Zobrist’s ailing left knee to be tested on field Thursday

Ben Zobrist will need to be able to do more of this with his left knee before he can return to A's lineup.

Ben Zobrist will need to be able to do more of this with his left knee before he can return to A’s lineup.

Ben Zobrist took some swings in the batting cage and stretched with his A’s teammates Wednesday and said he felt no pain but a little discomfort in his left knee, injured in a slide Sunday in Kansas City.

The prime test for Zobrist will be Thursday, when he will run the bases, do some work in the field and take batting practice. If the knee, which had a cortisone injection Monday night, responds well, he could play this weekend in Oakland against Houston.

In the background remains the possibility of some sort of arthroscopic surgery if the knee doesn’t respond as hoped. But Zobrist was feeling hopeful that he’d be back soon.

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A’s to call up Arnold Leon to beef up a depleted bullpen

The A’s have made a move to help a weary bullpen, promoting minor league starter Arnold Leon from Triple-A Nashville.

Leon was called up for a day last year, but he has never thrown a pitch in a Major League game.

The move has not been officially announced, but Leon is expected to join the club in Anaheim for Wednesday’s game against the Angels. It’s expected that to make room for Leon, the A’s will send down R.J. Alvarez, threw 48 pitches and gave up seven runs, six earned while getting just three outs Tuesday.

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Early exit from roster for Leon a tough one for Melvin

The need for a slew of arms behind them with back-to-back split-squad games Friday and Saturday over, the A’s made their first roster cuts of the spring Sunday morning, sending out five players, all pitchers.

Right-hander Arnold Leon, who was up briefly with the A’s in 2014 but didn’t pitch, was optioned to Triple-A Nashville. Right-hander Raul Alcantara, recovering from Tommy John surgery, was optioned to Double-A Midland. And right-hander Angel Castro and lefties Jim Fuller and Rudy Owens were reassigned to minor league camp.

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Leon’s heavy work load may hold him back in spring training

While it’s true that the A’s as a whole did not have a long or prosperous post-season, there are exceptions, including Arnold Leon.

The 26-year-old right-hander pitched at home in winter league baseball, in part in an effort to make sure the A’s were paying attention after a 10-7 season at Triple-A.

The A’s eyes were opened. Leon, pitching for Culiacan, went 4-2 with a 2.05 ERA in 10 starts, holding batters to a .179 average while helping the Tomateros to the Caribbean series. Leon pitched the first half of the playoffs going 3-1 in five starts with a 2.61 ERA before heading to Arizona to be ready for the start of spring training.

“It was a busy winter,’’ Leon said through a big smile. “There was a lot going on. I was coming off my first full season at Triple-A, then I was able to go play at home and pitch in the post-season.’’

While he did well, there is a question if Leon actually pitched too much. He threw 145 innings at Sacramento, then 57 in the Mexican winter league and finally 31 innings in the Caribbean series. That’s a total of 233 innings, which is a whopping amount for someone who has never pitched in the big leagues. (Leon did get called up briefly last May by the A’s but did not pitch).

Leon says his arm “feels fresh, ready to go.’’

It’s not clear that the A’s agree. There is some organizational concern over the number of innings he pitched, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the club is careful with him this spring. He’s not a candidate for the rotation at this point, so any game experience he gets in the Cactus League will come from bullpen work.


Pomeranz could start for A’s, but probably not Wednesday

Drew Pomeranz may have a future as a starter with A's

Drew Pomeranz may have a future as a starter with A’s

Drew Pomeranz threw 56 pitches on Friday, so he was judged not rested enough to be able to pitch in relief for the A’s Sunday.

The bigger question is whether the left-hander might be a consideration for the doubleheader the A’s have coming up on Wednesday against Seattle, the makeup for the rainout the first Friday of the season.

Technically, the A’s aren’t ruling anything out.

But in a practical sense, Pomeranz is unlikely to get the call because his arm hasn’t been stretched out. A starter his expected to need to throw in the neighborhood of 75 pitches at a minimum, and Pomeranz has only been over 40 pitches twice this year, including a 41-pitch effort on April 15.

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A’s learn they will be minus surgery-bound Griffin for 2014

A.J. Griffin will have season-ending elbow surgery Wednesday in Houston.

A.J. Griffin will have season-ending elbow surgery Wednesday in Houston.


The A’s have lost a second member of the 2014 starting rotation to elbow surgery with the news that A.J. Griffin will undergo elbow surgery Wednesday in Houston.

Griffin was in Houston Tuesday to see Dr. Thomas Mehlhoff for a second opinion on the state of his elbow. Dr. Mehlhoff will perform the elbow surgery, with a typical recovery time of about 12 months, depending on the type of surgery involved.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said he wasn’t sure of the type of surgery that would be needed (Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery is considered the likeliest option) but said he’d talked to Griffin and said the right-hander was taking the news in a positive way.

