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Chavez close to Cactus League debut

Not much coming out of A’s camp this morning before they hop a bus to Maryvale to play the Brewers. A quick recap:

–Bob Geren said Eric Chavez will probably DH tomorrow against the Angels in Tempe, and he’s on target to make his debut on defense March 3, with five innings at third base. I’d say that’s still written in pencil, but A’s fans should be encouraged that Chavez has been feeling good through the early workouts.

–Still no word on when Justin Duchscherer will get back on the mound, but he threw long toss yesterday and his elbow felt good.

–Josh Outman gets the start today on the mound. If you’re heading to Tempe tomorrow, Sean Gallagher will start. Highly touted lefty Brett Anderson and Tyson Ross, the former Cal star, will also go (there’s a chance Ross pitches today, but they probably won’t need him). In Friday’s first game at Phoenix Muni, Dana Eveland starts, w/Brad Ziegler and newcomer Russ Springer among those following him.

Today’s lineup is same as Geren projected yesterday:
Buck RF
Sweeney CF
Holliday LF
Giambi 1B
Suzuki C
Crosby SS
Hannahan 3B
Patterson 2B
Outman P

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A’s intrasquad recap

The A’s just wrapped up their intrasquad game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, a three-inning affair won by the “home” team 1-0. Not much juicy to report. It’s funny … as a writer you look forward to days like these just because they offer something different after nearly two solid weeks of practice. But there’s just not much to glean until exhibitions start.

Having said that …

Right-hander Edgar Gonzalez looked good. He went three innings and gave up three hits. In the second, he allowed Landon Powell’s single, then struck out Bobby Crosby looking, Joe Dillon swinging and Chris Carter looking. As he fights for the fifth starter spot, Gonzalez may have a small advantage this spring because he just got done pitching in winter ball about two weeks ago in Mexico. Bob Geren said he expects Gonzalez to be sharp.

“He threw the ball real well. I liked his location, his movement, the way he changed speeds on his breaking ball.”

Craig Weissmann, the A’s scout who watched Gonzalez in Mexico, is visiting camp right now and said Gonzalez has good command of all four of his pitches — fastball, curve, slider and changeup.

As for other highlights today, Travis Buck had two singles from the leadoff spot for the visiting team. … Gregorio Petit knocked in the game’s only run when his single to right off Andrew Bailey scored Joel Galarraga. … Ben Copeland, the outfielder from the Giants organization that the A’s took in the Rule 5 draft, showed a pretty strong arm from right field during pregame drills. Geren said Copeland get his share of at-bats so the A’s can evaluate whether they want to keep him or send him back to S.F. …

That’s all for now …

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Duchscherer update …

I talked to Justin Duchscherer about his elbow. He’s not too concerned, and said he could be back on the mound in a couple of days, based on how it feels now.

“I’m fine. I threw today, it felt good. It seems every spring when I get the intensity of having hitters in there for the first time, my elbow gets a little irritated. It’s happened to me four consecutive years.”

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A’s Barton won’t be ready to play for a few days

Some morning news from Bob Geren’s press session:

First baseman Daric Barton is being slowed by his recovery from offseason hip surgery. It’s a physical conditioning issue at this point, and Geren said he won’t play in an exhibition until trainers clear him. Geren expects he’ll miss the first 4-5 games minimum. That probably means more time at first for prospects Chris Carter and Sean Doolittle, along w/ Jason Giambi, of course.

– Justin Duchscherer was icing his elbow early this morning, and Geren said his ace is “being pushed back a couple days.” I haven’t talked to Duchscherer yet. Probably no reason to get too worked up on this development yet. There’s an extra week of camp this spring, so it makes sense for the A’s to be cautious.

– Josh Outman gets the start tomorrow in the exhibition opener vs. Milwaukee w/Gio Gonzalez coming in after him. Here’s the rest of Geren’s tentative lineup for tomorrow:

Buck RF
Sweeney CF
Holliday LF
Giambi 1B
Suzuki C
Crosby SS
Hannahan 3B
Patterson 2B
Outman SP

The A’s have an intrasquad game in a couple of hours, so we’ll see if anything interesting comes out of that …

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Denorfia joining Italy for WBC

A’s outfielder Chris Denorfia got confirmation that he’s on the final roster for the Italian national team that will play in the World Baseball Classic. He’ll leave the A’s on Sunday to train with the Italians in Port. St. Lucie, Fla., before they open the international tournament against Venezuela on March 7. Denorfia, who joked last week that the only Italian he knows is swear words, grew up living in the same house as his Italian grandmother, and he’s excited about the opportunity. Mike Piazza played for the Italian team in the 2006 WBC, and another former Athletic, pitcher Lenny DiNardo, is on Italy’s provisional roster this year. The rest of the final roster will be announced tomorrow. It’s very possible Denorfia could face A’s teammate Brad Ziegler, who will pitch for the U.S. team. The U.S. and Italy open the tournament in the Toronto pool along with Canada and Venezuela.

