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Ziegler reflects on WBC

While the A’s were getting hammered 20-5 by the Cubs on Monday, reliever Brad Ziegler happened to show up to the park in the middle of the game. Ziegler pitched with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, and though the Americans were eliminated by Japan in Sunday’s semifinals, Ziegler said the experience was a rush. “It was easily the best baseball experience of my life,” he said. “Hopefully we can top it with a World Series (with Oakland), but I think that’s the only thing that could beat it.”

But Ziegler, who is taking over as the A’s player rep to the union, thinks there are some changes that could be made to the WBC. He’s eager to collect feedback from some of the A’s players, and be pro-active in addressing the issues. “The big thing is the (schedule) needs to be condensed,” he said. “You can’t play eight games in 22 days. At that point, there’s not a guy there that’s getting the innings he needs.”

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Mazzaro among A’s cuts

Been battling some internet issues folks, but just wanted to give you a quick update:

Pitchers Vin Mazzaro, Henry Rodriguez and Andrew Carignan, and outfielder Matt Carson were sent to the minors this morning. Obviously, Mazzaro is the name that grabs your attention. He was considered a strong candidate for the starting rotation, but was coming off two bad outings, so this news wasn’t a shocker. He’ll enter Triple-A Sacramento’s rotation and said he needs to work on command of his secondary pitches. “I definitely have to use my changeup a lot more,” he said.

Anderson and Cahill are still in camp, and I don’t see how at least one of them won’t start the season in the rotation, especially if Justin Duchscherer isn’t ready in the first week. (There’s still a chance the A’s could decide to sign a free agent, but they haven’t seemed thrilled with the idea).

Here’s a bunch of player updates:

–Eric Chavez has today off but will play third base in a Triple-A game tomorrow afternoon (no hitting for him, as that’s coming along slower for his injured right shoulder than throwing). Reliever Joey Devine will start that same game to test his right elbow. 

–Justin Duchscherer is set to throw a bullpen session today, with a break in between to simulate a game situation (he’ll basically throw two innings). If that goes well, he’ll pitch in a minor league game Thursday afternoon.

–Reliever Brad Ziegler is expected in camp this afternoon after Team USA got bounced from the WBC. Geren didn’t even rule out Ziegler pitching this afternoon against the Cubs, but he’s probably more likely to go tomorrow night against Kansas City.

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A’s send down Mazzaro

The A’s sent right-hander Vin Mazzaro to the minors this morning, meaning at least one of the three Oakland pitching phenoms will begin the season in the minor leagues.
Lefty Brett Anderson and righty Trevor Cahill, the other two would-be A’s aces, are still with the big club.
In other Monday moves, the A’s optioned right-handed pitcher Henry Rodriguez to Triple-A Sacramento. The A’s also reassigned two non-roster invitees to their minor league camp: right-handed pitcher Andrew Carignan and Vin Mazzaro and outfielder Matt Carson.

The A’s now have a total of 39 players in camp, which includes 33 players on the 40-man roster and six non-roster invitees. The breakdown includes 17 pitchers, three catchers, 11 infielders and eight outfielders. The A’s 40-man roster currently has 39 players.

Joe Stiglich will have further updates later in the day.

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Slain Oakland policemen on Ozzie Guillen’s mind

The White Sox are in Phoenix to play the A’s this afternoon, and you never know what might come out of Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen’s mouth. He’s one of the game’s most unpredictable characters. But he was all seriousness talking about the tragic news of four Oakland police officers being shot Saturday, three fatally. Guillen took a white marker and wrote “OPD” on his black White Sox hat in tribute to the fallen officers.

“There’s no reason to take peoples’ lives. It should be a hard day for the Bay Area,” Guillen said. “I’ve never seen anything sadder than a police funeral. To take anybody’s life, especially when you’re a policeman or fireman (and) you’re protecting this country. … How come we only worry about police when they get killed? We don’t give them enough credit for making our life easier.”

