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Yoenis Cespedes shows up to take physical, will join A’s on Sunday

Well, Yoenis Cespedes arrived to A’s camp Saturday — sort of. He showed up to take his physical and met a few people, but the team isn’t announcing he has joined the team yet. Passing his physical is the last step for the Cuban outfielder’s four-year, $36 million deal to be finalized. It’s rather odd to see a player walk into the clubhouse, shake some hands, but no one is officially acknowledging his existence. At any rate, Cespedes missed the first two weeks of spring training while awaiting his visa paperwork to be processed. He will join his teammates on the field Sunday and address the media for the first time. Players were having fun with his arrival. “It’s a big day for you guys,” Jonny Gomes joked to writers, knowing full well how much ink Cespedes has received before he even showed up.

In other news, A’s manager Bob Melvin discussed his closer situation and said that choosing a ninth-inning man will depend partly on what the full composition of the bullpen looks like. He said spring results for veterans such as Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes won’t factor so much into the decision because of those pitchers’ vast experience. He stopped short of labeling those two front runners to be closer. Fautino De Los Santos and Joey Devine are also under consideration.

But one factor in the decision will be how many left-handed relievers the A’s break camp with. If Fuentes is the only lefty in the bullpen, for example, it might be tough to use him as closer because he might be needed for matchup situations earlier in the game. And that will take some time to play out. Jerry Blevins, Jordan Norberto and Pedro Figueroa, who has impressed early, are all lefty relievers who are legitimate candidates to make the team.

Manny Ramirez originally was going to serve as D.H. on Sunday against the Cubs in Mesa. Instead, Chris Carter will play that entire game at D.H. and Ramirez will start Monday’s split-squad home game against the Angels. “Carter’s the one guy, he had just one at-bat (Friday) and he’s not starting (Saturday),” Melvin said. “So I’ll give him several at-bats (Sunday).”

First baseman Daric Barton had an MRI on his surgically repaired right shoulder, which will delay his throwing program and likely hinder his chances in the first base competition. Barton said he started feeling sore recently as his throwing increased. After missing a couple of days, he was back doing infield work Saturday morning. He is scheduled to swing the bat Sunday and might be available to DH on Monday.”It’s good to be back on the field and be a part of the team again,” Barton said.

We’re off to Peoria for this afternoon’s game against (who else!!) the Mariners. It’s one of the longer Cactus League road trips for the A’s. Surprise Stadium, spring home of the Rangers and Royals, still takes the prize for longest drive from A’s headquarters.

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A’s manager Bob Melvin talks pitcher/catcher relationship, and the search for a closer

On the first day that pitchers and catchers worked out, A’s manager Bob Melvin had a predictable topic in his team meeting Sunday. “The message today was about the pitcher/catcher relationship, we’re trying to cultivate that,” said Melvin, a former catcher with the Giants. “The catchers are an extension of the pitchers. We want our guys to feel like when the pitcher gives up a run, that’s their run. That’s their ERA.”

The A’s had an opportunity to begin camp about a week earlier than they did, due to their early season opener against Seattle on March 28 in Tokyo. The Mariners opted to take advantage of that time and report earlier. Melvin defended the A’s decision not to, saying there’s sufficient time to get everyone ready. “You can do all the work like this to get their arms ready and so forth, but it’s when you get into games that you really start to find out about people,” he said. “We didn’t feel like we needed to go too early. We’re talking about two regular-season games (in Japan).”

And Melvin was asked again about the closer’s position, which is sure to be a hot topic in coming weeks. The A’s need to identify a ninth-inning man since Andrew Bailey was traded in the winter. “The obvious choices are (Grant) Balfour and (Brian) Fuentes,” Melvin said. “Those are guys in the past that we’ve used to get key outs in earlier innings, too. We do have talented guys like (Joey) Devine and (Fautino) De Los Santos. We have several guys capable of doing it, but we’ll take our time choosing that guy.”

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Bob Melvin talks pitcher/catcher relationship, and the search for a closer

On the first day that pitchers and catchers worked out, A’s manager Bob Melvin had a predictable topic in his team meeting Sunday. “The message today was about the pitcher/catcher relationship, we’re trying to cultivate that,” said Melvin, a former catcher with the Giants. “The catchers are an extension of the pitchers. We want our guys to feel like when the pitcher gives up a run, that’s their run. That’s their ERA.”

The A’s had an opportunity to begin camp about a week earlier than they did, due to their early season opener against Seattle on March 28 in Tokyo. The Mariners opted to take advantage of that time and report earlier. Melvin defended the A’s decision not to, saying there’s sufficient time to get everyone ready. “You can do all the work like this to get their arms ready and so forth, but it’s when you get into games that you really start to find out about people,” he said. “We didn’t feel like we needed to go too early. We’re talking about two regular-season games (in Japan).”

And Melvin was asked again about the closer’s position, which is sure to be a hot topic in coming weeks. The A’s need to identify a ninth-inning man since Andrew Bailey was traded in the winter. “The obvious choices are (Grant) Balfour and (Brian) Fuentes,” Melvin said. “Those are guys in the past that we’ve used to get key outs in earlier innings, too. We do have talented guys like (Joey) Devine and (Fautino) De Los Santos. We have several guys capable of doing it, but we’ll take our time choosing that guy.”

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A’s aiming for .500 on interleague road trip

It’s game six of the A’s six-game interleague road trip. If they finish this journey 3-3, it would be quite an accomplishment considering they would have beaten Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay in doing so.

