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Joey Devine’s status unknown for Japan trip

After some technical difficulties with the blog, here’s a Joey Devine update …

He first started feeling soreness in his right biceps during his last outing March 8, and it got worse immediately after that game. But he’s played catch the past few days, and manager Bob Melvin said the plan is to get Devine on the mound Sunday to test him out. If that goes well, he could get in a game Tuesday. Melvin wants the reliever to get into at least one more exhibition here in Arizona before determining whether he can contribute during the season-opening Japan series. The A’s can take 30 players total to Japan but must pare down to a 25-man roster for both games against the Mariners. They come back from Japan and play four more exhibitions in the Bay Area, so figure there will be more roster tinkering before the regular season resumes April 6 against Seattle. The A’s may play it safe with Devine and keep him in Phoenix when the team goes to Japan, just to make sure he rehabs well and is fully recovered. “That’s certainly one of the options,” Melvin said.

Devine said he’s experiencing inflammation in his arm that has been somewhat common since his Tommy John surgery in April 2009. “It’s a long season, I’m just gonna go out and try to get it right as soon as possible,” Devine said. “I’m the first to realize that plane (for Tokyo) takes off in a week.”

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Joey Devine’s availability for Japan still unknown

Here’s a Joey Devine update …

He first started feeling soreness in his right biceps during his last outing March 8, and it got worse immediately after that game. But he’s played catch the past few days, and manager Bob Melvin said the plan is to get Devine on the mound Sunday to test him out. If that goes well, he could get in a game Tuesday. Melvin wants the reliever to get into at least one more exhibition here in Arizona before determining whether he can contribute during the season-opening Japan series. The A’s can take 30 players total to Japan but must pare down to a 25-man roster for both games against the Mariners. They come back from Japan and play four more exhibitions in the Bay Area, so figure there will be more roster tinkering before the regular season resumes April 6 against Seattle. The A’s may play it safe with Devine and keep him in Phoenix when the team goes to Japan, just to make sure he rehabs well and is fully recovered. “That’s certainly one of the options,” Melvin said.

Devine said he’s experiencing inflammation in his arm that has been somewhat common since his Tommy John surgery in April 2009. “It’s a long season, I’m just gonna go out and try to get it right as soon as possible,” Devine said. “I’m the first to realize that plane (for Tokyo) takes off in a week.”

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A’s radio voice Ken Korach undergoing knee replacement, will miss early-season games

The injury updates you read on this blog generally are relegated to players, but here’s a noteworthy exception. A’s radio play-by-play man Ken Korach says he is undergoing a knee replacement Monday, and that he won’t be back behind the mike until mid-April, most likely. He’s calling tonight’s exhibition w/Vince Cotroneo, but it will be his last game before the procedure. Ray Fosse will join Cotroneo in the radio booth for the season-opening series in Tokyo on March 28-29 (those games will air live at 3:10 a.m. and 2:10 a.m., respectively, due to the time change). No word yet on who will fill in for Korach once the regular season resumes April 6.

Here’s wishing Ken a speedy recovery. Just a great guy …

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Reliever Joey Devine sidelined by biceps soreness

A’s reliever Joey Devine has been sidelined for the past week by soreness in his right biceps, pitching coach Curt Young confirmed. The team is taking a day-by-day approach with the right-hander, and there’s no timetable yet for him to return to the mound.

Devine hasn’t appeared in a game since March 8, when he gave up four runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Considering how close the A’s are to their season-opening series in Tokyo on March 28-29, Devine’s availability for that series is in question.

Grant Balfour, Fautino De Los Santos and lefty Brian Fuentes are locked into three of the spots in Oakland’s seven-man bullpen. Lefty Jerry Blevins is considered a strong bet for a fourth spot. But if Devine misses extended time, three spots could be open to a large pool of candidates that includes Andrew Carignan, Ryan Cook, Travis Schlichting, Evan Scribner, Neil Wagner and lefties Pedro Figueroa, Jordan Norberto and Erick Threets.

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Postgame thoughts as A’s notch their sixth straight victory

Here’s a few odds and ends that didn’t all make it into my story for tomorrow’s paper. …

–How much should we pay attention to Cactus League winning streaks? Not a whole lot. But the A’s notched their sixth victory in a row with Thursday’s 11-7 win over Texas, and manager Bob Melvin thinks there’s something to be said for it. The A’s are 10-3-1, tied with Seattle for the best mark in the Cactus League heading into the Mariners’ game Thursday night. “We have a lot of new guys, and winning is important, whether it’s an intrasquad game or a spring training game,” Melvin said. “If we were 2-12, I’d probably be talking differently. But it does matter. It really does.”

Right now, I think fans should be more enthused about the hot hitting of Jemile Weeks and Cliff Pennington. Weeks, who is batting .419 and homered from both sides of the plate Thursday, is an obvious key in the leadoff spot. I’ve had Pennington pegged as the No. 9 hitter in my projected batting order. But the guy is hitting .464 right now (4 for 4 on Thursday). If he keeps this up, might Melvin be inclined to hit him higher in the order? I still like him hitting ninth, a speedy guy who can turn the lineup over and get Weeks some at-bats with runners on base.

