1

Boof Bonser joins A’s bullpen, Cedrick Bowers sent down, and other tidbits

Right-hander Boof Bonser — remember him? — was called up by the A’s to fill a long relief role in the bullpen. He arrived shortly before batting practice today and should be available tonight against the White Sox. Lefty Cedrick Bowers was sent down, and to make room for Bonser on the 40-man roster, Ben Sheets was transferred to the 60-day DL. Never a dull moment on the A’s transaction wire …

Bay Area fans will recall Bonser, now 28, was a first-round pick of the Giants out of high school back in 2000. He cracked the big leagues with Minnesota in 2006 and pitched in both starting and relief duty through 2008. He missed all of last season while recovering from shoulder surgery and was traded to Boston in December. After making just two relief appearances with the Red Sox, he was designated for assignment, opted to become a free agent and signed a minor league deal with Oakland on July 2.

“He gives me some experience and some length (to throw multiple innings),” manager Bob Geren said. “He threw the ball well in Sacramento. The fact that he was starting there and threw 99 pitches in his last start, that’s a bonus for me (because) he can go three, four, five innings.”

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s always interesting when new players arrive for the first time and walk through the clubhouse meeting people and getting acclimated. It’s just like anybody’s first day at the office …

–Worth noting from today’s lineup: Adam Rosales gets the start at shortstop and Rajai Davis moves up from eighth to seventh in the batting order. “He’s been swinging the bat pretty well, especially against lefties,” Geren said of Davis. Left-hander John Danks is starting for Chicago.

–Ryan Sweeney had right knee surgery Friday but Geren didn’t have details on it.

Tonight’s lineups:
A’s — Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Suzuki C, Kouzmanoff 3B, Cust DH, Rosales SS, Davis LF, Ellis 2B, Carson RF; Braden LHP.

White Sox — Pierre LF, Ramirez SS, Rios CF, Konerko 1B, Quentin DH, Pierzynski C, Viciedo 3B, Jones RF, Beckham 2B; Danks LHP.

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Andrew Bailey joins DL with rib cage strain; A’s sign Michael Choice

******NEWS UPDATE: The A’s announced that they’ve signed outfielder Michael Choice, their first-round draft pick. We’re hoping to talk with Choice on a conference call sometime soon. He’s set to receive a $2 million signing bonus. A deal has been in place for a couple days, but Choice needed to pass a physical.

–It shouldn’t come as a shock that closer Andrew Bailey was placed on the disabled list today with a rib cage strain in his right side. His comments yesterday made it seem possible. It’s pretty fitting that as one key A’s pitcher — Brett Anderson — comes off the DL to start tonight against the White Sox, another is lost to the injured list. But there’s a general feeling that this won’t be a long-term problem for Bailey. His DL stint is retroactive to July 21, meaning he’s eligible to be activated Aug. 6, when the Texas Rangers begin a three-game series at the Coliseum. Bailey believes there’s a chance he’ll be ready by then but isn’t certain. Asked about the rib-cage injuries that sidelined teammates Travis Buck and Coco Crisp for long periods, Bailey said: “From what I feel and from what I think, I don’t see myself being out as long as they were.”

In the meantime, manager Bob Geren said he’ll consider both Michael Wuertz and Craig Breslow in the closer’s role. It could depend on matchups or who’s most rested. I’d have to think Wuertz would be the first choice, all things being equal. It just seems he’s got more traditional shut-down stuff, and he’s had a little more experience in the ninth inning. Bottom line, the A’s need this to be a temporary situation. A healthy return from Bailey is crucial regardless of whether the team is still in AL West contention.

–In other news, Travis Buck was reinstated from the DL and optioned to Triple-A Sacramento and Ryan Sweeney (who’s out for the season) was transferred to the 60-day DL. Surprised that Buck didn’t get called up now that he’s healthy? Remember, this guy has missed a lot of time. I think the A’s just want Buck to collect more at-bats in the minors before they consider bringing him up.

Tonight’s lineups:
A’s — Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Suzuki C, Cust DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Ellis 2B, Gross RF, Davis LF, Pennington SS; Anderson LHP.

White Sox — Pierre LF, Ramirez SS, Rios CF, Konerko 1B, Quentin DH, Pierzynkski C, Viciedo 3B, Jones RF, Beckham 2B; Harrell RHP.