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Sunday update

***Updated****
Talked to Joey Devine a bit ago. He said his elbow felt fine during a 32-pitch bullpen session off the mound this morning. He threw all of his pitches and said he’s on target to pitch in a minor league game Tuesday.

The Sunday morning happenings in A’s land:

–Eric Chavez took 25 swings on a back diamond behind Phoenix Municipal Stadium and said it went well. He mentioned this morning he’d take tomorrow off from hitting but may take regular batting practice w/the team Tuesday. Bob Geren was asked how it would be determined if Chavez could be ready for the start of the regular season. “If he feels good at the plate and he’s throwing the ball OK, he’s ready. But he has to get out there and test that shoulder swinging and throwing.”

–Geren expects shortstop Orlando Cabrera to miss another few days with his lower back tightness. Friday would be the earliest he’d return to the lineup. Considering the time he’s missed, Geren acknowledged the importance of getting Bobby Crosby a little time at shortstop, as well as the other infield spots. Crosby is starting at third today, w/Cliff Pennington at shortstop. About Cabrera, keep in mind he’s been one of the game’s most durable players over the years. He played 161 games last season.

–Justin Duchscherer is still scheduled to throw a bullpen session tomorrow. Joey Devine was set to throw a bullpen session today, but I haven’t talked to him yet.

–I wrote yesterday that Dallas Braden would start today against the White Sox. The A’s have decided to pitch him in relief, and give the start to Vin Mazzaro. Don’t read anything into that. Braden is set to throw on three days’ rest Thursday in a minor league game, when the A’s are off. His schedule got thrown off because he was scratched Saturday after getting a root canal.

Today’s lineup:

Buck RF
Suzuki C
Sweeney CF
Holliday LF
Ellis DH
Barton 1B
Crosby 3B
Pennington SS
Petit 2B

Mazzaro on the hill …

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A’s drop split-squads to Giants, Mariners

Here’s a little game detail from the A’s split-squad matchups today. They fell to the Giants 8-4 in Phoenix and dropped an 8-5 game to Seattle in Peoria. Trevor Cahill had a nice bounce-back game against the Giants after having his first rough outing in his last start. He went five innings, allowed just one run and didn’t walk anybody. He’s working on some mechanical adjustments with his arm angle in his delivery, and liked the results today.

He also liked the defense he got from third baseman Nomar Garciaparra, who had a very strong overall game. Garciaparra had an opposite-field single in his first at-bat, then ripped a two-out run-scoring single to left in his next at-bat. He started a 5-4-3 double play in the fourth, and helped get Cahill out of a jam in the second by charging a slow roller and making the throw to first on the run. “I throw sinkers in a lot (to right-handers), and I get a lot of slow rollers,” Cahill said. “That could have been a hit, and he kind of saved me.”

It’s early, but Garciaparra so far looks capable of manning third to start the season if Eric Chavez isn’t ready.

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Giants turn a triple play

The Giants just turned a 5-4-3 triple play against the A’s here at Phoenix Muni to end the eighth inning. Bobby Crosby hit a bouncer to third baseman Ryan Rohlinger, who stepped on the bag and threw to second baseman Matt Downs, who relayed to first baseman Scott McClain to get Crosby by a step.

Rohlinger-to-Downs-to-McClain … Not quite as catchy as Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance, but one heck of a play.

Giants lead in the ninth, 7-3, by the way …

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Chavez update

Just checked in w/Eric Chavez. He took some dry swings (no ball involved) and then took some “simulated swings” having to do w/some pulley-type contraption. I really can’t tell you what the exact exercise was, and it’s not important. Bottom line, Chavez said he’ll hit in the batting cage tomorrow, and hopes to take regular batting practice Monday. So his right shoulder must have felt pretty good today.

–Orlando Cabrera said it’s the lower right side of his back that’s giving him some pain, and that the A’s medical staff told him he should sit another two or three days. Part of the reason for the caution is because of Cabrera’s recent inactivity when he had a stomach virus. He wants to ease back into action.

