12

Adam Kennedy talking to four teams, but none are A’s

Quick update: I heard back this week from Paul Cohen, the agent for Adam Kennedy, and he told me he’s “far down the road” in negotiations involving Kennedy and other teams, meaning a Kennedy return to Oakland is the longest of long shots. The A’s are looking to add another third baseman, and Kennedy filled the position admirably last season. But there hasn’t been any recent dialogue between the two sides at all. Kennedy wants to play second base, and Cohen said there’s been serious interest from four teams — two want Kennedy to play second base, and two want him more as a utility man. Cohen wouldn’t reveal the teams, but a recent item on mlbtraderumors.com points out the Nationals, Mets and Marlins as teams that have been linked to Kennedy.

Just a little FYI for your afternoon …

7

A’s tied to Chone Figgins, Vladimir Guerrero in speculation

Can we expect the A’s to make as big an offseason splash as they did last winter? That might be hard to top. But with the World Series wrapped up, the Hot Stove speculation can officially begin. The MLB Network’s Jon Heyman discussed this winter’s crop of free agents, and he mentioned the A’s as potential suitors for third baseman Chone Figgins and outfielder/DH Vladimir Guerrero.

Juicy names, indeed. But I don’t see the A’s making a push for Figgins. Clearly, they need to sign someone at third. The odds are stacked against Eric Chavez remaining healthy, and it’s asking a lot of prospect Brett Wallace to be ready Opening Day. That’s why making the call on whether to re-sign Adam Kennedy is the A’s first crucial decision of the winter.

Figgins would cost a bundle, with some speculating he could command $10 million per season on a multi-year deal. Look at the A’s offensive strength right now – it’s tied to their speed and athleticism with guys like Rajai Davis and Cliff Pennington. They don’t need another burner such as Figgins. They need someone who can drive in those speedy guys once they get on base.

Guerrero is intriguing, if only because his injury struggles in 2009 should drive his price down. But he’s a huge gamble even at a bargain cost. I’m more intrigued by the A’s pursuing someone like Jermaine Dye. His 2010 option was declined by the White Sox on Friday, making him a free agent. He’ll turn 36 in January (making him a year older than Vlad), but he’s coming off a far more healthy and productive season. Dye plays right field, where the A’s have a terrific defender and still-developing hitter in Ryan Sweeney. But remember, Billy Beane acknowledged that the A’s need more offense from the corner outfield spots, and that they could look to upgrade in left or right.

Team owner Lew Wolff wants the A’s to abandon the philosophy of signing aging sluggers. But let’s face it – the A’s aren’t going to outspend the big-budget teams to sign any superstars. And trading for an impact hitter in his prime will cost the A’s some of their elite pitching prospects. I don’t see them easily parting with those players (then again, I didn’t see them trading for Matt Holliday last winter, either).

Just a few thoughts for you to ponder as the Hot Stove season starts heating up. Let’s here what some of you think …

0

Leftover notes and quotes from A’s 4-2 loss to Mariners

Leftover tidbits from tonight’s game:

–The A’s have lost four straight and finished an ugly 5-14 against Seattle this season. They went 1-8 at Safeco Field. Going back further, the A’s have lost 16 of their past 22 to the Mariners and are 20-37 since the start of 2007.

–The A’s finished their 2009 road schedule at 35-46. They’re 40-38 at home, and wrap up the regular season with a three-game series against the Angels at the Coliseum starting tonight. They’ve finished with a losing record at home just once in the past 11 seasons (2007).

–What exactly is going on with the A’s defense? They’ve committed 19 errors in the past 12 games. Their 104 errors on the season is their highest total since they had 107 in 2003. Third baseman Adam Kennedy had tonight’s error, misplaying a short-hop grounder in the fifth that led to three unearned runs off Brett Anderson. Kennedy has committed a career-high 20 errors this season, but they’ve come in bunches in the past couple of weeks.