4

Andrew Bailey seeing doctors for his back; Ben Sheets discusses his future

There’s lots of pregame stuff to report as the Texas sun beats down during batting practice, so we’ll cut to the chase:

–The condition of Andrew Bailey’s back is a growing concern for the A’s. The closer threw again today and still felt pain, so he’s going to be examined by the Rangers’ team doctors. That means he’s definitely unavailable tonight, and you have to think the DL is a possibility given how long this has lingered. Just yesterday, manager Bob Geren looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if the DL was being considered. He was quite optimistic yesterday that Bailey was turning the corner, but obviously Bailey isn’t progressing as everyone hoped. And Geren was awaiting word on whether Michael Wuertz and Craig Breslow — who have each thrown the past two days — would be available tonight. Tune in for the ninth inning. I’m just as curious as you to see who the A’s closer might be.

–Ben Sheets addressed reporters on a conference call today. He hasn’t made up his mind completely to have elbow surgery but is strongly leaning toward it. Regardless, he’s out for the season, and having surgery to repair his torn flexor tendon would likely sideline him for the entire 2011 season as well, he believes. Sheets said he was surprised to hear he tore the tendon again because his pain wasn’t as bad as last time and it was in a different area. But he said this tear is even worse than last time, and he thinks a different type of procedure would need to be done. Given he’s been through this rehab process once already without success, you have to wonder if Sheets will consider retirement. But he thinks surgery will be necessary just to have normal function in his arm for his non-baseball life as well.

“I’m 32, and I’m obviously getting toward the back end of my career,” he said. “We’ll see if my arm rebounds. I think if I come back I’d have to feel a lot better than I did.”

Sheets is just a solid dude, and you wish the best for him whether he pitches again or not. He plans to fly to Oakland next week and rejoin the A’s during their next homestand. His nuttiness will be welcomed by his teammates. …

*********BREAKING NEWS: The Rangers just announced that they’ve acquired Jorge Cantu from Florida for two minor league pitchers. It’s my understanding Cantu will play first base and occasionally some third.

–A couple of former Athletics are caught up in today’s other trade activity, with reports saying Miguel Tejada will go from Baltimore to San Diego and Brett Wallace will be dealt from Toronto to Houston. Wallace’s head must be spinning. This would make three trades in the past year for the highly touted corner infield prospect. The A’s acquired him last July from St. Louis as part of the Matt Holliday trade, then dealt him to Toronto in December for outfielder Michael Taylor.

Finally, here’s tonight’s lineups, with Daric Barton and Jack Cust getting the night off against lefty C.J. Wilson.

A’s: Crisp CF, Davis LF, Suzuki DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Rosales 1B, Ellis 2B, Powell C, Carson RF, Pennington SS; Mazzaro RHP.

Rangers: Andrus SS, Young 3B, Hamilton CF, Guerrero DH, Cruz RF, Murphy LF, Arias 2B, Moreland 1B, Teagarden C; Wilson LHP.

2

A’s lose Ben Sheets for season; lineups and other pregame notes

Checking in from Rangers Ballpark, where it was revealed today that A’s starting pitcher Ben Sheets will miss the rest of the season. He has a torn flexor tendon in his elbow — the same injury that sidelined him for all of 2009 — and will require a second surgery on his elbow. … It’s a very discouraging development for the A’s but not all that surprising, given how frank Sheets was Saturday when he revealed how much his elbow has hurt him all season.

Now it’s guaranteed that Vin Mazzaro will remain in the rotation on a long-term basis, and the A’s will push forward with a starting five of Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Mazzaro. The bad news about Sheets’ diagnosis was offset somewhat by news that Anderson definitely is slated to come off the DL and start Friday against the White Sox. Sidelined since June 3, Anderson said his elbow felt good after throwing his side session Wednesday — the final hurdle before rejoining the rotation.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Oakland’s young core of starters are now guaranteed to remain in the rotation and pitch every fifth day. That will be something to monitor even if the A’s fall completely out of the AL West race. But right now, the A’s are still trying to stay in contention, and winning the final two games of this series against the Rangers would help them do that.

In other news :

–Closer Andrew Bailey (back spasms)will be unavailable yet again tonight. Bailey threw off the mound this afternoon and said he feels good, but it seems the A’s — and Bailey himself — are being extremely cautious. “Physically I feel good,” Bailey said. “But it’s one of those things where you don’t want to rush and (re-injure) it again. We’ve gotta make sure it’s all gone.”

