Results tagged ‘ Eric Chavez ’

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. 


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…  

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. 
____________________

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.     

Chavez: Im glad this days over

Eric Chavez made his game debut at first base today, playing five innings while going 1-for-2 with a triple in his first at-bat at the plate. After exiting the game, he spoke to reporters about a sense of relief he felt in putting the day behind him.

“I’m glad this day’s over,” Chavez said. “That one’s in the books. For me it’s about using that cliche, it’s one day at a time. I’m really enjoying myself while I’m out there.”

He’s also getting help from several people, the most recent being Brewers first base coach Ed Sedar.

“I was actually over at first base when I didn’t need to be today,” Chavez said with a laugh. “The first base coach said, ‘Hey, you don’t need to be here right now.’ He hooked me up.”

Manager Bob Geren said, aside from some footwork that can be improved, he liked what he saw from his six-time Gold Glove third baseman. Chavez made a couple impressive fielding plays and also had to deal with what he called “wild throws,” including overthrown tosses from Kevin Kouzmanoff and Lenny DiNardo — both of which resulted in errors.

“I’m still getting comfortable,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely comfortable. There are times I go out to third and am still not completely comfortable.”

At the same time, Chavez insists he still feels healthy — which is of bigger concern right now than how many outs he collects at first.

“I feel fine,” he said. “Only time can tell my situation. To be honest, I just need to get familiar with everything. The first pick-off throw was different for me, and then there were a couple wild throws today. I just have to take it all in.

As for his offensive game, Chavez looked like his old self right away when he collected the triple. All spring, he’s been saying that he’s most concerned about being productive offensively so as to give the team multiple options of where to use him on the field.

“I think as spring goes on, it will be the way I’m making contact,” he said of trying to gauge his comfort level with the bat. “I know when I hit the ball whether I’ve got the hand speed there and making good contact. It’s something I’ll be able to know as I get in there making some outs and taking pitches.”

Wednesday warmups

11:20 a.m.: Not much news out of A’s camp this morning when we met with Bob Geren, so we spent most of his pre-stretch media session talking about some of the intricacies of the game, which brought up the memorable base running blunders in the 2003 playoffs against the Red Sox. Always good to get Geren animated and out of his shell a bit. Anyways, some morning tidbits for you:

Justin Duchscherer, who underwent a nerve ablation process to alleviate pain in his SI joint yesterday, showed up in the clubhouse this morning very much still out of it, but said he’ll come out tomorrow and see how he feels. He’s only a couple days behind the other pitchers, so he’s not too worried about the setback. “I have six weeks,” he said.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser asked Jake Fox this morning if he had any options left. Us media had been told that Fox did have an option left, but come to find out he actually doesn’t. That very much changes the complexity of camp regarding bench spots. If Eric Chavez calls it a career this spring, Fox’s spot on the roster is pretty much guaranteed. But if Chavez deems himself healthy for the season, Fox’s future might not be so certain. The team would like to have Adam Rosales around to spell the middle infielders, so Fox’s chances of making the team will heavily depend on Chavez. If the A’s want to send him to the Minors, he must first clear waivers. Same for Eric Patterson, who was consider the team’s only player out of options before this Fox news surfaced today.

Left-hander Lenny DiNardo, who has been dealing with a strained arch in his left foot, is “50 percent better than yesterday,” Geren said. At the pace he’s going, the manager said DiNardo should be out and about again in a day or two.

BP just got underway, and it looks like Travis Buck and Daric Barton are among those getting some hacks in today. Rajai Davis flew in from Connecticut yesterday and made his first appearance today, leaving just a couple position players left to report. Official reporting date for position players is tomorrow. Kevin Kouzmanoff and Jack Cust are two of the big names yet to be seen around camp yet…

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!”

Greetings from Papago Park

Lots of A’s — pitchers, catchers, position players — have been working out at the team’s Papago Park facilities in Phoenix even though pitchers/catchers don’t have to officially report until tomorrow. It’s easy to see why given the weather (77 degrees today) and easily accessible fields there. When I took my first trip to the park yesterday afternoon after a quick flight from Oakland, I made my way around the fields accompanied by only a squirrel or two. Today, though, the lots were filled when I wandered over there mid-morning. Some highlights:

I quickly ran into Justin Duchscherer, who is sporting a little more scruff than usual. He looks great and genuinely says he feels better than great — physically AND mentally. If you recall, Justin was ready to return to the team in August after recovering from elbow surgery. The only thing keeping him away from the field was his battle with depression, which he has since treated. Physical health is not an issue for him, and he will have no restrictions come Sunday when pitchers and catchers work out together for the first time. Justin lives in Arizona, so he’s been doing plenty of baseball activity all offseason. Today was one of the few times he’s been out to Papago with everyone, but trust me when I say he appears to be physically and psychologically healthy.

Brad Ziegler is dealing with what he calls typical allergies he always gets when he comes out to Arizona, leaving him with a slightly raspy voice. He got an allergy shot yesterday, though, and is not letting it affect his workouts. He threw a bullpen today right before Joey Devine, who received a good amount of encouragement from pitching coach Curt Young and bullpen coach Ron Romanick. Romanick has played a key role in guiding Devine along his rehab schedule. To read more about his quick recovery from Tommy John surgery, you can go here. Also, here’s a picture of Devine throwing off the mound today.

