0

O’Flaherty’s call from A’s came at just the right time; Alcantara’s star on the rise; Gray works over the catchers; Ynoa makes it all look so easy

The call that brought Eric O’Flaherty to the Oakland A’s couldn’t have come at a better time.

He was in the middle of rehabbing his left arm after Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery and was trying to figure out where he should go as a free agent.

Then came the news that his mother-in-law, Holly Gualco, had some serious medical issues. Being close to their Washington State home would be ideal.

“The A’s contacted us late,’’ O’Flaherty said Sunday at the A’s spring training camp at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. “But the day we got the news about my mother-in-law was the same day they called.

“I’d told my agents that even though I was probably only going pitch half a season this year (after recovering fully from the surgery), I wanted to pitch for a contender. And with Oakland being the second-closest team to our home, that became a big bonus for us.

“My wife (Heather) is going to spend a lot of time flying to Washington this year. If we were on the East Coast, it would be difficult. Being in the Bay Area makes it much easier on her. And pitching for the A’s, well you can’t pitch for a more competitive team.’’

 

–When the A’s traded reliever Andrew Bailey to the Red Sox in 2011, in return they got Josh Reddick, who has been their right fielder the last two seasons.

At the same time, Oakland insisted on getting right-handed pitcher Raul Alcantara in the deal. No Alcantara, no trade.

Alcantara threw for the first time this spring Sunday, delighting manager Bob Melvin and drawing some nice comparisons from longtime A’s director of player development Keith Lieppman.

“I look at him and he reminds me a lot of Jose Rijo with the stuff he throws, minus the slider,’’ Lieppman said.

Rijo pitched for the A’s (without much use of the slider) from 1985-87, then pitched for the Reds (with ever-increasing use of the slider) from 1988-95, including the 1990 World Series when he crushed the A’s with two wins, allowing one run in 15.1 innings for Cincinnati.

Lieppman said that Alcantara, who throws hard, will need to work on his secondary pitches.

“But the thing is he has the tools,’’ the four-decade member of the A’s organization said. “I can see him at Double-A this year and then we’ll see what happens.

Alcantara went 7-1 with a 2.44 ERA at low Class-A Beloit last year, then moved up to high Class-A Stockton where he went 5-5 with a 3.76 ERA. Through it all, he struck out 100 more than he walked, 124-24.

“The ball jumps out of his hand,’’ Melvin said after watching Alcantara throw for the first time this spring Sunday. “It’s just about controlling all the pitches and throwing the ball over the plate. We’re excited about having him. We expect big things out of him.’’

 

–Melvin, a former catcher himself, said that A’s starter Sonny Gray is one of the more difficult draws a catcher can get, especially early in the spring.

“He’s one of the more difficult guys to catch because his fastball movement is really inconsistent,’’ Melvin said. “It will cut one time, it will sink one time.

“You see catchers dropping a lot of balls, especially early in camp. Especially until you’ve caught him a few times. He’s got a very unique fastball. He’s got very late movement to it and very rarely is it straight.’’

 

–Michael Ynoa seems bigger than his 6-foot-7.

And his fastball seems bigger than most, too.

The A’s prospect threw for the first time on schedule Sunday. Last year he was supposed to open up with the A’s in the spring, but a case of the chicken pox got the better of him.

Now he’s healthy, and the A’s like what they are seeing from the Dominican prospect to whom they paid a whopping $4.25 million in 2008 when he was still in his teens. He’s just 22 now.

“That’s just easy, easy. It looks like he’s not working hard,’’ Melvin said after watching Ynoa throw. “I don’t know that he’s sweating. The ball just jumps out of his hand.

