw yesterday at 80 feet and said he’s going to attempt 100 feet this morning. The right-hander will then take Tuesday off and resume flat ground throwing Wednesday. He’s hoping to throw off the mound by the end of the week and resume his throwing program by next week. Meanwhile, Breslow and Bailey are slated to throw sides on Wednesday, which is good news for the recently injury-prone bullpen.
  • Not so good news came in the form of John Meloan’s elbow, which will require season-ending surgery. The 25-year-old righty pitched in just two games this spring for a total of 1 2/3 innings, in which he allowed four hits and two earned runs. He’ll soon visit with Dr. James Andrews, who has performed Tommy John surgery on a few current A’s players, including Bailey, Devine and Josh Outman.  

Talking ads, brackets … and some baseball

There was a lot going on today, and as I mentioned in my previous blog, it all started with the unveiling of the A’s new ad campaign. I ran into Andrew Bailey right before the A’s game against the Cubs and he mentioned he had heard all of us media folk got a sneak peak at the commercials. When I asked him how many times he had to say “nipple clipper,” he laughed and shook his head before replying, “A lot.” He’s quite the trooper. “That’s what they wanted me to say!” he insisted. From what I hear, a few clips of the ads will join the story that’s already posted on the A’s site by the end of the day, so make sure you check on that tonight. 
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I’m pretty sure the A’s clubhouse was just as stunned as the rest of the nation by St. Mary’s upset of Villanova this afternoon. Only infield coach Mike Gallego picked the Gaels to beat up on the No. 2 seed, and things only got worse for the A’s clubhouse pool when Kansas was stunned by Northern Iowa later in the day. Out of the 57 entries, 30 have Kansas winning it all. I hate to say it, but that 30 includes me. I usually like to pick anyone but the early favorite, but for some reason I did this year, and look where it got me. At the same time, I believe that watching the underdog upset the top seed is well worth the complete trashing of my bracket.
_____________________

It’s hard not to get caught up in all the glory that is March Madness, but aside from my frequent peeks at scores today, most of my focus was on the A’s and Cubs split-squad game here in Phoenix — mainly Ben Sheets, who, if you all recall, gave up 10 runs without retiring a batter in his last outing. On Saturday, though, Sheets looked like a different pitcher. Not only was his velocity there again, but his movement finally decided to show up this time. He was quite pleased with his curveball — and rightfully so — and the ways in which his mechanics improved in just five days’ time.

While Sheets was tossing his most impressive spring performance thus far, Jason Jennings wasn’t having as much luck with the Indians over in Goodyear. The new A’s right-hander, vying for a bullpen spot, gave up eight runs, seven hits and two walks in just 1 2/3 innings as the A’s dropped that one 12-4. Vin Mazzaro also pitched in the game but didn’t post great numbers either. His line: 2 IP, 5 H, 4 R (3 ER), 3 BB, 2 K. He’s going to need to step it up if he wants to be a serious contender for the fifth starter spot, especially when Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez are throwing as well as they are.

Joining Jennings and Mazzaro in Goodyear was Ryan Sweeney, who notched two hits in the DH spot, and Kevin Kouzmanoff, who went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer. Outfielder Matt Carson also hit a home run and went 2-for-3, and Adrian Cardenas tallied two hits as well. Eric Chavez was hitless in three at-bats, but the fact he made the rather long trip says something about the effort he’s putting in this spring to assure himself of a successful year. From what I was told, Chavez volunteered to make the trip so as to guarantee a start at first base since Daric Barton was already slated to start at the home game. The team, of course, didn’t have the veteran Chavez making the trip at first, but the A’s infielder insisted so that he could get in his at-bats.

That should do it for today. Dallas Braden is on the mound for the A’s against the visiting Reds tomorrow, but I’m sure all eyes will be on Michael Wuertz, who is supposed to make his first game appearance of the spring.     

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. 

