The dirt on Bonds

Well, this is interesting. Barry Bonds apparently failed not one but multiple tests for performance-enhancing drugs. It’s right there in the grand jury testimony ordered unsealed on Friday.

 Lest you want to stay in denial, grand jury testimony is a legal document, so please, no more “He’s never failed a drug test,” arguments, OK. The guy was dirty. Which obviously doesn’t make him unique, but it does forever taint his career.

The question is whether the news will remove the denial from many of his supporters. What do you think?


“I’m No. 5.”

Do yourself and buy an A’s media guide this spring, then glance at the picture under the bio of Dallas Braden. Tell me it doesn’t scream, “Goof!” One look inspires visions of Nuke LaLoosh of “Bull Durham” fame, describing his first professional victory. “It’s out there, man. I mean not just out there, but out there.”

That may not be fair, obviously. The couple of times I’ve spoken with Braden,  he has come across as reasonable intelligent, and he took a trip to Europe in the offseason. So he’s clearly open to educational experiences.

That said, he was pretty much a goof on the hill for the A’s in his first exposure to the majors last season. Put it this way. If he loses his first decision in 2008, he’ll already own a slice of the third-longest losing streak in A’s history (nine) and be halfway to Matt Keough’s mark of 18. (By the way, Bob Welch, Rick Langford, Brian Kingman and Mike Morgan are the other names on that list).

I bring this up, because Braden is in the competition for the fifth starter’s spot, and he kicked off that chase by pitching the first two innings of the A’s exhibition game against Milwaukee at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Didn’t impress all that much, either. Gave up two hits, walked two, struck out three. Allowed a run. Escaped worse damage with a strikeout of Bill Hall.

What’s it all mean? Not much. It’s spring training. I’d surmise Braden will have to impress a bunch more to stick. I’m certainly not looking at him for my fantasy team.

So what do you think? Is he just a goof or does he have a shot to make this club?


Chavez’s setback

The plan this morning — which you’ll notice if you see the teaser in our print edition — was to blog about Dallas Braden, the A’s starting pitcher in their exhibition game against Milwaukee and a candidate for the fifth-starter’s spot. But that will have to wait until this afternoon, because Eric Chavez’s back is more noteworthy.

Chavez will receive an epidural late this morning after sustaining a setback in his recovery from back surgery. Head trainer Steve Sayles said that Chavez has been experiencing stiffness in the back, and that he will be shut down for the next 4-5 days.

That means an Opening Day start is now a remote possibility, if not an impossibility. It also doesn’t speak well for what the future might hold. As Sayles said, you don’t want a guy to need an epidural two months after undergoing back surgery.

Another question is this: Is the injury an indication that Chavez will be plagued by back woes for the rest of his career. The saying, “Once a back (injury), always a back (injury) seems to apply, and at 30, he’s not getting any younger.

What do you think?

I’ll be back later to blog about Braden.


Cactus League loss

It’s in the books. A’s lose 7-1 in their Cactus League opener to Milwaukee. I imagine they’ll mull it over for all of 10 seconds, before moving on to the next task at hand — a morning workout before the home opener vs. the Brewers at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

Dan Johnson hit a solo homer for the only A’s run, a good start for his bid to earn a roster spot. Tomorrow, we get to see Mike Sweeney for the first time.


A very ordinary Joe

Joe Blanton’s exhibition opener is in the books, and the A’s pitcher can rest content to know that spring training, in his words, “is what it is.”

The A’s opening-day starter was ripped six runs in two innings against the Milwaukee Brewers in his first Cactus-League outing. He was scheduled to pitch three innings, but because he was battered about, it took him only two to reach the 45-pitch limit.

The Brewers tattooed Blanton for four extra-base hits among the eight he allowed. Again, no reason for panic, because the ball flies in Arizona and pitchers are working on specific things. That said, pitchers are normally ahead of hitters this time of year, so to see balls hit so hard so often was a tad noticeable.

