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Sweeney injury not serious

Not much happening on a slow Sunday morning in the A’s clubhouse, other than planning for the trip back to the Bay Area that is just three days away …

I caught up w/Ryan Sweeney, who said his left quadriceps has been bothering him. That’s why he left yesterday’s game as a precaution. It’s not serious, and Sweeney thinks he’ll only sit out today and tomorrow. He’s had tightness in the quad for the past couple of weeks, but nothing to keep him out of a game. He left Sunday’s game after batting in the top of the fourth. “It was tight (Sunday) morning, but it was fine. Then I took a pitch and it twinged on me. I’d rather sit out a day or two than be out a while.”

–Gio Gonzalez tested his sore left shoulder with a second side session yesterday, throwing his fastball, curve and changeup, and felt good. He said he’s penciled in for an appearance in Tuesday’s game against the Royals. Considering how far behind Gonzalez is in innings compared to the other pitchers, I’m not sure how realistic of a candidate he is as a long man in the bullpen (to start the season at least). …

Today’s lineup against Colorado and former Athletic Greg Smith:

Davis CF
CAbrera SS
Giambi 1B
Holliday LF
Garciaparra DH
Chavez 3B
Ellis 2B
Suzuki C
Denorfia RF

Gallagher on the hill …

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A’s losing streak hits 10

The A’s dropped their 10th straight game, 4-2, to the Milwaukee Brewers this afternoon. Predictably, and probably wisely, Bob Geren isn’t pushing the panic button. “The big thing is getting pitchers deep in games and getting guys swinging the bat. (But) we’d like to snap out of this little thing we’re in.”

What do you need to know from today?

Dana Eveland looked awful to start, allowing four runs in his first three innings, but settled in to retire 12 of his final 14 batters. That was big for Eveland, who was still looking like he had a rotation spot, but had struggled for two straight outings. After the game, Eveland said he’s been using his spring outings to work on his changeup and curve ball. But after watching J.J. Hardy smack a three-run homer in the third, he went back to his best pitch (slider) and found his footing. His seven-inning outing was the longest by an A’s starter this spring. “It felt good to feel strong that late in the game, still have my legs underneath me,” Eveland said.

A less encouraging sign: Center fielder Ryan Sweeney had to leave the game before the bottom of the fourth. Sweeney wasn’t available afterward, and the only report Geren had was that Sweeney had tightness in one of his legs. That’s the bad thing about not being able to talk to team trainers unless the player signs a waiver — sometimes it’s tough to get accurate, detailed information on an injury. Anyway, if it’s something serious, it would obviously be a huge blow to the A’s. Sweeney has played a good center field and is the likely leadoff man.

Bobby Crosby looked pretty good at first base. Can’t say he really got challenged today, but he did throw Hardy out at second when Eveland threw to first and caught Hardy stealing. Crosby also drifted w/a difficult pop-up and made the play. Not graceful, but effective.

In case you’re curious, Matt Holliday went 2-for-3 and is batting .326 …

Sean Gallagher takes the mound tomorrow against Colorado, which will counter with former Athletic Greg Smith, who was part of the trade that brought Holliday to Oakland.

Until then …

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Crosby’s tour of infield continues

After getting his first start at second base Tuesday, Bobby Crosby is starting at first base for the A’s this afternoon against Milwaukee. That’s one noteworthy aspect of today’s mix-and-match lineup. The A’s want Crosby to get comfortable at every infield spot. He played one inning at first as a mid-game substitute earlier this spring, when he borrowed Jack Hannahan’s first baseman’s mitt. Bob Geren said Crosby looked very comfortable in fielding drills Friday afternoon. “We did a lot of 3-6-3 double plays, and he looked very good. I thought, ‘Wow, he looks like a shortstop playing first base.’ He was very smooth.”

Daric Barton’s sore quadriceps has tightened up on him again, and he’s been unavailable the past couple of games. Another reason Crosby is playing first today.

–The bullpen was a hot topic during Geren’s media chat, and the skipper said he still plans to have Joey Devine and Brad Ziegler share the closer’s role to start the season. “I’m going to give them a shot, and somebody possibly will emerge as closer, or we can mix and match all season.” Devine gave up a homer last night in his first game since March 4. Ziegler, who has thrown in two minor league games since returning from the World Baseball Classic, is scheduled to pitch for the A’s tomorrow against Colorado.

