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A heartfelt farewell

Hey everybody …

It’s with very mixed emotions that I share with you I’ll be leaving the A’s beat – and leaving Bay Area News Group — in the near future. … Talk about a tough transaction to report! It’s a very exciting time as I explore and see where my career takes me next. But this was no easy decision for me to arrive at. One, I’m leaving a lot of good friends behind at a company that delivers such top-notch journalism. Two, I’ve forged so many great relationships since taking over the A’s beat in 2007.

There’s a rhythm that comes with covering major league baseball. A daily routine gets established over 162 games, and you get to know the people in and around an organization in-depth – players, coaches, trainers, broadcasters, front office people, clubhouse staff, etc. There’s a rapport that develops even as you play the role of objective journalist, and it’s those connections that I know I will miss the most. A beat writer’s adrenaline rush comes from chasing down the news, investigating trade rumors and cranking out game stories on tight deadlines. But I also tried to savor the subtleties – casually talking hitting with Chili Davis, listening to Brandon Moss break down the difference between good pine tar and bad pine tar. That’s priceless stuff, and if my next job somehow incorporates these types of moments, that will be a very good thing.

There’s lots of (justifiable) griping on the baseball beat. The travel delays. The hours spent waiting on players to emerge for interviews. Press box Internet problems? Don’t get me started. But I’ve never lost sight of what a privilege it is to cover major league baseball. It’s been quite the experience, and thanks to all of you for reading my stories and coming along for the ride …

2

A’s re-sign Bartolo Colon to one-year contract

The early activity continues for the A’s this offseason, as they re-signed veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon to a one-year $3 million deal Saturday which includes incentives that could earn the starter more.

I’m not surprised to see the A’s target some veteran depth for their starting rotation — I think it was a need as they look ahead to 2013. But frankly, I thought Colon had pitched his final game in an A’s uniform after he was suspended in August for testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone. Not so much because I thought the A’s would pass ethical judgement on him. More so because of his age — he’ll turn 40 in May — and because of the fundamental question that must be asked in light of Colon’s suspension: How much did his use of testosterone factor into his effectiveness last season? And what kind of pitcher will he be when he’s not using it? The A’s are convinced he can still get major league hitters out.

“I think you have to ask yourself that question,” general manager Billy Beane said. “We did see him pitch a couple times in winter ball, and we had somebody down there to answer that very question. We saw he was throwing just as well down there, velocity-wise, as he was during the season.”

A follow-up question to this signing: What does it mean for the chances of free agent Brandon McCarthy returning to Oakland? The right-hander said he would like to return, based in part on how well the A’s treated him and his family after he required brain surgery when he was struck by a line drive. But part of it might also depend on what kind of interest he gets on the open market. Indications are that McCarthy will be full strength for the start of spring training.

Beane said the signing of Colon and the possibility of re-signing McCarthy “are independent of each other. Brandon is still recovering, and we’re a long way from spring training. We’ll sort of take it a day at a time.”

Follow-up question No. 2: Have the A’s stockpiled enough pitching (and outfield) depth to try to swing a trade for a shortstop? You’ve got to think they will explore that option. But keep in mind that the A’s value their pitching depth greatly, based on the rash of injuries they’ve encountered in recent seasons.

“I’m not going to get into specifics of what we would and wouldn’t do,” Beane said. “We made it pretty clear up to this point that we’d like to maintain our core group of players.”

But this is the A’s, so we shouldn’t be surprised by anything that happens between now and the start of spring training …

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A’s unveil 2013 spring training schedule

The A’s released their 2013 spring training schedule, and they will begin their exhibition season earlier than in any year since moving to Oakland in 1968. The Cactus League opener is February 23 against Milwaukee at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Everything about the spring schedule has been bumped up to accomodate the Winter Baseball Classic, which opens first-round play March 2. Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 11.

Here’s a few other important dates:

–The A’s and Giants play twice in Arizona — March 1 at Phoenix Muni and March 23 at Scottsdale Stadium. Then they play the traditional Bay Bridge Series March 28-30 — the first two games are at AT&T Park and the finale is at the Coliseum.

–On March 5, the A’s will play a home split-squad game against a to-be-determined World Baseball Classic squad.

–The A’s only Cactus League night game takes place March 22 against the White Sox at Phoenix Muni. First pitch is 7:05 p.m.

Season-ticket packages for A’s spring home games go on sale Nov. 9 at oaklandathletics.com/spring. Single-game tickets go on sale Dec. 7 and are available online or by calling 877-493-BALL. The box office at Phoenix Muni opens Jan. 31.