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A’s 3, Mariners 2

A couple of leftover thoughts from tonight’s game, won by the A’s when Bobby Crosby scored on Gregorio Petit’s single to right in the top of the ninth. Crosby ran through a stop sign by third base coach Mike Gallego, and I’m still wondering what the conversation would have been like between Crosby and Bob Geren had Seattle catcher Rob Johnson held on to that ball. Anyway …

–A nice bounce-back effort from Trevor Cahill, who used his extra time between starts to work on his arm slot during his delivery. The work paid dividends, according to Geren, who called the outing a “stepping stone.” “He had a touch less movement, but a touch more velocity. And he had enough movement, if that makes sense,” Geren said.

Said Cahill: “After the first couple innings, I felt like I got comfortable. It was a lot easier. I found that rhythm I had in my last couple of side (sessions).”

But the A’s still aren’t giving him much offensive support. Coming in, his run support of 2.25 per outing was fourth lowest in the American League.

–The A’s continue to lean on Andrew Bailey hard out of the bullpen. It speaks to his effectiveness, but he’s logging an awfully heavy workload for a young guy. He gave up a run in the seventh, but came back strong in the eighth, getting Jose Lopez and Johnson swinging on 93 and 94 mph fastballs. Geren continues to rave about him.

“He was working at a tempo a touch quicker today, but when he had to at the end, he got his rhythm and threw fastballs right by guys. I could see him closing games when he gets more (experience). He has that ability.”

Don’t be surprised to see Bailey get a crack at the ninth inning soon, especially if it takes Brad Ziegler (still battling the flu) a while to regain his strength …

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No Giambi for A’s; Chavez starting at 3B

Lots of on-field activity this morning at Rangers Ballpark. The A’s and Rangers each took batting practice, which is pretty unusual for a day game. But with yesterday’s rainout, both teams want to sharpen up, I suppose. …

No Jason Giambi for the A’s today, as his hamstrings need another day of rest. Bob Geren thinks he might be able to play in tomorrow’s series opener in Seattle. … Just got word that Eric Chavez will start at third base. He was penciled in to play first, but Geren mentioned to reporters that he would play Chavez at third if his elbow felt good during pre-game drills. “My preference if Eric’s arm is available would be to do that,” Geren said. That means Bobby Crosby draws his second start at first base.

I’m wondering how wise it is to have Chavez play third, if there was doubt surrounding his elbow as recently as Tuesday. Crosby has looked better at third recently, and says he’s feeling more comfortable there.

Closer Brad Ziegler is under the weather, and Geren said the plan was for Ziegler to show up to the stadium around game time to see how he felt. If he’s unavailable, that leaves the A’s with a five-man bullpen unless Santiago Casilla (right calf) is able to go. I’m sure Geren would like to avoid using him. Regardless, the A’s would sure like to see Dallas Braden pitch deep into today’s game …

The A’s lineup: Sweeney CF; Cabrera SS; Cust DH; Holliday LF; Chavez 3B; Suzuki C; Buck RF; Crosby 1B; Patterson 2B; Braden P.

Rangers lineup: Kinsler 2B; Byrd CF; Young 3B; Jones LF; Blalock DH; Cruz RF; Davis 1B; Saltalamacchia C; Andrus SS; Padilla P.

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A’s 5, Rays 2

Pretty complete effort today from the A’s, who snapped a five-game losing streak by beating Tampa Bay. A few postgame tidbits:

–Dallas Braden tweaked his groin in the fifth inning, though he and the A’s are both hopeful it’s minor. You might have noticed he lost his command a bit in the fifth and sixth innings before he was pulled. He’s looked very sharp since the season began, and the A’s have to hope he doesn’t miss any time. Remember, Braden was sidelined the final few weeks of 2008 with a groin injury too.

–I was a little surprised to see Bob Geren pull Russ Springer for Brad Ziegler with two runners on and two outs in the eighth. The A’s were up 5-1 at the time, and the situation didn’t seem urgent enough, in my opinion, to call on the closer. Springer has been pretty clutch this season. Ziegler gave up a run-scoring single that inning, but slammed the door in the ninth for his fourth save.

–You know that waggle in his bat that makes Travis Buck’s stance pretty unique? Buck is trying to tone it down some. He said he’s been studying film of his 2007 rookie season, and noticed that he had less movement in his hands before his swing, and that he hit better as a result. “It’s definitely helped out to work in the cage,” Buck said. “Once I focus on making (the movement) smaller, I see the ball a lot longer and see some good swings.”