“He’s a happy-go-lucky guy,’’ the manager said. “This means he can see the light at the end of the tunnel to be able to pitch next season.’’

Griffin and Jarrod Parker both were supposed to be members of the rotation this year, but both found they couldn’t go forward pitching in pain mid-March, and Parker had surgery shortly thereafter. Griffin was told that three weeks of rest might get his right elbow back in form, but it didn’t happen.

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Freiman, Lindblom, Leon cut, but Burns earns Bay Area trip

Athletics first baseman Nate Freiman celebrates two-run homer vs. Astros Aug. 15, 2013

Athletics first baseman Nate Freiman celebrates two-run homer vs. Astros Aug. 15, 2013

The A’s made what are likely their last roster trims in Arizona Sunday when they optioned first baseman Nate Freiman and pitchers Josh Lindblom and Arnold Leon to Triple-A Sacramento.

Lindblom, who had a hitless, scoreless 4.2 innings against the Mariners Sunday before the M’s tagged him in the fifth, was in the mix in the bullpen, but with the A’s short two starting pitchers to the disabled list in Jarrod Parker (Tommy John surgery) and A.J. Griffin (elbow), both he and Leon will be starters for the RiverCats.

“We’re two down in the rotation,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “We need backup.’’

Lindblom served as starter and reliever in the big leagues with the Rangers last year after having been exclusively a reliever with the Dodgers and Phillies. He threw 4.2 innings without allowing a hit or a run Sunday against the Mariners before being tagged for two runs and lifted in a game the A’s lost in the bottom of the ninth, 6-4.

Lindblom said he long since learned how fruitless it was for players to play general manager, ended his spring with a 4.02 ERA and knowing that he’ll be a starter, which is what he would prefer.

Leon, too, made an impact with Melvin this spring with a 2.13 ERA in five games, including one start. The manager called him “highly impressive.’’

As for Freiman, he was a Rule 5 player last year, so the A’s had to keep him on the roster or lose him. This time around, he has options, so the club can send him down without risking losing him. And he needs more at-bats, because 2013 saw him serve almost exclusively against left-handed pitching.

“Nate needs to build up at-bats,’’ Melvin said. “Last year we needed him against left-handed pitchers, and he prepared for that. But he needs to get at-bats against right-handers and play every day.’’

Freiman hit four homers last year after having hit 42 combined in 2011 and 2012 in the minor leagues. Melvin suggests the power will return.

“The power comes when he gets more at-bats,’’ the manager said. “It’s easier to track the ball.’’

Melvin said the A’s won’t be making any more cuts before the Bay Bridge series, which means non-roster outfielder Billy Burns has opened enough eyes that he’ll be in the mix this weekend in San Francisco and Oakland.

“It’s pretty awesome,’’ Melvin said of Burns having made it this far. “I don’t know that he would have through that this would have been the case for him, but he’s earned every bit of it.’’

Burns had two more hits in Peoria Sunday, has 20 hits for the spring and is averaging .313. And let’s not forget the Major League-high 10 steals the fleet Burns had. One of his two hits Sunday was a bunt to the right side that only the fastest of men could have beaten out.


Monday’s minor-league rundown

News from the farm:


One pleasant thing to report: Vin Mazzaro, the talented 21-year-old pitching prospect, has an 0.75 ERA in his past two starts. Something not-so-pleasant: Daric Barton, who is fast turning into Kelvin Moore and other memorable busts, is in a 3-for-27 (.111) slump.


Tommy Everidge, last year’s Texas League RBI champ, drove in two runs to give the Rockhounds a quick lead, shortstop Adrian Cardenas erased a deficit with a two-run double, and pitcher Arnold Leon struck out Mark Ori to end an uprising in the ninth in a 7-4 win against Corpus Christi.


The Ports (4-14) will take their first two-game winning streak of the season into a three-game series against Visalia. One interesting item: Shane Keough, son of Matt, is hitting .209 in 17 games.


The Cougars hit three more homers Monday, pushing their Midwest League-leading total to 16, as Petey Paramore (solo), Grant Desme (two-run) and David Thomas (two-run) all went deep in a 10-6 win over Beloit. Kane County rallied from 5-1 down to win their sixth straight home game and capture its fifth straight series to start the season, a team record.


A’s minor league recap: Stockton falls to 0-8

Here’s a brief look at what happened down on the farm for the A’s affiliates Thursday:


Cliff Pennington’s hustle allowed the RiverCats to escape with a 7-6 10-inning win over Portland (Padres). The shortstop beat out a potential inning-ending double play grounder that allowed the winning run to score. Pennington’s scrappiness also showed earlier in the game as he drew three walks and scored twice. He has a .414 on-base percentage through eight games.
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