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A’s trade Gregorio Petit to Texas Rangers for reliever Edwar Ramirez

The A’s added some insurance in the bullpen by acquiring right-hander Edwar Ramirez from the Texas Rangers in exchange for infielder Gregorio Petit. Ramirez, who turns 29 on Sunday, will report to big league camp. He made 96 appearances over the past three seasons with the New York Yankees but was traded to Texas on March 9.

This move is no surprise as the A’s have some health issues among their relievers. Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow are both trying to work back from elbow soreness, though indications are they should be ready for Opening Day. But Michael Wuertz has made just one exhibition appearance due to shoulder soreness and has not been comfortable with his slider. Joey Devine has been throwing but has yet to appear in a game.

According to two scouts I talked to, Ramirez has a nasty change-up that makes up for a pretty average fastball. He was 6-2 with a 5.22 ERA and two saves in three seasons with the Yankees. His best season came in 2008, when he went 5-1 with a 3.90 ERA, 63 strikeouts and 24 walks in 55 appearances.

“He has a dominant change-up,” one scout said. “He’s not a power arm. He’s a situational guy. He can be a help.”

I’m glad to see Petit get a change of scenery. This guy has been blocked at shortstop w/the A’s for several seasons now. The team is clearly looking at Cliff Pennington and Adam Rosales for the position coming out of spring, and Grant Green, last year’s first-round pick, will be coming through the ranks. Petit didn’t hide the fact he was disappointed he didn’t get more at-bats w/the A’s this spring, but this guy always had a smile on his face walking around the clubhouse.

That’s all for now …

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Justin Duchscherer to start today vs. Seattle; Coco Crisp returns to lineup at DH

****To clarify this post from earlier, Duchscherer is pitching in his first MAJOR LEAGUE game since 2008. He made three rehab starts in the minors last season.

Right-hander Justin Duchscherer will pitch in his first game since 2008 this afternoon in Peoria against the Mariners, and it’s a starting assignment. Brett Anderson woke up with a stiff neck, so the A’s plan for him to pitch in a minor league game tomorrow at Papago Park, provided Anderson feels better. Gio Gonzalez also is pitching in a minor league game tomorrow to stay on schedule w/four days’ rest. The A’s don’t play tomorrow.

As things are shaking out, the potential season-opening rotation could go Sheets-Braden-Duchscherer-Anderson as the top four, w/the fifth starter TBA. But there’s still time for things to shuffle a bit, so I wouldn’t write that in stone.

I’d imagine this has to be a pretty big day for Duchscherer just to get back in a game situation. Bob Geren said yesterday he sees Duchscherer going 3-4 innings if all goes well. The A’s are more encouraged about Duke possibly being ready to start the season than they were a couple weeks ago. But first he has to come out of today feeling good.

Other tidbits you should know:

–Coco Crisp returns to the lineup, leading off at DH. Geren said both Crisp and Rajai Davis (abdominal injury) could play the outfield Wednesday night against the Dodgers. That would be Crisp’s first game in the outfield this spring.

–Andrew Bailey is scheduled to play catch for the first time since being shut down with tennis elbow. Craig Breslow and Joey Devine are both throwing, and both could throw side sessions Wednesday.

–The A’s will have Ben Sheets throw in a minor league game Thursday, with Jason Jennings taking his place that night against the Giants. Don’t sound the alarms. Sheets wants to pitch in a controlled environment to make sure he gets enough work in. At this point in camp, pitchers like to get accustomed to pitching, sitting on the bench for a while, then repeating the process again. Sheets wants to get “up and down” for six innings regardless of how he’s doing in the game. Pitching in a minor league game allows him to do that.

Wow, that seemed like a long explanation for a simple concept :)

–I talked to reliever John Meloan this morning as he was about to head home to Kansas City. He felt discomfort in his elbow a few days ago and was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. He’ll miss the entire season and will undergo Tommy John surgery. “It’s unfortunate for him,” Geren said. “He’s a good pitcher and a good guy.” The A’s liked what they saw from Meloan last season. He didn’t allow a run in six games late in the year.

