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Devine getting closer to return

The A’s got some encouraging news today when co-closer Joey Devine threw a 20-pitch bullpen session without pain in his right elbow. Devine, as relayed by an A’s official, said the tentative plan was for him to throw off the mound again Saturday and possibly pitch in a game early next week. He’s been sidelined for two weeks. The A’s have talked all spring about the luxury of having an extra-long camp, so they don’t have to rush injured players into action. But I’d think it has to be a little unsettling not having either of your closer candidates pitching w/the team for an extended period. Brad Ziegler is with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, and though he’s getting regular work, wouldn’t you feel better watching his progress in person? It will be interesting to see how the A’s use Devine and Ziegler in exhibitions once they’re both available to the team. …

–Bobby Crosby was taking grounders at first base during BP and then shifted over to second base briefly. He’s in the lineup today against Texas at third base. At some point, the A’s are going to have to get him some time at second in exhibitions if he’s going to start the season as the backup middle infielder. … Orlando Cabrera was a late scratch for today’s game because of a “non-baseball related condition,” which typically is code for illness. Cliff Pennington was inserted at shortstop. Matt Holliday, however, is back in the lineup after being sick.

Today’s starting nine:

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

Edgar Gonzalez on the mound …

–Justin Duchscherer threw long toss again Wednesday and was scheduled to throw again today. Eric Chavez is doing well in his throwing program, manager Bob Geren said, but no word yet on when he might hit. Chavez said yesterday he wants to start playing in games in about a week.

That’s all for now. Gotta make the long drive to Surprise, the longest commute we have to get to another Cactus League ballpark other than going to Tucson …

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Scratch Beimel off the list

A little news as the A’s enjoy their third of four offdays during the Cactus League season: The Washington Post reports that the Nationals have signed lefty reliever Joe Beimel. The A’s were considered a front runner to sign the free agent, so they’ll have to look elsewhere if they want another lefty for the bullpen.

The A’s resume Cactus League play tomorrow afternoon against the Texas Rangers in Surprise. Edgar Gonzalez starts on the mound.

Check in w/you then …

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A’s release backup catcher Bowen

The A’s just announced that backup catcher Rob Bowen has been released, which means Landon Powell is likely to take over as Kurt Suzuki’s backup. The wheels had been in motion on this move for much of the spring, as Powell was getting lots of playing time and playing well offensively and defensively. GM Billy Beane stopped short of saying Powell was assured of a roster spot as the No. 2 backstop, but said the team has been very impressed with Powell this spring. “I think we felt that some of our other options have come quite a ways,” Beane said. “Kurt’s the incumbent. We’ve got some pretty good choices (for a backup) with Landon being the leading candidate.”

Bowen, one of the most outgoing and classiest guys in the clubhouse since he came over from the Cubs in the Jason Kendall trade of 2007, said he wasn’t shocked by the move. He added he appreciated the A’s making the call now and allowing him time to hook on w/another team.

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Don Fehr visits camp

The A’s were late taking the field this morning as MLB Players Association Executive Director Don Fehr was on site to discuss union-related matters with the team. Fehr travels from camp to camp throughout spring training meeting with teams. Afterward, Fehr chatted briefly with reporters. Can’t say he shed much light on things, but I thought I’d share some of what he touched on. It provides a break from those tedious injury updates, right??

*Fehr was asked about the slow-moving free agent market this past winter. On suspicions that owners may have colluded in not signing players and keeping free agent salaries down: “If and when we conclude there was a violation of the (collective bargainin agreement), everyone will know about it. All I can say is we’re looking.”

*On the speculation that the A’s could be considered for contraction, along with the Florida Marlins: “I haven’t heard that contraction has been discussed. If it ever gets serious, I’ll know about it. It’s not at that stage.”

*How does he think the legacy of players associated with steroids (such as the A’s Jason Giambi) might be tainted as the years go by?: “I get asked a lot about (this topic). I have opinions, and they’ve changed a lot. (What I’ve learned) is that how things are viewed after an event is not how they’re going to be viewed 10 or 15 years down the road. What I think about legacies doesn’t matter. That’s up to you guys.”

*Fehr said the union would have to wait until after the World Baseball Classic ends to consider whether or not any major changes to the WBC should be discussed. But he doesn’t see a better time on the calendar to hold the event than March. “This is the least worst time to have it.” Interesting way of putting it. …

On to more A’s-related discussion …

–Justin Duchscherer headed out to a back diamond at Phoenix Muni to play catch this morning. Bob Geren said there wasn’t any set agenda for the throwing session, other than to see how Duchscherer’s elbow is feeling. Tough to even speculate when he might get back on the mound …

–Outfielder Ben Copeland, the Rule 5 pick from the Giants that the A’s snagged in December, suffered a sternum injury when he slammed into the center field wall yesterday making a catch. Copeland visited a doctor yesterday and Geren said he’d be out a few days …

–Eric Chavez threw Saturday, Sunday and Monday without complications with his right shoulder. I’m not sure yet what he was scheduled for today. Still not solidified when Chavez might try hitting (which is the real key for his shoulder), but it won’t be Wednesday, when the A’s are off, Geren said …

–Dana Eveland and Santiago Casilla will both throw Wednesday in a minor league game.

