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A’s, Trevor Cahill reportedly agree to multi-year extension — no confirmation from team

ESPN reported earlier today that the A’s and right-hander Trevor Cahill are close to a multi-year contract extension. The team has not confirmed anything, and an A’s spokesperson said no announcements would be made tonight. But it’s known that the A’s have been having discussions with Cahill’s agent for a while now, and if they were looking to lock up another starting pitcher after signing Brett Anderson last season, Cahill is the logical choice based on what he’s accomplished to this point. If there are any more updates, I’ll post again …

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A heavy storm is supposed to hit Minneapolis in the middle of the night, but we should be able to get today’s game in, which begins at 6:10 local time. Tomorrow’s series finale? We’ll see … Game time is 1:10 p.m., and weather.com calls for a 50 percent chance of rain in the middle of the afternoon.

Tonight’s lineups:
A’s: Crisp CF, Barton 1B, DeJesus RF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Gonzalez LHP.

Twins: Span CF, Mauer C, Morneau 1B, Young LF, Cuddyer RF, Kubel DH, Valencia 3B, Hughes 2B, Casilla SS; Blackburn RHP.

–Same lineup as last night for Oakland, as manager Bob Geren isn’t pushing the panic button on his team’s offensive woes. “They’re swinging at pitches they should swing at, not taking balls they should hit and not expanding (their strike zone) too much,” Geren said before the game. Then he pointed out that the A’s have hit only two home runs in seven games (no one besides Josh Willingham has gone deep). “You certainly can’t tell your hitters to start hitting home runs — that’s not an effective strategy,” Geren said. “But we’ll take them.”

Without any improvement in power so far this season, I’d say the A’s need to use the running game a little more. They’ve stolen five bases in seven games, and putting runners in motion more frequently could open things up. Just something to watch for. …

Would you like to see the A’s get more aggressive on the bases, or is patience required until the middle-of-the-lineup hitters start heating up?

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Perfect weather for A’s-Twins series opener

I thought I was pretty wise to jam my suitcase full of warm clothing for this nine-game road trip to cold weather cities. It’s turned out to be a picturesque afternoon at Target Field in Minneapolis – sunshine and blue skies for the A’s-Twins series opener. We’ve got a 3:10 p.m. start (local time), and it will cool off once the sun goes down. But the temperature is supposed to reach the mid-70’s by Sunday (though a heavy chance of rain). Today is the Twins’ home opener, so this place will be packed …

–It’s the standard lineup for the A’s against right-hander Carl Pavano:

A’s: Crisp CF, Barton 1B, DeJesus RF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Anderson LHP.

Twins: Span CF, Mauer C, Morneau 1B, Young LF, Cuddyer RF, Thome DH, Valencia 3B, Hughes 2B, Casilla SS; Pavano RHP.

–Ryan Sweeney’s playing time has been minimal so far – he’s appeared in just three games off the bench and gotten just two at-bats. But manager Bob Geren says he plans to get Sweeney a start very soon for either Coco Crisp or Josh Willingham. Geren has said he looks forward to working all of his outfielders into the playing rotation to keep everyone fresh. When Crisp sits, I’d expect we’ll see David DeJesus shift to center and Sweeney get the start in right. At least that’s what Geren said he had planned during the spring. But Sweeney’s innings will be tough to come by barring an injury. With Conor Jackson playing well, he’ll be the first option to make a spot start in the outfield, particularly against lefties.

–The Japanese media was looking forward to covering the first game between Hideki Matsui and new Twins second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who made the jump from Japan in the offseason. But Nishioka suffered a broken leg Thursday and was put on the DL, so that storyline is on hold. Nishioka had been hitting second, so with him out, Joe Mauer is in the No. 2 spot today. He’d been hitting third. …

–It’s crucial for the A’s that starter Brett Anderson comes out sharp today. The crowd will be jacked up, and Anderson can temper that by throwing strikes and keeping runners off base. In case you’re interested, nobody in Minnesota’s lineup has much history against Anderson or any numbers to suggest an advantage or disadvantage on either side …

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Mark Ellis sits with inner ear problem; Andy LaRoche’s tour of the A’s infield continues

It’s getaway day for the A’s in Toronto, and they want nothing more than to get away with a victory. Trevor Cahill takes the mound looking to help the A’s avoid a three-game sweep. …

Andy LaRoche remains a busy guy. He’s starting at second base today with Mark Ellis experiencing an inner ear problem. LaRoche started at shortstop Tuesday, then played third base Wednesday night. It’s sort of a continuation of what we saw in the spring, when LaRoche bounced around to all four infield spots. Interesting story from the spring: Many utility infielders will have different gloves for different spots – a smaller one for turning double plays at second base or short, and maybe a bigger one for third base. LaRoche told me during camp he prefers sticking with one glove that he’s comfortable with at all three of those positions – advice he once received from Jeff Kent.