The morning’s other news …

–A’s manager Bob Geren said tomorrow’s intrasquad game will start at 11:15 a.m. (at Phoenix Municipal Stadium) and probably go 3 1/2 innings. He didn’t reveal both full lineups for the game, but did say one team’s batting order will probably have Travis Buck leading off, followed by Ryan Sweeney, Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi. We may see a lot of that this season …

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Matt Holliday’s power on display

A leftover bit from today …

Bob Geren was raving about the power of young first baseman Chris Carter after today’s workout, but it appears Matt Holliday is putting on the most impressive long-distance display in batting practice. The A’s have four main diamonds at their Papago Park practice complex. On Field 4, it takes about a 450-foot shot (the consensus of clubhouse workers who would know) over the left-field fence to reach McDowell Road, one of Scottsdale’s busier streets. Holliday has hit several bombs out to left, and word is he’s getting awfully close to reaching the road on the fly. …

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A’s eyeing Nomar

So Orlando Cabrera isn’t the only free agent infielder on the A’s radar. You’ve probably read about the A’s interest in Nomar Garciaparra as a backup infielder, first reported by ESPN yesterday. I thought the A’s would take a hard look this winter at bringing in somebody as a third base fallback plan if Eric Chavez isn’t ready to play every day, but the team didn’t want to overpay for an insurance policy. Garciaparra, if he can stay healthy, makes sense as an affordable backup at third or a right-handed hitting option at first base. He even played 30 games at shortstop last season. But can he avoid the DL? He made three trips there last season for hand, calf and knee injuries, playing in just 55 games total with the Dodgers. Were Garciaparra signed and looked at primarily as a corner guy, I would think that means Daric Barton begins the season in the minors.

How would you feel about signing this guy?

–Jack Cust is back on the field today after missing two days because he was sick. He may have passed it on to second baseman Jemile Weeks, because Weeks is out today with an illness.

–Manager Bob Geren said Mark Ellis, Chavez, middle infielder Adrian Cardenas (stiff back) and probably Cust would be held out of Tuesday’s intrasquad game as a precaution. Newly acquired Edgar Gonzalez likely will pitch three innings in the game.

I’ll try to post w/some fresh stuff later today …

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Geren discusses backup infielders

Checking in from Papago, where a Sports Illustrated photo crew took up residence in the A’s clubhouse this morning. SI is doing a story on the A’s, with a focus on Jason Giambi. The team’s offseason moves seem to have caught the attention of the national media this spring.

Moving on …

–Manager Bob Geren talked a little about the candidates for the backup infielder spot. Assuming the A’s roster includes a healthy Eric Chavez at third and Mark Ellis at second, Bobby Crosby at shortstop and the Daric Barton/Jason Giambi combo at first, that would leave room for one backup infielder. Geren mentioned Jack Hannahan, Cliff Pennington, Gregorio Petit, Eric Patterson and non-roster players Joe Dillon and Corey Wimberly as candidates. Wimberly also can play outfield (so can Patterson), but Geren said he wants Wimberly working mostly in the infield this spring, so he can be tutored by infield coach Mike Gallego. … Hannahan has the most experience of this group, but considering he hit .218 last season, he’s far from a lock.

–Speaking of Wimberly, a little tidbit I didn’t squeeze into today’s notebook: Considering he’s one of the A’s fastest players in camp, I asked Wimberly who was faster between him and Rajai Davis, hands down the speediest player on the A’s roster last season. Wimberly gave the nod to Davis. “I may be a little quicker out of the box because I’m starting from the left side,” said Wimberly, who’s actually a switch hitter. “I think he’s probably a little bit faster.”

–Here’s the pitching schedule as games start next week:
Tuesday’s intrasquad game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium: Edgar Gonzalez, Brad Ziegler, Kevin Cameron, Andrew Carignan, Andrew Bailey.

Wednesday’s Cactus League opener vs. Milwaukee in Maryvale: Josh Outman, Gio Gonzalez, Vin Mazzaro, Chris Schroder, Jeff Gray, Jared Lansford, Jerry Blevins, Arnold Leon, Tyson Ross.

Thursday vs. the Angels in Tempe: Sean Gallagher, Brett Anderson, Tyson Ross (if he doesn’t throw Wednesday), Brett Hunter, Santiago Casilla, Michael Wuertz, Joey Devine.

–Catcher Joel Galarraga arrived in camp, so everybody is here now

–Last but not least, after I mentioned the Dodgers as the possible favorite to sign middle infielder Orlando Cabrera, they went and agreed to terms w/Orlando Hudson as their second baseman. We’ll see if this re-ignites the A’s pursuit of Cabrera …

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Edgar Gonzalez in rotation mix

One of the A’s two no-shows in camp, right-hander Edgar Gonzalez, arrived this morning and is on the field w/the team. He’s a non-roster player, but from the way Bob Geren has talked about him, he’s considered a legit candidate for the fifth starter spot. Because he just pitched in the Mexican Pacific League this winter, he shouldn’t be behind the other pitchers. Gonzalez spent parts of the past six seasons w/ Arizona. He turns 26 on Monday. “I know we always admired his work from afar,” Geren said. “We had an opportunity to sign him, and I’m happy we did.”

Geren said Gonzalez will play catch today, throw a side session tomorrow and then go three innings in Tuesday’s intrasquad game. He’s slated to throw on the last day of the A’s five-man rotation once Cactus League games begin (That doesn’t mean he starts those games necessarily. It’s too early to read much into who pitches on what days). Non-roster catcher Joel Galarraga is the only player who hasn’t arrived in camp, but he’s expected soon. Like Gonzalez, he experienced visa problems in Mexico.

–Check out this story, which says the Dodgers have begun talks with free agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera. Interestingly, Cabrera apparently is willing to play second base in Dodger Blue. The indications I’m getting from within the A’s organization is that dialogue with Cabrera has slowed down recently, so L.A. could have the inside track on him.