Results tagged ‘ Gio Gonzalez ’

Rickey comes to town

That’s right, Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson will be in A’s camp tomorrow as a special instructor for base running and is scheduled to stay through Tuesday. So if you’re in the area and want to capture Rickey tutoring the youngins, he’ll be at Papago through Monday before heading over to Phoneix Muni with the team on Tuesday. Most everybody — at least anyone expected to steal a base this season — is expected to get some work in with him.

Brett Anderson and Vin Mazzaro were among the A’s pitchers who threw live BP today, although most hitters just stood in without swinging — as is the norm on the first day — just to get a feel for the ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand. I talked to several of Mazzaro’s teammates who said the righty looked “fantastic.” He said he threw all his pitches and really felt comfortable out there, so don’t count him out just yet for the fifth rotation spot, although he’ll have to put up big numbers this spring to out-duel Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez.

Michael Taylor put on quite a show while taking some swings in the cage today. He hit a monster homer but then was robbed of another after Jack Cust jumped up to grab the long ball…more live BP to come tomorrow, barring any big rainstorms.

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!”

Depth comes with decisions

For those still not sold on yesterday’s signing, I urge you
to join the pro-Sheets club. Why? Because it’s a win-win for all — Sheets gets
to pitch in a pitcher-friendly park, put up good numbers and re-enter the
market at season’s end and/or be moved to a contender for prospects come July
if the A’s are out of contention.

Basically, it’s a smart move for both sides — unless, of
course, Sheets gets hurt. But after listening to both the right-handed pitcher
and Beane talk extensively both during and after the press conference about
Sheets’ questioned health, I firmly believe he’s not going to be crowding the
trainer’s room this year. Billy said the guy keeps himself in remarkable shape,
and Ben went on for about five minutes about how extensive his physical was
before the deal was done.

Billy was asked if he felt anxious about having his rotation
led by two guys who didn’t pitch an inning last year. Definitely a fair
question, and one that I’m sure has plenty A’s fans wondering about too. Here’s
Billy’s answer:

“I wouldn’t say anxiety. Bigger anxiety was going into last
year having so little experience in our starting rotation. Ben opted to have
the surgery a year ago in an effort to make sure he was completely healthy, so
I have less concern than I would had he not had the surgery.

“Quite frankly, we were very pleased with the physical he
went through. Ben keeps himself in great shape, as does Justin, so we’re
anticipating them having a real good year. We can take a little bit of pressure
off our rotation because we now have some depth, which we haven’t had in the
last few years. Going into Spring Training, we have seven or eight guys.”

Later, Bob Geren was promptly asked about his starting
rotation. Is Sheets your ace? “Oh yea,” he replied. Quite a change from last year,
when Geren didn’t choose his OD starter (Braden) until five days before the
first pitch was thrown. He said Duchscherer, Braden and Anderson would likely
follow in that order, although I see a couple different options there since
Geren usually likes to go R-L-R or L-R-L. Both Geren and Beane made it very
clear that the fifth spot is not Cahill’s for certain — which I suspect
several people assumed would be the case. I, for one, though, do see Cahill –
who turns 22 in March — landing that fifth spot.

He definitely didn’t make as many strides as fellow rotation
youngster Anderson did last season, but he did improve on keeping the ball down
in the strike zone near the end of the year. His sinker has potential to be
very dangerous, but he’s gotta be careful with the long ball (he gave up an
Oakland-rookie-record 27 homers last year).

Then there’s Gio. The guy’s got what Geren deems the best
stuff on the staff, but keeping Gio in check mentally is what’s preventing him
from becoming a bona fide Major League pitcher. I talked with Gio for a long
while about this last week, and he said he feels he’s turned a page when it
comes to calming down on the mound. He’ll have to walk the talk come spring,
but if what he’s saying proves to be true, then he could definitely be in the
mix for the No. 5 spot.

Mazzaro is the final candidate for the job and, frankly, the
one several around the league pegged as the next big thing last spring. He was
usually mentioned in the same breath as Anderson and Cahill, and people were
going gaga over comparing the trio to The Big Three of Hudson, Mulder and Zito.
He was called up in June and quickly had heads turning by posting a 0.00 ERA in
his first two starts. But then he suddenly lost eight in a row, suffered a
shoulder injury and was never heard from again. Less walks and more strikes,
along with a slightly more poised appearance, and Mazzaro’s a big leaguer. But
when that time will come, no one knows. So for now, I see him getting schooled
at Triple A to start the season.

Don’t forget about Josh Outman, who should be back
mid-season. Including him, that’s 8 pitchers available to start. So when Billy
grabbed Sheets, was part of the plan to trade one of the younger pitchers for a
much-needed utility INF? “I think it’s fair to say we’ll hold on to the young
guys. We’ve finally got a little bit of depth.”

Depth? Yes. Lots of decisions left to make? Oh yes.

In a perfect world, what does your rotation look like?  

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.

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