“With him it’s all about health and utilizing a secondary pitch because very rarely do you see a guy throw what appears to throw that easy and that hard. There’s a reason he got the type of money he did at the time. Now it’s all about keeping him healthy.’’Alcantara

5

Coco Crisp to re-sign with A’s on two-year, $14 million deal

Finally, there’s some A’s news about a player returning rather than being shown the door. Free agent center fielder Coco Crisp will return to Oakland on a two-year deal worth $14 million, plus a $7.5 million club option for 2014, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney. All indications I’m getting are that this is all but a done deal. Here’s my story on the topic. A’s officials aren’t confirming anything and neither is Crisp’s agent, Steve Comte. But Oakland GM Billy Beane had complimentary things to say about Crisp even as he declined direct comment on whether a contract was in the works.

Does this signing surprise you? I’m a little shocked that Crisp would return given the direction of the franchise. Top starting pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill have been traded, as have closer Andrew Bailey and fellow reliever Craig Breslow. Beane and Co. have clearly stated they don’t think it’s realistic for the A’s to contend in the AL West this season, and they’re building for a future they hope includes a new stadium in San Jose. Crisp told me in September that playing for a contender would be important to him as he entered free agency. I asked Comte how Crisp viewed the A’s given the trades that have been made this winter. “(GM) Billy (Beane) always finds a way to piece it together,” Comte said. “ … I think we’ve seen a few teams with young talent that have probably exceeded expectations.”

A two-year, $14 million deal is pretty steep for a player with Crisp’s injury history. And you figure there weren’t many teams offering Crisp as much as the A’s did on a multi-year deal. Nonetheless, this is an important signing for the A’s simply because it brings a recognizable player back into the fold after they’ve sent so many guys packing. Does it improve Oakland’s chances in the AL West? Not really. Does Crisp bring the power this team so desperately lacks with Josh Willingham’s departure? Negative. But he provides a steady glove in center field, and manager Bob Melvin is preaching improved defense in 2012. Crisp also brings a little name recognition, as second baseman Jemile Weeks was looking like the A’s only hope to build a marketing campaign around. Given how this offseason has unfolded, I’m guessing fans are chalking this up as a surprise victory.

Am I right?

4

“Moneyball” might clean up at Golden Globes, plus A’s trade updates and free agent news

The Golden Globe nominations are out, and “Moneyball” scored big across the board. Among the movie’s nominations: Best Picture, Drama; Brad Pitt (Best Actor, Drama); Jonah Hill (Best Supporting Actor); Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian (Best Screenplay). Could it be a foreshadowing of things to come at the Academy Awards? The Oscars are handed out Feb. 26. Here’s the full list of Golden Globes nominations

So big things could be in store for the A’s from the Hollywood angle. As for baseball? That’s shaping up as a much gloomier scene, based on the cornerstone players the A’s are likely to continue dealing. Cbssports.com’s Danny Knobler says the Reds are interested in Gio Gonzalez, and that the A’s want first baseman Yonder Alonso as part of any deal. That’s not surprising, considering the A’s needs at first base. Closer Andrew Bailey also remains a strong bet to be dealt.

And it’s open season for signing free agent A’s outfielders. Earlier today the Twins inked Josh Willingham to a three-year, $21 million contract. In this mlb.com video clip, the Cubs’ interest in Coco Crisp is discussed. Given the A’s outfield needs, I think they should be taking a harder look at re-signing Crisp. But they’re putting off any free agent pursuits as they await word on their stadium situation. The Dodgers also are reportedly interested in Crisp, a Los Angeles native.

–The A’s released their spring training schedule, which includes just 21 Cactus League games because of the team’s season-opening trip to Japan. The spring opener is March 2 against the Mariners at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The A’s and Giants play just once in Arizona — an A’s split-squad game March 17 in Scottsdale. Oakland’s Cactus League finale is March 21 against the Royals in Surprise, Ariz., and then the A’s fly to Tokyo to open the regular season against the Mariners in a two-game set March 28-29. They’ll return to exhibition play — a strange sequence, just as it was after their 2008 Japan trip — to play a March 31 exhibition against Triple-A Sacramento at Raley Field, and then follow up with the Bay Bridge series against the Giants on April 2-4. The A’s resume the regular season at home April 6 against Seattle.