Where would you like to see Pennington hit?

–Melvin applied some sugar-coating on Brad Peacock’s poor start Thursday — 2 1/3 innings, 5 runs, 3 walks. But Peacock was understandably disappointed in himself. He walked two men in the first and then allowed a three-run double to Nelson Cruz on a 1-2 pitch. “I was missing spots,” Peacock said. “I can’t walk guys.” He’s had two shaky outings sandwiched around one good outing. Right now, it’s tough to see him nailing down a rotation spot. If I were choosing winners today for the three open rotation spots, I’d go Tom Milone, Jarrod Parker and Tyson Ross. “He’s going through a little bit of a tough time,” Melvin said of Peacock. “He hasn’t had the greatest draws either with lineups. The results aren’t what he wants to see right now. The stuff’s still good.”

–The first base job is looking like a two-man battle between Brandon Allen and Kila Ka’aihue. That’s what I gleaned from Melvin’s comments Thursday morning when asked about Chris Carter’s spring camp. Carter is hitting .263 with no homers and one RBI. That average is actually better than Ka’aihue’s .211 mark, though Ka’aihue has one homer. But it’s clear, judging how playing time is being doled out, that Carter doesn’t appear to be in the big league plans. Melvin remarked recently that Carter’s at-bats were better in early exhibitions than they have been lately. He has seven strikeouts in 19 at-bats overall.

“We were looking to try to see if his at-bats were better at the big league level. That’s really the only thing that’s been missing,” Melvin said. “He’s ended up feeling comfortable at every level, but (not) at the big league level at this point.”

Interestingly — and surprisingly — Melvin does not count Daric Barton out of the competition. Barton has been slowed all spring by complications as he comes back from shoulder surgery. His throwing has been limited, but he is tentatively set to play defense for the first time Saturday. Melvin does acknowlege, however, that a stint in extended spring training is possible for Barton.

The smart money remains on Allen to be the A’s opening day first baseman …

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Bartolo Colon scratched from Thursday start with finger blister; Brad Peacock takes his place

The latest from Phoenix Muni, as the A’s head off to Surprise to face the Texas Rangers …

Bartolo Colon was scratched from Thursday’s start because of a blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand. It’s not considered serious, and manager Bob Melvin says Colon will pitch Friday, either in a Cactus League night game against the Seattle Mariners or perhaps a simulated game. The tentative plan would have Colon making his final spring start March 21 against the Kansas City Royals. He’s scheduled to pitch the A’s second regular-season game March 29 against the Mariners in Tokyo. Brad Peacock will start today in his place.

In other news, Melvin said Daric Barton would play first base for the first time this spring on Saturday’s split-squad day, either against the Giants in Scottsdale or the Chicago Cubs in Phoenix. That’s provided things go well for him Thursday. Barton has been slowed as he recovers from surgery on his throwing shoulder. He made his spring debut Monday at designated hitter and is serving as D.H. again Thursday. Melvin hasn’t ruled Barton out of the running for the first base job, but considering the team he has missed, it’s possible he begins the season in extended spring training.

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Manny Ramirez connects for first home run with A’s

Manny Ramirez hit his first homer with the A’s in his first at-bat Tuesday, a towering shot to left-center off Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Mike Fiers. That also marked Ramirez’s first hit of the spring, as he came in 0 for 8. He started at DH after spending the previous two days getting at-bats at the A’s minor league camp. Ramirez will miss the first 50 regular season games on suspension, and manager Bob Melvin has indicated he wants to start distributing more at-bats to D.H. candidates who will be on the roster once the season starts.

That homer kickstarted what otherwise has been a slow news day at A’s camp. …

The team is likely to carry a seven-man bullpen, but who makes up that relief corps is still tough to tell. Melvin said some surprise names have impressed him during camp, and he’s in no rush to make a call on his seven relievers. Travis Schlichting and lefty Erick Threets, who is from Livermore, are two non-roster relievers who have caught his attention. Pedro Figueroa and Jordan Norberto, both left-handers, have also looked good.

“Certainly there are some guys that are stepping up, and probably several we didn’t expect at this point,” Melvin said. “One thing we have is time. We definitely have time. I’m not going to rush it.”

Grant Balfour, Joey Devine, Fautino De Los Santos and Brian Fuentes appear locked into four of the seven spots, with Jerry Blevins also a strong possibility. Either Balfour or Fuentes will serve as closer.

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Manny Ramirez connects for first home run with A’s

Manny Ramirez hit his first homer with the A’s in his first at-bat Tuesday, a towering shot to left-center off Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Mike Fiers. That also marked Ramirez’s first hit of the spring, as he came in 0 for 8. He started at DH after spending the previous two days getting at-bats at the A’s minor league camp. Ramirez will miss the first 50 regular season games on suspension, and manager Bob Melvin has indicated he wants to start distributing more at-bats to D.H. candidates who will be on the roster once the season starts.

