4

Conor Jackson in right field as A’s try to break through vs. Mariners

The weather is absolutely perfect in Seattle right now as the A’s take batting practice, but the temperature is sure to drop big-time as the night wears on. Still, it was nice to sit in the dugout while the A’s were hitting and not freeze. …

A’s manager Bob Geren said last night that he planned to start both Conor Jackson and Andy LaRoche tonight against Seattle left-hander Jason Vargas. But only Jackson is in there, playing right field in place of David DeJesus (who is actually hitting .346 over his past seven games). Geren said he thought about giving Cliff Pennington a day off and playing LaRoche at shortstop, but he likes the way Pennington’s swing has looked lately.

The lineups:

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

Mariners – Ichiro RF, Figgins 3B, Kennedy 1B, Cust DH, Saunders CF, Rodriguez SS, Gimenez C, Peguero LF, Wilson 2B; Vargas LHP.

–Andrew Bailey threw a 35-pitch bullpen session. All indications are he continues to progress well, but pitching coach Ron Romanick said Bailey will throw at least once more on the side before facing hitters.

That’s all for now …

2

Geren searching for right offensive formula

Here are the lineups for Game 2 of A’s-Mariners from Safeco Field:

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

M’s – Ichiro RF, Figgins 3B, Bradley LF, Cust DH, Kennedy 1B, Olivo C, Langerhans CF, Ryan SS, Wilson 2B; Pineda RHP.

It’s the sixth time the A’s have gone with their opening day lineup, and it’s the only one that Bob Geren has used more than once. Overall, the A’s have used 14 different lineups over the first 19 games. Right now, Geren would go with any combo that offered the promise of scoring more runs. He says the A’s are trying anything to jumpstart things offensively, including giving the green light on 3-0 counts more often. “We’re trying to build on what we do well and exploit every different way to score runs,” Geren said.

–The stat that says all you need to know: David DeJesus has the highest batting average of any A’s regular. … and he’s hitting just .250.

–First baseman Daric Barton said he still has some flu-like symptoms but feels good enough to play.

That’s all for now …

0

All-AL West road trip provides an early test

It’s only April, but any road trip made up solely of AL West foes is important for the A’s. They begin a four-game series against the Mariners tonight, and then play three against the Los Angeles Angels, who found themselves alone in first place beginning play today. “It’s an early run through the division, but you want to fare well,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “It seems year to year that whoever does best in the division ends up winning.”

Not that you would care much about this, but Safeco Field might have the coldest press box in the American League. It’s just big and spacious and there’s not a lot of warmth, so you have to game-plan with what you wear in here. I brought a heavy jacket, but I try to hold off on wearing it until the later innings. Once you put your jacket on, it’s your last line of defense. When you start freezing in your jacket, forget about it. So I try to tough it out as long as I can. Grrrr ….

The A’s draw a hard assignment tonight against Felix Hernandez, who is 5-2 with a 2.26 ERA at home against the A’s in eight career starts (62 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings). He also threw a five-hitter to beat them opening night at the Coliseum. But the A’s counter with Brandon McCarthy, who has been a real pleasant surprise for Oakland at the back of the rotation. It’s a quality pitching matchup to start this road trip …

Hideki Matsui is out of the lineup, with Josh Willingham serving as DH and Conor Jackson getting a start in left field. Matsui is a .207 career hitter against Hernandez with one homer in 29 at-bats. Jackson is hitless in three at-bats against King Felix.

Michael Wuertz will pitch again for Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday. Wuertz gave up three runs on three hits with two walks in one inning against Reno on Wednesday. “Hopefully he’ll pitch more efficiently,” Geren said. “He hasn’t been sharp yet.” So the five lefties remain in the A’s bullpen …

The lineups, with Daric Barton just announced as a late scratch (no reason given).

A’s – Crisp CF, DeJesus RF, Jackson 1B, Willingham DH, Sweeney LF, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; McCarthy RHP.

Mariners – Ichiro RF, Figgins 3B, Kennedy 1B, Cust DH, Saunders CF, Olivo C, Peguero LF, Ryan SS, Wilson 2B; Hernandez RHP.