Here’s the A’s full spring training schedule

7

Wrapping up a busy A’s news day

After all the talk about whether Gio Gonzalez or Andrew Bailey might be traded, Trevor Cahill wound up being the first prominent A’s player dealt this winter , getting sent to Arizona along with Craig Breslow for starting pitcher Jarrod Parker, reliever Ryan Cook and outfielder Collin Cowgill. Figure this won’t be the last major A’s trade before spring training. Here’s a few notes and observations, some that made my story for tomorrow’s paper and some that didn’t:

–Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday that Cahill was breaking on to the scene, unexpectedly making the A’s rotation as a rookie along with Brett Anderson in 2009? Back then Cahill was so symbolic of an A’s youth movement that came on the heels of the Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, Joe Blanton and Rich Harden trades. Now he’s on the other end of a rebuilding effort, making room for a new crop of young players. Cahill took the news hard, that was apparent from talking to him on the phone. “I loved playing for Oakland,” he said. “I knew everybody, I got along with everybody, I liked the club. I liked it from the minor leagues all the way up.”

–A’s assistant GM David Forst said trading Cahill does not make the A’s less inclined to trade another starting pitcher. So Gonzalez’s name will continue to fly in rumors. I still think Bailey will be dealt before Gonzalez, just because it will be easier for another team to offer up a package to the A’s liking.

–And if Bailey isn’t the closer in 2012, who will be? I know we’re all kind of assuming Fautino De Los Santos might be the guy. Perhaps, but Forst speaks very highly of Cook, a right-hander who brings a fastball in the high 90’s. Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes will be options too, but even they might be trade candidates. “It’s too soon to say (if Cook can pitch the ninth),” Forst said. “He closed for (Arizona) in Double-A. It’s not out of the question he could pitch at the end of the bullpen at some point.”

–The A’s have liked Cowgill for a long time. They drafted him back in 2007 out of the University of Kentucky, but he went back to school. Then they wanted him as part of the return package for Brad Ziegler last July (they liked Cook back then too). Cowgill has played lots of center field, though he played the corners last season during his time in the majors because Chris Young was in center for the D-backs. The A’s will give him every chance to win the starting center field job. Cowgill gets high marks from scouts for his competitiveness and the way he goes about playing the game, but one scout told me it’s a “leap of faith” to think he’s an everyday center fielder.

–Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports certainly doesn’t think the A’s are done dealing, as this story reveals.

That’s all for now …

6

Oakland A’s winter meetings update: Day Two

Scratch the Toronto Blue Jays off the list of potential teams targeting closer Andrew Bailey. Toronto acquired Sergio Santos from the Chicago White Sox and plans to plug him in at closer. I’d heard Tuesday that the A’s and Jays engaged in some pretty serious talks about Bailey.

While the buzz continues over which trades Oakland might make, there are other roster-related issues to consider. Here’s a few:

–It’s looking less and less likely that Hideki Matsui will be back in an Oakland uniform. That was the clear impression from manager Bob Melvin and GM Billy Beane in their comments Monday night. As the roster currently stands, Melvin said Chris Carter – who has terrific power but has hit .167 in 39 career big league games – might be the most logical man at DH. But you can toss a couple other first-base candidates – Brandon Allen and Kila Ka’aihue — into the mix as well. “Conceivably, we have a number of guys that can go into that role,” Beane said. “It’s a matter of one of those guys grasping the opportunity and running with it.” Melvin is a huge Matsui fan – the two have dined together twice recently in New York – but he also sounded skeptical about a Godzilla return.

–As I mentioned yesterday, the A’s are very likely to explore the free agent market for outfielders to plug in on a short-term basis. Beane said the team talked with Laynce Nix before he signed with Philadelphia.

