3

A’s-Dodgers rained out — will Brett Anderson take ball opening night?

An afternoon update from soggy Phoenix, where rain fell hard earlier this afternoon and the A’s-Dodgers game was postponed …

The cancellation means that Brett Anderson, scheduled to throw today, will instead pitch Tuesday and Gio Gonzalez will get bumped back to Wednesday, manager Bob Geren confirmed. Note that with an extra day of rest, Anderson is now lined up to be the opening night starter if he stays on his normal five-day cycle. Geren has been tight-lipped with his plans for the opener but said this morning that he might make an announcement Thursday or Friday. It’s very interesting to ponder because you could make a strong case for either Gonzalez (based on his spring performance) or Anderson (based on his shut-down potential). And Dallas Braden, who started the 2009 opener, is a candidate if the A’s manipulate their days off to give him extra rest. Of the A’s top four pitchers, Trevor Cahill — the 18-game winner from last season — is the one who’s not an option based on the current rotation.

After Wednesday, if Anderson and Gonzalez remain on their normal days’ rest, Anderson would pitch the opener and Gonzalez would have the second game. That would surprise me only because Geren has liked to stagger his starters in the past so two pitchers with similar styles don’t pitch back-to-back. And Anderson and Gonzalez are both hard-throwing lefties. We’ll see how this plays out …

–Talked to Joey Devine this morning after his minor league intrasquad game at Papago Park. He threw 23 pitches and surrendered a home run during the outing. Devine said his arm felt good but that his mechanics still require some fine-tuning. “I’ve still got some work to do.” Judging from the conversation, it’s sounding unlikely to me that he’ll begin the season in the big league bullpen. Devine might be in a similar place as Josh Outman — after a long layoff from elbow surgery, he might just need a lot of innings to right the ship.

That’s all for now …

0

Possible rainout in the cards today; Crisp remains out with hamstring strain

We’ve turned back the clock to mid-February here in the desert. The chilly weather and gray skies are back, and the forecast calls for rain to hit the Phoenix area right around 1 p.m., which happens to be the start time for the A’s-Dodgers game in Glendale. There’s a feeling that we may be in for a rainout, but the A’s are taking batting practice as I write this.

–If the A’s do play, Coco Crisp is not in the lineup because of his left hamstring strain. His schedule was pushed back a day, according to manager Bob Geren, who added that Crisp could be ready “hopefully for tomorrow.” Geren does not sound worried. Should you be, A’s fans? I wouldn’t sound alarms yet, but hamstring injuries tend to linger. You’ll remember Crisp missed time last spring with a similar injury to his right one. He felt good enough to be included in Sunday’s lineup but then was a late scratch. Crisp was getting dental work done this morning, so he wasn’t available. There’s 11 days (and 10 exhibitions including today’s) remaining, so if he were to miss a couple more days, no biggie. Stay tuned …

–The A’s have 35 players left in camp, and Geren said the entire group is likely to travel north for the Bay Bridge Series before final cuts. Geren said he could announce his Opening Day starter by Thursday or Friday. I still consider Gio Gonzalez the front runner to get the call, although Brett Anderson could slot in there if the A’s pushed his schedule back a day. Geren said he might also have a decision on his fifth starter by the weekend. Brandon McCarthy looks like a solid bet for that, but Tyson Ross gets a start Wednesday against the Cubs to continue making his case.

The lineup vs. Dodgers:

Pennington SS; Suzuki DH; DeJesus RF; Jackson 1B; Kouzmanoff 3B; Carter LF; Carson CF; Powell C; Sogard 2B; Anderson LHP.

0

Josh Outman sent down, 5th starter battle officially down to three

****Here’s the lowdown on the A’s news of the morning …

Left-hander Josh Outman, who appeared a top candidate to be the fifth starter when spring training started, was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento along with right-hander Guillermo Moscoso, who also merited consideration for the spot early on.

This news doesn’t surprise considering how Outman has struggled to this point. The guy hadn’t pitched since June 2009 as he faced a long road back from “Tommy John” surgery. Still, Outman entered the spring healthy, and the A’s brass talked highly of his chances. But Outman has been frank that it might take a while for him to find his form.

“I had a feeling it was going to be like this,” Outman said this morning. “I haven’t competed as well as the other guys competing for the fifth starter spot.” A’s manager Bob Geren said Outman just needs innings at Triple-A to continue shaking rust off. “He’s been improving, he just needs to keep on that track to be ready to pitch at this level. I told him I’ve been through a lot of things in this game, but I’ve never missed 18 months.”

This leaves Brandon McCarthy, Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer fighting to be the fifth starter. As things are shaping up, McCarthy is emerging as the favorite, especially if he pitches well in today’s start against the Giants. Geren said that all three pitchers have a chance to make the roster “in one capacity or another.” That means any of the three could make the team as a long reliever, even Ross, who the A’s have said they’d like to keep as a starter.

