Results tagged ‘ Gio Gonzalez ’

Leftovers from The Day After

The Day After, as in the day following the 2010 season that was, placed Billy Beane inside Bob Geren’s office this morning, informally holding court with a handful of us reporters while the rest of the A’s clubhouse was turning into offseason mode. Most of Beane’s 30-minute session is highlighted in this story on the A’s site, but here’s some leftover bullet points that I figured would best be shared than left idling on a word document on my computer.

  • When asked about individual accomplishments that stood out, Beane first mentioned Trevor Cahill. Said Beane: “When you think about him starting the season on the DL — and he was probably going to start the year in Sacramento anyway — and for him to come out and win 18 games with a sub-three ERA and lead the league in opponents batting average, it’s hard to not look at that and have that one stand out.
  • That said, Beane said he wasn’t so much surprised by Cahill’s success, but more so in how quickly it came about. Same for Gio Gonzalez. “Both just developed so quick. This was where I hoped they’d be a year from now.”
  • Meanwhile, Beane admitted Craig Breslow was a pleasant surprise. Breslow ranked second among AL relievers with 75 games pitched, tied for fourth with 74 2/3 innings and tied for sixth with 71 strikeouts. “I think Craig not only established himself as a valuable member of the club, but he also brings a real balance and intellectual leadership for these young guys,” Beane said. “He’s the kind of guy who, as a general manager, is the kind of mature leadership you like these kids to be around. I know he’s been voted the smartest guy in the league, but to be around him every day, you really see how he carries and conducts himself, and how guys really turn to him.”
  • When approached about the long-term plan for Chris Carter, Beane said “I think it’s our intention” to keep him in the outfield. Continued Beane: “Daric Barton has solidified himself at first, and I think Chris is a good enough athlete to make the transition. He really just went out there a couple weeks before he came up, so I think we need to give him some time. He does have power. So getting back to Daric, he showed himself to be, in my opinion, the best first baseman in the league. He’s also made significant strides offensively. I was quite pleased with what he did there this year, and I have no intention of taking him off first base.” That’s quite a bold statement and only proves the club’s intent to stick with Barton.
  • With Carter slated to be the club’s Opening Day left fielder next year — though Beane noted he doesn’t want to make a definitive statement regarding that notion — the A’s could be looking at an outfield of Carter in left, Coco Crisp in center and Ryan Sweeney in right. It’s likely the A’s will pick up Crisp’s 2011 club option, and they “feel pretty good” about Sweeney’s ability to be ready by season’s start following knee rehab. However, Beane noted a lot of the outfield makeup “depends on if there are any adds as well. Some of the dynamics of the outfield will be affected by any trades or signings.”
  • Finally, general thoughts from Beane on moving forward: “I

    think
    we’re excited about the offseason. We came in with the youngest team in the big
    leagues, and we left with the youngest team in the big leagues, but I think we
    did some things and accomplished some things that you wouldn’t normally
    anticipate with a team with this kind of youth and experience. To have the No.
    1 pitching staff in the American League is difficult no matter what your
    payroll is, and to do it with these kids and their inexperience is quite a
    statement and quite a building block for us going forward.”

That’s all I’ve got for you today, but you can regularly check this blog along with the A’s site throughout the offseason for all your A’s news.

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.

Fifth starter competition still going strong

For about 30 seconds today, I thought the battle for the fifth starter competition was done. Dead. Finished. Not by an out-dueling performance, but rather by default.

Gio Gonzalez silenced the press box during the first inning of Monday’s game when he signaled for a trainer with a 3-1 count against Franklin Gutierrez with a runner on first and one out. Gonzalez was also joined by manager Bob Geren, battery mate Jake Fox and the umpire, as he appeared to rub his eyes. He was then given a glass of water before he went back to work and managed to force an inning-ending double play ball. Furthermore, he went on to toss 6 1/3 innings of solid three-hit ball while allowing just one run (on a wild pitch) and walking three and striking out four.

So the big question of the day involved the contents of the mentioned cup of water. Turns out Gonzalez experienced a sudden migraine and simply popped two Tylenol to take care of what he described as an “explosion in my brain.”

“My right eye just started closing in on me,” he said. “They were telling me it was going to take 15 minutes for the aspirin to kick in, but I said with the adrenaline I have right now, it will probably take less than two minutes.”

Try two seconds. Gonzalez looked like a completely different pitcher after the unusual visit and quickly disregarded any thought I conjured about him surrendering the rotation spot to Trevor Cahill. He said he had never experienced any sort of migraine and was surprised by its sudden presence.