“I’ve just been having a hard time with, like, the depth of the ball straight at me,” said Kennedy, who converted from second to third base about midway through this season. “In the middle infield, you don’t have that. You can always move to get the ball where you want it. Lately, on balls right at me, I’m not knowing how hard they’re hit, or getting the right steps (down to field them).”

Kennedy, a free agent this offseason, added that he wouldn’t be opposed to playing third again next year. And he thinks his problems are correctable with more time there.

–Brett Anderson finished his rookie season 11-11. He went five innings Thursday and just one of his four runs allowed was earned. His overall take on his first season:

“You don’t really know what to expect. I couldn’t have told you that I thought I was gonna throw a complete-game shutout in Boston in my first start there. That was probably the highlight of the season. But I also wouldn’t have said I’d give up a double to Matt Cain either. So there’s low points and high points throughout the season. You just gotta kind of roll with it.”

0

Strange stuff at the ballpark; A’s-Angels lineups

True story … I was walking up to the main entry gate at Angel Stadium this morning, and two security guards were trying to corner a rooster that was running free near the will call windows(and I thought last night’s A’s victory was bizarre). But now that I think about it, catching roosters is pretty good training for stadium security personnel. … Builds quickness. At least that’s how Sylvester Stallone trained for Apollo Creed in “Rocky II.” Rocky was chasing a chicken, to be specific. And he eventually caught it. As far as today’s matchup, my money was on the rooster …

I shared that story because it’s more interesting than anything that happened in the A’s clubhouse this morning. Manager Bob Geren wasn’t lying when he said he’d give a few guys the day off. Kurt Suzuki, Adam Kennedy, Ryan Sweeney and Jack Cust all are sitting. So we’ll see how things play out against Angels lefty Joe Saunders. Daric Barton, who’s impressed at the plate lately, hits in the No. 2 spot behind Rajai Davis.

Today’s lineups

A’s: Davis CF; Barton 1B; Ellis 2B; Nomar DH; Bobby Crosby 3B; Carson RF; Powell C; Patterson LF; Pennington SS; Edgar Gonzalez RHP.

Angels: Figgins 3B; Abreu RF; Hunter CF; Guerrero DH; Morales 1B; Rivera LF; Izturis 2B; Napoli C; Aybar SS; Saunders LHP.

0

Postgame thoughts after A’s 3-0 win over Angels

Some postgame quotes and observations following the A’s 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels to start this three-game series:

–It seems there’s a switch located somewhere on Gio Gonzalez, and when the switch is “on,” we see outings like tonight’s. The lefty displayed what manager Bob Geren said was “by far his best curve ball of the year.” Gonzalez went 6 1/3 innings and got most of his seven strikeouts with the curve, but he also had his fastball and changeup working. He’s been messing with a new grip on his change-up and two-seam fastball, and he liked the results he had.

–Is there a better under-the-radar MVP candidate for the 2009 A’s than setup man Michael Wuertz? He faced six Angels hitters and struck out five of them. That gives him exactly 100 strikeouts this season, which leads American League relievers and is a career high.
According to closer Andrew Bailey (who got his 26th save), he and Wuertz have a competition going for who can top who on the mound. “Wuertz is really fun to watch,” Bailey said. “He strikes out a lot of guys. He’s been great all year, not just on the field, but off it for me. Going out there and trying to match him is a challenge.” Wuertz is arbitration-eligible this winter, and I’d say he’s making himself some money with each outing. No way the A’s don’t retain this guy.

–It wasn’t all rosy tonight. Third baseman Adam Kennedy has a pretty obvious problem throwing the ball to first base right now. I don’t know if his arm is hurting, and I haven’t asked him yet. But for the second straight game, he lobbed a routine throw that pulled Daric Barton off the bag for an error. He’s committed an error in three straight games (Wednesday’s miscue was a fielding error). What’s funny is Kennedy made a terrific play after tonight’s error, making a bare-handed grab of Juan Rivera’s grounder that ricocheted off Gio Gonzalez and throwing a strike to Barton. Go figure … In the big picture, I still think he’s done a standout job at third considering he’d never played the position in the majors before this season. And his versatility could earn him lots of interest this winter as a free agent.