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“Tommy John” surgery for Devine

It’s about an hour until first pitch this afternoon at Yankee Stadium. No sign of rain, but still overcast skies. As for your morning A’s news:

Manager Bob Geren confirmed that Joey Devine had reconstructive surgery on his elbow (Tommy John surgery), and that the estimated time for recovery is 8 months to a year. Fautino De Los Santos, the A’s prospect who had the procedure last May, has taken about a full year to recover, so I’d say that’s the more realistic timetable.

As I wrote this morning, it’s obviously a costly blow for the A’s. Devine was being counted on to share the ninth inning this season. And though Brad Ziegler has been solid as the closer, it hurts not having a pitcher of Devine’s caliber available as a late-game option.

No Eric Chavez in the lineup today, as it’s a day game after a night game. Geren said during the spring that Chavez wouldn’t play in day games after night games, but he’s hoping it won’t be necessary as the season goes on. Bobby Crosby gets the call at third today, with Jason Giambi DH’ing and Landon Powell playing first.

Nomar Garciaparra is hitting today and doing a little more running, and he told me this morning he’s aiming to return Friday. Tomorrow’s offday gives him an extra day of rest. The A’s have missed his bat against this slew of lefty pitchers they’ve faced. But as Geren said, “Nomar is a good hitter, period. He’s not necessarily better against lefties or righties. Missing a bat of his caliber always (hurts).”

One last tidbit: It’s confirmed that the A’s and Yankees will make up Monday’s rainout on July 23 at Yankee Stadium, meaning they’ll now play a four-game series here July 23-26.

A’s lineup: Sweeney CF; Cabrera SS; Giambi DH; Holliday LF; Cust RF; Suzuki C; Ellis 2B; Powell 1B; Crosby 3B; Anderson P.

Yankees lineup: Jeter SS; Damon LF; Teixeira 1B; Posada C; Cano 2B; Swisher RF; Matsui DH; Cabrera CF; Ranson 3B.

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A’s 6, Angels 4

Where to begin with this one? I thought the A’s lack of hitting w/runners in scoring position early on had doomed them tonight. Now they’ve earned at least a split in this series with Brett Anderson making his first career start tomorrow. Remember, first pitch got changed from 7:05 p.m. to 7:25.

A few things that didn’t make their way into tomorrow’s stories:

–Bob Geren figured Matt Holliday might not be available at all tonight due to the flu, so he actually had Bobby Crosby work w/outfield coach Todd Steverson before the game. Crosby said it was a 10-minute session, and he never thought he’d be called upon. Yet there he was in right field for the bottom of the ninth — his first career appearance anywhere but shortstop in a regular season game.

“It was just very, very weird,” Crosby said after the game. “People in the infield look small, the batter looks small. You’re kind of in the middle of nowhere.”

But by the ninth, Crosby already was in the spirit of chipping in wherever needed. Before the bottom of the fifth, with catcher Kurt Suzuki not ready yet and backup Landon Powell down in the bullpen, Crosby grabbed a catcher’s mitt and warmed up pitcher Dana Eveland.

–Speaking of Eveland, he talked after the game about how his fastball didn’t have its usual juice. That could be troubling for the A’s if it continues. “I’m usually around 89 to 91. I was 87 to 88 today. I’m not far off. It feels great coming out of my hand. But I get a peek at the (stadium radar) gun every now and then. I see 87-88 and I say, ‘Man, I better hit my spots more.’”

He still kept the A’s in the game, going six innings and allowing three runs on eight hits.

–Brad Ziegler got his second save in as many opportunities, but he took a hard shot off the left shin in the bottom of the ninth. After the game, he had a big ice pack on the shin and said the ball caught him flush.

–Jason Giambi is 5-for-9 over the past two games after going 0-for-3 in the opener.

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First impressions

At last! After seven weeks of hearing through-the-grapevine stories, it was great to see Trevor Cahill on the hill last night (albeit not in person). I was mostly impressed, although I do think he has a touch of Bob Welch disease. Welch, for those who don’t remember, had a bad habit when he first arrived in Oakland in 1988, of responding to difficulties by trying to throw the ball harder and harder. As a result, his pitches would get straighter and straighter. It wasn’t until Welch learned to back off a bit during difficult situations that he became a Cy Young winnerWelch’s 1990 campaign is another reason why I pay hardly zero attention to what happens with veterans in the spring.