“I felt fine in the bullpen and warming up,” he said, “and then after that first pitch to Ichiro it was like ‘woah.’ That was definitely a first for me.”

Gonzalez followed up the first with a 1-2-3 second, including strikeouts to Milton Bradley and Ken Griffey Jr., before allowing Rob Johnson to score in the third on the wild pitch and loading the bases in the fourth. However, he got Griffey to pop out and then forced a double play groundball off the bat of Jose Lopez to escape the jam.

“That was huge,” he said. “It was after that my confidence just skyrocketed, and I started throwing first pitch strikes to everyone. I was excited about that, and it felt like 100 pounds lifted off my shoulder.”

Gonzalez said he relied mainly on his fastball Monday while also getting a little work in on his changeup. He also kept in mind what he called the famous words of Joey Devine: “Let it eat.”

“So that’s exactly what I was doing,” he said.

Gonzalez is well aware of the rotation situation and hopes his impressive string of spring starts continues to make Geren’s decision a difficult one.

“I did enough to show them that I’m ready and that I feel great and feel strong,” he said. “The decision is up to them. I’m just grateful to be throwing a baseball and feel healthy.”

At the beginning of the game, Gonzalez appeared slightly nervous — but rightfully so, considering he’s on the roster bubble with seven days before Opening Night. After the game, though, he was just…Gio. He even joked about the Tylenol interruption.
 
“I’m going to do a commercial for them,” he said with a smile. “I really had it all planned out. That was all a commercial stunt, guys.”

Meanwhile, Cahill made a start in a Triple-A game over at the A’s Minor League complex. He said he gave up two runs — including a homer — in six innings and basically described his outing as “nothing great, nothing bad.”

Like Gonzalez, he’s been fine tuning his changeup all spring and mentioned it’s still not working as well as last year but sees it coming around pretty quickly.

In general, Cahill evokes a much more relaxed personality than Gonzalez, and it definitely shows on and off the mound. They’re two very completely different pitchers, and I think that’s what’s making this competition so much fun to watch. It seems the general consensus is that Gonzalez boasts the best natural stuff of the two — possibly even of the entire staff — but just can’t keep his composure and command in check to bring it out consistently. Then there’s Cahill, who has a devastating sinker but otherwise average stuff. Yet the maturity and composure he brings with him to the mound, especially at the age of 22, elevates that average stuff to a different level.

In my mind, Cahill had the edge entering camp — and still does. But I have to say Gonzalez is very much still in the mix and is greatly impressing the club right now. I also can’t see him starting the year at Triple-A — he’s too good for that. At the same time, it’s hard to imagine the A’s keeping him in the bullpen. So now it’s just a wait-and-see type thing, and you can bet Geren won’t make an announcement until he absolutely has to this weekend.

No word on whether Gonzalez or Cahill will start the game Saturday in Oakland, but they’ll both presumably be pitching then against the visiting Giants. Curious to hear your thoughts on which one will be starting against the Angels in Anaheim on April 9…  

Friday postgame notes

With the A’s playing split-squad games in Mesa and Surprise today, I decided to take the longer drive to Surprise not only because manager Bob Geren was headed to that game but because I hadn’t really seen Vin Mazzaro pitch this spring. At this point, it appears the fifth starter battle is going strong between Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. I can’t say Mazzaro’s running in the same race, though. Today he was average and never really found a great rhythm, but he did face a pretty good Rangers lineup. Here’s what Mazzaro had to say following his start:

“I thought it went pretty well. There were some times when I lost the strike zone a little bit with the fastball but other than that I felt I threw the ball pretty well. Today was a good day and something I really needed to build the confidence going into the season.

You’d have to imagine it being slightly difficult going just two days after both Cahill and Gonzalez pitched well in the same game, but I think Mazzaro knew his situation heading into camp and really needed to step it up a notch this spring. He doesn’t have time to mess around with the strike zone, and unfortunately I think he’ll be fine tuning his command in Sacramento once the season starts. Scouts were so high on Mazzaro last year, and I’d be interested in hearing what they’ve seen from him since that time. He’ll be given one more start this spring…

Then there’s Dallas Braden. The dude deserves a break. While I was watching Mazzaro in Surprise, I was told Braden pitched six innings in Mesa after being told by a doctor this morning not to throw because he might have a staph infection. So I gave Braden a call, and he described a red, streaky bump on his calf that is right above his numb left foot. He’s always said he’d pitch until his foot was cut off, so he ignored the doc’s recommendation and pitched as planned. From the times I’ve talked with Braden, it seems he truly understands and appreciates the opportunity he’s been given in the big leagues, so he’s not about to let foot numbness or red bumps prevent him from doing what he loves and helping out his teammates. You can read the full story on Braden here at the A’s site. 