“He feels like he’s very close, but he’s not available tonight,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

Geren stressed that the DL is not being considered because Bailey is improving. But with the bullpen basically working a man down, it’s crucial that Cahill pitches deep into tonight’s game. Michael Wuertz, who gave up the game-winning homer last night, should be available in a save situation.

The lineups:
A’s — Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Suzuki C, Cust DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Ellis 2B, Watson LF, Davis RF, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Rangers — Andrus SS, Borbon CF, Young 3B, Guerrero DH, Hamilton LF, Cruz RF, Molina C, Davis 1B, Blanco 2B; Lewis RHP.

1

Rajai Davis back in A’s lineup; Andrew Bailey still unavailable

For a July series in Texas, the A’s appear to be catching a little break with the weather. The heat isn’t quite as bad as you might expect, and the first-pitch temperature is supposed to be 86 degrees. Weather.com forecasts a 35 percent chance of rain at about 9 p.m. local time, so odds are that it stays dry as the A’s and Rangers begin a three-game series. I realize we haven’t even reached August yet, but this obviously has the feeling of a big series for the A’s. We’ll have a lot better idea by Thursday night whether this team still holds any realistic hope in the AL West. …

–Good news for the A’s: Rajai Davis (left hamstring) is back in the lineup at left field. Bad news: Closer Andrew Bailey (back spasms) won’t be available for a fifth straight game. Bailey threw some pitches off flat ground, and although he reported feeling better, manager Bob Geren said he remains day-to-day. Bailey won’t pitch until he first throws a session off the mound. Geren thinks that could happen as soon as tomorrow afternoon, and if that were to go well, Bailey could be available tomorrow night. Luckily for the A’s, Michael Wuertz is rounding into form and gives them a decent ninth-inning option. But entering a crucial series with their closer unavailable is hardly ideal.

–Brett Anderson (left elbow) came out of Sunday’s rehab start well, so he’s set to rejoin the rotation Friday against the White Sox barring any setbacks.

–A little observation from the clubhouse: All starting pitchers are wired differently. Some are very quiet and keep to themselves on the day of a start. Then there’s today’s starter, Gio Gonzalez. He’s chatting up reporters and hamming it up w/teammates before games he pitches in. As a rule, writers avoid talking to starters before a game they pitch in. Gonzalez seems to prefer a little conversation. Vin Mazzaro is a little like that too …

Here’s the lineups, featuring Adam Rosales getting a start for the A’s at shortstop against lefty Cliff Lee. “Rosales has been really good against left-handed pitching,” Geren said. “He’s going to be in there somewhere for sure.” …

A’s: Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Suzuki C, Kouzmanoff 3B, Cust DH, Rosales SS, Ellis 2B, Davis LF, Carson RF; Gonzalez LHP.

Rangers: Andrus SS, Young 3B, Kinsler 2B, Guerrero DH, Hamilton LF, Cruz RF, Molina C, Davis 1B, Borbon CF; Lee LHP.

0

Ben Sheets joins DL with right elbow swelling — his return uncertain

This morning brought more injury news from the A’s clubhouse, and it’s a pretty significant development. Ben Sheets went on the 15-day disabled list with swelling in his right elbow, and though he and the A’s aren’t jumping to any conclusions, Sheets acknowledges the possibility it could be season-ending. His velocity was noticeably down in his last start Monday against Boston, and the next morning Sheets woke up with swelling in his elbow. I saw his elbow today and there’s a big lump on the inner half of it, and Sheets said the swelling has actually gone down some. He’s been examined by A’s doctors, and now he’ll fly to Dallas to get a second opinion from the doctor he worked with during the offseason. Sheets had surgery in February 2009 to repair a torn flexor tendon in the elbow, which sidelined him all of last season. The A’s are waiting for results from the next doctor’s visit before deciding how long he’ll be out.

It’s now apparent that Sheets never fully bounced back in his recovery, even as it seemed at times that his stuff was rounding into form. “From how I felt before the spring, I thought it’d keep getting better,” Sheets said. “I just never turned the corner. It’s just kind of stayed the same. It’s really been up and down, up and down. There haven’t been many days that I’ve felt normal.”

