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Trevor Cahill to start Sunday vs. Cubs in exhibition opener

It’s day 2 of a three-day stretch of workouts for the A’s at Papago Park, which is just a five-minute drive from Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The logistics are a little wacky for players these three days. They show up at Muni, dress and gather up their belongings, carpool over to Papago and then return to Muni after the workout to finish whatever treatment they might need. But at least the sunshine is back after a couple days of cold weather and rain.

Bob Geren confirmed that Trevor Cahill will start Sunday’s exhibition opener against the Chicago Cubs in Mesa. Going by the current schedule, others who could throw that day are Josh Outman, Bobby Cramer, Tyson Ross and Joey Devine. But there’s nothing confirmed after Cahill. It’s still tough to decipher who might get the Opening Night start because all pitchers are throwing once every three days right now. A natural every-fifth-day routine has yet to be established. Geren told reporters earlier he had a good idea of who he’d give that first start too. And I’ve got to think Cahill is at the forefront in his thoughts. Why not? He had the best season last year and his demeanor is perfect to take the ball in big games – he’s low-key and not easily excitable.

Michael Wuertz is not too concerned about the shoulder soreness that cut short his workout Monday. He said his arm speed was a little slow in Sunday’s throwing session, and he’s working through a normal kind of soreness he gets during most springs. Now, Wuertz said similar things last spring, and he wound up having tendinitis that sent him to the DL. But he told me this morning that this feeling is nothing like last year’s. The A’s are taking extra precaution with their front-line guys early in camp if there’s even a hint of physical problems. Geren said Wuertz could throw as soon as Thursday. Wuertz said he could take “three, four or five days.”

Remember, you can get updates on anything noteworthy that happens during daily workouts at twitter.com/joestiglich. I try to throw pictures up there when I can and I’m hoping to start posting some live video clips soon. Stay tuned …

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Hideki Matsui reports to camp — where might he hit in A’s lineup?

We had a little more intrigue than normal in the A’s clubhouse this morning with Hideki Matsui reporting. He’ll work out and then finish shooting the commercial he began filming Saturday at Papago Park.

Dallas Braden had a gift waiting for Matsui at his locker: A large inflatable Godzilla doll dressed in an A’s uniform. Very quality effort, though the reaction once Matsui arrived was a bit awkward. Matsui saw the doll but wasn’t quite sure how to react to a room full of people staring at him. And the rest of the A’s weren’t quite sure whether to clap. Somewhere, a pin dropped and I clearly heard it. It was a good gesture, however, to welcome Matsui. It will be interesting to see how he assimilates into the clubhouse with the language barrier, but he’s got a reputation for being a great guy, and he’s plenty used to the situation after eight seasons in the United States.

With 30-35 members of the Japanese media on hand (that’s what’s expected as a daily turnout this season), manager Bob Geren had a big crowd for his morning media session. He said he hadn’t decided where Matsui would bat in the order, but he’s considering him in the fourth or fifth spot. A logical batting order would go Crisp, Barton, DeJesus, Willingham and Matsui in the 1-5 spots. But Geren said he doesn’t want more than two lefties hitting together in a row near the top of the lineup. And against right-handed pitchers, Willingham would be the only right-handed bat with the switch-hitting Crisp batting from the left side. So perhaps we could see an order that goes Crisp, DeJesus, Willingham and Matsui in the top four spots, with Barton dropping down a bit. It’s not clear how this will shake out right now. Geren said he probably won’t start playing an opening day-type lineup until the second half of the Cactus League schedule.

It’s freezing today, by the way. Not that I expect a lot of sympathy from readers in the Bay Area, as I hear it’s been nasty there too. We got heavy rain last night, and the temperature is in the low 50’s right now. OK, so it’s not that cold, but it’s all relative. When it’s normally in the 70’s here, you want to crank up the heater on days like this.

That’s all for now …

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Competition is on for A’s backup infielder spot

Position players continue to trickle into A’s camp. I saw Conor Jackson and second base prospect Adrian Cardenas this morning. Word is that Hideki Matsui will be here Saturday, but I’m not sure if he’ll be addressing the media then or wait until Sunday, which is the reporting deadline.

Adam Rosales will wear a walking boot on his right foot for two more weeks, so he won’t be hitting the field any time soon. That means there’s open competition for the backup infielder spot, and the ability to play shortstop is key for whoever claims it. Among the candidates manager Bob Geren touched on this morning:

Steve Tolleson: I’d put this guy as the front runner. He got his feet wet with 25 games in the majors last season and did a capable job. Tolleson spent more time at shortstop than any other position last season at Triple-A Sacramento, but he can also play third base, second base and left field.

Eric Sogard: The A’s like this Arizona State alum, especially for his bat. He’s also the only one of the backup infield candidates who’s already on the 40-man roster, but Geren said that wouldn’t be a factor. “The best guys will be on the team.” Sogard is more of a second baseman, though the A’s have exposed him to shortstop.