Sunday notes: Sheets, Cahill and more

Tidbits from a rather quiet Sunday that saw way too much rain pound Phoenix Muni for the majority of the day:

Ben Sheets threw live BP and said everything felt great. Among those who stood in against him: Ryan Sweeney, Daric Barton, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Jake Fox. As I’ve noted before, Sheets has turned out to be quite the character around the clubhouse. On the mound, though, he turns into a completely different creature. Very intense. Less than five minutes after walking off the mound, though, he was back to his joking self. And if anything, he learned to stay away from the Mexican burrito spread right before he heads out to throw…

Bob Geren was very impressed with Trevor Cahill’s BP session today and said his performance was “the best I’ve seen from him.” Looked like he had all his pitches working for him, and he was getting quite the response from guys watching him in the dugout.

As you’ve probably already read here, the A’s signed veteran right-handers Jason Jennings and Brett Tomko today. Buzz is already circulating about what these moves mean for the current pitching staff. Are these additions simply Billy Beane’s way of adding more depth to a team with a longstanding injury history, or might this bring to question Justin Duchscherer and Sheets’ health? Hard to say right now, but I’d like to hear your thoughts.

I was told today that the A’s exhibition opener against the Cubs on Thursday will be on the radio for the first time in more than a decade. So for those of you within range of KTRB-860 in the Bay Area, you’ll be able to listen to all the sights and sounds of Oakland’s opener.

And if you didn’t get a chance to see this video of Rickey Henderson lending some advice to Rajai Davis, make sure you do so.

One final note to leave with you: As Jayson Stark observed today, this is the last Sunday without a baseball game to watch until November 7.

Wednesday wrap-up

2 p.m.: Geren recently met with us for a bit again before calling it a day. He said he was spread thin today but did get to see Ben Sheets throw a simulated session to Corey Wimberly. Geren said the A’s right-hander had great movement on all three of his pitches.

Fautino De Los Santos and Pedro Figueroa looked great today, according to Geren. “Real live arms,” he said. As for Dallas Braden, who also threw a bullpen today, Geren said he looked good from a distance.

We ma be seeing Coco Crisp in
the DH spot during the first week of Spring Training games. Geren said
his hitting is ahead of his throwing schedule, and the team doesn’t
want to rush anything with his surgically repaired shoulder that kept
him out for all but a few weeks last season in Kansas City. Plus, as
Geren noted, “We obviously know what he can do defensively. We’re not
worried about that.”

Tomorrow should be a rather quiet day
around here, as Clayton Mortensen is the only pitcher scheduled to
throw. Geren said the extra day of rest for the pitchers was built into
the schedule. Position players are scheduled to report, and all are
expected to make it on time. Non-roster catcher Joel Galarraga is still dealing with visa problems in Mexico.

Tuesday tidbits

Evening update: Some leftovers from today:

Joey Devine threw 20 pitches today and told me he’s feeling more comfortable every time out there. Geren didn’t get a chance to see him throw but said Devine is “50-50″ for Opening Day. It’s safe to assume the right-hander won’t be appearing in any spring games during the first week, but Geren noted that even if he doesn’t see action the first week or two, he can still stay on schedule to be ready by season’s start.

I finally asked Ben Sheets how he managed to get Ryan Sweeney’s No. 15 — the number Sheets has worn for as long as he can remember. “I know people,” Sheets said with a big smile. He didn’t even have to talk to Sweeney before the outfielder handed it over, but Sheets said he still owes something to his new teammate for the number. “My kids saw me at the press conference on TV and were crying, saying, ‘Daddy, you said you’d be wearing No. 15! That’s No. 21…” The A’s roster now has Sweeney as No. 21.

