0

Andy LaRoche, Bobby Cramer make A’s roster; Tyson Ross, Eric Sogard sent down

A quick rundown on the A’s final roster cuts (so much for my predictions from this morning!)

–Andy LaRoche was kept as the utility infielder over Eric Sogard. Score that a mild upset as Sogard is the stronger defensive player and was already on the 40-man roster. Obviously, the A’s feel LaRoche is adequate enough with the glove to get by whenever he’s called upon. But this move was all about LaRoche’s potential impact with the bat. He hit .333 this spring and led the team in homers (4) and RBIs (13). Adam Rosales, the projected backup infielder before he suffered a foot injury, was placed on the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man spot for LaRoche.

–Bobby Cramer was kept as the final reliever over Tyson Ross. That’s despite a rough bottom of the ninth today in a 2-1 loss to the Giants, when Cramer had a throwing error that contributed to the Giants’ winning two-run rally. That gives the A’s four lefties in their seven-man bullpen. Jerry Blevins, Craig Breslow, Cramer and Brian Fuentes join right-handers Grant Balfour, Michael Wuertz and Brad Ziegler (Andrew Bailey was placed on the 15-day DL as expected). This was a surprising call to me. I like the idea of Ross getting Triple-A seasoning as a starter, and I think that’s best for his future. But I still thought his relief experience from last year would trump any potential benefit of keeping Cramer. It’s a great story for Cramer, who was playing in the Mexican League at this point last year and has never been on an Opening Day roster. He said that he was told to be ready for any relief role — one innings, two innings or long relief. A’s manager Bob Geren classified Cramer as predominantly a long man.

–Landon Powell was kept as the backup catcher over Josh Donaldson, which was no surprise …

More in tomorrow morning’s A’s notebook …

0

Josh Outman sent down, 5th starter battle officially down to three

****Here’s the lowdown on the A’s news of the morning …

Left-hander Josh Outman, who appeared a top candidate to be the fifth starter when spring training started, was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento along with right-hander Guillermo Moscoso, who also merited consideration for the spot early on.

This news doesn’t surprise considering how Outman has struggled to this point. The guy hadn’t pitched since June 2009 as he faced a long road back from “Tommy John” surgery. Still, Outman entered the spring healthy, and the A’s brass talked highly of his chances. But Outman has been frank that it might take a while for him to find his form.

“I had a feeling it was going to be like this,” Outman said this morning. “I haven’t competed as well as the other guys competing for the fifth starter spot.” A’s manager Bob Geren said Outman just needs innings at Triple-A to continue shaking rust off. “He’s been improving, he just needs to keep on that track to be ready to pitch at this level. I told him I’ve been through a lot of things in this game, but I’ve never missed 18 months.”

This leaves Brandon McCarthy, Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer fighting to be the fifth starter. As things are shaping up, McCarthy is emerging as the favorite, especially if he pitches well in today’s start against the Giants. Geren said that all three pitchers have a chance to make the roster “in one capacity or another.” That means any of the three could make the team as a long reliever, even Ross, who the A’s have said they’d like to keep as a starter.

–Split-squad action today:

A’s vs. Diamondbacks at home:
Crisp CF; Suzuki C; Willingham LF; Matsui DH; Kouzmanoff 3B; Jackson 1B; Sogard SS; Taylor RF; Timmons 2B; Braden LHP.

A’s at Giants:
Pennington SS; Ellis 2B; Barton 1B; DeJesus RF; Carter LF; Sweeney DH; LaRoche 3B; Donaldson C; Carson CF; McCarthy RHP.

–Ryan Sweeney had not been cleared to play two days in a row yet on his surgically repaired right knee, but Geren said he’d pinch-run for Sweeney if he gets on base in his third or fourth at-bat. And he’s not playing defense, so it’s a light day.

–Joey Devine (right biceps) said he had no lingering effects from a 35-pitch bullpen session Saturday. He could face minor league hitters in a day or two …

1

Random items on an odd day in A’s land

It just ain’t right. … Today’s A’s-White Sox game starts at 4:05 p.m. local time, and the odd start just throws the daily routine off completely. The A’s clubhouse opened at 11 a.m., players stretched at noon and then took batting practice before they make the long drive to Camelback Ranch in Glendale. Everything is pushed back about three hours from what it’s been for the past four-plus weeks — not really a day game, not really a night game. It’s baseball no-man’s land today. But enough with the drama …

–Today’s lineup against the White Sox looks familiar:

Crisp CF; Barton 1B; DeJesus RF; Willingham LF; Matsui DH; Suzuki C; Ellis 2B; Kouzmanoff 3B; Pennington SS; Cramer LHP (with Outman to follow) …