–Regarding first base, Melvin said defensive ability would play a factor into who wins that job, given the A’s team-wide struggles with the glove last season. Is that bad news for Carter, who is hardly the slickest fielder? Melvin said he thought Carter looked more comfortable defensively toward the end of last season. But you figure if Brandon Allen – who showed good potential defensively – can hit at all in the spring and cut down on strikeouts, he might have the inside track. He offers the best combo of power and competent defense.

–Something to watch in spring training is whether new (and old) pitching coach Curt Young can help Trevor Cahill return to his All-Star form. “That’s why we targeted Curt and thought he could be an important piece for us here,” Melvin said. Young served as the A’s pitching coach from 2004-10 before spending last season in the same role with Boston.

–Melvin spoke highly of outfielders Michael Choice and Grant Green – the A’s top two hitting prospects – but he suggested that Choice (a 2010 first-round pick) could be on the faster track to the bigs. Choice hit 30 homers last season with Single-A Stockton and the initial thought was that another full season in the minors was needed. But Melvin believes there’s a chance Choice might force his way into the picture next season. “I think Michael Choice is coming along a lot quicker than people would have thought,” he said. While it might be a stretch to expect Choice to make the big league club this spring, Melvin added: “There always seems to be a couple guys that pop up in spring training that do something that you don’t expect.”

Green, the A’s 2009 first-round pick, has more professional experience under his belt, but considering he just converted from shortstop to center field midway through last season, it’s not surprising that Choice might be on the faster track as of now.

In case you missed it, check out my story from the first day of the winter meetings

17

Catching up on a quiet (so far) A’s offseason

Hello everybody … long time, no blog.

I’ve been doubling up lately with Cal football coverage and that’s taken the lion’s share of my time. But “Inside the A’s” has been neglected long enough, so I wanted to drop in. Not that there’s been a ton of A’s news to report anyway this offseason. By now you’ve caught the drift that the A’s won’t be as aggressive going after players as they were last winter (unless those acquisitions come in the form of prospects via trade). You might have seen this story from ESPN’s Buster Olney regarding the A’s being sellers, largely because their stadium situation remains unsettled. If the A’s get approval to build a ballpark in San Jose, we know that GM Billy Beane plans to rebuild with younger players, hoping to have a nucleus ready to blossom when that ballpark opens for business. If they were to be denied, it’s possible they might open the checkbook a little more. And what if the issue continues to drag through the winter with no word from MLB? The indications I’ve gotten are that the A’s won’t spend aggressively as long as they remain in limbo.

Olney wrote that he could see the A’s trading starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and closer Andrew Bailey. Of the two, I see Bailey as the stronger possibility to go. If the A’s don’t see themselves contending in 2012, then a dominant closer becomes less of a necessity. And Bailey could fetch a nice haul given he’s just 27 and under team control for the next three seasons. A front-of-the-rotation starter such as Gonzalez is more of a foundation piece and much tougher for a team to replace. Having said that, if a team knocks Beane’s socks off with an offer for Gonzalez, I think he would certainly pull the trigger. The Marlins are looking for starting pitching as they move into their new ballpark in Miami, and this report out of Florida says they’re eyeing Gonzalez, who is from the Miami area and would be a great addition from a baseball and marketing standpoint. The question is whether the Marlins (or any team) have the pieces to pry Gonzalez away.

Here’s some key dates to keep an eye on:

Nov. 23: This is the last day for teams to offer salary arbitration to a Type “A” or “B” free agent in order to get compensation should that player sign elsewhere. The A’s have decisions to make on outfielders Josh Willingham and David DeJesus. Willingham is a Type A, meaning the A’s stand to get a first-round pick and a sandwich pick (between the first and second rounds) should he be offered arbitration and sign elsewhere. DeJesus is Type B, meaning the A’s would get a sandwich pick if he’s offered arb and signs elsewhere. The risk for teams, of course, is that a player unexpectedly accepts arbitration, and the team is stuck paying a large salary to a player it didn’t expect to have around. I see no such risk with Willingham. He’s likely to land a multi-year deal somewhere and would seemingly want to keep his options open. DeJesus might be more willing to accept arbitration, so unless the A’s feel good about him returning, they have a decision on whether to offer it. Sometimes a team and player will reach a gentleman’s agreement that the player won’t accept arbitration if offered. I’m not sure if that’s being discussed with DeJesus.

