2

A’s pregame update on getaway day in Arizona

I know I’m checking in much later than usual, but here’s the lowdown before the A’s play the Reds in their final Cactus League game of 2010 …

–Eric Chavez gets the start at third base, and manager Bob Geren said Chavez also will play shortstop for a couple innings. That’s different from a few days ago, when Geren told reporters Chavez wouldn’t play short in a spring game. But Chavez said yesterday that he’s feeling great physically, so the A’s want to see how comfortable he looks there, and whether he could play short in a pinch during the regular season.

I’m interested to see this too, because I’m still a bit skeptical about Chavez playing short given his history of back and shoulder problems. But I suppose the A’s feel if he can handle third base occasionally, shortstop shouldn’t be that much more challenging. The A’s drafted Chavez as a shortstop, but he’s played just five regular season games there in his career, none since 2001. How well he can play short will likely impact whether Adam Rosales makes the team as a backup shortstop/utility guy.

–Jack Cust was a late scratch at DH today because of allergies, with Landon Powell taking his place.

–It’s a Hawaiian theme at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, with the ushers wearing le’is around their necks and “Blue Hawaii” playing over the PA. In just a few hours, I’ll be saying “aloha” to Phoenix and flying back to the Bay Area …

The A’s lineup vs. Cincinnati

Patterson CF
Ellis 2B
Barton 1B
Chavez 3B
Suzuki C
Buck LF
Gross RF
Powell DH
Rosales SS

Braden P.

5

Contemplating Jake Fox vs. Eric Patterson; other Oakland A’s tidbits

Thought I’d switch things up and pose a question for you. One of the A’s big decisions will be whether to keep Jake Fox or Eric Patterson on the 25-man roster. Both can play multiple positions and both are out of options. Of course, nothing says the team has to keep either one.

Who would you prefer? Fox has more pop in his bat and can serve as a third catcher. Patterson is faster so he’s more of a threat on the bases. I think Patterson better fits the mold of what the A’s are trying to do — be an aggressive baserunning team that relies on its speed to create runs. But you could point to that philosophy as a reason why they should keep Fox — he can provide power for a team that may not have enough of it.

Your thoughts?

–Cliff Pennington has made a strong case to retain the starting shortstop job with his play this spring, particularly in the second half of camp. I asked manager Bob Geren if Pennington has done enough to win the job. While he was careful not to be too definitive, Geren did say: “If you’re asking if I’m pleased with the way he’s played, I’d say yes. He’s done everything well.” If Pennington starts, the A’s have to decide whether to keep Adam Rosales on the roster as a utility player. But keeping either Fox or Patterson likely would squeeze Rosales out of a spot.

–Checked in w/Michael Wuertz this morning. He said he was relieved that he only has tendinitis in his right shoulder, but he won’t try to rush back by April 10, the first day he’d be eligible to come off the DL. He’ll fly north with the team, but he might come back to Phoenix and pitch in extended spring training. He said the key is knowing when he’s ready to pitch on back-to-back days.

–Eric Chavez said he’ll play three innings at third base tomorrow against the Reds, which will be his first appearance there this spring.

–Today’s lineup against the White Sox:
Crisp CF
Davis LF
Sweeney RF
Kouzmanoff 3B
Suzuki C
Chavez DH
Barton 1B
Rosales SS
Patterson 2B

Sheets P

3

Coco Crisp looks good so far

It was one of those days where I couldn’t possibly cram everything I wanted into my notebook for tomorrow’s paper. One thing I wasn’t able to address was Coco Crisp’s performance in a 3-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners.

Crisp has looked very sharp since returning from a hamstring strain last week. He’s 8-for-21 (.381) in six games since getting back in the lineup. He homered today from the right side of the plate in the third inning against Jason Vargas. He also homered from the left side last Monday in his first game back. Overall, he’s hitting .414 in nine games.

