And we’re underway

Things are just getting started here at the winter meetings, where I managed to wind my way through the Bellagio’s luxurious casino to find the media workroom ($10 blackjack tables!!! Surprisingly reasonable for this joint). Greg Maddux just finished his retirement press conference. All else is relatively slow, though the Tigers have acquired catcher Gerald Laird from the Rangers. …

The A’s announced their non-roster invitees to spring training — 17 in all. Most of the blue-chip prospects will be there: Pitchers Brett Anderson (their top-ranked prospect by Baseball America) and Trevor Cahill (No. 2), middle infielder Adrian Cardenas (No. 5), first baseman Chris Carter (No. 6), pitchers Vincent Mazzaro (No. 8 ) and James Simmons (No. 10), and second baseman Jemile Weeks (No. 9), among others.

Drumming up the most attention, of course, will be Anderson and Cahill, who both pitched in the Olympics. Both have an outside shot at landing a rotation spot right out of camp, though they would have to be pretty spectacular. Anderson and Cahill split 2008 between Single-A and Double-A (where they were dominant), with Anderson getting a taste of Triple-A in Sacramento’s postseason and pitching well. But keep in mind they’re young. Neither turns 21 until shortly before the start of the 2009 season.

The A’s also signed right-hander Jerome Williams to a minor league contract. Bay Area fans will remember him from his Giants days. Hard to believe he’s just 27. He last pitched in the big leagues in 2007 and spent last season between Single-A and Triple-A in the Dodgers’ system.

I’ll be blogging occasionally throughout each day here. It’ll keep me away from those $10 tables …

Joe Stiglich