–Still no change on catcher Landon Powell’s status. He’s been unavailable the past several games with a strained muscle in his ribs. The A’s are bringing newly acquired Curtis Thigpen to Maryvale today to provide backup for Joel Galarraga, who starts at catcher. I’d be at least a little concerned about Powell at this point if I were the A’s, though neither Powell nor Geren is expressing much outward worry.

–Eric Chavez said Friday night he was hoping to play both Sunday and Monday to see if he could handle back-to-back games. Geren said that will be up to the training staff.

–Justin Duchscherer’s arthroscopic surgery will take place either Monday or Tuesday.

Today’s lineup:
Sweeney CF
Crosby 1B
Holliday LF
Cust RF
Hannahan 3B
Galarraga C
Pennington SS
Petit 2B

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Padres 5, A’s 2

Final scores don’t mean a whole lot in the Cactus League, but the A’s have failed to find the win column for a while now. They lost their ninth straight, 5-2, to San Diego tonight. A quick rundown:

–The A’s used what could very well be their Opening Day lineup, and the Padres countered with Jake Peavy on the mound. Peavy prevailed, giving up just two hits and no walks in six shutout innings. But the A’s did welcome Eric Chavez back. Chavez went 0-for-2 — fly out and strikeout — but said he felt better at the plate (health-wise) than he has all spring. That’s big because swinging the bat is what’s bothered his right shoulder most.

–Trevor Cahill was hardly his sharpest, allowing four runs, three walks and a homer in four innings. He looked like he was trying to over-throw. An Oceanside native, Cahill said he was a little too jacked up facing the Padres. He also had his mom and several friends in the stands. “He had good movement, but he wasn’t real efficient with his pitches,” Bob Geren said. “(But) I liked his stuff.” Long story short, his chances of making the rotation didn’t take too much of a hit.

Nomar Garciaparra and Jack Cust hit back-to-back homers in the eighth for the A’s only runs. Scott Hairston homered twice for San Diego, once off Cahill and once off Joey Devine. It was Devine’s first appearance since March 4. The homer was the only blemish in his one inning.

Orlando Cabrera has flashed a pretty nice glove w/the A’s so far. He turned in a gem in the first inning. Brian Giles smoked a hard grounder up the middle and Cabrera picked it cleanly off the short hop and made the throw to first. Beauty …

Tomorrow, Dana Eveland takes the mound against the Brewers in Maryvale. He’ll be looking to bounce back from two lackluster efforts in his most recent starts.

Check in w/you in the morning …

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Arthroscopic surgery for Duchscherer; other pregame happenings

Phoenix Muni has a little more of a regular-season feel to it today, with the A’s preparing for a night game against San Diego. They took the field to stretch at 3:15 p.m. — a very similar routine to a 7:05 game at the Coliseum. Fittingly, the A’s lineup has a regular-season look also. We’ll get to that …

The big news of the afternoon is that Justin Duchscherer will have arthroscopic surgery on his elbow sometime early next week, the day and the doctor is TBA. Bob Geren didn’t have details on what the procedure was hoping to accomplish, but figure Duchscherer misses several weeks minimum. He didn’t want to discuss it, referring reporters to Geren. “Anytime you lose one of your guys it’s disappointing,” Geren said. “He was projected as a No. 1 guy. It’s something we have to overcome as a team.”

–Today’s starting lineup could very well be the one you see April 6 against the Angels. Most noteworthy, Ryan Sweeney is in the leadoff spot, with Travis Buck hitting eighth. As good as Buck has been, I think you have to get Sweeney as many at-bats as possible w/what he showed last season and this spring so far. The batting order against former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy:

Sweeney CF
Cabrera SS
Giambi 1B
Holliday LF
Chavez 3B
Cust DH
Suzuki C
Buck RF
Ellis 2B

Cahill P …

Geren said Buck is still a leadoff candidate, as is Orlando Cabrera. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cabrera lead off a bit against lefties. Geren mentioned Ellis and Suzuki as candidates to hit second.

–Chavez is set to get two at-bats tonight, and he’ll play in the field for as long as it takes for that to happen.