But Crisp is expected to make his biggest offensive impact with his legs, not his power. And that’s what I found most encouraging for the A’s today. In the seventh, he lined what should have been a routine single into right-center, but turned on the jets rounding first and slid in with a double. It was a good test for his hamstring, and the A’s hope it’s a preview of what he’ll do on the bases during the regular season.

The A’s timed all of their players Monday in a 20-yard dash drill, which they do every spring. Crisp clocked a time of 2.82 seconds. He said only Rajai Davis and (surprisingly) Adam Rosales beat him.

As for the surgery Crisp had on both shoulders last summer, he said he’s coming along well in that department. But keep your fingers crossed, as you should with all of the A’s players coming back from injury …

0

Chad Gaudin update: A’s will use him in variety of pitching roles

Thought I’d fill you in on what Chad Gaudin and manager Bob Geren had to say before today’s game w/Seattle. Gaudin is obviously going to be used in relief, but Geren said he considers Gaudin a jack-of-all-trades type guy, as he was before for Oakland. “He’s a guy that’s going to be very versatile,” Geren said. “We feel confident he can start, throw long relief, even short relief. We used him in that role in the past.” Geren wouldn’t say Gaudin has a roster spot guaranteed, but he labeled the right-hander “an extremely strong candidate” to make the team.

Gaudin said he’s been stretched out to 80-85 pitches this spring, but that was 12 days ago. He threw from the mound today and will make his first A’s appearance Wednesday against Cincinnati, the team’s final game in Arizona. Gaudin made 11 appearances (six starts) with the Yankees last year after being acquired from San Diego. He also pitched in one postseason game and he’ll be getting a World Series ring when the rest of the Yankees get theirs.

“Once you get a taste of (winning), that’s all you really want,” Gaudin said.

0

Thoughts on A’s fifth starter, bullpen situations

Chad Gaudin joined the A’s on the field this morning, wearing his same No. 57 as his first stint w/the team. That’s fitting, because Gaudin’s favorite response when I used to ask him about his role with the A’s was: “Hey, I’m just Employee No. 57.” That was his version of “no comment.”

We haven’t talked to Gaudin yet about his role with the team, and manager Bob Geren wouldn’t discuss his new reliever yet either. The move still hasn’t officially been announced by the team, but when the player is actually on the field participating in workouts, there’s nothing to keep under wraps anymore. …

–Michael Wuertz is seeing a doctor right now, and we should get more word on his condition later today. That will shed some light on how big a role (if any) that relievers such as Gaudin, Jerry Blevins, Brad Kilby, , Jason Jennings, Edwar Ramirez and Henry Rodriguez might play.

–So Gio Gonzalez starts against Seattle today, and Trevor Cahill is going in a minor league game. How much should we read into this? One school of thought says the A’s are leaning toward Cahill, if they feel content w/him throwing against minor league hitters at this stage of camp. But I think it’s more likely the A’s just consider Cahill more of a known quantity because he was in the rotation for all of 2009. I’d say the A’s brass needs a better read on Gonzalez against major league competition. Geren acknowledged this morning he’s eager to see Gonzalez against a Mariners lineup that features lots of regulars today.

A’s lineup:
Crisp CF
Davis LF
Sweeney RF
Kouzmanoff 3B
Cust DH
Ellis 2B
Barton 1B
Fox C
Pennington SS

Gotta run back down to the field. That’s all for now …

0

A’s reliever Michael Wuertz to see doctor about shoulder, Opening Day status in doubt

Here’s the latest on a windy Sunday morning at Phoenix Muni …

–The uncertainty w/the A’s bullpen continues as setup man Michael Wuertz was scratched today because of his balky right shoulder. Wuertz will get examined by Dr. Doug Freedberg here in Phoenix, and there’s no set date for his return. Asked if he was concerned Wuertz might miss the start of the season, manager Bob Geren responded, “It’s fair to say that.”

So it’s even more important for the A’s that closer Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow come back healthy from their elbow problems. Both are scheduled to throw tomorrow against the Seattle Mariners. Geren said Bailey should get three more exhibition appearances, which would give him seven spring appearances total, and have him ready. That depends on how Bailey responds to tomorrow’s outing.