If there’s a blessing in disguise for the A’s, they might have the rotation depth to absorb this hit. They expect to get Brett Anderson back from the DL soon. With Dallas Braden starting tomorrow against the White Sox, the A’s will have Anderson make one more rehab start tomorrow for Triple-A Sacramento. A potentially healthy rotation of Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Vin Mazzaro, Anderson and Braden still looks pretty formidable. So I wouldn’t say Sheets’ injury, in and of itself, makes the A’s chances to stay in AL West contention any steeper than they already were. But will this development push the A’s toward being sellers? I asked GM Billy Beane how he thought Sheets’ injury affects the A’s ability to stay competitive.

“All the injuries have an impact, so I think with every injury, there’s certainly going to be an attrition when it comes to performance,” Beane said. “Losing Brett for nine weeks, losing for Coco for two months, losing Sweeney for the rest of this year … When you start taking players away it makes it more difficult.”

Glean what you will from that. Sheets appeared to be the A’s top trading chip, and we know he won’t be dealt now. We’ll see how this impacts the A’s decision-making with the non-waiver trade deadline one week away …

–In other health-related news, closer Andrew Bailey (lower back) and outfielder Rajai Davis (hamstring) remain day-to-day. I didn’t get a chance to grab Bailey this morning to see how he’s doing.

–Reliever Cedrick Bowers was recalled to take Sheets’ roster spot.

A’s — Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Suzuki C, Cust DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Ellis 2B, Gross RF, Watson LF, Pennington SS; Mazzaro RHP.

White Sox — Pierre LF, Vizquel 3B, Rios CF, Konerko DH, Quentin RF, Kotsay 1B, Ramirez SS, Castro C, Beckham 2B; Garcia RHP.

0

Suzuki signs 4-year extension

Carl Steward here, filling in for Joe Stiglich tonight. Something big always happens when I’m in for Joe (Braden perfect game, Sweeney out for year) and tonight is no exception.

The A’s have locked up catcher Kurt Suzuki for awhile: the next four years at $16.25 million. Here are details Joe filed to the Bay Area News Group website …

The contract kicks in this season, superseding the one-year $420,000 deal Suzuki had in place, and runs through 2013. There’s a vesting option for 2014 based on Suzuki starting a minimum number of games in 2013, his agent, Dan Horwits, confirmed.

Suzuki, 26, is the second core young player the A’s have locked up this season. Left-hander Brett Anderson received a four-year, $12.5 million deal in April that includes club options for 2014 and 2015.

Suzuki would have been arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season. His new deal buys out his arbitration years and, if the option vests, his first year of free agency as well.

Suzuki took over as the A’s catcher during his rookie season of 2007 and has since developed into one of the American League’s best at his position. He’s hitting .257 with a team-leading 10 homers and 37 RBIs this season, but he’s earned the most respect for his game-calling and handling of pitchers.

GM Billy Beane said this was a relatively easy call seeing as Suzuki is one of the most dependable and hardest-working players on the team. Suzuki, obviously, was very excited about the new deal.

Not bad for a guy who once walked on at Cal State Fullerton.

3

Coco Crisp and Cliff Pennington swap spots in A’s batting order; other pregame notes

There’s a shakeup in the batting order as the A’s go for the series victory against the Red Sox. Coco Crisp, mired in a 2 for 27 slump over his past six games, drops down to ninth with Cliff Pennington jumping up to the leadoff spot. It can’t hurt, if you ask me. Pennington is hitting .367 (18 for 49) in July, the fifth-highest average in the AL in the month (minimum 3.1 plate appearances per game). He struggled during an extended look in the leadoff role earlier this season, but he’s got the speed to make things happen if he can get on base.

“Coco has been struggling a little bit,” manager Bob Geren said. “We’ll give him a few days down at the bottom. He’s our leadoff hitter, I’m just going to give him a little break from that (until he heats up).”

–The outfield shuffle continues as Matt Watson draws a start in left field with Rajai Davis in right. Where’s Adam Rosales, some of you might be wondering? Good question. He was decent enough in what little time he’s played the outfield this season, and if the A’s really want his bat in the lineup, now is an opportunity to do it with both Ryan Sweeney and Conor Jackson out. Seems they prefer Rosales playing primarily against left-handers.

Speaking of Jackson, Geren says he’s 4-5 days away from “pushing it hard” to test his right hamstring. After he can run and maneuver at full speed, he’ll begin a rehab assignment. Travis Buck, recovering from his bout w/leg fatigue, will play a minimum of seven games with Triple-A Sacramento, Geren said (he’s played two so far). But I’m not sure it’s a guarantee Buck gets a call-up even when he’s healthy. It will likely depend on which outfielders are (or aren’t) producing at the time.