–There’s nothing particularly essential to report from the A’s pregame scene. Pretty standard lineup, other than Landon Powell starting behind the plate in place of Kurt Suzuki. That’s the typical day-game-after-night-game scenario, and Oakland manager Bob Melvin pointed out that Suzuki has caught some long games in hot weather on this trip. But I’d expect to continue seeing more of Powell, especially if Suzuki continues to struggle at the plate. “I’m staying pretty consistent with the fact that I want to get him involved,” Melvin said of Powell. “He’s done a nice job.” Melvin did praise Suzuki on Saturday for calling a good game for Trevor Cahill.

–Grant Balfour is still bothered by a sore right oblique, and Melvin was assuming he wouldn’t be available today. He’ll also try to stay away from Brian Fuentes, who has either pitched, or warmed up to pitch, often over the past several days. Melvin has come to Fuentes’ defense this weekend, saying he didn’t fault him for giving up a chopper that went for the game-winning hit for the Phillies on Friday, and adding that Fuentes has been flexible and agreeable to whatever role he’s been asked to fill.

The lineups:

A’s – Weeks 2B, Pennignton SS, Crisp CF, Matsui LF, Jackson 1B, Sweeney RF, Sizemore 3B, Powell C, Outman LHP.

Phillies – Rollins SS, Polanco 3B, Victorino CF, Howard 1B, Francisco RF, Ruiz C, Ibanez LF, Valdez 2B, Halladay RHP.

–It’s been a good few days in Philadelphia, an out-of-the-ordinary stop for us on the road trip circuit. The cheesesteak at Pat’s King of Steaks was excellent. I give it a slight edge over Geno’s, the other landmark cheesesteak establishment located right across the street from Pat’s. I tried Geno’s on a non-baseball trip to Philadelphia a few years ago. You can’t go wrong trying either one. But Pat’s is a little grittier, the service is very no-nonsense, bordering on bossy. Somehow that adds to the authenticity of the experience, if that makes any sense.

I was told that the Courtyard by Marriott where I stayed was used for filming scenes for “The Sixth Sense” and “Twelve Monkeys.” That information came from a cabbie, who was a handy tour guide when he wasn’t spewing obscenities at the “crazy drivers” all around him.

And if you get to Philadelphia, you have to stroll through the Italian Market, where Rocky went for his epic jog while training for his second fight against Apollo Creed. This is the second “Rocky II” clip I’ve provided on this blog. Obviously, this movie has affected me deeply …

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Geren, Fuentes try putting drama behind them; Balfour new A’s closer

A’s manager Bob Geren and reliever Brian Fuentes cleared the air in a pregame conversation inside Geren’s office Tuesday. Both say they’re trying to leave the drama created by Fuentes’ harsh comments Monday night behind them. Fuentes said he was frustrated that prior conversations with Geren regarding his role in the bullpen didn’t solve anything, but in retrospect, he thinks he was wrong to air it out to reporters. “I definitely meant what I said, but I went about it wrong.” Fuentes didn’t share details of the conversation, but said: “It was a positive discussion on both ends. I think we both understand how each other feel.”

Geren said he requested the meeting with Fuentes after reading Fuentes’ comments criticizing Geren’s communication with him over how he’s being used. “I gave him my thoughts, he gave me his thoughts. Everything’s good. We shook hands. Everything’s fine.”

Geren did say that he’s switching to Grant Balfour as his closer for now. Fuentes is 1-7 with a 5.06 ERA and has taken the loss in his last four appearances, entering a tie game each time. “I told Brian that until he strings a few good outings in a row that I would stick with Balfour for now,” Geren said.

I’ll have more on this in tomorrow’s paper. Here’s the lineups:

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

Angels – Izturis 2B, Aybar SS, Abreu DH, Hunter RF, Callaspo 3B, Trumbo 1B, Conger C, Amarista LF, Bourjos CF; Haren RHP.

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Andrew Bailey’s return is still down the road; Coco Crisp back in A’s lineup

Here’s the pregame lowdown from the Coliseum, as the A’s try to rebound from Saturday’s shellacking …

–As you’ve noticed, the news has been vague on closer Andrew Bailey ever since he’s been on the disabled list. It remains that way, though we got a little more detail today. Bailey threw another bullpen session this morning, and if he comes out of it OK, he’ll throw a batting practice session in a few days, possibly Wednesday. Manager Bob Geren said Bailey likely would throw a simulated game after that, and then the A’s would decide when he begins a minor league rehab assignment. How many outings would he need to be ready to join the major league club? “I don’t really know how many appearances I’ll need before pitching in the big leagues, but I’d say a few since I really didn’t have a spring training,” Bailey said. It’s easy to forget that Bailey pitched in just two exhibitions before suffering his forearm strain.

Long story short, it’s going to be at least two weeks before Bailey rejoins the A’s bullpen. So it’s up to Brian Fuentes and the other relievers to hold down the fort until then. Going hand in hand with that, the A’s would really benefit from their starters continuing to pitch deep in games. Entering today, Oakland’s starters were tied for fourth in the majors in innings pitched (172 2/3).

–Coco Crisp returns to the leadoff spot after missing three games with tightness in his left quadriceps. David DeJesus is sitting against left-hander Matt Harrison and DH Hideki Matsui was dropped to the sixth spot. Andy LaRoche, despite a shaky day defensively Saturday at second base, gets a start at third in place of Kevin Kouzmanoff.

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

Rangers – Kinsler 2B, Andrus SS, Young DH, Beltre 3B, Cruz LF, Napoli 1B, Murphy CF, Torrealba C, Moreland RF; Harrison LHP.