**Today’s lineup against the visiting Diamondbacks. Matt Holliday is back w/the team after being sick, but he’s not starting:

Garciaparra 3B
Cabrera SS
Sweeney CF
Cust RF
Ellis DH
Suzuki C
Cunningham LF
Hannahan 1B
Petit 2B

Gallagher on the hill …

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A’s 10, Dodgers 8

Just a quick recap from Phoenix Muni, where the A’s beat the Dodgers 10-8. It had been 18 years since these teams played a spring training game. Based on the tedious manner in which this one played out, they may want to wait another 18 years. The A’s scored nine runs in the third, three coming home on bases-loaded walks. Travis Buck had three RBI and crushed an opposite-field home run, his third homer of the spring.

For the first time, we got to see Trevor Cahill struggle a bit. He started and went three innings, looking dominant in the first but seeing his command desert him in a four-run second. Still, Bob Geren was happy with the way he recovered in a 1-2-3 third inning.

Check out tomorrow’s paper for more coverage …

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A’s send Jerome Williams, seven others down

The home clubhouse at Phoenix Municipal Stadium got a little less crowded this morning as eight players were sent down to the minors. Most notable among them — non-roster right-hander Jerome Williams, who was considered a strong candidate for the A’s rotation. Second baseman Eric Patterson, third baseman Jeff Baisley and right-hander Ryan Webb were optioned to Triple-A Sacramento. Williams, right-hander James Simmons (who had an outside chance at the rotation), and right-handed reliever Kevin Cameron were reassigned to minor league camp, along with infielders Joe Dillon and Sean Doolittle. (To clarify: If a player wasn’t on the 40-man roster, he gets “reassigned” to the minors; if he was on the 40-man, he gets “optioned” and remains on the 40-man.)

Sending Williams down is another indication the A’s are strongly considering one of their young blue-chip prospects (Vin Mazzaro, Trevor Cahill or Brett Anderson) for the rotation. Williams came into camp looking like a starting candidate because of his prior big league experience. He wasn’t terrible in Cactus League games (4.00 ERA in four appearances, but no starts). Bob Geren said this morning that Williams would probably begin the season in Sacramento’s rotation, so he’s a decent option as an emergency starter in the bigs when needed.

–Simmons is likely to join Williams in the Triple-A rotation, which also figures to include any from the trio of Anderson, Cahill and Mazzaro who aren’t in the majors. Geren had good things to say about Doolittle, a first baseman considered to be excellent defensively. “He’s got some similar actions around the bag to Don Mattingly,” said Geren, a teammate of Mattingly’s with the Yankees. Doolittle was hitting .364 this spring and his 9 RBI leads the A’s.

–Reliever Joey Devine is scheduled to throw a flat-ground side session Tuesday, followed by a bullpen session off the mound Thursday. Write that in pencil, as we all know the schedules for the A’s walking wounded change by the day.

–Eric Chavez took grounders at third, though his throwing is limited to long toss for now. He’s still targeting Wednesday or Thursday to start hitting again.

–Today’s lineup vs. the visiting Dodgers, who are without Manny Ramirez but will have ex-Giants Jason Schmidt and Shawn Estes throwing:

Davis CF
Buck RF
GArciaparra DH
Giambi 1B
Powell C
Crosby 3B
Denorfia LF
Hannahan 2B
Pennington SS

Cahill starting on the mound …

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A’s in Tempe

Not a ton of news today from the A’s camp, just a few tidbits. The A’s are in Tempe today to play the Angels, the team they’ll open the regular season with on April 6 in Anaheim. Orlando Cabrera and Nomar Garciaparra are both starting, with OC at short and Nomar at third. Matt Holliday isn’t making the trip. Here’s the lineup:

Garciaparra 3B, Cabrera SS, Sweeney CF, Cust RF, Ellis DH, Suzuki C, Doolittle 1B, Denorfia LF, Petit 2B. Anderson is starting.

Eric Chavez said he is feeling better today.  He’ll continue to do some light, routine throwing before he picks up the intensity a bit on Wednesday. His plan is also to start hitting on Wednesday or Thursday.

A’s manager Bob Geren said Garciaparra over the course of the season will see time at third, shortstop, first and DH. He’ll play third ”quite a bit” even if Chavez is 100 percent healthy, Geren said.

Second baseman Mark Ellis is still on track to get on the field and play some defense towards the end of the month, although Geren doesn’t yet have a specific date.

