6

More on McCarthy, Ross and the A’s bullpen situation

Checking in from AT&T Park, where the outlook for the A’s sure looks different than it did just a day ago …

–Brandon McCarthy said he knew in the three or four days leading up to Wednesday’s start that his shoulder wasn’t feeling right. But he knew he could get through the start, so the plan was to get his shoulder checked by a doctor Thursday morning, which he did. That appointment showed what appears to be a stress reaction – the precursor to a fracture. McCarthy is hopeful of being able to throw again within a two-week period, but he says it will depend on how he feels. Last year, he had a similar injury and tried pitching through it. He eventually missed an extra 1 ½ months because of that, and he hopes by shutting it down now, he’s nipping the problem in the bud. “It’s either stop it at the beginning and try to catch it early, or play it out until you have to stop and possibly miss more of the season,” McCarthy said. The big question: By pitching Wednesday, did McCarthy make his shoulder worse? He said he doesn’t believe that to be the case, and that the pain while pitching in games is bearable. It’s the discomfort between starts, and not being able to work out, that’s most difficult.

–As for Tyson Ross, his MRI today showed he’s got a Grade 2 oblique strain in his left side, which is considered moderate on a scale of 1-3. He said he was told he could be pitching in games again in about two weeks, but obviously it’s a very fluid situation. “You’ve got to stay on top of these things, it’s easy to re-injure it. You’ve got to let it heal and take your time,” Ross said.

Overall, the early prognosis for both McCarthy and Ross could have been worse. But anyone who’s followed the A’s in recent seasons knows that their injuries tend to linger, and setbacks occur. So there’s no clear indication when the A’s will get their two starters back. The A’s will need to call up starters for Monday and Tuesday against the Angels, and manager Bob Geren confirmed that Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso are two pitchers at Triple-A being considered.

–On the flip side of that bad news, reliever Joey Devine is back in the majors after missing the entire 2009 and 2010 seasons recovering from elbow surgery. He’s thrilled to be back, understandably. “It’s been a long while,” Devine said. “It feels good, feels like things are starting to come together. It feels like all the time and patience is starting to pay off.” And he’s still beaming from the birth of his son, Mason Joseph, on April 11. Geren said he’s happy with his late-inning relievers right now, but that Devine could be an option in the late innings if he proves effective. You can bet that Devine will start getting the call in the eighth and ninth innings if he has a couple of good outings right away. With Andrew Bailey still sidelined, you can’t waste an arm like Devine’s strictly in middle relief situations. Oakland’s bullpen has shown vulnerability and was in need of some new blood.

–Another reliever called up today, Fautino De Los Santos, is making his first appearance in the big leagues. He also has made the long road back from “Tommy John” elbow surgery, like Devine, and his fastball has been touching 99 miles per hour. Watching him figures to be like watching Henry Rodriguez, where you’re checking the radar gun every time the ball pops the catcher’s mitt. De Los Santos, speaking through a translator, says he also throws a slider, sinker and changeup.

Finally, tonight’s lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, DeJesus RF, Willingham LF, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Giants – Torres CF, Sanchez 2B, Huff 1B, Posey C, Schierholtz RF, Ross LF, Fontenot SS, Tejada 3B, Vogelsong RHP.

2

Tyson Ross leaves in first inning with oblique strain

The A’s afternoon has gotten off to a very bad start … Starting pitcher Tyson Ross left today’s game against the Twins after just seven pitches with a left oblique strain. He called out catcher Kurt Suzuki after a 2-1 pitch to Trevor Plouffe, and Bob Geren came out with head trainer Nick Paparesta. Shortly after, Ross walked off the field and David Purcey was brought in to relieve.

It’s way early to speculate how much time Ross will miss, if any. But it’s not a promising development for the A’s given Ross is filling in for another injured starter, Dallas Braden, who’s out for the season. If Ross misses any starts, we may see the major league return of Josh Outman. After missing the past 1 1/2 seasons following elbow surgery, Outman has been working regularly in Triple-A Sacramento’s rotation, and word is that his command has been sharper over his past two starts. Bobby Cramer, another potential replacement, is sidelined with an oblique injury of his own. The A’s could also look to Guillermo Moscoso, who is starting for Sacramento and has prior big league experience.

Purcey just gave up a homer to Rene Rivera. The Twins are up 2-0 in the top of the second.

2

Interleague dilemma: Josh Willingham or Hideki Matsui in left field?

There’s not a whole lot to report this morning, though A’s manager Bob Geren reiterated that Hideki Matsui is unlikely to draw any outfield starts against the Giants this weekend. The A’s are in a bind when they play in a National League park with no DH available, because their two best power hitters – Matsui and Josh Willingham – only play left field. Willingham enters today’s game against Minnesota hitting .176 (3 for 17) with 10 strikeouts over his last four games. He’s out of the lineup this afternoon. Matsui hasn’t been on fire either, hitting .206 (7 for 34) over his past 10 games. But he did get two hits Wednesday and notched his first RBI in 10 games.

If Matsui has a big game today, I’d be tempted to get back in there for at least one game this weekend. Playing left field at AT&T Park isn’t nearly as tricky as playing right would be, so I don’t think he’d be much of a liability with the glove …

Let’s throw it out there: Who would you rather have in the lineup right now, Matsui or Willingham?

Here’s today’s lineups, with Coco Crisp back in the leadoff spot for the A’s after missing Wednesday’s game due to a personal matter:

A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Sweeney LF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, DeJesus RF, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Ross RHP.

Twins – Span CF, Plouffe SS, Kubel RF, Morneau DH, Cuddyer 1B, Valencia 3B, Young LF, Rivera C, Casilla 2B; Blackburn RHP.