Ellis’ inner ear problem is causing him some dizziness but it’s not thought to be vertigo, he said. He felt it a bit during Wednesday’s game (can you imagine backpedaling on a shallow fly to right field if you were dizzy?). Ellis said it was tough sleeping last night, but he gradually felt his ear popping, which relieved some pressure. “I’m not looking forward to the flight (to Minnesota),” he said. Manager Bob Geren said the team was weighing whether it was safe to have Ellis fly today, but driving to Minnesota is not a practical option – too far. The upshot: Ellis won’t play in his 1,000th career game until Friday at the earliest.

Conor Jackson draws a start in right field with David DeJesus getting the day off against Toronto left-hander Ricky Romero. Hideki Matsui is hitting sixth, and Geren said he’ll likely drop DeJesus or Matsui to the No. 6 spot against lefties most games.

A’s: Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Jackson RF, Willingham LF, Kouzmanoff 3B, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, LaRoche 2B, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Jays: Davis CF, Nix 3B, Lind 1B, Hill 2B, Rivera RF, Encarnacion DH, Snider LF, Arencibia C, McDonald SS; Romero LHP.

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Andy LaRoche draws start at third base, Kevin Kouzmanoff sits

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 …

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A’s place Michael Wuertz on DL with strained left hamstring; Tyson Ross called up as expected

The latest from Toronto …

The A’s have called Tyson Ross up as a reliever, with Michael Wuertz going on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. This is the first we’ve heard of Wuertz’s injury. Dallas Braden is still starting Wednesday night’s game … I’ll update again after Bob Geren addresses the media …

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Tyson Ross appears set to join A’s

Some morning A’s news for you …

The indications I’m getting are that right-hander Tyson Ross will be joining the A’s for tonight’s game in Toronto, as other outlets have been reporting this morning. I can’t tell you in what capacity Ross will pitch — starting or relieving. But I’ve gotten no indications that Dallas Braden won’t take the mound tonight. It’s been reported that Braden has a neck injury. I can tell you that I saw him wearing a large neck brace one day in the middle of spring camp. That was the only day I saw him wearing it, and when I asked Bob Geren about it that morning, he said he wasn’t aware of any neck injury with Braden. Braden never missed any time with an injury during spring.

The bullpen could be thin tonight if Brian Fuentes isn’t available with a blister on his left middle finger, so Ross might be coming up to add some relief depth. More on this later in the afternoon …

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Recap as A’s drop a 7-6 heartbreaker

Just a quick update following the A’s 7-6 loss in 10 innings to the Toronto Blue Jays.

–Interim closer Brian Fuentes was not available because of a blister on his middle finger. He played catch Tuesday for the first time in a couple days and manager Bob Geren is hopeful Fuentes will be available Wednesday. Grant Balfour was called upon to try and preserve a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the 10th, and wound up allowing Yunel Escobar’s two-run walkoff homer.

Right now, I’m not sure if Geren would feel comfortable calling on either Fuentes or Balfour even if both were available. Each has faltered once through four games. It’s clear how badly this team needs closer Andrew Bailey back from the disabled list. Bailey played catch at 120 feet Tuesday but we still don’t know when he’ll get on the mound.

–Third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff’s shaky defense seems to be snowballing on him. He should have been charged with two errors in the sixth inning (when Toronto scored four runs to erase a 5-1 deficit), but a scoring change after the game credited Escobar with a hit on a grounder that Kouzmanoff didn’t come up with. Kouzmanoff has three errors in four games but hasn’t cleanly fielded a few other balls that could have been outs. Geren is maintaining faith in Kouzmanoff — publicly at least. “He’s a great third baseman,” Geren said. “He’s just had a rough start. He’s a solid third baseman, an excellent third baseman.”

–On the bright side for the A’s, they clicked offensively tonight with Conor Jackson and Andy LaRoche getting starts against left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes. Each of those guys had two hits and an RBI, and that performance was a reflection of the improved depth the A’s believe they have this season.

But this was one of those losses that tends to stick out in a 162-game schedule, and it’s a sour note for a team to begin a nine-game road trip with. Can the A’s rebound? Only if the bullpen can hold down the fort until Bailey returns, and if the defense starts improving …

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Hideki Matsui sits, Conor Jackson starts vs. Blue Jays; Dallas Braden mystery explained

Checking in from Toronto, where there was a light snow flurry earlier this afternoon. A cabbie told me it was in the high 30s today, but with the wind that was whipping, I’m guessing it was even colder. The roof is closed at the Rogers Center and it’s nice and comfortable in here. Sometimes indoor baseball ain’t so bad …

–There’s nothing major to report with Dallas Braden having his start pushed back to Wednesday. Braden and manager Bob Geren both said he was simply given extra time to fine-tune some things on the mound. The lefty wanted to work on his slider particularly. “If anything, I wanted to do more work on the side,” Braden said. “It’s best to throw another bullpen (session) to make sure I’m where I wanted to be. It’s a fortunate thing to have these early off-days to manipulate and work around.”

I think a couple things are at play here: Braden was the least sharp of any of the starting pitchers during spring training, so the A’s probably want him as ready as possible for his first start. Plus, Brandon McCarthy, who was moved up a day to start tonight, hasn’t pitched in 10 days, and you’ve got to think McCarthy was happy to get back on the mound sooner rather than later. I’ll be interested to see how he fares tonight given that abnormally long layoff.