–Split-squad action today:

A’s vs. Diamondbacks at home:
Crisp CF; Suzuki C; Willingham LF; Matsui DH; Kouzmanoff 3B; Jackson 1B; Sogard SS; Taylor RF; Timmons 2B; Braden LHP.

A’s at Giants:
Pennington SS; Ellis 2B; Barton 1B; DeJesus RF; Carter LF; Sweeney DH; LaRoche 3B; Donaldson C; Carson CF; McCarthy RHP.

–Ryan Sweeney had not been cleared to play two days in a row yet on his surgically repaired right knee, but Geren said he’d pinch-run for Sweeney if he gets on base in his third or fourth at-bat. And he’s not playing defense, so it’s a light day.

–Joey Devine (right biceps) said he had no lingering effects from a 35-pitch bullpen session Saturday. He could face minor league hitters in a day or two …

0

Crisp expects to return Sunday; Sweeney goes deep

Here’s your afternoon A’s update since I didn’t post anything baseball-related this morning:

–Coco Crisp says his left hamstring injury isn’t serious, and he thinks he’ll be back in the lineup tomorrow. Last season he missed time with an injury to his right hamstring, and he said he tried to play through that when he shouldn’t have. “I’m just trying to stay on top of it.” The left hamstring tightened on him last night as he swung during his second at-bat.

Ryan Sweeney started in center field today and hit leadoff in Crisp’s place. A’s manager Bob Geren said this morning that he’s seen more power from Sweeney in batting practice. Then Sweeney drilled a two-run homer to left-center in the third inning off the White Sox’s Jake Peavy — that’s opposite-field pop that Sweeney doesn’t display all that often. …

Craig Breslow is throwing in a minor league intrasquad game this afternoon, and he’ll do fielding drills afterward to test his sore hamstring. Breslow’s arm strength is fine but his mobility is keeping him out of Cactus League action to this point …

0

A’s unveil their 2011 commercials

Just saw a sneak preview of the A’s commercials for 2011. You can watch two of them – along with outtakes, which are even funnier – at www.oaklandathletics.com/commercials.

You might have already seen the two commercials on the site, but among the highlights that will be unveiled soon:

–Kurt Suzuki throwing down to second base and sinking Gio Gonzalez in a dunk tank.

–Gonzalez getting advice on throwing his curve ball from an aborigine holding a boomerang.

–Trevor Cahill showing how his peripheral vision helps with his pickoff move (best one in my book).

–Cahill and Ryan Sweeney trading lines in a promotion for the July 16 doubleheader against the Angels.

**Hub Strategy was brought on to direct the commercials for a second straight season, and the A’s kept the “Greeen Collar Baseball” theme from 2010.

“I’ve directed a lot of athletes, but these guys are off the charts” as far as cooperation, said DJ O’Neill, Hub’s creative director. “They’re just up for anything. This year we had Gio in a dunk tank and it’s 38 degrees in the morning. He’s in a robe walking around like Hugh Hefner.”

O’Neill and A’s vice president of sales and marketing Jim Leahey both mentioned Andrew Bailey and Cahill – definitely one of the quieter A’s — as two who take to the camera especially well.

1

Random items on an odd day in A’s land

It just ain’t right. … Today’s A’s-White Sox game starts at 4:05 p.m. local time, and the odd start just throws the daily routine off completely. The A’s clubhouse opened at 11 a.m., players stretched at noon and then took batting practice before they make the long drive to Camelback Ranch in Glendale. Everything is pushed back about three hours from what it’s been for the past four-plus weeks — not really a day game, not really a night game. It’s baseball no-man’s land today. But enough with the drama …

–Today’s lineup against the White Sox looks familiar:

Crisp CF; Barton 1B; DeJesus RF; Willingham LF; Matsui DH; Suzuki C; Ellis 2B; Kouzmanoff 3B; Pennington SS; Cramer LHP (with Outman to follow) …

–Manager Bob Geren says he’ll tinker with his lineup, but this is the third time we’ve seen this look (and second day in a row) when Geren has penciled in an ‘A’ lineup. So he likes something about it. The top five hitters are no surprise. As for the 6-8 hitters, Geren says they could be interchangeable. I had Kouzmanoff pegged as the possible No. 6 guy, but Geren said there’s justification to hit him eighth. “You need power down in the lineup too. I’m not saying he’s going to hit there. I fully expect him to rebound in his second year in the league. If the spring is any indication, his swing looks great. He could definitely climb up in the order depending on how he does.” Kouzmanoff is hitting .387 with one homer and seven RBIs in 12 games.

–Lefties Bobby Cramer and Josh Outman both take the hill tonight, and it’s an important outing for both. Cramer is squarely in the 5th starter discussion and needs to keep up with Brandon McCarthy and Tyson Ross. Outman, who has struggled, really needs to turn things around quickly.

–Keep an eye on the backup infielder situation. Geren said Adam Rosales is recovering as expected from his right foot injury, but from talking to Rosales yesterday, I know he was hoping to be further along by now. Tough to say whether he’ll return by May 1 as the A’s hope. Andy LaRoche is hitting .324, but he’s very unproven as a shortstop. And Steve Tolleson and Eric Sogard have each missed some time and haven’t distinguished themselves yet. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the A’s sign someone with shortstop experience to back up Cliff Pennington.

That’s all for now …

0

Lineups for A’s-Cubs

Clubhouse access is limited this morning because of the A’s annual Players Association meeting, but here’s the lineup against the Cubs.

A’s
Crisp CF
Barton 1B
DeJesus RF
Willingham LF
Matsui DH
Suzuki C
Ellis 2B
Kouzmanoff 3B
Pennington SS

Gonzalez LHP

Cubs
Baker 2B
Castro SS
Byrd CF
Ramirez 3B
Soto C
Pena 1B
Soriano LF
Fukudome RF
Dempster P

(Cubbies aren’t using the DH).

0

Bailey diagnosed with strained forearm — news could have been worse for A’s

Here’s a few updates following the A’s 8-1 loss to the Cubs. …

–The team issued a release saying closer Andrew Bailey was diagnosed with a strained right forearm, and that he can begin throwing again when he’s pain-free. Bailey was examined Tuesday in Alabama by Dr. James Andrews. He had no swelling or structural damage, which means surgery isn’t in the cards as things stand. That’s relatively good news for the A’s and Bailey, who looked to be in considerable pain when he left Monday’s outing against Cleveland. “While there’s no timetable for his return, this is welcome news,” A’s GM Billy Beane said in the release.

–Fellow reliever Michael Wuertz (right shoulder) made his Cactus League debut with a scoreless seventh inning. He gave up one hit with one walk and one strikeout, mixing in fastballs, sliders and changeups. “It was nice to get out there in a game situation,” he said. “I had to battle to get out of that inning. Overall, it was a positive outing for me.” He’s confident he’ll squeeze enough games in to be ready by opening night.

–Left-hander Brett Anderson went 5 2/3 innings and allowed one run and three hits in his best outing of the spring. The only damage came on Brett Jackson’s solo homer in the sixth. “I got five or six ground balls on my changeup, which is good,” Anderson said. The lefty said earlier in the spring that he’s inclined to throw his slider rather than experiment with a changeup he doesn’t feel real comfortable with. But pitching coach Ron Romanick is stressing the importance for all A’s starters to utilize their change. “You’ve gotta have that third dimension to be a front-line starter, especially in the American League,” said Romanick. He noted that Anderson is also busting right-handers inside more with his fastball instead of solely relying on his slider.

–The A’s dropped their other split-squad game 4-3 to the Kansas City Royals in Surprise. Right-hander Brandon McCarthy was solid in 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits. He struck out four and walked none, continuing to make a strong case for the fifth starter’s spot along with Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer. The other No. 5 candidate, Josh Outman, pitches Thursday against the Cubs and needs to turn around his fortunes to remain in the conversation.

Shortstop Cliff Pennington started against the Royals and had two right-handed at-bats, lining an RBI single up the middle in one of them. It’s the first time Pennington, a switch hitter, has hit from the right side in a game this spring as he’s coming off shoulder surgery.

1

A’s roundup: No more Andrew Bailey details yet

In case you didn’t see it, here’s the full rundown on Andrew Bailey’s arm injury from this morning’s paper. This version of the story has some game detail from the loss to Cleveland and other items.

The A’s don’t have any other updates on Bailey yet, so no fresh news on that front. He has an appointment in Alabama with Dr. James Andrews. We may or may not get the results today, but I’ll throw an update on here when I do hear something. And you can follow me at twitter.com/joestiglich for the latest news as well.

I talked to catcher Landon Powell, who was behind the plate when Bailey suffered the injury, and he shared some insight.

“He had some tightness in his elbow,” Powell said. “Definitely going into the inning, he didn’t feel normal. But he felt good enough to pitch. Obviously he didn’t think anything like that was going to happen. You wish you could freeze time. It sucks.”

But Powell added that Bailey has also felt some discomfort before taking the mound in the past, and the reliever made it through those outings fine.

–The lineups for the A’s split-squad games today:

home vs. Cubs

Crisp CF
Barton 1B
Willingham LF
Matsui DH
Suzuki C
Sweeney RF
Kouzmanoff 3B
Timmons 2B
Sogard SS

Anderson LHP

away vs. Royals

Pennington SS
Ellis 2B
DeJesus RF
Jackson 1B
Carter LF
LaRoche 3B
Powell DH
Donaldson C
Choice CF

McCarthy RHP

–Gio Gonzalez, who Geren said would throw in a minor league game Wednesday, has now been pushed back to Thursday’s game against the Cubs. Geren is not declaring his opening night starter yet, but pitching Thursday would line Gonzalez up perfectly to pitch the April 1 opener against Seattle. Again, things can change because the A’s have days off right before and right after that first Seattle series.

–Rich Harden (right side muscle injury) checked out OK at his doctor visit and he’ll resume playing catch in a couple days.