Here’s today’s full lineup vs. Seattle. Second baseman Mark Ellis was a late scratch w/tightness in both hamstrings.

Coco DH
Barton 1B
Suzuki C
Kouzmanoff 3B
Sweeney RF
Patterson CF
Gross LF
Rosales 2B
Pennington SS

Duchscherer P

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A’s send nine players down; Coco Crisp likely to return Monday

The A’s sent a whopping nine players down to the minors today, though none were big surprises — pitchers Lenny DiNardo, Fernando Hernandez and Marcus McBeth; catcher Josh Donaldson; infielders Adrian Cardenas, Gregorio Petit and Eric Sogard and outfielders Corey Brown and Matt Carson.

That leaves 39 players in camp. Several more will be sent down before the A’s leave Phoenix a week from Wednesday. But some “bubble” guys will accompany the team north so they can provide depth for the Bay Bridge Series vs. the Giants. Final cuts probably will come April 3, two days before the season opener.

DiNardo said he’ll go to Triple-A Sacramento and work on his mechanics, as well as a sidearm delivery he’s experimenting with against left-handed hitters. Cardenas will continue working at third base to see if he can establish himself there. That’s still a position where the A’s need depth.

Just a couple other updates:

Michael Wuertz makes his exhibition debut today against Cincinnati, and Justin Duchscherer is scheduled to pitch 3-4 innings of relief vs. Seattle tomorrow. That will provide a good read on Duchscherer’s chances of being ready for the season-opening rotation.

Expect outfielder Coco Crisp to return tomorrow as well, either at DH or center field.

Here’s your full lineup vs. the Reds:

Patterson CF
Ellis 2B
Suzuki C
Kouzmanoff 3B
Chavez 1B
Sweeney RF
Cust DH
Buck LF
Rosales SS

Braden P

1

Oakland A’s promo TV commercials: “Hustle meets humor”

Just got a look at some of the A’s commercials for this year’s ad campaign, “Green Collar Baseball.” They’re easily the funniest and most entertaining I’ve seen over the past few years. The players featured in them (Andrew Bailey, Kurt Suzuki, Rajai Davis among them) ham it up pretty good. Some have already started airing on TV. Most will be posted on the A’s Web site by Opening Day, said Jim Leahey, A’s VP of Sales and Marketing.

“Hustle meets humor,” said DJ O’Neil, the creative director of the A’s ad agency, Hub Strategy.

A couple that were my favorites:

–Suzuki blocking the plate while he challenges a bull to charge down the third-base line. The bull (technically it’s a steer) was brought into Phoenix Municipal Stadium and supervised very carefully. “He was a really tame bull,” O’Neil noted.

–A promo for Joe Rudi Jersey Day, tentatively set for June 26. The A’s will wear their gold 1973 uniforms, but in the commercial, Mark Ellis gets confused and shows up in an 1870s uni. Bailey is wearing a handle bar mustache.

Actually, the outtakes they showed to the media were even funnier than the real commercials. Some of those also will be posted online eventually.

Good stuff …

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Michael Wuertz throwing today, Coco Crisp returning soon, and Bob Geren’s thoughts on baserunning

Lots of talk about the NCAA Tournament inside the A’s clubhouse this morning. These guys might be professional baseball players, but when it comes to other sports, they’re fans just like all of us. Same thing happens when the NFL season kicks off in the fall.

As for the morning’s news …

–Michael Wuertz is throwing in a minor league game at 11 a.m., so it’ll be interesting to see how he comes out of that.

–Manager Bob Geren said Rajai Davis will likely be out at least three days, but it’s mainly as a precaution. His abdominal injury is mild, and since Davis has played just about every game and looked sharp, the A’s don’t see the harm in giving him a few days off to recuperate. This gives Eric Patterson some time in center field, and any action this guy sees is very important. Patterson is out of options, meaning it’ll be tough to send him to the minors without another team snatching him off waivers. So the A’s need to see what he’s got.