1

Tyson Ross gets Friday start vs. Seattle; Dallas Braden visiting Dr. Yocum in Los Angeles

A’s manager Bob Geren confirmed what had seemed likely: Tyson Ross will start Friday vs. Seattle in Dallas Braden’s place. How long will he remain in the rotation? That depends on the severity of Braden’s shoulder injury. Braden is flying to Southern California on Wednesday to be examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum. The A’s have sent several pitchers to Yocum to be examined over the years. Sometimes a long-term injury is revealed, sometimes it turns out to be minor. Braden wasn’t available in the clubhouse before batting practice, though he is at the ballpark.

Ross made the team last season as a reliever, got a couple of spot starts in place of Justin Duchscherer, and then struggled after he was put back in the bullpen, eventually getting sent down to Triple-A Sacramento. I’d like to see this guy get an extended stretch as a starter, whether that’s in the majors or with Sacramento. If the A’s see his long-term potential being in the rotation, then I think that’s where he needs to pitch. He’s not so dominant out of the ‘pen that you absolutely have to pitch him there.

Ross is excited to be getting his shot to start. Michael Wuertz? Not quite so enthusiastic right now. Wuertz (strained left hamstring) says he’s ready to be activated from the DL, but the A’s are having him make a third rehab appearance Wednesday. He’ll travel to Reno to pitch for Sacramento. Wuertz had a shaky first outing for Single-A Stockton, giving up three runs, but fared better Monday. He allowed a run in one inning but struck out three. “They just told me to go down, make another appearance and go from there,” Wuertz said. “To me, I’d like to be out there right now. It’s just the way it is.” Manager Bob Geren said he wants to see how Wuertz fares pitching an inning-plus, and the A’s will decide his next step afterward.

–Got a chance to meet David Purcey, the new addition to the A’s bullpen. Nice guy … After being designated for assignment by Toronto last Tuesday, he went home to Dallas when he got word that the A’s traded for him Monday. Purcey didn’t mind the down time – his wife Kate is expecting twins, the couple’s first children …

Tonight’s lineups:

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

Red Sox – Lowrie SS, Pedroia 2B, Gonzalez 1B, Youkilis 3B, Ortiz DH, Cameron RF, Crawford LF, Saltalamacchia C, McDonald CF; Lackey RHP.

0

Reminiscing on Little League day; Dallas Braden to see doctor

It’s Little League day at the Coliseum, so there was a trail of kids making their way past the A’s dugout high-fiving Gio Gonzalez and Bobby Cramer this morning. … I have vivid memories of attending Little League day as an 8-year-old, wearing my uniform and making a lap around the field before the game. Rickey Henderson was playing left field. This was Rickey’s first stint in Oakland, when he wore No. 35. My earliest memories of going to A’s games are seeing Henderson in left field, Dwayne Murphy in center and Tony Armas in right. In Toronto recently, I got to interview Murphy, who’s now the Blue Jays hitting coach, about Rajai Davis. That was cool … Friends ask me if I get star-struck interviewing major league players. For me, it’s more the current crop of coaches around the majors that I get a thrill out of talking to. Because the guys coaching now were the ones I idolized as players when I was growing up. … Anyway, everybody’s gotta take the trip down memory lane now and then, right?

–Dallas Braden is not a happy camper right now regarding his stiff shoulder. He had very little to offer on the injury this morning. “Still sore, stiff, hurts. I’m not gonna throw.” Asked if he was holding out hope of making his next start, Braden just shook his head no. A’s manager Bob Geren said Braden would get checked by a team doctor later today, so maybe we’ll get more information after the game. Geren isn’t speculating yet on whether Braden will miss any time. And with Monday’s day off, the A’s can push Braden’s start back several days if they wish. But on first impression, it sure doesn’t seem like good news for Braden based on his demeanor. Might Tyson Ross or Bobby Cramer be in line for a stint in the rotation?

–Coco Crisp is not in the lineup. With no game Monday, the A’s want to try to give him two straight days off to rest his back. But Geren said Crisp is available if needed off the bench. David DeJesus is playing center field with Conor Jackson in right. Geren said he was considering giving Ryan Sweeney a start, but Sweeney’s hamstring tightened up as he legged out a triple last night. He’s also available if needed, but Geren didn’t want him starting.

