Barring something unexpected, Cespedes will play first spring game Saturday; Powell released

Pre-game blogging has been taking a beating this week as I chase around the Cuban phenom, Yoenis Cespedes, and then hit the road around the greater Phoenix Metro area to A’s road games. I’m just about tapped out on simulated games, and fortunately, this may be it for the season. First, Cespedes should take the next step by playing in a game Saturday. Second, I turn the reins back over to Joe Stiglich Saturday for Cespedes’ debut while head over to the Giants for a few days.

 After two days of detailing Cespedes as the second coming of Roberto Clemente, there was a bit of a comedown Friday. Cespedes played in his third simulated game and looked decidedly human. He struck out twice, grounded into a double play to short and managed to beat out a slow chopper to short for a 1-for–4 performance. He ran the bases and played some centerfield, and the only real chance he got was a Manny Ramirez rocket which made it to the CF wall before Cespedes did. But I’m not sure anybody would have caught the ball Ramirez hit unless they were standing on the warning track to begin with.

 A’s general manager Billy Beane’s curiosity got the best of him Friday. He said Thursday he was afraid to watch any of Cespedes’ sim performances because he was going so well and didn’t want to jinx him. But he showed up anyway, along a whole host of A’s brass, including owner Lew Wolff, only for the whole thing to be devoid of Cespedes fireworks. Even director of player personnel Billy Owens, who had been here the past two days, took a jab at Billy, saying he’d jinxed Cespedes.

After the sim game, I chatted briefly with Cespedes through coach Ariel Prieto and he said he was ready to play in a game. He added that one of the reasons he had such a tough day is that he did some leg lifting in the weight room on Thursday and that he was feeling “weird.” He said he had some minor tightness in his leg, but that it didn’t affect his running. He said he’d be fine physically to play in a game Saturday, but Melvin said it’ll ultimately depend on the final go-ahead from the training staff. Melvin also stopped by Papago Park briefly to watch Cespedes session. Melvin said this morning that he should have a definitive answer on whether Cespedes would start Saturday after today’s game against Colorado.

Elsewhere,  Landon Powell, the switch-hitting backup catcher who caught Dallas Braden’s perfect game in 2010, was released by the A’s.

 Powell, 30, hit just .171 last season in 36 games with the A’s and .207 in 123 games over three seasons with Oakland. He was originally a first-round draft pick by the the A’s in 2004 and the 24th selection overall in the June draft. He was actually taken ahead of starting catcher Kurt Suzuki, who was a second-round pick in the same draft.Powell was a non-roster invitee this year, but Oakland has still six catchers in camp even after his release.
 It’s likely that Anthony Recker will assume Powell’s role as Suzuki’s backup in 2012, but the A’s also have Derek Norris, Ryan Ortiz and Max Stassi in camp, as well as Josh Donaldson, who is currently working at third base.
“We just feel like the guys that we have are better options,” said manager Bob Melvin. “We wanted to do it early enough so that (Powell) could go and potentially catch on with another team. That’s not the end-all, be-all reason for it, but it played into it, because he’s been here awhile and we respect him.”

First baseman Daric Barton, who hit against live pitching for the first time Thursday, was began throwing for the first time since shoulder surgery last August.

 Noteworthy: Manny Ramirez looked like Manny Ramirez in the simulated game, crushing a pair of doubles and showed some good speed running them out. See ya on May 30, Manny.

Carl Steward