Dec. 5-8: The four-day event known as the winter meetings, where reporters bump into each other as they walk with noses buried in cell phones, monitoring Twitter. The A’s are often subject of rumors at the meetings, but usually this period is a time for them to lay the groundwork for future moves. Now that I’ve said that, they’re bound to pull a blockbuster there. Just you watch …

Dec. 12: The deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. It’s an important day because any arb-eligible player not offered a contract is cut loose and becomes a free agent. The A’s have 10 players eligible for arbitration – Gonzalez, Bailey, relievers Craig Breslow and Joey Devine, starters Dallas Braden and Brandon McCarthy, first baseman Daric Barton, outfielder Ryan Sweeney, infielder Adam Rosales and catcher Landon Powell. Beane said at his season-ending press conference he expects all will be tendered contracts, but we won’t know until deadline day.

0

No Andrew Bailey roster move yet; the tarp comes out as rain falls at Coliseum

UPDATE: The rain started falling harder at about 5:35, and the Orioles cut batting practice short as the tarps came out. I’ll update later if tonight’s start looks in jeopardy.

***********************

Is this really Memorial Day weekend? The weather feels more like a Raider game in November. It’s chilly, and a light rain came down as the A’s took batting practice. But if forecasts are right, the rain shouldn’t affect tonight’s 7:05 game. This is the A’s first fireworks night, which typically would draw a bigger crowd. But I’d think the lousy weather might keep some people away …

–There’s no word on when Andrew Bailey will be activated, but he said he feels sharp and ready to come off the DL. Bailey threw last night and said his command all around was better. “I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes. That what I was fighting (before),” Bailey said. He played catch before batting practice, and manager Bob Geren said no decision had been made yet. You figure that if Bailey isn’t an option to pitch tonight after throwing last night, , there’s no use in activating him until Sunday.

Bailey seemed really happy to get reacquainted with Joey Devine in the clubhouse. Bailey was not with the team on the last road trip, when Devine rejoined the team. It’s amazing to think just how much time Devine missed with his elbow injury. His teammates just haven’t had much of a chance to be around him. At any rate, when Bailey returns, the A’s will be stacked in right-handed relievers.

–Nothing much to report yet on Tyson Ross or Brandon McCarthy. Neither has started throwing yet, Geren said.

–Kevin Kouzmanoff is back at third base after missing six games with a right groin strain. This A’s lineup should look familiar – it’s the opening day starting nine – but we haven’t seen it in a while …

–There’s a local boy on the mound for Baltimore – right-hander Brad Bergesen, who was a Foothill High School teammate of the Giants’ Brandon Crawford.

A’s: Crisp CF, Barton 1B, DeJesus RF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Outman LHP.

Orioles: Andino 3B, Jones CF, Markakis RF, Guerrero DH, Reimold LF, Hardy SS, Reynolds 1B, Adams 2B, Tatum C; Bergesen RHP.

6

More on McCarthy, Ross and the A’s bullpen situation

Checking in from AT&T Park, where the outlook for the A’s sure looks different than it did just a day ago …

–Brandon McCarthy said he knew in the three or four days leading up to Wednesday’s start that his shoulder wasn’t feeling right. But he knew he could get through the start, so the plan was to get his shoulder checked by a doctor Thursday morning, which he did. That appointment showed what appears to be a stress reaction – the precursor to a fracture. McCarthy is hopeful of being able to throw again within a two-week period, but he says it will depend on how he feels. Last year, he had a similar injury and tried pitching through it. He eventually missed an extra 1 ½ months because of that, and he hopes by shutting it down now, he’s nipping the problem in the bud. “It’s either stop it at the beginning and try to catch it early, or play it out until you have to stop and possibly miss more of the season,” McCarthy said. The big question: By pitching Wednesday, did McCarthy make his shoulder worse? He said he doesn’t believe that to be the case, and that the pain while pitching in games is bearable. It’s the discomfort between starts, and not being able to work out, that’s most difficult.