Not saying the ceiling is necessarily that high for Cahill, but he will be better than he was last night once he learns how to do the same thing. Cahill gave up single runs in the first two innings Tuesday, and even though there were other mitigating factors — home plate umpire Larry Vanover’s strike zone got real tight for one — but I noticed that Cahill seemed to pumping up his effort when he was in trouble. Successful major-league pitchers will tell you that the effort needs to be the same whether the bases are loaded or the bases are empty.

That said, I see why the A’s are so excited about this kid. Can’t wait to see Brett Anderson next.

Other impressions from the first two games:

— Jack Cust cannot play the outfield. He dropped one again last night. No more evidence needed.

— Ryan Sweeney doesn’t seem to cover much ground in center field. Not sure his loping strides are going to be that effective out there. Plus, he needs to take charge more. He seems to be better suited for the corner spots.

— Physically, Jason Giambi looks like he never left.

— As I predicted, Brad Ziegler gave up a run in his first outing. Nobody should be surprised. The man went 39 innings before allowing his first run last year. So naturally, he allowed one in his first try this year.

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“Are we there yet?”

Don’t you feel like that 6-year-old in the back of the car. Spring training has been painfully long this year. I mean, the World Baseball Classic was fantastic viewing, but do we really need to add an extra week-and-a-half to the spring to accomodate it? I mean, the A’s wound up playing 35 exhibition games in Arizona alone. THAT’S ALMOST A QUARTER OF A SEASON!!!

I can only imagine how I’d feel if I were there. I haven’t seen one iota of spring training — you may have heard the newspaper industry is in flux, and it’s led to a reassignment for me — but you don’t have to be down there to get a complete sense of what you’re about to see. And what I see for the A’s is this:

“AAAUUUUGGGGHHHH!”

Yep, the regular season is lurking like Lucy Van Pelt, calling out for the A’s to come kick this football. Only, the sense I get is that the A’s are about to land square on their back. Now, granted, a couple of times viewing Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill may put my mind at ease, but for now, not so.

From 800 miles away, here’s what I see.

— A rotation that has Dallas Braden — the same Dallas Braden who a year ago at this time was being sent down, having failed to make the bullpen — at the top of it. Enough said.

— A lot of leads blown late. Look, I think the Brad Ziegler story is as great as they come, but when I look at him, I don’t see “closer.” In fact, the way baseball works, he’ll give up a run in his first outing this season.

— Injuries, injuries and more injuries. Think the inability to get a new stadium and more revenue has anything to do with this?

— A lot of 8-6 losses. At least these A’s will be fun to watch. At least when they fall behind 3-0 in the first inning, we’ll have reason to keep watching. But the bottom line is that you have to get outs.

In other words, a whole lot is going to ride on the competency of Anderson and Cahill.

No pressure.

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Devine headed to DL; out indefinitely with elbow injury

We learned this morning that right-hander Joey Devine will open the season on the disabled list with an elbow injury that he really hasn’t shaken since last season. Devine will visit elbow specialist Dr. James Andrews either Wednesday or Thursday of next week to try to decipher how significant the injury is.

Needless to say, it’s a huge blow as the A’s prepare for Monday’s season opener against the Angels. Devine and Brad Ziegler were set to open the season as co-closers, but it was generally thought among baseball observers that Devine’s stuff would allow him to eventually assume the full-time role. It’s a recurring injury that landed Devine on the DL for much of last season. He eventually returned to the mound (his 0.59 ERA was the lowest in major league history among pitchers with a minimum 25 IP). But the elbow was enough of an issue that the A’s had him visit Andrews in October. Devine missed three weeks of action once spring camp started, and his elbow flared up again yesterday.

“I spent the entire offseason and rehabbed it and then it came back as soon as I got to game-ready, the first part of spring training,” Devine said. “That tells me there is something there.”

With Devine out, Ziegler takes over the closer’s role, and Bob Geren said Russ Springer and Santiago Casilla could also be called upon on days Ziegler isn’t available for the ninth. Springer, 40, was signed to be an eighth-inning man and has just eight saves in his 16 big league seasons. Casilla has four saves, seeing just the occasional ninth-inning opportunity in recent seasons with Oakland. “Casilla is definitely throwing the ball right now where I would have confidence putting him in the ninth inning too,” Geren said.