Other relievers now come into play if Wuertz can’t go. One of them is newly acquired Edwar Ramirez. It sounds as if Geren considers him a real possibility for the bullpen. Ramirez walked in a run yesterday after relieving Justin Duchscherer but looked better in his second inning. He’s appeared in just three games this spring after being traded twice.

Wuertz’s injury could mean that lefties Jerry Blevins and Brad Kilby both start the season in the bullpen. Jason Jennings, who’s expected to return to the team tomorrow after being away for personal reasons, could also be an important option. Henry Rodriguez? He’s getting another appearance today, but I’m not sure the A’s are sold on him as being ready for the Opening Day roster.

The bullpen picture will become clearer in the next couple days, when we know more about Wuertz’s condition …

Here’s today’s lineup against the Rockies:

Crisp DH
Davis CF
Ellis 2B
Chavez 1B
Suzuki C
Fox 3B
Gross RF
Rosales SS
Patterson LF

Anderson P

0

A’s send down Vin Mazzaro, Chris Carter, Michael Taylor; Joey Devine to stay at extended spring training

Lots of news this morning at A’s camp. Here’s what ya need to know before the A’s take on the Royals in Surprise. Yes, this makes two drives to Surprise in two days for me. Craziness …

–Right-hander Vin Mazzaro, first baseman Chris Carter and outfielder Michael Taylor all were sent to the minors. With Mazzaro’s demotion, the fifth-starter race boils down to Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, as it had been shaping up anyhow. It’ll be interesting to see which pitcher draws the start Monday, when both are scheduled to pitch. Gonzalez started Wednesday night with Cahill entering in relief.

Mazzaro addressed reporters as he was packing his things. He said he was a bit surprised to get the news just one day after he thought he pitched well against Texas. “I thought I did a pretty good job,” Mazzaro said. “Somebody’s gotta go, right?” He plans to work on his fastball command in Triple-A Sacramento’s rotation. Mazzaro did have a decent outing yesterday, allowing two runs over four innings. But he walked three guys in each of his last two appearances, and given that Cahill and Gonzalez have looked pretty strong, the odds weren’t in Mazzaro’s favor.

A’s manager Bob Geren addressed reporters before news of Mazzaro’s demotion surfaced. But Geren had strong praise for Carter and Taylor, ranked first and second, respectively, by Baseball America on the A’s list of top prospects. Each had moments where they showed their considerable upside, but it’s clear both also could use more seasoning. Geren said he could see both getting called up sometime this season. “They’re both off-the-chart ceiling-type players, guys that can create their opportunities by dominating (in the minors),” Geren said. ” … I think they can be dominating players at this level.”

Geren also spoke highly of Daric Barton’s work at first base, and I’m sure that made it an easier call to send Carter down.

–Reliever Joey Devine, still sidelined with forearm tendinitis, told me he’ll stay in Arizona for extended spring training when the A’s break camp. Then he would go on a minor league rehab assignment when he’s ready, after which he presumably would be called up.

The writing was on the wall that the A’s would be starting the season without him. It’s still a blow for the bullpen, but if Andrew Bailey, Michael Wuertz and Craig Breslow all return to health by Opening Day, the ‘pen still looks in pretty good shape to me.

Devine’s absence means there’s an extra opportunity for a reliever to make this team. Bailey, Wuertz, Breslow and Brad Ziegler will take four of the seven spots. I see Jerry Blevins, Brad Kilby, Henry Rodriguez and Jason Jennings fighting for the final three slots, and perhaps Gio Gonzalez if he’s not the fifth starter. Right now, I’d put my money on Blevins and Jennings (as a long man) taking two of those three spots. Kilby hasn’t allowed a run in his past two outings, and Rodriguez’s dynamite arm obviously is tempting. Watch those two carefully over their remaining spring outings.

