Andy LaRoche starts at third base for the A’s tonight in place of Kevin Kouzmanoff. You sort of saw this one coming after Kouzmanoff’s struggles last night and LaRoche’s good game. Manager Bob Geren wouldn’t say he went with LaRoche strictly because of Kouzmanoff’s shaky defensive play so far. “It’s three days on turf, with a day game tomorrow,” Geren said. “Andy looked good in there yesterday. We want to keep everybody healthy.” … Don’t be fooled. LaRoche’s start is directly related to Kouzmanoff’s play, you can guarantee that. Other than that change, Geren went with his opening day lineup:
A’s — Crisp CF, Barton 1B, DeJesus RF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, LaRoche 3B, Pennington SS; Braden LHP.
Jays — Davis CF, Escobar SS, Lind 1B, Hill 2B, Rivera RF, Encarnacion 3B, Snider LF, Arencibia C, McCoy DH; Litsch RHP.
–Reliever Michael Wuertz wasn’t available to the media before the game, but Geren said Wuertz hurt his left hamstring during a pregame workout “a few days back,” necessitating his trip to the DL. Wuertz’s only appearance came in Friday’s opener, so combined with Brian Fuentes’ blister, the A’s have been working with a short-handed bullpen in the early going here. And that’s not even counting the absence of closer Andrew Bailey.
Geren was hopeful that Fuentes would be available tonight. Bailey (forearm strain) is still throwing long toss, so he needs to throw off the mound a couple times and then pitch in a couple minor league games before being reinstated from the DL. I’m still looking at the last week of April for Bailey’s tentative return, though nobody with the A’s is projecting a timetable yet.
With the bullpen banged up, I expect Rich Harden to be brought back as a reliever once he returns from his strained shoulder. Harden will throw off the mound with a hitter standing in Thursday. After that, he hopes to throw just one simulated game before heading on a rehab assignment. Geren said Harden needs to get through two minor league games — a one-inning outing and a two-inning outing — before the A’s decide whether he’ll be starting or relieving. I don’t see him replacing Brandon McCarthy in the rotation with the way McCarthy is dealing, and I don’t think the A’s will stash Harden in the Triple-A rotation. So I think he’ll join the bullpen when he returns. Just my speculation, and as always, the point is moot until Harden shows consistent health.
–Tyson Ross, called up to take Wuertz’s roster spot, wasn’t expected to arrive until 6 p.m. local time because his flight was delayed during a stop-over in Minneapolis. Ross must have been thrilled. … But he should be available tonight.
–Jays right fielder Jose Bautista, Toronto’s most dangerous hitter, reportedly will miss the rest of this series with a family matter. Big break for the A’s, though they didn’t take advantage of it Tuesday. They may get lucky next week against the White Sox too. Chicago DH Adam Dunn underwent an appendectomy and is considered questionable for the three-game series with the A’s, which begins Monday.
The A’s can use all the help they can get right now …