“I just threw strikes,” Blanton said. “That’s all I wanted to do. I mean, it starts getting frustrating. I really wanted to work on fastball command, and they were just swinging at everything, and I was throwing strikes. So, it kind of forces you to start throwing offspeed pitches.”

Blanton likely will go again in four days.


The A’s Cactus Opener

An amendment to the A’s lineup that I forgot to note in the last post. Left fielder Emil Brown was scratched with the same flu that felled Jack Cust. Bobby Crosby wound up as the cleanup hitter, and Ryan Sweeney replaced Brown. As we mentioned in the earlier post, Sweeney departed after a minor collision with Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder.

So yes, the A’s have already had four names listed in left field today. Seems as if they’re picking up right where they left off in 2007.


The A”s Cactus Opener

It’s amazing the things you notice when you’re waiting for Cactus League ball to start. Earlier today, A’s starter Joe Blanton offered up one of the most impressive sights you’ll ever see.

Blanton’s pre-game long toss took him to nearly the center-field warning track. There, he threw the ball near straight as an arrow to catcher Justin Knoedler who was standing down the left-field foul line. Blanton unleashed the ball at least 70 yards in the air with each toss, and at least outwardly, it seemed to take as much effort as tossing BP to a 7-year-old.

Anyway, that’s the only impressive thing about his day so far. Blanton was ripped for three runs by Milwaukee in his opening inning, the lowlights of which where Prince Fielder’s laser double to left-center and Ryan Braun’s home run to dead center.

Now, repeat the mantra: It’s only spring-training.

By the way, the A’s may have suffered their first injury of the Cactus League. Ryan Sweeney, one of the men in the Nick Swisher deal, seemed to hurt himself when he clipped first baseman Fielder while running to first and has been replaced by Aaron Cunningham. 


Play Ball

The saying around baseball is that you don’t fall in love with a guy in the spring or during the last month of the season. Therefore, the A’s say they’re keeping their expectations for Daric Barton in check.

But the lineup that manager Bob Geren posted before their first Cactus League game against Milwaukee today gives you a hint as to what they really think. Barton is hitting third, and while it is just spring training, the opening games usually reveal a hint as to what the ideal lineup would look like.

For the record, here is the starting nine for the Cactus opener.

RF Travis Buck

2B Mark Ellis

1B Daric Barton

LF Emil Brown

DH Dan Johnson

SS Bobby Crosby

3B Jack Hannahan

CF Chris Denorfia

C Justin Knoedler

RHP Joe Blanton

Couple of thoughts. 1) Don’t worry about Brown hitting cleanup when the season starts; he’s there because Jack Cust got scratched with the flu. 2) Johnson gets the initial call (at DH) over Mike Sweeney.

Manager Bob Geren told the media it shouldn’t read anything into the latter move. The thought is that Johnson and Sweeney will get a boatload of AB’s during the exhbition season, and the fact that Cust originally was down to play left field is indication of that. The A’s, more than likely, will have to make a tough decision regarding one of those two, and the competition starts now.

More updates as the Cactus League opener progresses.


Omar’s injury

There is now one less reason to watch the Giants than there was yesterday. The loss of Omar Vizquel for 4-6 weeks robs us of seeing his smooth-yet-spectacular displays at shortstop, and that’s a bummer for anyone who appreciates that art.

What it does do is give Kevin Frandsen an “in” to show he belongs. Frandsen figures to take over for Vizquel in the interim, though (if Vizquel’s prognosis is correct) that may amount to only two weeks worth of regular-season at-bats. Still, that’s enough time to show that he belongs at second base when Vizquel returns. Ray Durham, thanks to his $7 million salary, has the inside track at that position. 

 Of course, it is possible the Giants will decide to use Rich Aurilia at shortstop and shift Frandsen to third base in the interim. Either way, the spotlight clearly will be on the San Jose native who’s yet to prove he’s as good as was advertised. 

In other words, it may be time we find out if Frandsen is the promising talent the Giants have promised he is, or if his future is as an extra infielder.

Meantime, get well soon Omar. Your nightly highlights will be missed.