0

All’s ‘right’ with A’s batting order tonight

It’s not your typical A’s lineup tonight, with eight right-handed hitters starting against Cleveland lefty David Huff. Nomar Garciaparra (DH) and Bobby Crosby (3B) each get a rare start, and Daric Barton is the lone left-handed bat.

The most intriguing name in the A’s order? Right fielder Matt Carson, called up from Triple-A to make his major league debut at age 28. Ryan Sweeney is battling soreness in his knees, according to Bob Geren. Nothing serious, but enough for the A’s to call up another outfielder, even with Sacramento still in the Triple-A playoffs (the River Cats will be eliminated if they lose tonight, so there’s a chance we could see more call-ups soon).

I remember walking into the A’s clubhouse in spring training, seeing Carson and asking, “Who is this guy?” His signing in November hardly caused a ripple, and he was just one of many anonymous faces around Papago Park when camp opened. But he really caught the A’s attention during Cactus League play, and has only helped his cause this season. Who knows if he’s got a chance to make the team next year? But if Sweeney remains banged up, Carson could see more starts.

With Adam Kennedy getting a day off, Rajai Davis moves into the leadoff spot. Geren said he could easily interchange Kennedy and Davis at the 1-2 slots, but he’s stuck w/Kennedy at leadoff because the offense has been clicking. It’ll be interesting to see if Davis gets a few more looks in the top spot. After all, he’s a pretty realistic leadoff option going into next season.

–Geren on the odds of right-hander Brett Tomko returning to the mound this season: “Probably less than 50-50, but there’s a chance.”

–Dallas Braden, out for the season with nerve damage in his left foot, is with the team today. He’s not doing much in the way of activity, and acknowledged some frustration w/an injury that ended what was a pretty encouraging season for him. He had this to say about his recovery: “There’s about a 90 percent chance of (a full recovery). It could be a month, it could be six months. I could never be the same, or I could bounce back like nothing ever happened.”

Braden and Kurt Suzuki are being honored tonight w/the Dave Stewart Community Service Award.

Tonight’s lineups:

A’s
Davis CF
Suzuki C
Hairston LF
Nomar DH
Crosby 3B
Ellis 2B
Barton 1B
Carson RF
Pennington SS

Anderson LHP

Indians
Brantley CF
Carroll 2B
Choo RF
Peralta 3B
LaPorta 1B
Shoppach DH
Marson C
Crowe LF
Romero SS

Huff LHP

0

A’s pregame update: Edgar Gonzalez will start Tuesday, Tomko goes Wednesday

All’s quiet this morning on the A’s front … Sunday mornings are odd because there’s usually no regular BP on the field. The pitchers stretch at their own separate time, and players pop in and out of the batting cage at their leisure. Mostly, players were just sitting around watching the Yankees-White Sox on TV. Probably not real different from how you spent your Sunday morning …

A little news to share w/you …

–Edgar Gonzalez is starting Tuesday unless something unexpected happens. Brett Tomko is slated for Wednesday, which bumps him ahead of Trevor Cahill in the rotation to give Cahill a little extra rest. Manager Bob Geren had mentioned yesterday that Tomko could stay on regular days’ rest in the six-man rotation to give the younger guys a longer break. The A’s will especially monitor the innings of Cahill and Brett Anderson, today’s starter, since those two will surpass their innings from 2008 by such a large margin.

–Geren acknowledged it’s real doubtful Dallas Braden returns from his foot infection in time to rejoin the rotation. A little bullpen duty is still a possibility in Geren’s mind, but like I’ve mentioned here before, I would just shut Braden down and make sure he’s good for 2010. My guess is that will happen.