Patterson singled in the first inning yesterday, stole a base off Barry Zito and came around to score the A’s only run. And speaking of baserunning …

–Geren always gets jazzed to talk about aggressiveness on the base paths. He wants the A’s to be the best baserunning team in the majors. “We went from one of the worst, to middle of the pack, to being one of the best last year, and we want to be the best. (Good baserunning) never slumps.”

Rickey Henderson is back with the team for the next week or so to help in that area.

–Coco Crisp, nursing a sore hamstring, will be back in action in a few days, Geren said. That could either be at DH or center field. The most important thing: His right shoulder is coming along well and Crisp is throwing at about 180 feet. He had surgery on both shoulders last summer.

–Reliever Justin Souza was optioned to the minors this morning. He’s a hard thrower with good movement on his pitches. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this guy in Oakland at some point this season.

–And one last note: Jason Jennings will start Saturday’s split-squad game in Goodyear against Cleveland. It’s a nice audition to see what he can do. Ben Sheets will pitch in Phoenix against the Cubs that day.

Whew, that’s all for now. There’s a stadium worker dusting off the seats in front of me, and he’s singing along to “House of the Rising Sun.” I like the enthusiasm, but he won’t be winning many “American Idol” votes.

I’ll leave you w/that ….

1

Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow shut down temporarily with elbow pain; other A’s reliever updates

Lots of news today regarding A’s relievers, so I’ll get right to it …

–Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow both had tender elbows and were sent to Phoenix-area specialist Dr. Doug Freedberg for MRIs. Bailey was found to have lateral epicondylitis. You might know it better as “tennis elbow,” basically inflammation and pain in the outer elbow. He’ll be shut down for approximately 5-7 days, according to manager Bob Geren.

Breslow has medial tendinitis, or pain and inflammation of the inner elbow. He won’t throw for 3-4 days. Geren said he expects both relievers to still be ready for the start of the season barring any more setbacks.

I haven’t had a chance to talk to either guy yet, so can’t say how long this has been an issue for them.

–You might have noticed Michael Wuertz has yet to appear in a spring game. He was scheduled to appear in a minor league game today but was scratched, according to Geren, because “his shoulder wasn’t bouncing back.” As with Bailey and Breslow, Geren isn’t worried about Wuertz’s readiness for Opening Day. But it will be interesting to hear what Wuertz has to say.

–Still don’t have your fill of A’s reliever updates? Joey Devine was supposed to resume throwing today, but that’s also been pushed back.

No, this isn’t the most encouraging news for the A’s bullpen with 19 days left before Opening Day. At this point, I’m not sure how much of a setback these injuries are for Bailey, Breslow and Wuertz. I don’t think the A’s are banking on Devine being ready for the start of the season anyway. But if all of these guys are delayed in getting back to the mound, the depth of the A’s bullpen (which is a strength) will definitely be tested …

–On to today’s lineup against the Giants. A sellout crowd is expected at Phoenix Muni …

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

Anderson P

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Updated w/quotes: Sheets roughed up for 9 ER without getting an out

It was a short — and disastrous — outing for Ben Sheets against the Reds in Goodyear. He faced 10 hitters and left without recording an out: 10 runs (9 earned) on 8 hits with one walk. Every hitter he faced crossed the plate.

You can’t put a ton of stock into spring numbers, particularly after just three starts, but the stats aren’t pretty for Sheets so far — 4 1/3 IP, 17 H, 18 R, 15 ER, 2 BB, 1 K … Yikes.

Addressing the media afterward, Sheets said his arm actually felt better today than it did in his previous two starts. He threw mostly fastballs but said his mechanics are still “a work in progress,” and thus his command is suffering.

“When you can’t even get out of the first inning, it’s ridiculous,” he said. “I don’t mind giving up 10 runs in the spring if I go four innings. But to not get an out is embarrassing.”