–A familiar face leads off for the Blue Jays tonight – Rajai Davis. But Jose Bautista, last year’s major league home run champ, is out of the lineup for a personal matter. And there’s thought he could miss the entire series. As for the A’s lineup, there’s lots of changes against Toronto left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes:

A’s: Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Jackson LF, Willingham DH, Ellis 2B, DeJesus RF, Suzuki C, Kouzmanoff 3B, LaRoche SS; McCarthy RHP.

Jays: Davis CF, Escobar SS, Lind 1B, Hill 2B, Rivera RF, Encarnacion DH, Snider LF, Nix 3B, Molina C; Reyes LHP.

–Hideki Matsui gets his first game off, and David DeJesus drops down from the third to the sixth spot to get some right-handed hitters higher. Geren said he wanted to get Conor Jackson in, though I don’t know how fired up A’s fans will be to see Jackson in the ‘3’ hole. “He’s one of our better hitters historically against lefties,” Geren said. “I’d like to get him in there as much as possible against lefties.” Jackson is a career .294 hitter vs. southpaws, .269 against right-handers.

The right-handed hitting Andy LaRoche draws a start at shortstop in place of Cliff Pennington. I can’t help but think what’s going through LaRoche’s head right now. He entered spring camp having never played shortstop in a major league game, and now he’s starting there. “I told him he just has to make the routine plays,” Geren said. “He’s got a great arm. All he has to do is catch it.”

This offense didn’t knock my socks off in the Seattle series, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing to get some new people in there for a game. Geren said Matsui will play Wednesday and Thursday, and that DeJesus would probably sit Thursday.

That’s all for now …

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A’s try to salvage one before tough trip; bullpen already searching

Filling in for Joe Stiglich today as he makes the early getaway to Toronto ,.,

Through two games, the A’s bullpen have ERAs that look like menu prices: Craig Breslow 27.00, Brian Fuentes 18.00, Jerry Blevins 13.50. It’s an ominous sign for a team that absolutely needs a stout bullpen to have a successful season. Like the defensive lapses, perhaps it’s an aberration. Two games is not even a representative sample size, but with a tough early nine-game road trip to begin following today’s game, it’s critical that the A’s stop the bullpen bleedings ASAP. Winning today might be a very good idea, too. Not an absolute, but opening up at home being swept by the worst team in the AL West would not set a very good tone for April. 

After finishing up with Seattle, the A’s pack up and head out to three games each in Toronto, Minnesota and Chicago. That’s a brutal early swing, particularly if your relievers are having issues. Toronto’s already off to an early longball pace with six homers in its first two games. Minnesota is always tough at home, and Chicago now has Adam Dunn in its lineup to go along with its other sluggers. If Oakland comes through this trip anywhere near .500, they’ll be be fine. But the potential is there for digging a hole it could take a month or two to climb out of.

Anyway, no injury updates today … it’s a day off for Andrew Bailey’s rehab. Bailey and Rich Harden will accompany the A’s on the trip, but there’s no chance they’ll be activated to pitch. The A’s just want to continue monitoring them firsthand.

Here are the lineups for the series finale:

OAK: CF Crisp, 1B Barton, RF DeJesus, LF Willingham, DH Matsui, C Suzuki, 2B Ellis, 3B Kouzmanoff,  SS Pennington. P Gonzalez

SEA: RF Ichiro, 3B Figgins, LF Bradley, DH Cust, 1B Smoak, C Olivo, CF Langerhans, SS Ryan, 2B Wilson. P Fister

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Kurt Suzuki back in A’s lineup despite sprained ankle

If A’s fans want a silver lining from Friday’s opening night debacle, here it is: Catcher Kurt Suzuki is back in the lineup despite his sprained left ankle. Suzuki tested the ankle by doing agility drills and taking some swings this afternoon, and the training staff cleared him to play. He said the pain was manageable, so he’s back in there hitting sixth. “They said it can’t get worse,” Suzuki said. “Once they said it can’t get worse, as long as I can handle the pain …”

–Same lineup as last night for the A’s:
Crisp CF, Barton 1B, DeJesus RF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Anderson LHP.

Mariners: Ichiro RF, Figgins 3B, Bradley LF, Cust DH, Smoak 1B, Ryan SS, Wilson 2B, Saunders CF, Moore C; Vargas LHP.

–The A’s five errors last night set an Oakland record for opening day. They committed four in last year’s opener, also a loss to Seattle at home. Coincidence? First-game jitters? I don’t expect the defense to be nearly that bad throughout the season. But the A’s need reliever Craig Breslow to be better than he was last night (3 hits, 2 earned runs, 1 walk in 2/3 IP). Breslow was limited in spring training because of a hamstring injury. And remember, as good as Breslow was last season, he got off to a rocky start in April after being limited last spring because of an elbow injury.

–Brett Anderson, tonight’s starting pitcher, made five starts against the Mariners last season and allowed just three earned runs in 33 2/3 innings.