That homer kickstarted what otherwise has been a slow news day at A’s camp. …

The team is likely to carry a seven-man bullpen, but who makes up that relief corps is still tough to tell. Melvin said some surprise names have impressed him during camp, and he’s in no rush to make a call on his seven relievers. Travis Schlichting and lefty Erick Threets, who is from Livermore, are two non-roster relievers who have caught his attention. Pedro Figueroa and Jordan Norberto, both left-handers, have also looked good.

“Certainly there are some guys that are stepping up, and probably several we didn’t expect at this point,” Melvin said. “One thing we have is time. We definitely have time. I’m not going to rush it.”

Grant Balfour, Joey Devine, Fautino De Los Santos and Brian Fuentes appear locked into four of the seven spots, with Jerry Blevins also a strong possibility. Either Balfour or Fuentes will serve as closer.

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It’s down to Balfour and Fuentes to be A’s closer, but other roster questions remain

There are lots of roster unknowns with the A’s right now, but we can narrow the focus a bit regarding the closer spot. Manager Bob Melvin said Monday that Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes are the two clear front runners for that spot. Yes, we were assuming that already, but it was the first time Melvin has declared it’s not a four-man race (with Fautino De Los Santos and Joey Devine being the other two possibilities). Asked specifically about De Los Santos, Melvin replied: “He’s a guy that has a ceiling to close at some point. I don’t know if it’s now.” Again, more clarity than we’ve gotten before. Joey Devine’s name did not come up in the discussion. And Melvin reiterated that if he were to use Fuentes as closer, he would want a second lefty in the bullpen. He labeled Jerry Blevins the leading candidate for that second lefty spot, but also said he’s been impressed with Jordan Norberto and Pedro Figueroa.

As for the other roster battles — first base, third base, DH and the three open rotation spots — Melvin said the competition could go through the Japan series against the Mariners. Brandon Allen is getting the start today at first base, and Melvin said he likes what he’s seen from Allen. I have him as my favorite for that spot, although Melvin doesn’t count out Kila Ka’aihue or Chris Carter. And the A’s brass clearly isn’t throwing in the towel on Daric Barton at first base, although time is short for him to claim the job this spring given how much time he’s missed. GM Billy Beane talked up Barton’s defensive play, though I think we have to remember that Barton did make eight errors in just 67 games last season.

I gotta get on the road to Glendale, but here’s the A’s lineup against the White Sox:

Weeks 2B, Barton DH, Crisp CF, Reddick RF, Suzuki C, Allen 1B, Sogard 3B, Cowgill LF, Rosales SS; Ross RHP.

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Bob Melvin takes part in “Feats of Strength” tradition

Pretty quiet Sunday morning at Muni, where the A’s host the Royals this afternoon. There wasn’t much in the way of news, although the first big round of cuts is expected after the game. Right-hander Sonny Gray, the 2011 first-round pick, was the first to be sent down. He got word yesterday.

–An A’s spring tradition, the “Feats of Strength” presentation, took place in the clubhouse. I’ve seen this six times now, and it never fails to entertain. Team chaplain Donnie Moore and a couple of his assistants tear apart phone books, bend steel bars and karate-chop concrete blocks with their bare hands – the motivational message being that if you envision yourself able to do something, you can accomplish any goal.

This was the first time manager Bob Melvin has seen the “Feats of Strength.” Little did he know he’d be asked to lay flat on his back on a bench, with a slab of concrete resting on his chest. Then someone took a hammer of some sort (my view was blocked by all the players gathered around) and smashed the concrete across his chest. Melvin hopped up and gave a couple high-fives, admitting later he had his eyes closed through the whole episode. Moore did the same thing with former manager Bob Geren last spring.

“There’s motivational speaking and then there’s that,” Melvin said. “Actions speak louder than words, and it was all it was cracked up to be.”

On the baseball front …

–Yoenis Cespedes is hitting third as D.H. today. “Maybe we’ll move him back to fourth the next day,” Melvin said. “We do feel he’s a middle-of-the-order bat. I don’t think he did anything to disprove that (Saturday).” Where might Cespedes settle in the batting order? I’d say that depends on whether anyone else emerges as a potential No. 3 hitter. Seth Smith or Josh Reddick could fit the bill, although we don’t even know if Smith will be in the lineup full time. Cespedes will be off Monday, as Melvin is putting him on the same two-on, one-off rotation as his regular starters.

–Daric Barton will make his exhibition debut Monday, serving as D.H. against the White Sox in Glendale. His throwing is still coming along slowly after shoulder surgery, so no word yet on when he’ll play first base.

The lineups:

A’s: Weeks 2B, Crisp CF, Cespedes DH, Gomes LF, Donaldson 3B, Smith RF, Recker C, Ka’aihue 1B, Pennington SS; Milone LHP.

Royals: Cain CF, Betancourt 2B, Hosmer 1B, Butler DH, Francoeur RF, Moustakas 3B, Pena C, Robinson LF, Escobar SS; Chen LHP.