He seemed pretty level-headed about everything, saying he’s got three starts left to pull it together for Opening Night. A scout’s radar gun had Sheets hitting 91 mph, and the right-hander thinks that’s about right for him at this point in spring training.

He was hardly sugar-coating his outing, giving reporters this gem: “People have had bad springs before, but this is taking it to a whole new level.”

Reds lead 11-4 in the sixth. … Fernando Hernandez relieved Sheets and threw two scoreless innings w/two strikeouts, and Jason Jennings went 2 2/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits. Kurt Suzuki doubled in two runs in the third.

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A’s send Mortensen, De Los Santos, Figueroa to minors; Rule 5 pitcher Cassevah offered back to Angels

I’m still getting back in the groove after returning from the Bay Area, but it’s hard not to notice the A’s clubhouse is less crowded these days. Ten players were sent to the minors yesterday, and three more got sent down this morning — pitchers Clayton Mortensen, Fautino De Los Santos and Pedro Figueroa. Mortensen was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento while De Los Santos and Figueroa were optioned to Double-A Midland. The A’s can still change their minds about what minor league club each starts the season with, but this setup sounds right for all three considering their development.

Geren had good things to say about all three. De Los Santos is starting his first full season after recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he had a couple of rough outings in Cactus League games. Figueroa, a lefty, pitched at Single-A last season and earned Organizational Pitcher of the Year honors.

“They both have a mid-90′s fastball with movement and seem to be mentally tough individuals,” Geren said.

As for Mortensen, Geren wants him to improve in holding runners on base.

–Rule 5 pitcher Bobby Cassevah was offered back to the Angels this morning. No word yet if the Angels will take him back. Quick refresher on this somewhat confusing topic: The A’s selected Cassevah from the Angels in the Rule 5 draft in December, paying $50,000 for his rights. He either had to stay on the A’s 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the Angels for $25,000. If the Angels don’t take him back, the A’s retain his rights and can send him to the minors.

–Jake Fox, who homered yesterday to halt a spring slump, gets a start in left field today against Cincinnati. This guy has bounced all over the diamond, no surprise since versatility is his calling card. But Geren said he’s most curious to see how Fox handles his catching duties. That’s the spot he’s played the least in the past three seasons.

–Ben Sheets, Jason Jennings and Henry Rodriguez are three notables who take the mound today. Here’s the rest of the A’s lineup:

Rajai CF
Ellis 2B
Suzuki C
Kouzmanoff 3B
Sweeney RF
Cust DH
Barton 1B
Fox LF
Rosales SS

Sheets

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Sunday’s update

The A’s trimmed their major league camp roster down to 53 today as 10 players were reassigned to the minor league camp. Infielders Dallas McPherson, Corey Wimberly, Jemile Weeks, Grant Green and catcher Max Stassi are among the more notable names. The others were pitchers Sam Demel, Matt Wright, Cedrick Bowers, catcher Joel Galarraga, and infielder Matt Whitney.

A’s manager Bob Geren had good things to say about McPherson, Weeks and Stassi. Didn’t get a chance to talk to McPherson, but Weeks and Stassi were both professional about the team’s decision.

Eric Chavez is playing back-to-back days for the first time this spring as he starts at first base, Joey Devine (tendinitis) is still on schedule to throw Wednesday.

Trevor Cahill starts today’s game, with Vin Mazzaro coming in right after him. Both will pitch about three innings.

Justin Duchscherer is still going to throw two more innings on Wednesday, and Dallas Barton will throw Tuesday. Both will pitch at the A’s Papago Park facility.

The lineups for today’s game at Phoenix Muni.

A’s — Davis LF, Ellis 2B, Suzuki C, Kouzmanoff 3B, Chavez 1B, Cust DH, Sweeney RF, Patterson CF, Pennington SS, Cahill P.

Royals — Podsednik, Callaspo 3B, DeJesus RF, Butler DH, KaAihue 1B, Pena C, Aviles 2B, Betancourt SS, Dyson CF, Davies P.