–I haven’t written much about outfielder Ben Copeland, who the A’s snagged in the Rule 5 draft this winter from the Giants’ system. That’s because Copeland has been sidelined w/an injury suffered when he slammed into the center field wall making a catch in a game a couple of weeks ago. Talk about rotten timing. Rule 5 guys need every inning they can get to make an impression, because the team that drafts them has to either keep them on the 25-man roster all season or offer them back to their former team. The fact that Copeland hasn’t been on the field lately all but assures the A’s offer him back to the Giants, although Copeland faced an uphill battle to make the roster anyway. At any rate, the guy looks like he has some tools so it’s a shame he’s not playing. Copeland said the jolt against the fence shifted a few vertebrae in his back. It screwed up his alignment, and his neck began hurting, with the pain eventually trickling down to his left shoulder. He had an MRI on his neck, but it’s the shoulder that’s keeping him from playing. He was going to try playing catch today.

–Dallas Braden threw in a minor league game today to stay on his regular throwing rotation. He went five innings in a Triple-A game against the Angels and allowed one earned run, four hits with four strikeouts and four walks, which he wasn’t happy about. “It’s kind of hard to get up for a game like that,” Braden said. The A’s still haven’t told him he’s the Opening Day starter, Braden claims, and he insists he’s not taking anything for granted. Why did the A’s decide to start Cahill against the Padres tonight and throw Braden in the minors? Probably to see Cahill perform in a more high-pressure situation. As I mentioned in today’s paper, Cahill is a strong bet to make the rotation with Duchscherer out for the immediate future.

–Last thing, the A’s practiced a 1st-to-3rd baserunning drill this afternoon. “Some of our guys are fast enough to be better at it,” Geren said. He invited some of the players who are really good at going first to third on a single to tutor the others. Who’s the best on the team at it? “Holliday is by far the best (on the team), and one of the best in baseball,” Geren said.

That’s all for now …

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More elbow pain for Duchscherer; DL likely

Justin Duchscherer felt more elbow pain and left a minor league game early today, so it’s all but certain the A’s ace will start the season on the disabled list. Duchscherer was supposed to throw 35-45 pitches , but he was pulled after throwing just 24 — allowing three runs (including a HR), three hits and a walk — in his one inning of work. “He did not come out of it well,” A’s assistant GM David Forst said. “We’ll get together with the trainers, and figure out what the next step is.”

Duchscherer hasn’t pitched in an exhibition this spring because of elbow inflammation, and just recently he began throwing off the mound after receiving a cortisone shot in his elbow.

It seems more likely now that both starting pitching prospects still in camp — Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill — will start the season in the A’s rotation. Cahill pitches tomorrow night against San Diego. Dallas Braden is in line to start Opening Day, and Dana Eveland and Sean Gallagher are in line to start the next two games. Eveland and Gallagher haven’t even officially been named to the rotation, but it would be a big surprise if they aren’t.

One other worthy tidbit: Brad Ziegler threw two innings in the same minor league game, allowing one hit and one hit batter but no runs.

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A’s drop eighth straight, 5-4 to White Sox

Consider Brett Anderson one of the silver linings for the A’s in today’s 5-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox. He went 4 1/3 innings and allowed seven hits and two runs. Doesn’t look too impressive on the surface, but he’s showing me something with how he handles himself on the mound. He escaped a little jam in the second inning and limited the damage to two runs in the fourth when it could have been worse. Included in his day was two strikeouts of Carlos Quentin, the Sox’s No. 3 hitter. Anderson said he liked the down-and-in action he had on his slider to right-handers. …

It’s worth noting that Jack Cust is hitting .342 this spring. He singled twice today. …

The A’s signed Michael Wuertz assuming he’d occupy a spot in their bullpen. He wasn’t terrible today, but he’s allowed a run in five of his nine outings. I’d expect the A’s to be patient with him. …

I’ve moved the White Sox’s home park, The Ballpark at Camelback Ranch, ahead of Surprise Stadium to No. 1 on my list of best Cactus League ballparks. Very impressive facility (which Chicago shares w/the Dodgers). Various side diamonds surrounding the main field, very impressive concession stand offerings and a ton of real estate beyond the outfield fences for people to wander within the park. The only downside, as people in the press box were pointing out, is there’s very little shade for fans. Nearly every seat is exposed to the sun. But you don’t come to spring training expecting to throw snowballs, right???