–As for Tyson Ross, his MRI today showed he’s got a Grade 2 oblique strain in his left side, which is considered moderate on a scale of 1-3. He said he was told he could be pitching in games again in about two weeks, but obviously it’s a very fluid situation. “You’ve got to stay on top of these things, it’s easy to re-injure it. You’ve got to let it heal and take your time,” Ross said.

Overall, the early prognosis for both McCarthy and Ross could have been worse. But anyone who’s followed the A’s in recent seasons knows that their injuries tend to linger, and setbacks occur. So there’s no clear indication when the A’s will get their two starters back. The A’s will need to call up starters for Monday and Tuesday against the Angels, and manager Bob Geren confirmed that Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso are two pitchers at Triple-A being considered.

–On the flip side of that bad news, reliever Joey Devine is back in the majors after missing the entire 2009 and 2010 seasons recovering from elbow surgery. He’s thrilled to be back, understandably. “It’s been a long while,” Devine said. “It feels good, feels like things are starting to come together. It feels like all the time and patience is starting to pay off.” And he’s still beaming from the birth of his son, Mason Joseph, on April 11. Geren said he’s happy with his late-inning relievers right now, but that Devine could be an option in the late innings if he proves effective. You can bet that Devine will start getting the call in the eighth and ninth innings if he has a couple of good outings right away. With Andrew Bailey still sidelined, you can’t waste an arm like Devine’s strictly in middle relief situations. Oakland’s bullpen has shown vulnerability and was in need of some new blood.

–Another reliever called up today, Fautino De Los Santos, is making his first appearance in the big leagues. He also has made the long road back from “Tommy John” elbow surgery, like Devine, and his fastball has been touching 99 miles per hour. Watching him figures to be like watching Henry Rodriguez, where you’re checking the radar gun every time the ball pops the catcher’s mitt. De Los Santos, speaking through a translator, says he also throws a slider, sinker and changeup.

Finally, tonight’s lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, DeJesus RF, Willingham LF, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Giants – Torres CF, Sanchez 2B, Huff 1B, Posey C, Schierholtz RF, Ross LF, Fontenot SS, Tejada 3B, Vogelsong RHP.

0

A’s update: Dallas Braden, Andrew Bailey, and of course, the rainy weather

It’s déjà vu at the Coliseum, where the rain has been falling, the tarp is on the infield and the A’s and Angels are hoping to start tonight’s game on time. Weather.com calls for a 25 percent chance of rain at 6 p.m., but then it appears we could get a break until about 10 p.m.

–Big A’s news of the day so far: Dallas Braden’s shoulder surgery in New York was successful, but the A’s announced that he will definitely be sidelined for the rest of the season. Will he recover in time to be ready for the start of the 2012 campaign? There’s no indication one way or another. Johan Santana had the same surgery (to repair a torn capsule in his shoulder) in September and it’s estimated he may be out until mid-season. The recovery appears to be anywhere from the 7-10 month range.

Braden will be missed on the mound. He’s an innings-eater and an intense competitor. But Tyson Ross has filled in more than capably. From talking to players around the clubhouse, the feeling is that Braden’s leadership and clubhouse presence will be missed the most. However, I’d expect that Braden will be around the team a lot, much like Ben Sheets was last season after he got hurt. We know that tonight’s starter, Gio Gonzalez, would welcome Braden’s presence. Can Gonzalez bounce back after Wednesday’s disastrous outing in Texas? He’s 3-2 with a 3.90 ERA against the Angels in six career starts.