It’s Justin Duchscherer on the mound tomorrow against the Royals in Surprise. He’ll attempt to throw around 75 pitches in just his second start this spring…

Anderson throws in simulated game

Both Gio Gonzalez and Brett Anderson, the latter who was scratched from his Monday start due to neck stiffness, were scheduled to pitch in Minor League games today on the team’s off day. Mother Nature decided to switch things up, though. A pretty heavy rainfall through the night and into this morning forced the games to be canceled.

As a result, Gonzalez’s start was pushed back and he’ll now throw four innings after Trevor Cahill in tomorrow night’s game against the visiting Dodgers at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

Meanwhile, according to pitching coach Curt Young, Anderson threw 82 pitches in five innings in a simulated game and all went well.

The A’s have back-to-back night games beginning tomorrow, the first slated for 7:35 p.m. PT and Thursday’s Bay Bridge battle with the Giants scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT in Scottsdale. 

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.
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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.     

Saturday starters

Lineup vs. visiting Cubs: Patterson CF, Pennington SS, Ellis 2B, Suzuki C, Barton 1B, Cust DH, Gross LF, Buck RF, Petit 3B, Sheets SP

Lineup at Indians: Rosales SS, Sweeney DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Chavez 1B, Taylor LF, Brown CF, Powell C, Carson RF, Cardenas 2B, Jennings SP (Mazzaro to follow)

Some pregame notes:

Michael Wuertz, who has yet to pitch in a game, is slated to make his Cactus League debut Sunday against the visiting Reds. Dallas Braden will start the game.

Fellow rehabbing pitcher Craig Breslow will play catch from a distance of 80-120 feet today. The lefty is nursing medial tendinitis but is not expected to be out much longer. Meanwhile, no word on when Andrew Bailey (tennis elbow) will throw, but it could be soon.

Coco Crisp (hamstring/shoulder) could potentially be back in the lineup Sunday or Monday. Like I’ve mentioned before, he’ll probably DH his first game and then attempt to play defense for the first time all spring in the following game.

In order to stay on his throwing schedule, Gio Gonzalez – who last threw Thursday — will pitch in a Minor League game Tuesday on the team’s off day.

As a side note, the A’s on Saturday announced their 2010 ad campaign, titled “Green Collar Baseball,” and delivered a sneak peak of the commercials to the media. It’s pretty easy to make me laugh, but I have to admit that these ads are truly funny. Between Mark Ellis dressed in an 1870s uniform, Trevor Cahill staring down Dave Stewart and Bailey questioning something about a “nipple clipper,” there are plenty humorous moments to go around. More details on these ads, which will be online at the A’s site by season’s start, can be found here soon. Props to Hub Strategy, an advertising agency that teamed with the A’s, for their creativity on these.

Thursday postgame notes

Manager Bob Geren described left-handed starter Gio Gonzalez as “unhittable” during the first three innings of Thursday’s game against the visiting D-backs, who drew a sold-out crowd of over 9,000. (Despite announced attendance, that’s more than the A’s get at some regular-season home games in Oakland.) Anyway, Gonzalez all but fell apart in the fourth frame, surrendering three of his four walks in that inning while appearing more than a little frustrated. After exiting with one on and two out in that inning, he talked with reporters and — without coming out and saying it directly — expressed discontentment with what he called “a touchy subject” on some of the calls he was getting. However, Geren said that happens sometimes and doesn’t excuse his mound composure. “I agree (with the calls), but that’s part of the game,” Geren said. “There were a couple close calls I told Curt (Young), but you need to shake that off.” Aside from that inning, Gonzalez said he was pleased with the way his changeup is coming along, noting that it got him plenty swings and misses, along with ground balls.

After Brad Ziegler induced a groundout to end the semi-ugly fourth frame, Tyson Ross came in and quietly tossed three solid innings, giving up one run on two hits while walking one and striking out seven. “He’s really come a long way in the past 10 months,” Geren said. “Today he showed just how dangerous his slider and sinker can be.”

This morning, Geren confirmed what Coco Crisp told me yesterday: The A’s center fielder could be back in the lineup by weekend’s end. You can read the full story from Wednesday here.