–Somewhat lost in the shuffle with the A’s terrific starting pitching so far: The fact that Trevor Cahill has not been very sharp. He’s failed to complete five innings in two of his first three starts, so we’ll see how he fares this afternoon. Tigers starter Brad Penny is facing the A’s for just the third time in his career. He’s allowed 15 earned runs in 16 1/3 innings this season.

The lineups:

A’s – DeJesus CF, Barton 1B, Jackson RF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Ellis 2B, Powell C, LaRoche 3B, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Tigers – Rhymes 2B, Jackson CF, Boesch DH, Cabrera 1B, Raburn LF, Kelly 3B, Peralta SS, Avila C, Wells RF; Penny RHP.

0

LaRoche might get more time at third base

Are you still wondering what to make of this A’s team? So am I … After showing signs of life on the road, the offense was silenced last night. The A’s try to even this four-game series against Detroit tonight, with Brandon McCarthy attempting to make it three straight strong starts to begin his 2011 season.

Andy LaRoche draws his second straight start at third base, and A’s manager Bob Geren said he might give LaRoche an extended look there. Kevin Kouzmanoff is hitting just .171 in 13 games and he’s made four errors. He just looks off defensively right now. “I told him guys have ups and downs fielding and have ups and downs hitting,” Geren said. “Right now he’s having a rough time with both of them. But I have confidence he’ll break out offensively and defensively, because he’s done it in the past.”

That’s not to say there won’t be any defensive adventures with LaRoche. I asked him about that ugly sacrifice fly in the eighth inning last night, when left fielder Josh Willingham caught a fly ball in left-center, fired a throw to third and no one was there covering, which allowed a second run to score on the play. LaRoche was positioned to be the cutoff man for a throw home (there were runners on second and third to start the play).

LaRoche said he wandered away from third to be cutoff man because the runner at second was not tagging up. At any rate, there was confusion on the play, and LaRoche said a game plan is in place to better handle the situation next time. With runners on second and third and less than two outs, if there’s a fly ball to left-center, one possibility is to have first baseman Daric Barton be the cutoff man, allowing the third baseman to stay at third. As we’ve seen, the A’s are likely to be in a lot of close games this season, and they can’t afford to be giving away extra runs. …

–Michael Wuertz (strained left hamstring) is scheduled to throw one inning for Single-A Stockton on Saturday. If that goes well, he might do so again Sunday. Geren said they would wait to see how Wuertz comes out of Saturday’s outing before proceeding with his next step. The right-hander has been on the DL since April 6 …

The lineups:

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

Tigers – Rhymes 2B, Raburn LF, Boesch RF, Cabrera 1B, Martinez DH, Kelly CF, Inge 3B, Avila C, Santiago SS; Porcello RHP.

0

Crisp sits with back soreness as A’s try to clinch winning road trip

Today feels like one of those “swing games” for the A’s, where the outcome really shapes how you look back on this road trip. A win leaves them at 5-4, which would be a nice accomplishment for a challenging nine-game trip early in the year. A 4-5 finish wouldn’t be terrible, but the A’s don’t want the momentum from their three-game winning streak to evaporate completely. Brett Anderson takes the ball after his sharp eight-inning effort last time out against the Twins …

–Coco Crisp is not in the lineup — his back is still bothering him. A’s manager Bob Geren said Crisp felt about the same as he did last night when he left the game for a pinch hitter, so he’s getting some rest. No indication right now that this is anything to be alarmed about.

Daric Barton gets his first day off, with Andy LaRoche playing first base. Barton played in 159 of 162 games last season, and I think he could benefit from a few more off-days. But is it best to sit a guy when he’s coming off a four-hit night? Geren said it was a tough call, but added that Barton’s body was in need of a break. “He could use a day.”

–A couple of relievers knocked some rust off last night. Craig Breslow made his first appearance in 10 days, and Brad Ziegler hadn’t thrown in six. That’s a tough gig for guys who’ve been off that long to enter a tight game and be sharp. Breslow, who finished the fifth in relief of Trevor Cahill, was mad at himself for walking the leadoff man in the sixth, which led to the Sox’s tying run. Overall, Geren said he was pleased with how Breslow and Ziegler looked, and that they’d be called on more frequently. With A’s starters pitching deep in games, a few relievers are bound to have long layoffs. But I wouldn’t expect Breslow to get that much inactivity moving forward. His performance is a key to this bullpen’s effectiveness, especially with Andrew Bailey and Michael Wuertz on the DL.