And finally, today’s lineup:

Crisp CF
Barton 1B
Sweeney RF
Kouzmanoff 3B
Suzuki C
Cust DH
Ellis 2B
Buck LF
Pennington SS

Duchscherer P

0

A’s split-squad lineups for today; Andrew Bailey likely to pitch Sunday or Monday

A quick update before I head out to Surprise, Ariz., to watch an A’s split-squad team play the Rangers. Besides Tucson, this is the longest road trip in the Cactus League. Surprise is way out on the west side of the Phoenix metropolitan area. If I hit the California border, I know I’ve gone too far …

Lineup vs. Rangers
Davis CF
Barton 1B
Sweeney RF
Cust DH
Fox 3B
Gross LF
Rosales SS
Recker C
Tolleson 2B

Mazzaro P

Lineup vs. Cubs in Mesa:
Crisp CF
Patterson 2B
Chavez 1B
Kouzmanoff 3B
Buck RF
Taylor LF
Powell C
Pennington SS

Braden P

–As for other news, Andrew Bailey is throwing off the mound today and Bob Geren says he’s on track to appear in a game Sunday or Monday. Craig Breslow is pitching in an intrasquad game as I write. No word yet on when Joey Devine might get back on the mound since coming down w/forearm tendinitis. But he’s doing well in his throwing program, Geren says.

Time to hit the road …

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A’s pregame update: Geren likes Coco Crisp at leadoff, Rajai Davis batting second

A couple quick tidbits before the A’s and Giants do battle in Scottsdale:

Bob Geren just shared some thoughts w/reporters on the batting order he’s thinking of for the regular season. He likes Coco Crisp in the leadoff spot and Rajai Davis batting second, which is how he did things last night. But he said he’ll tinker with the order in the remaining exhibitions to find a 1 thru 9 sequence that he’s happy with.

Although Kurt Suzuki has hit third for most of the spring, we could see Ryan Sweeney get time there as well. Sweeney is hitting third tonight and Suzuki will bat fifth. And whoever hits in the No. 3 slot might affect who bats leadoff, or vice versa, as Geren likes to go left-right-left-right as much as possible.

Anyway, here’s your full A’s lineup for tonight:

Rajai CF
Barton 1B
Sweeney RF
Kouzmanoff 3B
Suzuki C
Ellis 2B
Buck LF
Pennington SS
Jennings P

Short and sweet w/the blog today … Enjoy tonight’s game on CSNBA …

0

Tonight’s A’s lineup; bullpen updates and more

The first night game of spring training always has a regular season feel to it. That’s what we have tonight w/the Dodgers visiting Phoenix Muni. Remember, the game is being televised in the Bay Area on CSN California.

Here’s the A’s lineup, featuring Coco Crisp and Rajai Davis playing the outfield together for the first time. With the exception of Mark Ellis getting another game off to rest his hamstrings, I could see this being a possible Opening Day starting nine.

Crisp CF
Rajai LF
Suzuki C
Kouzmanoff 3B
Chavez 1B
Sweeney RF
Cust DH
Rosales 2B
Pennington SS

Gio Gonzalez P

–Bob Geren said new reliever Edwar Ramirez would probably make his first appearance tomorrow night against the Giants.

–Andrew Bailey and Joey Devine are throwing before tonight’s game. Bailey is hoping to get back on the mound Saturday and possibly get into a game by Monday. Craig Breslow is throwing off the mound tonight to test his sore elbow. Michael Wuertz will make his second exhibition appearance tomorrow and told me his shoulder is feeling pretty good.

–Ramirez was brought in to bolster bullpen depth, but A’s assistant GM David Forst didn’t count out the possibility that Ramirez could make the team even if all relievers are healthy. That’s doubtful, as he’s only made one appearance so far this spring. He’s been traded twice and had to sit for 10 days after he was designated for assignment, so he’s been in limbo the past few weeks.

Forst added that Bailey, Breslow and Wuertz seem to be progressing well, but that Devine is behind where they anticipated he’d be.

The weather is pretty nice now, but feels like it’s going to cool off later tonight. That’s all for now …