0

A’s in first place for the moment, but how long will it last?

In for Joe Stiglich tonight, and thankfully, there isn’t a cloud in the sky …

The A’s added to a key total today — days in first place since the last time they actually finished first in 2006. Their grand total is now 66 after being stuck on 65 for nearly a year. The question is how long they can stay there, because since 2006, they haven’t spent a single day in first place after June 3.

 So it’s a key time for Oakland right now. They’ve had these kinds of optimistic starts before, notably in 2008 when they spent 23 days in first place and last year (34 days), but faded once the weather started to warm up. Of course, 22-20 isn’t exactly storming the standings. The A’s have benefitted from Texas’ various maladies and pitching issues, and the Angels have fallen back to Earth after a big April.

A  good place to start would be against the 13-27 Twins, who are looking pretty much like a Triple-A team right now. I mean, who are these guys? I recognize Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer. But the rest of the cast is pretty faceless. Ben Revere? Drew Butera? Trevor Plouffe? Danny Valencia? Goodness. And no Joe Mauer. The Twins’ starting lineup Wednesday night has a grand total of 14 home runs as a group. Not often an oppnent has fewer than the A’s, who have 22 bombs in their starting nine. But that tells you a lot about where Minnesota is right now. And perhaps even more alarming, the pitching staff has a 4.96 ERA while their opponents are checking in at 2.72. The A’s should blow through these guys and have a little momentum going into the Giants series at AT&T Park this weekend.

Maybe, just maybe, they can add to their first place total in the process.

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You probably get as tired reading Andrew Bailey/Adam Rosales/Rich Harden updates as I do writing them. But at least for two of those guys, there’s real news today. Bailey will make an official mound appearance this Friday for Triple-A Sacramento, his first stint in a bona fide game since spring training (sorry, I don’t count those extended spring things). He’ll go an inning. He’ll probably have a handful of outings there and be evaluated after each one, but if all goes well, he could be back with Oakland sometime in mid-June, perhaps sooner.

Rosales, meanwhile, has been cleared to play extended spring games after missing the past eight months with a bizarre foot fracture. His return will probably take longer, and after not playing since midseason last year, he’ll be eased into it — a few innings at a time, DH-ing part of the time, then slowly working his way to full effectiveness. The A’s have been pretty fortunate they haven’t needed Rosales — Mark Ellis has been healthy all year even if his bat hasn’t been. He’s played in 41 of the team’s 42 games, and Adam LaRoche has been an adequate fill-in. But Rosales would probably provide a little more protection for Cliff Pennington at short, where the A’s are precariously thin. LaRoche can play there, but it’s not something you’d want to see every day. Steve Tolleson is available at Triple-A, but that’s it. Grant Green isn’t ready at Double-A, and beyond that, you’re moving in someone from another position.

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Coco Crisp is out of the lineup tonight and not at the ballpark. He’s attending to a personal family matter. Manager Bob Geren said he was unsure if Crisp would be back for Thursday’s afternoon game against the Twins, but added that he’s hopeful.

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General manager Billy Beane underwent partial shoulder replacement surgery Wednesday in an effort to relieve a long-standing issue with arthritis in the joint. No, he didn’t have the same surgeon as Dallas Braden, according to A’s PR man Bob Rose.

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Tonight’s lineups

A:s RF DeJesus, 1B Barton, LF Willingham, DH Matsui, C Suzuki, CF Sweeney, 2B Ellis, 3B Kouzmanoff, SS Pennington. P McCarthy

Minny: CF Span, SS Plouffe, DH Kubel, 1B Morneau, RF Cuddyer, 3B Valencia, LF Revere, C Butera, 2B Casilla. P Pavano

0

A’s update: Dallas Braden, Andrew Bailey, and of course, the rainy weather

It’s déjà vu at the Coliseum, where the rain has been falling, the tarp is on the infield and the A’s and Angels are hoping to start tonight’s game on time. Weather.com calls for a 25 percent chance of rain at 6 p.m., but then it appears we could get a break until about 10 p.m.

–Big A’s news of the day so far: Dallas Braden’s shoulder surgery in New York was successful, but the A’s announced that he will definitely be sidelined for the rest of the season. Will he recover in time to be ready for the start of the 2012 campaign? There’s no indication one way or another. Johan Santana had the same surgery (to repair a torn capsule in his shoulder) in September and it’s estimated he may be out until mid-season. The recovery appears to be anywhere from the 7-10 month range.

Braden will be missed on the mound. He’s an innings-eater and an intense competitor. But Tyson Ross has filled in more than capably. From talking to players around the clubhouse, the feeling is that Braden’s leadership and clubhouse presence will be missed the most. However, I’d expect that Braden will be around the team a lot, much like Ben Sheets was last season after he got hurt. We know that tonight’s starter, Gio Gonzalez, would welcome Braden’s presence. Can Gonzalez bounce back after Wednesday’s disastrous outing in Texas? He’s 3-2 with a 3.90 ERA against the Angels in six career starts.

–Andrew Bailey said he feels good after yesterday’s one-inning outing at extended spring training. He’ll play catch tomorrow and be re-evaluated, and he’s hopeful of starting a rehab assignment Thursday, Friday or Saturday. How many outings will he require before coming off the DL? Bailey estimates he’ll need at least four, but emphasized that it’s just a guess.

–Infielder Adam Rosales (fractured right foot) has a doctor’s appointment in Los Angeles tomorrow, and if he gets cleared, he hopes to start playing in extended spring games by the end of the week.

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

Angels: Aybar SS, Abreu DH, Izturis 2B, Hunter RF, Kendrick LF, Callaspo 3B, Trumbo 1B, Mathis C, Bourjos CF; Chatwood RHP.

That’s all for now …