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Ellis, Cabrera both starting today

The A’s will have their starting double-play combo in the lineup together for the first time today against the Chicago White Sox. Mark Ellis will make his spring debut at second base, and Orlando Cabrera is back at shortstop after missing seven games because of the flu and lower back stiffness. Ellis told me earlier this spring he didn’t think it would take long to build chemistry w/Cabrera, but manager Bob Geren is happy to finally get them on the field together. “You can do it in practice quite a bit, but to actually feel it in a game is important.”

The infield may also welcome back third baseman Eric Chavez on Friday night against San Diego. And if Chavez is able to play defense and hit in that game, he thinks it’s conceivable he’d be in the Opening Day lineup. “It depends on the workload I’m able to jam in. If I can play Friday or whatever — get an every-other-day or two-days-in-a-row schedule … Hopefully one of (the Bay Bridge Series games) against San Francisco I’m in there nine innings.”

–Despite Josh Outman’s horrible outing last night against the Royals, Geren said he still considers the lefty in the running for the rotation as well as the bullpen. Doesn’t surprise me. With the rotation a question mark, Outman could serve a very important role as a long reliever if he’s not starting.

–Gio Gonzalez said he was looking forward to throwing a side session later today to see how his left shoulder is feeling. He hasn’t been on the mound since hurting his shoulder a couple of weeks ago.

The starting lineup vs. the ChiSox:

Davis CF
Cabrera SS
Ellis 2B
Cust RF
Sweeney DH
Suzuki C
Doolittle 1B
Crosby 3B
Cunningham LF

Brett Anderson is on the mound (I had written a couple days ago he was throwing on tomorrow’s offday. My bad …)

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A’s lose to Royals; rotation still undecided

The A’s dropped their seventh straight Cactus League game tonight, 8-3 to the Royals, though that’s hardly their primary concern at the moment. Earlier today, GM Billy Beane pretty much called Oakland’s starting rotation an open competition outside of Dallas Braden, who is on track to start Opening Day. You can read all about Beane’s take on the pitching staff (and Bob Geren’s contract extension) in tomorrow’s paper. Basically, Beane said even guys like Dana Eveland and Sean Gallagher don’t have spots sewn up and that four rotation spots are up for grabs. If you ask me, I think he’s just trying to light a fire under Eveland and Gallagher so they don’t get too comfortable. I don’t see how this rotation can function w/out them, particularly if Justin Duchscherer isn’t ready to go to start the season.

Gallagher certainly helped his cause with 4 2/3 shutout innings against K.C. That came after starter Josh Outman imploded, giving up eight runs in 3 1/3 innings. I still think Outman might land in the bullpen, and with the current state of things, he may not be out of the rotation running!

A couple items you won’t find in tomorrow’s stories:

–It’s been speculated that Duchscherer could pitch out of the bullpen temporarily as he gets his pitch count up following his elbow injury (You should see the look of disgust on Duchscherer’s face when a reporter asks him about it. He’s willing to pitch in relief temporarily, but he really dislikes relieving. More than anything, he’s sick of talking about it.) Anyway, Beane didn’t shut the door on that idea completely, but he’d rather have Duchscherer pitch in the rotation when he’s healthy.

“Right now we’re pushing to put him in the rotation even if it’s in an abbreviated sitauton, and we’ll build up from there,” Beane said. “If it means he can only go four innings, we’ll take those four innings.”

–Bobby Crosby didn’t get much action in his debut at second base Tuesday night. Two routine grounders, one pop-up. And he took a throw from Kurt Suzuki to nail a would-be base stealer. “He did a nice job,” Geren said. “He just needs to get acclimated on little things, where to go on bunt plays …”

A’s are in Glendale tomorrow against the White Sox. Seven more games left in Arizona …

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A’s give Geren contract extension

Just received word that the A’s have given manager Bob Geren a one-year contract extension for the 2010 season, with a club option for 2011. His existing contract was set to expire after this season. Both Geren and GM Billy Beane are expected to comment later today. The team plays a 6:05 game tonight against Kansas City in Surprise. …