Also of note: Adam Rosales continues to get a good amount of playing time and productive at-bats, making it harder to imagine him not being on the 25-man roster come Opening Night. He was 2-for-3 in the win and has now reached base safely in nine of his last 10 games. So I’m wondering: How many of you genuinely see Rosales making a true competition out of the starting shortstop job? Cliff Pennington is 3-for-7 over his last three games and still seems to have the vote for the starting job from A’s management, but Rosales’ consistent play this spring is hard to ignore. At the same time, Rosales is not out of options. Eric Patterson is, but will that even factor into Oakland’s roster decisions in less than two weeks? Let me know what you think.

   

Wednesday postgame notes

When speaking to manager Bob Geren following the A’s 6-1 loss to the Giants today, I learned that Rajai Davis’ injury isn’t actually quad-related, as the team originally announced, but rather tied to abdominal pain near the left side of his stomach. Davis was missing from the clubhouse during the times I was down there throughout the game, but the injury doesn’t sound too serious and I’ll make sure to get you all an update tomorrow morning.

As for the game, I think Brett Anderson made everyone forget about the countless team injuries for an hour while he pitched four solid innings of two-hit ball — three of which he retired Giants hitters in order. While talking to media after his performance, Anderson seemed very pleased, and rightfully so, with the command he showed using all of his pitches. The most notable difference between the Brett Anderson of 2009 and the Brett Anderson of what Dallas Braden likes to refer to as “oh-ten” is the strides he’s made with his changeup. That one pitch allowed Anderson to really keep his pitch count down today. In fact, he only threw 50 through four. “Last year I was throwing too many pitches,” he said, “so I could never really go very deep in a game.” Geren was also impressed with his pitcher, saying he was “outstanding” and did a “great job of using his pitches all over the plate.”

Kevin Kouzmanoff made his second throwing error of the spring in the third inning, but made up for the mistake by going 2-for-3 at the plate with an impressive RBI hit to left-center that he turned into a double. The A’s new third baseman, who entered the game with a career .273 regular-season mark against starter Barry Zito, is looking more and more comfortable at the plate every time out there.

Kouzmanoff, along with fellow scheduled Opening Day starters Mark Ellis, Kurt Suzuki, Ryan Sweeney, etc., will get a second consecutive start against the visiting Diamondbacks tomorrow at Phoenix Muni. Fifth-starter candidate Gio Gonzalez is slated to take the mound, and he’ll be followed by Tyson Ross, Henry Rodriguez and Brad Ziegler.

That’s all I’ve got for you… Happy St. Patty’s Day to all!

http://twitter.com/JaneMLB  

Postgame notes / Split-squad info

Manager Bob Geren suggested there is a “competition” at shortstop but said Cliff Pennington — as expected — is the “front-runner” for the starting job. He’d like to get Adam Rosales time at both short and second base in the meantime.

Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez are among a few A’s pitchers in camp working on a changeup. Both talked about the process following their Cactus League debuts on Monday, so look for more on this come Tuesday.

After today’s 10-3 loss to the Cubs, Geren mentioned that Justin Duchscherer could possibly throw off the mound tomorrow. It will all depend on how he feels in the morning, especially since he threw on flat ground today. As for Joey Devine, the hope is for him to face hitters sometime during the next week. Another rehabbing pitcher, Josh Outman, is apparently making miracle-like strides. In the sixth inning of today’s contest, the PA guy announced that Outman was entering the game in left field. It was actually Jake Fox, but the mistake definitely got some heads turning…

Tomorrow the A’s will partake in their first split-squad games. Half the team will stay home to face former Oakland pitcher Rich Harden and the Rangers while the other lucky half gets to board a bus and take a ride to Surprise, home of the Royals. I’ll be reporting from the home game, where Geren and plenty big-name guys are slated to be. Trevor Cahill is on the bump, and these position players are on the list to join him at Phoenix Muni:

Chris Carter, Eric Chavez, Mark Ellis, Jake Fox, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Adam Rosales, Steve Tolleson, Jemile Weeks, Matt Whitney, Joel Galarraga, Max Stassi, Kurt Suzuki, Matt Carson, Coco Crisp, Eric Patterson, Ryan Sweeney, Michael Taylor

Meanwhile, if you’re making the trip to Surprise to catch Vin Mazzaro throw in his second spring game, here’s a list of the position players who will be over there:

Daric Barton, Adrian Cardenas, Grant Green, Dallas McPherson, Cliff Pennington, Gregorio Petit, Eric Sogard, Josh Donaldson, Landon Powell, Anthony Recker, Corey Brown, Travis Buck, Jack Cust, Rajai Davis, Gabe Gross

Exactly who will be in both of the starting lineups has yet to be revealed, but I’ll let you know immediately through Twitter (http://twitter.com/JaneMLB) as soon as I find out tomorrow morning.

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