–Asked if there’s a definitive plan for call-ups on Tuesday when rosters expand, Geren said talks have centered “99 percent about pitching.” That means no Travis Buck, at least not right away. There is a chance they could promote a catcher, Geren said. Eric Munson would be the lead candidate …

–Bobby Crosby is expected to be activated from the DL on Wednesday without going on a rehab assignment. My guess is his playing time would likely come at third or second base, whenever Adam Kennedy or Mark Ellis might need a rest. You figure the A’s will keep running Daric Barton and Cliff Pennington out to first base and shortstop, respectively, to evaluate them as much as possible …

Today’s lineups, featuring Ryan Sweeney batting third. Kurt Suzuki and Scott Hairston both have the day off, and Geren likes the way Sweeney is swinging, so he gets bumped to the middle of the order …

A’s
Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Sweeney RF
Cust DH
Powell C
Ellis 2B
Barton 1B
Pennington SS
Patterson LF

Anderson LHP

Angels
Figgins 3B
Aybar SS
Hunter CF
Vlad DH
Rivera LF
Morales 1B
Kendrick 2B
Matthews Jr. RF
Mathis C

Lackey RHP

0

What’s the future hold for A’s offense?

The weather here at the Coliseum was unusually warm last night. Different story tonight, as the wind is already kicking up. It’ll definitely be more chilly. And speaking of chilly, the A’s have certainly cooled off at the plate. What happened to that offensive revival? They’ve scored just 13 runs over the past six games, and haven’t topped three runs in any one of them. Adam Kennedy, who’s been such a catalyst for this team since he was acquired, is hitting just .176 (6-for-34) over his last eight games. And remember, five of those hits came in one game last week against the White Sox.

As encouraging as it’s been recently to see the A’s run wild on the bases, and see players like Rajai Davis, Mark Ellis and Kurt Suzuki take turns getting key hits, let’s not forget that this is still a pretty flawed team offensively when you look ahead to next season. As things stand, I don’t see the A’s being good enough offensively in 2010 to support the young pitchers that are obviously going to be the team’s strength. And as team owner Lew Wolff told Bay Area News Group in this story, he’s not crazy about the A’s bringing in more power hitters from the outside as they tried this year with Jason Giambi and Matt Holliday. Problem is, I don’t know if their best hitting prospects (Chris Carter, Adrian Cardenas, Brett Wallace and Co.) will be ready by next season.

My question for you, A’s fans: When it comes to improving this offense, would you rather see the A’s go out and try to obtain another slugger or two as they tried to do this season, or should they abandon the search for power and build a more speed and run-oriented offense, as they’ve shown signs of doing since the All-Star break?

–Not much pregame news today: Dallas Braden’s left ankle is showing no signs of improvement, according to manager Bob Geren, and you have to wonder if we’ll see him on the mound again this season. At this point, it might be better to shut him down and make sure he’s healthy to start spring training.

Tonight’s lineups, featuring Daric Barton playing first for the A’s for the second straight night:

A’s
Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Suzuki C
Hairston LF
Sweeney RF
Ellis 2B
Cust DH
Barton 1B
Pennington SS

Cahill RHP

Tigers
Granderson CF
Polanco 2B
Guillen LF
Cabrera 1B
Huff DH
Thomas RF
Inge 3B
AVila C
Santiago SS

Galarraga RHP

0

Chad Gaudin — familiar foe for A’s

Not much in the way of pregame updates today. But I’ll be interested to see how Chad Gaudin looks tonight going against his old Oakland teammates. Big night for the right-hander, as this is his first start for the Yankees since they acquired him in a trade from San Diego. I talked to him during the A’s trip to San Diego in June, when he was still a Padre, and he was disappointed he wasn’t on turn to face the A’s down there. Surely he’ll have some extra adrenaline flowing tonight, just as Brett Tomko did facing the Yankees on Monday night.