–Andrew Bailey said he feels good after yesterday’s one-inning outing at extended spring training. He’ll play catch tomorrow and be re-evaluated, and he’s hopeful of starting a rehab assignment Thursday, Friday or Saturday. How many outings will he require before coming off the DL? Bailey estimates he’ll need at least four, but emphasized that it’s just a guess.

–Infielder Adam Rosales (fractured right foot) has a doctor’s appointment in Los Angeles tomorrow, and if he gets cleared, he hopes to start playing in extended spring games by the end of the week.

The lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, DeJesus RF, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Gonzalez LHP.

Angels: Aybar SS, Abreu DH, Izturis 2B, Hunter RF, Kendrick LF, Callaspo 3B, Trumbo 1B, Mathis C, Bourjos CF; Chatwood RHP.

That’s all for now …

0

Rain continues to fall at the Coliseum, but A’s-Angels game is still on

Here’s the situation at the Coliseum … The rain is falling steadily, batting practice has been canceled on the field, but the A’s have no plans to postpone tonight’s game against the Angels. That’s what we’re hearing. The forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of rain by 7 p.m., dropping to 15 percent by 8 p.m. If the A’s haven’t canceled this thing by now, they’re willing to wait it out to see if they can squeeze it in, even if it means delaying the 7:05 first pitch.

Remember what it was like during rainy day recess in elementary school, when everyone was stuck in the classroom and all activity was indoors? That’s the scene right now in the A’s clubhouse. Everyone is milling around, grabbing a bite to eat and wondering if this game is going to be played. The busiest guy in the building right now? Head groundskeeper Clay Wood, who was walking the field earlier – in shorts, with rain pouring down – surveying what kind of condition the field was in. There are puddles on the warning track, and groundskeepers are sweeping water off the infield tarp. It’s not going to be ideal playing conditions even if the rain stops.

It’s bizarre to even consider a rainout for an A’s home game. The last home rainout was May 5, 1998 against the Detroit Tigers. How many will show up for this one? Monday night games usually draw poorly anyway, and you can take it to the bank that tonight’s crowd is below the season-low of 9,193 that showed up for a May 2 game against the Rangers.

The update from Bob Geren’s pregame media chat:

–Andrew Bailey is heading to Phoenix to throw in another extended spring training game Tuesday. “That’s what he felt he’d like to do. Ronny (pitching coach Ron Romanick) talked with him on where he’s at, what he’s comfortable doing,” Geren said. The other option was for Bailey to just go out on a rehab assignment with Single-A Stockton or Triple-A Sacramento. The advantage for the A’s in an extended spring game is it’s a “controlled” environment. The A’s can stop the action, manipulate innings to keep Bailey out there for four outs if they choose – the situation can be tailored to what he needs. But pitching in minor league games will be a better test for Bailey because it’s regular game conditions. That’s the next step after Tuesday. There’s still no indication of how many minor league games Bailey will need to pitch in before returning.

–Dallas Braden’s shoulder surgery has been rescheduled for Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. He was originally supposed to have the operation today, but his flight to New York was canceled Sunday.

–Rich Harden, on the 60-day DL with a side muscle injury, is doing strengthening exercises but still not throwing. He’s nowhere close to returning yet.

–Geren talked about Michael Wuertz’s dominant form lately out of the bullpen. The guy has given up just one hit in eight appearances since coming off the DL for a hamstring injury. You’ll notice he’s starting to be used more in late-inning situations, and Geren considers him another right-handed setup option, filling the same role as Grant Balfour when Balfour isn’t available. Until Bailey returns, Wuertz’s effectiveness is even more important for the ‘pen. I’ll have more on Wuertz in tomorrow’s paper. …

Tonight’s lineups (assuming there’s baseball)

A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, DeJesus RF, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Anderson LHP.

Angels – Aybar SS, Abreu DH, Izturis 2B, Hunter RF, Kendrick LF, Callaspo 3B, Trumbo 1B, Wilson C, Bourjos CF; Pineiro RHP.