Devine.jpgJake Fox has to be one of the friendliest guys in the game. At least that’s the impression I got after he found me to introduce himself. Usually the reporters are the ones who have to make the effort to jump start the initial introduction process, but Fox came right over in catcher’s gear, which is why I didn’t even recognize him in the first place. He helped out with some bullpen sessions today before taking BP, and you’d think the guy has been around the team for years. Definitely a likable guy who should make friends fast and bring an all-around good personality into the clubhouse.

It didn’t take long to spot the highly anticipated Michael Taylor, who spent more than an hour taking BP while showering the outfield grass with hits left and right. Luckily there was a good amount of guys shagging balls – a group that included Cliff Pennington, who took part in his first full day of workouts Friday. Taylor looks just as you probably imagined — big. You can spot him a mile away, but at the same time he’s no Big Hurt or Big Papi. More trimmed and toned. Here’s a picture of him signing an autograph for an eager fan, who begged Taylor to wait around for a minute while he ran to his car to get one of Taylor’s baseball cards.

Taylor.jpgTravis Buck has been working out at the facilities for a couple of weeks and looks to be in great shape. I didn’t recognize him at first due to a hairstyle change. Gone are the Goldilocks days. Buck’s going with a much shorter ‘do now and is hoping the change will be a sign of good change to come at the plate, where his struggles have been the topic of much discussion this offseason after the A’s signed FA outfielder Gabe Gross.

I also had the chance to meet Max Stassi, the A’s fourth-round pick in last year’s draft. He was busy catching a few bullpens before I caught up with him and, not surprisingly, he’s yet another nice guy. Lots of those on the A’s roster every year it seems. And while Stassi is here as a non-roster invitee having only spent time with the A’s short-season Vancouver team, there’s no denying his excitement and work ethic. Looks like he’ll be a great addition to the big league team in a couple years.

Others floating around the facilities included Andrew Bailey, Ben Sheets, Trevor Cahill, Daric Barton, Mark Ellis, Eric Chavez, Tyson Ross and Jared Lansford (Carney’s boy), among others. As I mentioned before, pitchers and catchers report tomorrow, but it should be a quiet day over at Phoenix Muni. The players have been advised to take the day off, as they won’t get another off day until March 16 after they begin official workouts Sunday. However, I’ll be over there bright and early tomorrow, so look for more updates again here by afternoon and all throughout the day on Twitter. Hope to gather more pictures for you as well.

Off to find some dinner here in the desert. Any food recommendations around the Tempe/Scottsdale/Phoenix area are always welcome, as are any comments/rants/opinions about the A’s.

Happy Friday!

Chavez says Mulder is done

It looks like all the speculation surrounding Mark Mulder’s retirement decision can end now. When I made a call to Eric Chavez this morning to see if he had recently talked to Mark or heard about the reports that the former A’s pitcher had decided to retire, he replied, “Did he? No, I haven’t heard that.” Eric’s voice sounded slightly surprised but far from shocked. He used to live with Mark when the two were teammates in Oakland and says they still talk every couple of weeks. Eric proceeded to tell me Mark had been considering retirement if he knew he couldn’t perform at 100 percent but said he’d try to call Mark immediately to find out if he had indeed made a decision. The result: a text from Chavez saying he had just talked to Mark and that the All-Star southpaw is officially “done.”

So while Mark’s agent, Gregg Clifton, told me in an e-mail today that his client is still “reassessing his options in his efforts to come back,” you’d have to believe he really is set on retiring if he confided his decision in not just a former teammate but a good friend.

Sheets, Damon on As radar

All those thinking the A’s rotation is
the one area need not be touched heading into Spring Training, think again.
Recent reports are pointing toward a possible Ben Sheets signing in Oakland.

The 31-year-old free agent, who missed
all of 2009 because of elbow surgery, threw a pitching session in front of
several scouts and team officials — including those from Oakland — on Jan. 19
at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. His fastball topped out at 92 mph,
and his curveball was highly affective.

Now, almost one week later, the A’s are
apparently very much still interested despite Sheets’ desire for a guaranteed
$8 million in 2010. And while Billy Beane declined to comment, citing his
policy against discussing free agents, multiple reports say Oakland is
definitely in the mix. Other teams reportedly in a bidding war for the
right-hander include the Mets and Rangers.

The A’s do have some money to spend,
and Sheets would not only offer the A’s an added veteran presence in a very
young rotation, but also provide the club with some trade bait (Gonzalez?
Mazzaro?) to aide in their efforts in landing a power-hitting SS – the one area
on the field where depth is missing.

So while the Sheets interest may seem
somewhat of a head-scratcher at first glance, the notion doesn’t seem too crazy
upon further review – especially when Billy’s involved. However, the team is
also linked to an even stranger idea: Could Johnny Damon be back for a second
tour with the A’s if the Sheets signing doesn’t go down? Doesn’t quite make
much sense, but reports say it’s a definite maybe.

Last week at A’s Media Day, Geren
insisted he may have one of the best — if not, the best — defensive outfields
in the league with Davis in LF, Crisp in CF and Sweeney in RF. Damon’s not
exactly Gold Glove material out there, and he wouldn’t be much of a need at DH
either with Cust, Fox and (hopefully) Chavez already as options there.

Needless to say, the A’s roster could
be slapped with some changes by week’s end. Should be interesting to see how it
all plays out.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 60 other followers