As discussed extensively in this article, Eric Chavez took some grounders at first with infield coach Mike Gallego looking on. I watched him from the dugout and noticed some footwork trouble, but Chavez brought up the matter after while talking to media and recognizes the fact that improved footwork, like he learned from Ron Washington, can boost his defense skills. That said, he’s 100 percent committed to helping the team this season. In the two short years I’ve known Eric, he’s always been completely honest, and I can truly say he’s really excited — giddy even — about the possibilities ahead of him. Chavez obviously had great years at third base, but he knows those days are behind him, so he’s ready to embrace the utility role. He said he’ll spend some time taking balls at shortstop this spring, but Geren noted he’d like Chavez to focus on hitting and first base for the time being. And if you’re wondering about how his body is responding at the plate, Chavez said he’s ready to face live pitchers.

Among the other position players (who officially report Thursday) at the park today: Mark Ellis, Ryan Sweeney, Travis Buck, Daric Barton, newcomer Adam Rosales, Chris Carter, Mychael Taylor, Coco Crisp and Cliff Pennington. Also met infielder Steven Tolleson, who the A’s claimed off waivers from Minnesota this offseason. He played with Landon Powell at South Carolina and also competed against Pennington in college. Tolleson said he’s just excited about a change of scenery…    

10:30 a.m.: From a cold Tuesday morning chat with manager Bob Geren here at Phoenix Muni:

Non-roster lefty Lenny DiNardo has been sidelined with a strained arch in his left foot. He’s day-to-day and Geren noted that the injury is nothing serious.

If all goes according to plan, newcomer Ben Sheets’ first start will come against his former team, Milwaukee, on March 5. Sheets, along with Trevor Cahill, was scheduled to throw a bullpen today, but both have been pushed to tomorrow for no other reason than to have them lined up for their starts. The Brewers matchup will feature quite a few recognizable faces: former Oakland manager Ken Macha, pitching coach Rick Peterson and third base coach Brad Fischer.

Joey Devine, as noted before, told me this morning that everything’s still going great with his rehab schedule. The current plan for him is to throw 30 pitches on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Justin Duchscherer’s procedure should get going in about 45 minutes, so hopefully I’ll have an update on him this afternoon…   

Monday morning notes

10:40 a.m.: Thanks to a pretty steady rainfall in Phoenix this morning, the A’s packed up their equipment at Phoenix Muni about an hour ago and headed to Papago Park, where they’ll skip PFP (pitchers fielding practice) and simply stretch and do some conditioning before pitchers begin their throwing programs. Among those scheduled to throw bullpens today are the recovering Dallas Braden, along with Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow.

Bob Geren talked with reporters this morning for a good while before venturing over to Papago. Some noteworthy comments from the skipper:

As I mentioned Saturday, Jake Fox has been in camp helping catch bullpens. When asked about Fox’s catching abilities, Geren said he definitely wants to see what the newcomer can do behind the plate. “That’s why he’s here,” Geren stated. The A’s manager said Fox will be catching a few Spring Training games when not getting time as DH or at the corner infield slots and even left field. Geren threw BP to Fox yesterday and said he likes the way he hits. “You can tell a lot about how a guy approaches the plate during BP,” Geren said. Fox will be fighting for a utility spot with Eric Chavez and Adam Rosales this spring.

Max Stassi, the youngest guy in camp at age 18 (he was born in 1991!), has already made quite the impression on Geren, who will be watching the young catcher closely. Geren, once a big league catcher himself, says he usually forges a strong bond with catchers. “He doesn’t have the appearance of being 18 years old,” Geren said. “You would think he’s much older.” Stassi will have plenty to learn behind the plate alongside Kurt Suzuki and Landon Powell, but Geren said the team will be careful with how they approach his offensive game. “We don’t tend to make major adjustments with someone of that age,” he said.

As a side note, newly acquired outfielder Coco Crisp and his playful personality showed up to camp today, as did Chris Carter, who will be watched closely this spring. Justin Duchscherer’s nerve ablation procedure is schedule for noon, so hopefully I’ll have more on him by the end of the day.

And even though Ben Sheets insisted yesterday that he “hates” Spring Training, he was quite eager to get on the field this morning about a half hour before stretching was scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. “What are we waiting for?” he announced. “I could have slept in a bit longer this morning. I’m ready to go right now!”

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