A’s roundup: The heart of the order; Devine and Outman’s roster chances; Conor Jackson to see action at first base

We’ve got an A’s intrasquad game this afternoon, which really isn’t all that exciting or revealing in the big picture. But after watching nine days worth of workouts, it’s nice to get some variety. And it’s the first chance to see the team in a somewhat realistic game environment.

A few items of note:

–David DeJesus, Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui are batting 3-4-5 for one team, and that’s a heart of the order I’d expect to see lots in the regular season. “That’s a potential 3-4-5 for the season. We’ll see how the spring goes,” manager Bob Geren said.

–I’ll be interested to see Josh Outman and Joey Devine pitch today. Both have endured a long recovery from Tommy John surgery, and they could factor heavily into the pitching plans for the season – Outman as a fifth starter, Devine as a setup man.

Asked about the prospects of both making the 25-man roster out of camp, Geren said: “If they look like they’re ready, they’re gonna be here, without a doubt.” Seems telling to me: There’s open competition for the No. 5 starter spot, but if Outman looks decent and is healthy, he’ll be the guy, especially with Rich Harden delayed by injury. And Devine’s stuff is too good for him not to break camp w/the team if he’s healthy.

–Conor Jackson will start working at first base a little, giving Geren a right-handed option for the position to complement the left-handed hitting Daric Barton. “Daric played (159) games last year,” Geren said. “Quite frankly, there were a couple times we would have liked to give him a day off but we didn’t have the right option over there. The fact that (Jackson) is a righty over a lefty, it makes that option more enticing to me.” Jackson also will be an extra outfielder. He’ll occupy a roster spot that could have gone to Chris Carter – a right-handed hitting outfielder/first baseman. But the A’s obviously feel Jackson is a better bet to hit early in the season, and another factor that can’t be ignored – Jackson is a better defensive player than Carter, in the outfield and probably at first base.

That’s all for now …


Another wet day at Oakland A’s camp; Duchscherer’s procedure postponed

Sorry for the late post … technical difficulties with our blog today. Not that there was a ton to report anyway. The A’s workout was interrupted by rain for a second straight day, and it poured much harder today than yesterday. The team had to shift operations to Papago Park because there’s more covered batting cages over there, although the pitchers were able to throw outside. Weather.com predicts tomorrow will be in the mid-60’s with no rain … We can only hope.

A few tidbits and observations:

–Justin Duchscherer’s procedure to relieve pain in his SI joint was rescheduled for tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. No reason given for the postponement.

–Jake Fox has taken the early lead for chattiest player in the clubhouse. The guy is just friendly as can be. Some players see reporters and head the other direction. Fox invites you to sit down, talks your ear off, and then encourages you to drop by again soon. Gotta love it …

–Manager Bob Geren and pitching coach Curt Young both were impressed with RHP Tyson Ross today. “His delivery looks cleaner and cleaner,” Geren said. Ross split last year between Single-A and Double-A, and the A’s are very high on him.

–Coco Crisp and stud first base prospect Chris Carter were among the position players to report today. All position players are due in Thursday, with the first full-squad workout Friday.

–Never knew Ben Sheets had such a dry wit about him. He’s a really funny dude, and seems to relish it when reporters are around. It’s early, but that bodes well for us covering the team, because he’s going to be a big story for as long as he’s with the A’s. Poking fun at his (lack of) hitting ability, Sheets said he wants the chance to dig in against CC Sabathia. “Just let him know that if I ever face him in Yankee Stadium, the porch is short.”

Check in w/you tomorrow …


A’s trade Dana Eveland to Toronto for player to be named or cash

The A’s just announced they’ve traded left-hander Dana Eveland to the Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Eveland was designated for assignment Monday along with infielder Gregorio Petit, and the A’s had 10 days from that point to trade, release or send each player to the minors if they cleared waivers. