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A’s closer Andrew Bailey leaves game with arm injury; status unknown

You can read a story on A’s closer Andrew Bailey, who left Monday’s game against Cleveland with an arm injury, at contracostatimes.com and insidebayarea.com. Bailey left after grabbing his elbow in the seventh inning, and manager Bob Geren had few details after the game besides saying Bailey had tightness in his forearm. The A’s originally announced it as elbow soreness.

More details will be added to the online story shortly. …

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Kevin Kouzmanoff’s wardrobe malfunction and other A’s tidbits

Pretty entertaining scene today as the A’s took the field to stretch. They’re on the road against Cleveland, so the entire team was wearing their gray pants – except third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff. He came out wearing his bright white home pants, sticking out like a sore thumb and hearing it from his teammates. Sometimes Kouzmanoff wanders around the clubhouse as if he’s in his own little world, so I’m not too surprised. … Speaking of Kouzmanoff, a standard he set during the 2010 regular season is carrying on this spring — the guy spends more time signing autographs and chatting with fans than anyone else on the team.

On to the news …

–Rich Harden experienced a setback with his injured lat muscle while throwing long toss Sunday, so he’s going to get checked by a doctor, according to manager Bob Geren. It seems safe to say Harden will stay in Phoenix and work in extended spring training when the major league club heads north for the regular season.

–After Sunday’s regular season-style lineup, the A’s will start just four regulars against the Indians today. They occupy the first four spots in the order:

Crisp CF; Kouzmanoff 3B; Willingham LF; Matsui DH; Carter 1B; Powell C; Carson RF; Weeks 2B; Sogard SS; Braden LHP.

I wouldn’t read too much into Kouzmanoff batting second. But I was intrigued by him hitting eighth Sunday. Geren said he’ll continue experimenting with the bottom half of the order during exhibitions to see what he likes.

–Dallas Braden has not been concerned about his three lackluster starts so far, but the lefty needs to start putting together some quality outings.

–Gio Gonzalez will pitch in a simulated game Wednesday, when the A’s are off. That keeps him on his regular five-day turn. Judging by the pitching schedules, Gonzalez is the logical candidate to get the ball for the April 1 opener against Seattle. As it stands, his turn would come March 31, but the A’s may take the opportunity to give him the extra day’s rest. But Geren – who’s in midseason form with his “Don’t Tip My Hand” philosophy – pointed out he has some cushion to adjust the rotation leading up to the opener. The A’s don’t play March 31, and they’ve got another day off April 4. But Gonzalez’s sterling form so far makes him a strong contender for the opener.

–The daily bullpen updates: Michael Wuertz is still scheduled to make his exhibition debut Tuesday; Craig Breslow is throwing off the mound today, and Geren said Saturday is a possibility for the lefty’s first game. “That’s a solid 12 days before Opening Day,” Geren said. “I’ll take it.” … Closer Andrew Bailey will make his second appearance today.

–Reliever Danny Farquhar was reassigned to minor league camp this morning.

–A little radio news: The A’s confirmed that Chris Townsend will be back hosting the call-in show before and after every regular season game on KTRB. His first broadcast is March 28, the first game of the Bay Bridge Series against the Giants.

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Is A’s lineup a preview of opening night?

Back in the saddle after a few days off to refresh, and I returned to find the warm weather you’d expect in Phoenix this time of year. Temperatures will be in the 80s for much of this week, so shorts and T-shirts are in order for anyone planning to visit.

–A’s manager Bob Geren penciled in what appears very close to an opening night lineup today against the Colorado Rockies, the first time we’ve seen such a look this spring. And we’ll start to see more of it, Geren said, with the A’s entering their final two weeks of Cactus League play …

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

Cahill RHP

And the Rockies’ lineup, featuring some names of note in the 3-4 spots:

Young 2B
Taveras CF
C. Gonzalez LF
Giambi DH
Spilborghs RF
Jacobs 1B
Iannetta C
Iribarren SS
Herrera 3B

Nicasio RHP

–That’s an interesting bottom third of the order for the A’s. Kouzmanoff in the eighth spot? I’ve had him sixth or seventh in the lineups I’ve hashed out in my mind, but it’s certainly possible he could hit eighth. Geren didn’t indicate how much we should read into today’s order, top to bottom …

–Daric Barton (calf bruise) returns to first base after missing the past six games. But with the season opener less than three weeks away, it’s worth keeping an eye on a couple injuries in the bullpen. Joey Devine says his throwing session was cut short yesterday due to irritation in his biceps, and not anything having to do with his elbow. He’s calling it normal “dead-arm” stuff that he attributes to his prolonged inactivity over the past couple years. “My elbow feels great,” Devine said. “It’s all in my biceps. The only way to get through this period is to keep throwing. It’s been two years, and my body has forgotten how to do this.” He’ll take today off and throw long toss Monday, and if that goes well, Devine thinks he’ll be back on the mound soon. But he did say that the biceps issue has thrown his mechanics off a bit, and you have to think the A’s will be cautious in working him back into games considering his injury history. I don’t think it’s a slam dunk at all that Devine breaks camp with the club, particularly if he misses, say, a week’s worth of games or more.

There’s still no timetable for fellow reliever Craig Breslow to appear in his first game as he works back from a hamstring injury. He remains confident he’ll be ready for the season, noting that he had logged very few innings last spring (when he had elbow problems) and still was OK for the regular season. No reason to sound alarms yet, but if I’m Geren, I’d feel a lot better when I actually see Breslow in a game. Bullpen depth is a strength for the A’s, and perhaps they’ll be tapping into it sooner than expected …

That’s all for now …

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Harden out of fifth starter competition … for now

In a disclosure that’s hardly surprising, manager Bob Geren admitted that oft-injured Rich Harden is  probably off the board as far as beginning the season as the fifth starter for the A’s. Harden’s essentially missed a month of spring training since being shut down shortly after camp opened in mid-February. He is back at work now doing long-toss and has made progress, but he has not yet thrown off a mound. While that may happen as early as next week, the likelihood of him getting in a game anytime soon — or soon enough — precludes him from being ready by the start of the season.

   “There isn’t time for that,” said manager Bob Geren. “He hasn’t even been on the mound yet, and we leave for San Francisco in a couple of weeks.”

   Because of his past major-league success — significantly more than any of the other five remaining candidates — Harden still could become the fifth man when he becomes ready. It remains to be seen how long it will take him to catch up, and with Harden there’s always the chance for setbacks,  but it’s likely he will continue in extended spring training after the A’s leave and perhaps require some rehab starts once the Triple-A season starts.

   The A’s might be more distressed about Harden if they didn’t have a wealth of candidates competing for the No. 5 spot. At the moment, there are five being acknowledged: Bobby Cramer and Guillermo Moscoso, who are scheduled to pitch today in Peoria against Seattle, along with Tyson Ross, Josh Outman and Brandon McCarthy.

   Ross and McCarthy appear to be the frontrunners at the moment, having both pitched quite well since the outset of spring games. Outman had a good first start followed by two rough ones (he gave up seven hits and four runs in three innings Friday). Cramer has pitched OK, but has been set back a few days by illness. So it’s a bit of a tossup right now. Geren said Moscoso, who has prior big-league experience with Texas, has pitched his way into the competition, but we’ll see how he performs today.

  “It’s a real nice competition right now,” Geren said. “It’ll definitely come down to the final week.”

   The manager added that those pitchers who lose out for the No. 5 spot may still be options for one or possibly two bullpen spots.

   Medicals: Daric Barton (calf strain) missed again Saturday, but Geren said he is “penciled” for Sunday. Barton is still getting his workouts in unimpeded. He’s just not running. Craig Breslow (hamstring) is still not on a schedule for return. He’s throwing on flat ground and doing conditioning work, but it might be awhile. The A’s aren’t being overly cautious — Geren says he’s just injured.

  Michael Wuertz was scheduled for a simulated session Saturday and if all goes well, he could make his spring debut Tuesday. Joey Devine is also pitching a simulated session today but basically to work on the mechanical issues he’s had in his last two outings. He’s healthy, and will take his next scheduled turn on the mound. Geren said he might insert infielder Aaron Sogard (thumb) into the game today to get some defensive action, but he isn’t ready to bat yet. Cliff Pennington is on the verge of taking his first at-bats in a game against right-handed pitching. He’s very close to being 100 percent.

Here are today’s lineups. Familiar faces galore for the Mariners — Milton Bradley, Jack Cust and Adam Kennedy all in the lineup. The game is being broadcast on KRTB-860 today.

A’s: SS Pennington, CF Sweeney, RF DeJesus, DH Jackson, 2B Ellis, 3B Kouzmanoff, LF Carter, 1B LaRoche, C Recker

Mariners: RF Suzuki, 3B Figgins, LF Bradley, DH Cust, 1B Smoak, CF Gutierrez, 2B Kennedy, SS Wilson, C Bard.

 Sorry for the late post … traffic to Peoria was murder. Greater metro Phoenix is getting like L.A., only with freeways that aren’t as good.

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Matsui frets for his Japan homeland

    PHOENIX _ Despite the devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake that hit Japan early Friday morning, the A’s new Japanese designated hitter, Hideki Matsui, was in the lineup for Oakland’s spring training game here against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But Matsui was well aware of the catastrophe, first learning of the earthquake on the Internet Thursday night and staying up until midnight to try and get more details of the extensive damage.
Speaking through interpreter Roger Kahlon, the 36-year-old DH expressed concerned and sympathy for the people of his native country.
“I heard about it last night, actually, but I didn’t have much information about it at first,” Matsui said. “As time went on, I started to understand the caliber of the situation. It is disturbing. I’m a bit worried, especially for the people who live in the area.”

Matsui said he has yet to communicate with any family members or friends in Japan. Even though he resides in Tokyo, most of his family is in Ishikawa, which is located in the southwest part of Japan, a significant distance from the earthquake’s offshore epicenter in the northeast part of the country.

“I haven’t spoken to anybody,” he said. “But they (his family) are not really close to the area, so I think they’re OK.”

He did admit that even though he believes the people he’s closest to are safe, he is still concerned for their mental well-being, especially after seeing some of the footage of the devastation on television.

“It is a bit difficult to watch,” he said. “Even though you’re away, it’s hard to see all that’s going on and knowing that you have much family and people you know (in Japan).”

Matsui has long been concerned about earthquakes in Asia. He donated $500,000 towards relief efforts for victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.

The 30 or so Japanese media members covering Matsui’s first spring with the A’s were on hand Friday as well. Many said communication to Japan is virtually impossible at the moment since telephone lines are either overtaxed or out of service as a result of the quake.

The A’s announced that the team will help raise funds to aid victims of the disaster.  The A’s open the 2011 season with a three-game series at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum against the Seattle Mariners and plans are being made to add a fundraising component for Japanese Heritage Day, scheduled for the series’ final game Sunday, April 3.

Details of the benefit game, which will feature Japan’s two greatest modern-day players in Oakland’s Hideki Matsui and Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, will be announced at a later date.

Matsui also issued an official statement through the organization: “I am deeply concerned and affected by what is happening in Japan. I pray for the safety of all the people that have been affected and continue to be affected by this disaster.”

 

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It’ll be another day of rest for first baseman Daric Barton. Manager Bob Geren thought Barton would be ready to play the last two days, but the nagging calf injury suffered in a game collision Sunday is still troubling him. Geren said he was unsure when Barton might be able to play, but noted that if it were the regular season, he probably could play but there is no sense in pushing it with so much time left in spring training.

Elsewhere, fifth-starter candidate Rich Harden has been making good progress in his long-toss sessions and his next step will be to throw off the mound, although not in a game. There is still no word when reliever Craig Breslow (hamstring strain) might be available to pitch, but Breslow is still getting conditioning work in and throwing lightly on the side. Backup infielder candidate Eric Sogard has a thumb injury that has kept him out of games the past two days and limited his activity.

The A’s play split-squad games today. Here are the lineups:

In Phoenix vs. the Dodgers: CF Crisp, 2B Ellis, DH Matsui, LF Willingham, 1B Carter, SS LaRoche, C Powell, RF Miller, 3B Tolleson. Gio Gonzalez starting on the mound.

And in Maryvale against the Brewers: CF DeJesus, 2B Weeks, RF Jackson, DH Carson, C Donaldson, 1B Timmons, Lf Taylor, SS Green, 3B Cardenas. Tyson Ross starts, with fifth-starter Josh Outman also slated to pitch.

————–

A’s general manager Billy Beane confirmed the signing of 17-year-old South Korean catching prospect Seong-Min Kim, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound prep out of Yatap High in Seoul. Kim is noted for his right-handed power.

Beane said Dan Kantrovitz, the A’s coordinator of international operations, had been closely monitoring Kim’s potential availability and pounced when it became evident he wanted to turn pro. The A’s reportedly signed him to a deal worth $510,000.

“We’re pretty excited,” Beane said.

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Bailey set for long-awaited debut

The A’s have been exceedingly cautious with their key bullpen guys. Andrew Bailey, Michael Wuertz and Craig Breslow have yet to pitch in a game this spring, but that changes today when Bailey takes the mound for the first time against Kansas City. Bailey, who was shut down in September to have bone chips and spurs removed on his right elbow, has looked great in his side sessions but this will be the first real test. He’s not on any real pitch limit, and manager Bob Geren says he’ll go an inning.

Wuertz has had one side session throwing BP so far and will have another Saturday, with a tentative first game appearance next Tuesday. Breslow is the most worrisome case at the moment with a nagging hamstring issue that cropped while he was conditioning after a BP mound stint Monday. It’s unsure when he’ll throw, and his situation is day-to-day. Not to the panic stage yet, though.

Elsewhere, Daric Barton is still feeling some calf stiffness after his Sunday collision, and even though he was originally in today’s lineup, had to be scratched after testing it. Maybe Friday, says Geren. Rich Harden continues to progress with long-toss sessions and may be ready for a mound stint soon, probably BP at first before a game. Adam Rosales, who is not projected to be ready by Opening Day following offseason foot surgery, is doing some light work.

Here’s today’s A’s lineup: CF Crisp, C Suzuki, LF Willingham, DH Matsui, 3B Kouzmanoff, 2B LaRoche, RF Carson, 1B Timmons,  SS Pennington. Brett Anderson starts.

 The Royals, if you’re keeping score at home: CF Cain, 2B Getz, 1B Butler, 3B Betemit, RF Maier, LF Gordon, DH Myers, C Perez, SS Bianchi. Will Smith starts for KC. No, not that Will Smith.

Other stuff:

The A’s will play a split-squad Friday, with Gio Gonzalez and Tyson Ross scheduled to start in the respective games, one in Phoenix and the other in Maryvale.

Joe Torre had some nice things to say about Hideki Matsui as he was making the rounds as MLB’s new VP of baseball operations Wednesday. You can find his comments here: http://tinyurl.com/4vybzay

 

 

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Surprise! It feels like a regular-season game

The A’s are in Surprise, AZ, today for their first of many meetings this year with the AL champion Texas Rangers, a team they’d like nothing more than to dethrone. Manager Bob Geren noticed that Ron Washington pretty much sent out his A lineup against Oakland — minus injured third baseman Adrian Beltre (right calf strain). Wash making an early statement of AL West supremacy, perhaps? Then the Rangers promptly scored five in the first, albeit with a help of a two-base, bases-loaded error in which starter Dallas Braden and shortstop Steve Tolleson both missed chances at a double play.

Yes, the Rangers lost out on Cliff Lee, but they still have a hell of a lineup, perhaps even better now that they’ve added Beltre. That more than makes up for the loss of DH Vlad Guerrero, where Michael Young appears to have finally accepted that role. The Angels also added Mike Napoli, who gives them a little flexibility. It should be a fascinating matchup all year, but the A’s aren’t awed by Texas. They finished 9-10 against them and would have won the season series against the Rangers if they hadn’t been swept in the a 3-game home series late in the year. Trevor Cahill beat them three times, Gio Gonzalez twice.

Here’s the lineup today, a bit late with some other stuff I’m working on getting in the way:

Oak: 2B Ellis, CF DeJesus, 1B Jackson, DH Matsui, 3B Kouzmanoff, RF Sweeney, LF Carter, C Powell, SS Tolleson. Braden on the mound to start.

Tex: 2B Kinsler, SS Andrus, CF Hamilton, RF Cruz, 1B Young, DH Napoli, LF Murphy, C Torrealba, 3B C. Davis. Derek Holland started for Rangers

I’m the kiss of good luck. Reporting Michael Taylor’s poor at-bats on Monday, Taylor responded Tuesday with a nice game, a couple of hits including a two-run homer to right-center. The HR was crushed on a line, Canseco-like. Don’t give up on him yet.

Medical report: Reliever Michael Wuertz had a 20-pitch bullpen session Wednesday and manager Bob Geren could be in a game by Saturday …. First baseman Daric Barton (calf contusion) was held out another day, but Geren said he’ll play Thursday … Ryan Sweeney made his spring debut in right Wednesday … Closer Andrew Bailey will make his game debut Thursday … Craig Breslow is day-to-day with a hamstring strain. He was supposed to pitch Thursday, but Geren said that won’t happen and isn’t sure when he’ll be back on the mound.

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No major news good news for the A’s

Carl Steward here from Phoenix Muni Tuesday morning, filling in for Joe Stiglich for a few days.

Man, it’s quiet and peaceful here. I have to fight taking a nap. Aside from the daily medical reports on guys with the usual spring aches and pains, it’s pretty news-less. But that’s a good thing for the A’s, even if it isn’t so good for the 20 or so media folks from Japan following Hideki Matsui’s every twitch. No major dings, no major rows, it’s just a seamless, business-like camp so far. That could change at any time, but for now, Oakland is functioning as a happy, mostly healthy unit.

Oakland has Trevor Cahill on the mound today against San Diego Padres, his third spring outing. He’s still looking for his first sharp one. Here’s the lineup supporting him.

CF Crisp, SS Pennington, 2B Ellis, LF Willingham, C Suzuki, DH Jackson, 1B LaRoche, RF Taylor, 3B Timmons

And here are the Padres, if you care …

DH Venable, 2B Frandsen, 3B Cantu, 1B Guzman, RF Denorfia, CF Maybin, LF Baxter, C R. Johnson, SS Cabrera.

Medical updates:

* — Daric Barton: Still nursing a calf contusion but limping far less noticeably. As he noted, he still has some “crampage,” but manager Bob Geren said there’s a decent chance he’ll back in the lineup tomorrow. It’s not a serious injury.

* _ Andrew Bailey. Bounced back well from his simulated outing Monday and is currently penciled to pitch for the first time this spring on Thursday

*_ Craig Breslow. Day-to-day with a mild hamstring strain. Geren isn’t ruling him out of his first spring outing Thursday, but he’s probably more iffy than Bailey.

*_ Ryan Sweeney. Will make his first start Wednesday, the first game he’s played in since July 11 of last year. Sweeney says his right knee, which was operated on to correct patella tendinitis, is feeling great, but the A’s will bring him along slowly at first. After Wednesday, he’ll rest for two days and then play again Saturday.

*_Rich Harden. Harden long-tossed up to 120 feet and reported no ill effects. The A’s will repeat the cycle of two days throwing, then one day off, then try to get Harden back on the mound.

Other observations: Chris Carter and Michael Taylor, the two young phenoms, really aren’t improving their stock much, particularly Taylor, who is 3-for-23 so far this spring. He’ll get another chance today, but he had some big RBI situations Monday and made weak outs.

Even though he made two outfield errors on a windy day Monday — one catching, one throwing — David DeJesus really looks a player. As much as fans liked the departed Rajai Davis, DeJesus is an upgrade just for his hitting ability.

Kevin Kouzamanoff should save some for the season … he’s 6-for-12 so far and stinging the ball virtually every at-bat. Josh Donaldson, one of the A’s stable of promising catchers, is having a nice spring so far (5-for-14, .357)

FYI, I’ll be updating any key game developments at twitter.com/stewardsfolly

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A’s face Felix Hernandez in his Cactus League debut

Are the A’s getting a preview of what’s to come opening night? Felix Hernandez takes the mound today for his first start of the spring, and there’s a great chance he’ll also be pitching the April 1 opener at the Oakland Coliseum. Ichiro Suzuki is in Seattle’s lineup today and Hideki Matsui is at DH for the A’s, which is creating a buzz among the many Japanese reporters on hand.

The lineups:

A’s

DeJesus CF
Jackson 1B
Matsui DH
Kouzmanoff 3B
Carter LF
Carson RF
Powell C
Tolleson 2B
Green SS

Moscoso RHP

Mariners

Ichiro RF
Figgins 3B
Gutierrez CF
Carp 1B
Wilson 2B
Ryan SS
Saunders LF
Gimenez C
Mangini DH

Hernandez RHP

–Things are a bit rocky for left-hander Josh Outman right now, and he doesn’t hide that. He’s allowed 11 hits, six walks and six earned runs in three outings (4 2/3 innings). It’s not all that shocking that Outman is struggling after being sidelined since June 2009 by elbow surgery, but he’s still frustrated.

“It sounds kind of stupid to say I felt good (against San Diego on Sunday), but physically my arm felt fine,” Outman said. “Just mechanically, I’m not where I need to be and it’s obvious by the performance. It’s just when I get up to game speed, I’m not where I need to be with making pitches and throwing ball where I need to throw it. The result is not great. It’s good that it’s not the end of March yet. But at the same time, I feel like my command has kind of gone backward as the exertion level is going up.”

–I considered Outman the front-runner for the No. 5 starter spot entering camp, and if he rights the ship I think he still is. But Bobby Cramer and Tyson Ross have sure looked good so far in their push for the job. A’s manager Bob Geren has been impressed with Ross, saying the right-hander hit 95 mph seven times Sunday against the Brewers. And Brandon McCarthy remains in the mix as well. Rich Harden has yet to get back on the mound since suffering a side muscle injury, so his chances of being ready for the start of the season look remote.

–Daric Barton is day-to-day after bruising his right calf during a collision at first base yesterday. Barton jumped for a high throw from Kevin Kouzmanoff and got hit while in the air. “It should be minor,” Barton said. “It’s kind of like a charlie horse, a knot. Just some tightness. The runner hit me. It could have been his foot, knee, shin … Whatever it was, he got me pretty good. He knocked my feet out from under me.”

–Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow were scheduled to throw in a simulated game today, and if that goes well, manager Bob Geren said they’d pitch in their first exhibition Thursday.

–For what it’s worth:

*Outfielder Matt Carson is tied for second in the Cactus League with three doubles.
*Coco Crisp is 7 for 15 (.467) through five games.
*Mark Ellis is 5 for 12 (.417) in four games.
*Conor Jackson is 0 for 14 through five games, but he’s hit a few balls on the nose.
*Michael Taylor is 1 for 13 since hitting a three-run homer last Monday.
*Hideki Matsui is 0 for 8 through four games with four walks.

–I’m heading home for a few days, but Carl Steward is on the scene and will be providing your daily coverage in the paper and on the blog …

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A’s lineups for Sunday split-squad games

Here’s both lineups for the A’s split-squad games against the Brewers and Padres:

vs. Brewers (home)
Crisp CF
Ellis 2B
Matsui DH
Jackson 1B
Carter LF
Donaldson C
Timmons 3B
Taylor RF
Sogard SS

Gonzalez LHP

vs. Padres (away)
Pennington SS
Barton 1B
DeJesus DH
Willingham LF
Kouzmanoff 3B
Suzuki C
Miller CF
Carson RF
Tolleson 2B

Outman LHP

**Shortstop Cliff Pennington makes his Cactus League debut after sitting out until now while recovering from left shoulder surgery. A switch hitter, Pennington’s shoulder still bothers him a bit swinging right-handed. The Padres are throwing a right-handed starter, so Geren is playing him in that game so he can swing left-handed. “He’s more ready from the left side than the right.”

Pennington is slated for two or three at-bats, and he’ll likely play every other day to start out. It’s worth watching how he progresses given the lack of depth at shortstop with Adam Rosales also injured. Speaking of Rosales, he’s out of his walking boot and throwing and taking grounders on his knees, but his right foot isn’t ready for full activity yet. He’ll visit the doctor March 16 to get a timetable for when he can hit the field full-on …