Another thing to keep and eye on today is the performance of starting pitcher Brett Anderson. With Justin Duchscherer likely to miss at least the first five games of the season, another spot in the rotation opens up. Geren wouldn’t say if he had three starters locked in to the rotation to start the season, adding that he likes the competition. But it would be a surprise not to see Dana Eveland, Dallas Braden and Sean Gallagher start games that first week.

Of course, Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Vin Mazzaro are just three of the young arms trying to impress. Gio Gonzalez, Jerome Williams and Josh Outman are also in the mix for those last two starter spots. Williams starts on Monday against the Dodgers.

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Cabrera as DH, Nomar to play soon

Before we get to the news of the day, here is the A’s starting lineup for today’s game against the Giants. The game is on Comcast SportsNet California, starting at 1 p.m.

Buck RF, Cabrera DH, Holliday LF, Giambi 1B, Powell C, Crosby 3B, Davis CF, Petit SS, Wimberly 2B. Braden is the starting pitcher.

Orlando Cabrera makes his A’s debut in a game today, and manager Bob Geren said Nomar Garciaparra will play third base in the next day or two. Geren said Justin Duchscherer will begin throwing off a mound on Tuesday, but added that there’s no chance he’ll be able to go Opening Day. If all goes well in his recovery from a sore right elbow, it’s possible he could still pitch in one of the first five games of the season.

Geren said would-be co-closer Joey Devine could be ready to pitch in a game in the next 7-10 days. Geren will try to get Devine in at least four games before the regular season starts.

Crosby is starting at third base again today. Geren said he would like to get Crosby more time at first base, then move him to second, followed by some time in the outfield.

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Welcome to Goodyear

Just sitting here in the press box of shiny new Goodyear Ballpark, which is about 15 miles to the west of downtown Phoenix. The park, which serves as the home field for the Indians this year with the Reds joining next year, looks like it seats about 12,000 with grass seating beyond the left field and right center fences. Just immaculate.

Some news and notes this morning. The team has optioned outfielder Javier Herrera, which is that surprising considering the glut of outfielders the A’s have. Oakland has Chris Denorfia back, and A’s manager Bob Geren wants to have a look-see at Rule 5 draftee Ben Copeland. Before Thursday’s game against the Diamondbacks, Herrera had been hitting .500 (3-for-6) in seven games with two runs, two walks and three strikeouts.

The starting lineup for today:

Kurt Suzuki C, Ryan Sweeney CF, Mark Ellis DH, Jack Cust RF, Chris Denorfia LF, Bobby Crosby 3B, Sean Doolittle 1B, Jack Hannahan 2B, Gregorio Petit SS

Daric Barton’s right quadriceps is feeling better and he could pinch hit sometime this weekend, but he likely won’t start in a game at first base until the middle of next week. He said he would like to get in 45-50 at-bats to before the regular season starts. Of course, where he begins the season is up in the air.

Eric Chavez is feeling better and will start throwing this weekend, likely Saturday. The shockwave treatment he’s been receiving the last few days to break up the scar tissue in his right shoulder has been working.

A’s manager Bob Geren said Orlando Cabrera is still on track to be the DH in tomorrow’s home game against the Giants and start on Sunday against the Angels. Nomar Garciaparra is a couple of days behind Cabrera, Geren said.

It’s possible that Justin Duchscherer will start throwing off a mound this weekend or early next week as the A’s remain hopeful that he’ll be ready for the first week of the season. Fellow pitcher Henry Rodriguez is supposed to make his spring training debut today.  

- Curtis Pashelka

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Thursday morning in Phoenix

Just got finished watching a few of the commercials that the A’s will begin to air over the next few weeks. While a couple of them emphasise how economical it can be to attend an A’s game this year, they certainly lack the humor that was mainstay of previous ad campaigns. Oh well. Maybe a more straight-ahead approach will work this year.

In actual baseball news, pitchers Justin Duchscherer and Joey Devine are continuing their respective throwing programs today, A’s manager Bob Geren said. Devine might begin to throw off of a mound this weekend. 

SS Orlando Cabrera will likely DH in Saturday’s home game against the Giants as he makes his spring training debut in an A’s uniform. He will also play in the field on Sunday against the Angels, Geren said. Infielder Nomar Garciaparra is a few days behind Cabrera but isn’t trying to rush things as he tries to get into game shape. 

Eric Chavez won’t resume baseball-related activities for at least a few more days, according to Geren, as he tries to get his right shoulder to calm down. Mark Ellis is slated to be the DH today and is looking at getting back to playing second base in a game near the end of the month.

OF Chris Denorfia is back in the A’s clubhouse today after returning from the WBC, where he played for Italy. He went for 4-for-4 in a 6-2 win over Canada on Monday in Toronto. Denorfia was welcomed back with some good-natured ribbing from Jack Cust, who put on a entertaining display as he mimicked Denorfia as he was going through a workout in the A’s weight room. 

- Curtis Pashelka