Results tagged ‘ Jake Fox ’

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…  

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.

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 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!

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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