Devine’s absence has a trickle-down effect on how the A’s can handle their bullpen. They’re expected to carry seven relievers. Ziegler, Springer, Casilla, Wuertz and left-hander Jerry Blevins, at first glance, would take five spots. The A’s could also carry two long relievers, as Geren has said might be necessary because of his young rotation. In that case, think lefties Josh Outman and Gio Gonzalez (if Gonzalez is healthy). Or, if the A’s want to avoid having three lefties, they could sub in prospect Andrew Bailey for Blevins. Bailey hasn’t allowed a run in 10 spring outings.

Of course, Outman is starting today’s game against the Royals, and Geren still considers him a rotation candidate. “We haven’t finalized anything in our rotation and probably won’t until after the Bay (Bridge) Series,” Geren said.

The rest of today’s lineup vs. KC:

Sweeney CF
Cabrera SS
Giambi 1B
Holliday LF
Garciaparra 3B
Cust RF
Suzuki C
Buck DH
Crosby 2B

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Crosby’s tour of infield continues

After getting his first start at second base Tuesday, Bobby Crosby is starting at first base for the A’s this afternoon against Milwaukee. That’s one noteworthy aspect of today’s mix-and-match lineup. The A’s want Crosby to get comfortable at every infield spot. He played one inning at first as a mid-game substitute earlier this spring, when he borrowed Jack Hannahan’s first baseman’s mitt. Bob Geren said Crosby looked very comfortable in fielding drills Friday afternoon. “We did a lot of 3-6-3 double plays, and he looked very good. I thought, ‘Wow, he looks like a shortstop playing first base.’ He was very smooth.”

Daric Barton’s sore quadriceps has tightened up on him again, and he’s been unavailable the past couple of games. Another reason Crosby is playing first today.

–The bullpen was a hot topic during Geren’s media chat, and the skipper said he still plans to have Joey Devine and Brad Ziegler share the closer’s role to start the season. “I’m going to give them a shot, and somebody possibly will emerge as closer, or we can mix and match all season.” Devine gave up a homer last night in his first game since March 4. Ziegler, who has thrown in two minor league games since returning from the World Baseball Classic, is scheduled to pitch for the A’s tomorrow against Colorado.

–Still no change on catcher Landon Powell’s status. He’s been unavailable the past several games with a strained muscle in his ribs. The A’s are bringing newly acquired Curtis Thigpen to Maryvale today to provide backup for Joel Galarraga, who starts at catcher. I’d be at least a little concerned about Powell at this point if I were the A’s, though neither Powell nor Geren is expressing much outward worry.

–Eric Chavez said Friday night he was hoping to play both Sunday and Monday to see if he could handle back-to-back games. Geren said that will be up to the training staff.

–Justin Duchscherer’s arthroscopic surgery will take place either Monday or Tuesday.

Today’s lineup:
Sweeney CF
Crosby 1B
Holliday LF
Cust RF
Hannahan 3B
Galarraga C
Pennington SS
Petit 2B

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Devine getting closer to return

The A’s got some encouraging news today when co-closer Joey Devine threw a 20-pitch bullpen session without pain in his right elbow. Devine, as relayed by an A’s official, said the tentative plan was for him to throw off the mound again Saturday and possibly pitch in a game early next week. He’s been sidelined for two weeks. The A’s have talked all spring about the luxury of having an extra-long camp, so they don’t have to rush injured players into action. But I’d think it has to be a little unsettling not having either of your closer candidates pitching w/the team for an extended period. Brad Ziegler is with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, and though he’s getting regular work, wouldn’t you feel better watching his progress in person? It will be interesting to see how the A’s use Devine and Ziegler in exhibitions once they’re both available to the team. …

–Bobby Crosby was taking grounders at first base during BP and then shifted over to second base briefly. He’s in the lineup today against Texas at third base. At some point, the A’s are going to have to get him some time at second in exhibitions if he’s going to start the season as the backup middle infielder. … Orlando Cabrera was a late scratch for today’s game because of a “non-baseball related condition,” which typically is code for illness. Cliff Pennington was inserted at shortstop. Matt Holliday, however, is back in the lineup after being sick.

Today’s starting nine:

Buck RF
Ellis DH
Sweeney CF
Holliday LF
Suzuki C
Barton 1B
Crosby 3B
Petit 2B
Pennington SS

Edgar Gonzalez on the mound …

–Justin Duchscherer threw long toss again Wednesday and was scheduled to throw again today. Eric Chavez is doing well in his throwing program, manager Bob Geren said, but no word yet on when he might hit. Chavez said yesterday he wants to start playing in games in about a week.

That’s all for now. Gotta make the long drive to Surprise, the longest commute we have to get to another Cactus League ballpark other than going to Tucson …