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Braden scratched today — root canal

This was painful just hearing about it. A’s lefty Dallas Braden was scheduled to start today against the Mariners but got pushed back until tomorrow because he had an emergency root canal Friday afternoon. Braden chipped one of his right upper molars in his sleep Thursday night, and woke up with extraordinary pain. A visit to the dentist showed a decayed tooth, and Braden needed a root canal. If the root canal doesn’t work, Braden said he’ll have to get part of his jaw bone shaved down and replaced with a cadaver bone. That would take eight months to heal, and then a replacement tooth would be screwed in. You have to sympathize with the guy, but at least the situation provided comedic fodder for Braden, always a hilarious quote. “Luckily the (dentist) had a pretty sweet setup,” he said. “He had these goggles that project a 50-inch TV in front of you. So I was watching ‘Iron Man’ while he was standing over me just jackhammering on my face.”

It shouldn’t have a big effect on Braden’s pitching. He’ll go tomorrow against the White Sox. He took Vicodin for the pain this morning, and it’s probably wise he doesn’t try to take the mound today. Jerome Williams was brought in from minor league camp to take his start today against Seattle in Peoria.

–A’s manager Bob Geren revealed this morning that Orlando Cabrera has some tightness in his lower back and will miss a couple more days. Cabrera was feeling under the weather and has missed the past three games, but now we know there’s more to it. Geren downplayed the injury. “The good thing about him, he came to camp and looked great in the field and at the plate.”

–Gio Gonzalez’s bid to make the starting rotation out of camp are all but gone, as he’s nursing a sore left shoulder. He’s unable to pitch right now and is limited to long toss. Manager Bob Geren said it would be “at least a week” until Gonzalez can pitch in a game, but I’d guess it’s going to be longer than that. It’s been more than a week since he appeared in a game …

–No word yet on how Eric Chavez’s “simulated swings” went today. Hopefully I’ll know more later, as Chavez has said that swinging the bat will be the biggest indicator of how his right shoulder is progressing.

–As I mentioned yesterday, Mark Ellis is set to play second base this afternoon in a minor league game, his first action on defense this spring.

Today’s lineup vs. the Giants

Garciaparra 3B
Suzuki C
Giambi 1B
Holliday LF
Cunningham RF
Crosby DH
Denorfia CF
Petit SS
Wimberly 2B

Cahill pitching.

*The lineup vs. Seattle

Davis CF
Buck LF
Sweeney RF
Cust DH
Powell C
Barton 1B
Hannahan 3B
Pennington SS
Cardenas 2B

Williams pitching …

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Duchscherer, Ellis updates

Providing injury updates can get pretty old (I’d imagine they’re not much fun for you to read after a while either). But this morning brought substantial news on some key A’s players. Justin Duchscherer threw a 25-pitch bullpen session, his first time throwing off a mound in about three weeks. We haven’t had a chance to chat w/him yet, but manager Bob Geren said Duchscherer felt good afterward. I saw Duchscherer snap off several of the slow, arching curves that he likes to use, so his elbow must be feeling decent to throw that many breaking balls. Geren said Duchscherer probably would throw another bullpen session before taking the next step, which could be throwing batting practice or appearing in a minor league game. So what does this mean for Duchscherer’s chances of avoiding the DL when the season starts? Tough to say. Maybe he’ll have more light to shed on things later.

–Another positive development for the A’s: Mark Ellis is set to play second base in a minor league game Saturday, which will be his first defensive action of the spring. He’ll play about three innings, Geren said, and probably hit leadoff to cram in all the at-bats he can. If that goes well, he’ll play in another minor league game Monday and play second for the A’s on Wednesday against the White Sox in Glendale. Ellis has been saying he feels right on schedule to be ready Opening Day, and it’s looking that way.

Orlando Cabrera is still sick, so Bobby Crosby returns to the familiar territory of shortstop for today’s game vs. the Indians in Goodyear: The lineup:

Davis CF
Cust RF
Garciaparra 3B
Giambi DH
Powell C
Barton 1B
Crosby SS
Cunningham LF
Pennington 2B

Brett Anderson on the hill …