–With days off Thursday and Monday, the A’s have flexibility in the rotation. The starters for Sunday and Tuesday are TBA, and Geren said Brett Anderson is a possibility for Sunday against the White Sox. That depends on how Anderson and Dallas Braden both feel. As it stands, that’s the next day for both to pitch, so something will have to be altered. If one of them pitches Sunday, that means Ben Sheets will get an unusually long layoff. Time will tell …

The lineups:
A’s — Pennington SS, Barton 1B, Suzuki C, Cust DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Ellis 2B, Watson LF, Davis RF, Crisp CF; Gonzalez LHP.

Red Sox — McDonald LF, Lowrie SS, Ortiz DH, Youkilis 1B, Beltre 3B, drew RF, Cameron CF, Hall 2B, Brown C; Buchholz RHP.

0

Postgame notes from A’s 5-4 win over Red Sox

Tonight’s 5-4 A’s victory in 10 innings included lots of compelling stuff and not enough room to write about it in the newspaper, so here’s some follow-up from the postgame scene afterward.

–Kevin Kouzmanoff delivered the game-winning single off Michael Bowden in the 10th, but the top of the 10th featured one of the A’s best defensive plays of the year. Cliff Pennington made a great stop of Bill Hall’s sharp grounder up the middle and flipped to second, where Mark Ellis made a bare-hand grab, wheeled and threw to first to complete a 6-4-3 double play.

Off the top of my head, Gabe Gross’ over-the-wall catch in Detroit is the only play by an A’s player I can think of in 2010 that’s been better.

“That was one of the best plays of the year,” manager Bob Geren said. “You can look at all the different things that win or lose a game. People are going to look at Kouz’s hit, but that double play could have saved it.”

Said Ellis: “First, Penny made a great play to even get that ball. I just got it and threw to first. He hit that ball so hard, I knew we had time. And we won, too, so that made it better.”

–Dallas Braden gave up 10 hits and four runs (one earned) in 4 2/3 innings, his first start since coming off the disabled list. He said afterward his elbow felt good, and that he felt his fastball had more zip on it in the fifth inning than in the first. Braden wanted the chance to finish the fifth, but he was on a 90-pitch limit, and he was at 94 when Geren lifted him. “Yeah, I would have (liked a chance to finish the inning), but it was a tight game at that point.”

–Nobody came up more clutch for the A’s than reliever Michael Wuertz, who relieved Ross Wolf in a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the sixth and didn’t let a run score.

The A’s didn’t gain ground on Texas, but it was a big win in that a loss would have dropped them to 9 games out. Talk about a potential swing game in regards to momentum. After falling behind 4-0 and getting held to three hits for most of the game, the A’s pulled one out and have a chance to win the series tomorrow afternoon.

That’s all for now …

0

Reliever Cedrick Bowers demoted to make room for Dallas Braden

The sun’s out but the breeze is blowing pretty strong right now, so it’s shaping up to be a chilly night at the Coliseum for Game 2 of A’s-Red Sox …

–Reliever Cedrick Bowers was sent to Triple-A Sacramento to clear a roster spot for Dallas Braden, who comes off the DL to start tonight. It wasn’t too surprising to see Bowers sent down since he’d only had five appearances over the A’s past 21 games. … Speaking of the A’s bullpen, I’ll be interested to see if Henry Rodriguez gets an extended chance w/the big club after being called up yesterday. I think a power arm is a welcome addition to this relief corps … if manager Bob Geren has confidence in turning to Rodriguez.

–Kevin Kouzmanoff is back at third base tonight and said his lower back is feeling better.

Not much else to report … It’s obviously a big outing for Braden. All indications are his elbow is feeling good, but you always wonder how a guy will bounce back from any injury to his throwing arm. As for another starter on the mend, Brett Anderson makes a Triple-A rehab start tonight against Colorado Springs, first pitch at 6:05 p.m. (West Coast). I’ll try to throw an update on Twitter later on. If you’re part of the Twitter world, hit me up at “joestiglich.” The more, the merrier …

Tonight’s lineups:
A’s — Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Suzuki C, Cust DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Ellis 2B, Gross RF, Davis LF, Pennington SS; Braden LHP.

Red Sox — Scutaro SS, McDonald LF, Ortiz DH, Youkilis 1B, Beltre 3B, Drew RF, Cameron CF, Hall 2B, Cash C; Wakefield RHP.