–Manager Bob Geren says he’ll tinker with his lineup, but this is the third time we’ve seen this look (and second day in a row) when Geren has penciled in an ‘A’ lineup. So he likes something about it. The top five hitters are no surprise. As for the 6-8 hitters, Geren says they could be interchangeable. I had Kouzmanoff pegged as the possible No. 6 guy, but Geren said there’s justification to hit him eighth. “You need power down in the lineup too. I’m not saying he’s going to hit there. I fully expect him to rebound in his second year in the league. If the spring is any indication, his swing looks great. He could definitely climb up in the order depending on how he does.” Kouzmanoff is hitting .387 with one homer and seven RBIs in 12 games.

–Lefties Bobby Cramer and Josh Outman both take the hill tonight, and it’s an important outing for both. Cramer is squarely in the 5th starter discussion and needs to keep up with Brandon McCarthy and Tyson Ross. Outman, who has struggled, really needs to turn things around quickly.

–Keep an eye on the backup infielder situation. Geren said Adam Rosales is recovering as expected from his right foot injury, but from talking to Rosales yesterday, I know he was hoping to be further along by now. Tough to say whether he’ll return by May 1 as the A’s hope. Andy LaRoche is hitting .324, but he’s very unproven as a shortstop. And Steve Tolleson and Eric Sogard have each missed some time and haven’t distinguished themselves yet. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the A’s sign someone with shortstop experience to back up Cliff Pennington.

That’s all for now …

0

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 …

3

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.

0

A’s minor league recap: Cardenas moved to third; Weeks stays hot

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

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

Tacoma (Mariners) 6, RiverCats 4: Story l Boxscore

Relievers Henry Rodriguez and Jay Marshall gave up five runs in the final two innings as the RiverCats failed to protect a 4-1 lead. Rodriguez walked two batters and surrendered a game-tying, three-run homer to Brad Nelson. Marshall permitted the go-ahead runs in the ninth inning.

James Simmons was in line for the win after working five innings and allowing just four hits and one run. Jerry Blevins then added two scoreless innings with four strikeouts before Sacramento’s troubles began.

Travis Buck homered and drove in two runs as his rehab seems to be going well. Danny Putnam had a two-run homer, his third in 111 at-bats for the Cats.

MIDLAND (Double-A)

Corpus Christi 5, RockHounds 1: Story l Boxscore

Adrian Cardenas, who has played mostly at second base and some at shortstop this season, has spent the last two games at third base for the RockHounds, who suffered their second straight setback. Cardenas, who booted an eighth-inning grounder Thursday night, would seem to have a much clearer path to Oakland as a third baseman. Especially with Jemile Weeks playing second base at Stockton and seemingly Oakland-bound within a couple of years. The A’s obviously figure on finding room in their lineup one day soon for both Cardenas and Weeks.

Tommy Everidge had played third for Midland for most of the year, but he was promoted to Sacramento. Alex Valdez, who arrived from Stockton, is also a third baseman.

Bobby Cramer struck out seven in 4 2/3 innings, but took the loss after allowing two runs. Matt Spencer and Archie Gilbert had two of the Hounds’ five hits, and Cardenas had the other.

Jose Valverde, the Astros’ closer who’s on a rehab assignment, pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning for Corpus Christi.

STOCKTON (High Single-A)

Modesto (Rockies) 8, Ports 2: Story l Boxscore

The Ports lost their eighth in a row as they were swept in Modesto. On the bright side, Jemile Weeks continued his torrid pace, going 3-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to 13 games.

Weeks, who has hit in every game since joining Stockton from extended spring training on May 27, is now batting .370.

Christian Vitters had a pair of hits and scored twice for the Ports.

KANE COUNTY (Low Single-A)

Wisconsin 7, Cougars 3: Story l Boxscore

The Cougars scored three times in the first on a two-run single by Steve Kleen and an RBI double by Grant Desme, but Wisconsin countered with four runs in the bottom of the first off Shawn Haviland on its way to victory.

0

The Midland Mashers

Not so long ago, any numbers generated by somebody at Double-A Midland had to be taken with a skeptical eye. Adam Piatt, of all people, earned Minor League Player of the Year honors playing there.

Continue Reading

0

A’s minor league recap: Cunningham injures shoulder

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

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

The bad news from Sacramento isn’t that the River Cats dropped three of four to Tacoma (Mariners) following Sunday’s 6-3 defeat, it was the loss of outfielder Aaron Cunningham, who is out with a separated right shoulder.

Continue Reading