Wuertz, by the way, is scheduled to throw a simulated game Thursday at the Coliseum. If that goes well, he would pitch in a minor league game Saturday. So it looks like his return won’t be far off.

Enough rambling, here’s the lineups …

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

White Sox – Pierre LF, Beckham 2B, Dunn DH, Konerko 1B, Quentin RF, Rios CF, Ramirez SS, Castro C, Morel 3B; Danks LHP.

5

Mark Ellis sits with inner ear problem; Andy LaRoche’s tour of the A’s infield continues

It’s getaway day for the A’s in Toronto, and they want nothing more than to get away with a victory. Trevor Cahill takes the mound looking to help the A’s avoid a three-game sweep. …

Andy LaRoche remains a busy guy. He’s starting at second base today with Mark Ellis experiencing an inner ear problem. LaRoche started at shortstop Tuesday, then played third base Wednesday night. It’s sort of a continuation of what we saw in the spring, when LaRoche bounced around to all four infield spots. Interesting story from the spring: Many utility infielders will have different gloves for different spots – a smaller one for turning double plays at second base or short, and maybe a bigger one for third base. LaRoche told me during camp he prefers sticking with one glove that he’s comfortable with at all three of those positions – advice he once received from Jeff Kent.

Ellis’ inner ear problem is causing him some dizziness but it’s not thought to be vertigo, he said. He felt it a bit during Wednesday’s game (can you imagine backpedaling on a shallow fly to right field if you were dizzy?). Ellis said it was tough sleeping last night, but he gradually felt his ear popping, which relieved some pressure. “I’m not looking forward to the flight (to Minnesota),” he said. Manager Bob Geren said the team was weighing whether it was safe to have Ellis fly today, but driving to Minnesota is not a practical option – too far. The upshot: Ellis won’t play in his 1,000th career game until Friday at the earliest.

Conor Jackson draws a start in right field with David DeJesus getting the day off against Toronto left-hander Ricky Romero. Hideki Matsui is hitting sixth, and Geren said he’ll likely drop DeJesus or Matsui to the No. 6 spot against lefties most games.

A’s: Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Jackson RF, Willingham LF, Kouzmanoff 3B, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, LaRoche 2B, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Jays: Davis CF, Nix 3B, Lind 1B, Hill 2B, Rivera RF, Encarnacion DH, Snider LF, Arencibia C, McDonald SS; Romero LHP.

0

A’s place Michael Wuertz on DL with strained left hamstring; Tyson Ross called up as expected

The latest from Toronto …

The A’s have called Tyson Ross up as a reliever, with Michael Wuertz going on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. This is the first we’ve heard of Wuertz’s injury. Dallas Braden is still starting Wednesday night’s game … I’ll update again after Bob Geren addresses the media …

0

Coco Crisp returns, Hideki Matsui sitting today with neck stiffness

We’ve got much better weather today, so the A’s-Reds game is definitely on, with Brett Anderson getting the start.

–Coco Crisp is back in the lineup and said his sore left hamstring is better. But designated hitter Hideki Matsui will not make the trip to Goodyear because of a stiff neck he got from sleeping wrong a couple of nights ago. He did not hit Monday and said he might return Wednesday, depending on how his hitting goes today. He didn’t expect his neck to factor into whether he plays in the outfield Thursday, when the A’s play the Arizona Diamondbacks and won’t have a DH. Manager Bob Geren said he’s anticipating Matsui being his DH on Wednesday and playing the outfield Thursday.

–Geren reiterated that he’ll probably announce his Opening Day starter by the end of the week, as well as the other starters for that first three-game series against Seattle. He also says he’s inclined to NOT skip his fifth starter early in the season because of off days. He likes the idea of all the starters getting an extra day of rest.

The lineup vs. the Reds
Crisp CF
Barton 1B
DeJesus RF
Willingham LF
Sweeney DH
Suzuki C
Ellis 2B
Kouzmanoff 3B
Pennington SS

Anderson LHP