Results tagged ‘ Joey Devine ’

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…  

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…  

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.  

Wuertz back in action; Braden goes five

Michael Wuertz showed off his multitasking
talents today by balancing nine-month-old son Braxton in one arm while talking
to reporters about his first spring appearance. The A’s righty gave up two
hits, a walk and a run in his outing but said he felt good and saw results
he was expecting. “That’s kind of always how my Spring Training games have
gone,” he said. Since Wuertz missed the first couple weeks of spring with
shoulder soreness, he’s still building up arm strength and, subsequently, can’t
get much out of his slider right now. He said he threw three in the frame, one
that was taken for a hit and another that led to a walk. At the same time,
Wuertz said he expected it to be that way, so he heavily relied on his
changeup. He mentioned his shoulder felt fine and, at the end of the day, “it
was just good to get out in game action, especially against another colored
uniform.” Meanwhile, manager Bob Geren

called it a “decent first outing.”

 

Slightly in
the shadows of Wuertz’ outing was Dallas
Braden
, who started the game and threw close to 80 pitches in five innings
of work. He gave up three runs (two earned) on eight hits while fanning half a
dozen and was quite pleased with his fastball command and changeup. However, he
wasn’t too thrilled with his fielding. Braden committed an error by missing a
catch and noted he felt rather “embarrassed” and “disappointed” since pitchers
spend half of their spring doing fielding drills.

 

Braden also
talked about how his numb foot affected him for the first time in a game
situation this spring. He lost his balance on a pitch to Chris Dickerson in the fifth because he couldn’t feel how far back he was. The southpaw half-heartedly reached out to reporters for ideas to ease his foot, as he’s already
using insoles, metal plates and toe guards, among other things. “I think a
witch doctor is coming tomorrow with a bucket of chicken,” he joked. Braden isn’t
too worried about the foot, though. After all, he may never regain feeling in
it. “I can’t just wait around for it,” he said. “I’ve got baseballs to throw.”

Dribblers: Coco Crisp is slated to be back in the lineup tomorrow after having been diagnosed with a strained left hamstring March 10. He’ll likely DH before making his first spring start in the outfield the next game. … Rajai Davis (sore abdomen) took batting practice Sunday and told me he was planning on doing all baseball activity. He should be back in tomorrow’s lineup as well. … Rehabbing pitchers Joey Devine (shoulder) and Craig Breslow (elbow) played catch today, and there’s a possibility Andrew Bailey (elbow) will pick up a ball tomorrow.

Friday pregame: Injury updates

Joey Devine – who has yet to pitch in a game — is “getting better every day,” says manager Bob Geren. However, Devine didn’t throw again Friday, but Geren said Saturday or Sunday is a “possibility.” Devine has been treating a dose of
tendinitis in his surgically repaired arm and hasn’t been on the mound in more than a week. It remains to be seen
whether the A’s reliever will be ready to go come Opening Night.

Right-hander Michael Wuertz, who threw for the first time in a Minor League game Thursday (21 pitches), told manager Bob Geren that he felt “great” when he came into the clubhouse Friday. That means he’ll likely make his Cactus League debut by weekend’s end. “It sounds like he’s doing fine,” Geren said. “Hopefully we’ll let him throw soon.” 

Geren said Coco Crisp (strained left hamstring) ran sprints Thursday and is “two, three, four days away” from seeing game action again. The A’s new center fielder, who missed almost all of last season after undergoing surgeries on both his shoulders, will likely DH in his first game back and potentially play defense for the first time this spring soon after. “His hamstring is real minor,” Geren said. “And his arm’s good — that’s the good news.”

Inside the training room

The A’s sure made up for their off day Tuesday by providing plenty of news on the injury front first thing Wednesday morning. For those who can’t keep track of it all, here’s a quick rundown:

  • Andrew Bailey is out five to seven days with lateral epicondylitis, a condition usually caused by overuse that involves soreness on the outside of the upper arm near the elbow.
  • Craig Breslow will not throw two to four days as he treats medial tendinitis in his elbow.
  • Joey Devine was supposed to play catch for the first time in a week after experiencing tendinitis in his surgically repaired elbow, but he took another day off and will attempt to throw “free and easy” up to 80 feet on Thursday.
  • Justin Duchscherer tossed three innings (45 pitches) in a Minor League intrasquad game Wednesday morning and came out of it feeling great. He’s hoping to make his Cactus League debut Monday when the A’s travel to play the Mariners and believes he’ll be good to go come the start of the season.
  • Michael Wuertz has yet to pitch in a game and was scratched from his scheduled appearance in the same intrasquad game in which Duchscherer pitched. Manager Bob Geren said the right-hander’s shoulder isn’t bouncing back well, but after checking in with Wuertz this afternoon, it sounds like he could see game action as early as tomorrow. He mentioned he deals with this same shoulder issue every spring after getting in a lot of work the year before but believes 19 days (the time between now and Opening Day) is plenty of time to get on track.
  • Rajai Davis was a late scratch in Wednesday’s game due to what was announced as tenderness in his left quadriceps. He was replaced in center field by Eric Patterson.
  • Coco Crisp continues to progress with his strained left hamstring and is still following his throwing program to get his surgically repaired shoulder ready for Opening Day. Crisp has only seen time in the DH spot this spring.

That should do it. Hopefully I’ll hear more on Davis by the end of the day. The news about Bailey and Breslow took everyone by surprise this morning, but I think both will be back on the mound in no time. As for Wuertz, I wasn’t too convinced about him being Opening-Day ready, but after speaking with him, it sounds he’ll be just fine.

And not that there’s anything funny about either of Bailey or Breslow’s injuries, but I find it slightly amusing that both are experiencing elbow soreness at the same time. It was just a couple days ago I was joking with them that they seem to be attached at the hip. Wherever you see Bailey, usually Breslow is close by, and vice versa. Even during the offfseason, the two pitchers lived just 10 minutes from one another in Connecticut and worked out with each other almost every day. They’re also roommates here in Arizona…and now training room buddies.  

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. 

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.

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…   

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!

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