Andy LaRoche: The most intriguing name, just because he was such a highly touted prospect for the Dodgers. LaRoche didn’t pan out with the Pirates over the past two-plus seasons, and he’s never played shortstop in his professional career (third base is his main position). But Geren said LaRoche, Sogard and Tolleson will get most of the innings at short until starter Cliff Pennington is ready. Pennington is being brought along slowly after offseason surgery on his left shoulder.

Josh Horton: A’s farm director Keith Lieppman has raved to me in the past about Horton, a 2007 second-round pick. Geren identified Horton as the strongest defensive shortstop of all the candidates based on reports he’s gotten. He said he hasn’t seen Horton much in person.

Grant Green: Finally, the name you were waiting for, right? The 2009 first-round pick enjoyed a fine offensive year with Single-A Stockton in 2010 but still has a long way to go defensively. Since Green was drafted, there’s been speculation about him moving to third base or second base. For now, he’s a shortstop. “He’s still a ways away,” Geren said. Green is expected to begin the season at Double-A Midland, and the A’s consider Double-A a good measuring stick for how close a prospect is to being big-league ready.

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Rich Harden to miss two weeks with strain in right side

The first A’s injury news for 2011 came down today, as right-hander Rich Harden will be shut down for two weeks with a strain in his right side, just underneath his arm. You can read the nuts and bolts of the story by clicking on the above link. But here’s the rundown:

Harden, a fifth starter candidate and potential reliever, felt pain about 10-15 pitches into a bullpen session on Tuesday. Pitching coach Ron Romanick decided to shut him down, and manager Bob Geren announced Harden won’t throw for approximately two weeks. “The exact words from (the training staff) was we’ll wait until he’s pain free,” Geren said. “It’s estimated it would be two weeks. Obviously we want to make sure when he cranks it back up that he’s ready to go.”

The glass-is-half-full outlook:The A’s now have the depth on their pitching staff to withstand such injuries. Spring camp is just three days old and Harden has plenty of time to come back. In talking to him this morning, he didn’t seem concerned that this would be a long-term problem.

The glass-is-half-empty outlook: This is an all-too-familiar theme developing for the A’s, and we haven’t even reached March yet. The A’s know Harden’s injury history from his first stint with the team, and should have taken that into consideration before re-signing him this winter. Plus, the other pitchers who now move into contention to be the fifth starter also are injury risks. Josh Outman is trying to come back from major elbow surgery and Brandon McCarthy has long had shoulder problems (though he’s healthy now). Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer also are possibilities for the spot. And keep an eye on right-hander Guillermo Moscoso, an under-the-radar acquisition from Texas this winter. Geren said he looked good yesterday and considers Moscoso in the mix to be the No. 5 starter.

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A’s pitchers and catchers hit the field

The first blog from spring training has arrived … I’ll try to post each morning, but that could change slightly depending on how heavy/light news is. And if news develops throughout the day, I’ll throw it on here too. You can also get updates at twitter.com/joestiglich

–A’s pitchers and catchers just took the field for their first workout. The sun is out and it’s good baseball weather, though not as picturesque as yesterday. We may get a little rain over the weekend, but nothing that’s expected to disrupt things too much once the full squad holds its first workout Monday. But you didn’t come here for weather reports …

–Manager Bob Geren held his first extended media session today. The most noteworthy item was that relievers Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow and Michael Wuertz will be brought along more slowly than the other relievers. That’s a precautionary move and probably a smart one – Breslow has thrown a ton of innings over the past two seasons, Bailey is coming off minor elbow surgery and Wuertz had a shoulder injury early last season after he logged a ton of innings in 2009. The A’s will budget most relievers for 10-13 Cactus League outings, but Bailey, Breslow and Wuertz (no, that’s not a law firm) will be closer to the 8-10 range.

–How’s this for showing gratitude? Dallas Braden sent catcher Landon Powell and his wife, Allyson, on an all-expenses paid trip to Maui in January to show his appreciation for Powell catching his perfect game. Braden put them up at the Four Seasons. I mentioned in today’s paper that Bailey and pitcher Brett Anderson have lost weight. Throw Powell in the mix, too. He says he’s lost 15 pounds.

–It was interesting seeing new bench coach Joel Skinner, a former catcher, huddled with all of Oakland’s catchers and dishing some wisdom earlier this morning. In the opening days of spring training, players take time to get acquainted with each other. But this spring, Oakland’s players are also feeling out several new coaches. Skinner and hitting coach Gerald Perry are new to the staff, and Ron Romanick has shifted from bullpen coach to pitching coach. Obviously, the big news will be whatever impact new players such as Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham have on the team, but this reshuffled coaching staff is an under-the-radar factor to watch.

–One final note for those who might be visiting Phoenix next week: The A’s changed their practice schedule. They will only work out at Papago Park on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before shifting back to Phoenix Municipal Stadium for intrasquad games Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

That’s all for now …