Carl Steward, filling in for Joe Stiglich here in Sacramento as the A’s play an exhibition against the Triple-A RiverCats. The A’s are still looking a bit haggard and bleary-eyed following their Japan trip, but better than expected. One guy who looked particularly sharp was left-hander Tommy Milone, who threw six perfect innings against the RiverCats and probably nailed down the No. 3 spot in the rotation. Milone has looked pretty sensational all spring. Here’s the report I filed for online Saturday night …
Pitcher Dallas Braden, who was already scheduled to start the season on the disabled list, suffered a setback with his left shoulder before the A’s left forJapanlast week and the timetable for his return to the club is now uncertain.
Manager Bob Melvin said Saturday night beforeOakland’s exhibition game with the Sacramento RiverCats at Raley Field that Braden strained his shoulder playing catch following his last bullpen session inArizona. He has not thrown since, and it’s not known when he might be cleared to do so.
When asked if Braden’s return might be pushed back projections of early May, Melvin was frank.
“It could very much,” he said. “Actually, we’re on hold with that right now. I don’t have a timetable for him right now.”
A’s assistant general manager David Forst confirmed the injury and added, “When the doctors get together (with Braden), we’ll know more about the extent of it.”
Braden was at the ballpark Saturday night during batting practice but made a hasty departure before game time and did not speak with reporters.
The left-hander had surgery last May 17 to repair a torn anterior capsule in his shoulder and missed the rest of the 2011 season. He had been on a throwing program during spring training but had not thrown in a game.
Manny Ramirez might have played Saturday night and during the Bay Bridge Series next week againstSan Franciscobut suffered a left hamstring strain duringArizonaworkouts after the club left forJapan.
Melvin did not know how Ramirez’s injury occurred, but wasn’t concerned, even if Ramirez isn’t ready to participate in extended spring training starting April 9.
“For me, he gets 10 days either inSacramentoor wherever it is, and if he were to get 5-6 games in extended before that, I don’t know why he would need more time than that the way he swings the bat.”
Ramirez is serving a 50-game drug suspension and won’t be eligible to play for Oaklanduntil May 30, the date of his 40th birthday.
Melvin wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Daric Barton could be his starting first baseman for the home opener.
“A lot of it’s going to be health with him,” the manager said. “I don’t think he’s quite comfortable yet throwing. He’s playing in games, but I’m not sure we’re quite there yet. He could be soon, I’m not sure. But he’s definitely still in the mix.”
Brandon Allen started Saturday and took a ball off his face during infield warmups heading into the bottom of the fourth inning and was replaced by Kila Ka’aihue.
The A’s had a bit scare in the top of the first when RiverCats starter Jarrod Parker hit catcher Kurt Suzuki with a pitch on the left shoulder blade. Suzuki immediately left the game headed for the clubhouse for treatment, but the club announced he was simply removed for precautionary reasons.
Prior to the game, Melvin said that Parker was still in the mix for the fifth spot in the major-league rotation, but the right-hander did not help his cause. He walked the first two hitters of the game, and then after getting two outs, hit Suzuki. Josh Reddick followed a fly to center field that appeared to be the third out, but Grant Green dropped it for an error and all three runs scored.
Parker then surrendered a three-run homer to Coco Crisp in the second inning after a walk to Seth Smith and a single by Jemile Weeks. He walked four and struck out two in just two innings of work.
Yoenis Cespedes had just one at-bat Saturday, grounding out, before exiting the game. Melvin said it’s possible Cespedes could move up in the order at some point, but for the time being, doesn’t want to put any added pressure on the Cuban import. He did say Cespedes is adjusting well after his solid performance inJapan.
“You see him getting more and more comfortable every day,’’ Melvin said. :A home run like he hit the other day can go a long way toward really making you feel like you belong and you’re one of the team.”
The A’s, who got back to the Bay Area in the late afternoon Thursday, seemed to be dealing with post-Japan jetlag fairly well.
“I was more messed up inJapan,” said Weeks. “Once I got back here, I think I got back to my regular schedule somewhat, and these four games give us an opportunity to get that sleep pattern back. But up to now, it’s been pretty much sleeping, eating, then going back to sleep again.:
Melvin said he got some winks in on the bus ride fromOaklandtoSacramento.
“It was the best sleep I’ve had since I’ve been back,” he said. “I slept every minute of it.”