Check out the first four hitters in the A’s batting order tonight: Adam Kennedy, Rajai Davis, Mark Ellis, Kurt Suzuki. That’s not exactly a 1-4 sequence you expected back in spring training, eh? Things are a little funky tonight because Scott Hairston isn’t starting (his quad still isn’t 100 percent). And there isn’t a hotter hitter on the A’s than Ellis, so might as well plug him into the “3″ hole for a night. Suzuki, the DH, gets his first career start at cleanup.

–Joey Devine is backing up to 45 feet to play catch tonight. He said a couple days ago that there wasn’t a set date for him to get on the mound. It’ll be baby steps for him as he continues strengthening his elbow after Tommy John surgery.

–Bob Geren said the team has begun discussions about possible September roster call-ups, and that “obviously pitching will be at a premium.” Triple-A infielders Adrian Cardenas and Brett Wallace are swinging hot bats, as is Double-A first baseman Chris Carter. It’ll be interesting to see if any of them gets a ticket to Oakland. I’d be surprised if Carter didn’t at least get a promotion to Sacramento.

Anyway, here’s tonight’s lineups:

A’s
Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Ellis 2B
Suzuki DH
Sweeney LF
Powell C
Cust RF
Everidge 1B
Pennington SS

Anderson LHP

Yanks
Jeter SS
Damon LF
Teixeira 1B
A-Rod 3B
Matsui DH
Swisher RF
Cano 2B
Cabrera CF
Molina C

Gaudin RHP

0

More Yankee Stadium rain, of course

Well, the tarp is on the field and the rain is coming down pretty good at Yankee Stadium. We’re about 30 minutes from the scheduled first pitch, and weather.com lists the chances of continued rain at 95-100% through 10 p.m. local time. A 100% chance of rain? Does that mean Mother Nature has dictated rain WILL FALL, no questions asked???? Dallas Braden came into the clubhouse drenched after running out on the field and doing a “tarp dive” (Andrew Bailey captured footage on his cell phone). Right now, tarp diving looks like the only activity that might be taking place on this field tonight. The A’s just can’t catch a break here. Tonight’s game is a makeup from their last trip to the Bronx, when they had an April 20 contest rained out. If they don’t play tonight, they’ll probably play a doubleheader at some point this weekend. We haven’t gotten any word on a Plan B yet.

–You’ve probably seen this report from ESPN’s Buster Olney, who has a source saying there’s a 50-50 chance the A’s and Cardinals swing a deal for Matt Holliday. No surprise that the A’s might be zeroing in on St. Louis third base prospect Brett Wallace, who was a heavy consideration for them during the 2008 draft.

–Surely there’s a large group of Vin Mazzaro fans who hope tonight’s game gets played. Mazzaro, from nearby Rutherford, N.J., is scheduled to make his first start in Yankee Stadium. He’ll have plenty of people cheering him on, as Andrew Bailey did during the last series here. Jack Cust is the A’s third New Jersey native.

–Some details if this game does get played: Adam Kennedy gets a rare day off, as Bob Geren said he’s trying to budget some time off for his everyday players during this 28-day stretch of consecutive games. Rajai Davis is leading off and playing right field. Bobby Crosby (7-for-23 with a HR lifetime against Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia) is playing third base. Cust is the only left-handed hitter in the A’s lineup.

–Justin Duchscherer update: His first rehab outing might come Sunday for Single-A Stockton against the San Jose Giants in San Jose. Geren said that was a possibility instead of Duchscherer throwing Monday in an Arizona Rookie League game. Hold tight on that for now. We’ll probably know more tomorrow. …

Tonight’s lineups:

A’s
Davis RF
Cabrera SS
Hairston CF
Holliday LF
Garciaparra 1B
Suzuki C
Cust DH
Crosby 3B
Ellis 2B

Mazzaro RHP

Yankees
Jeter SS
Damon LF
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Matsui DH
Posada C
Cano 2B
Hinske RF
Gardner CF

Sabathia LHP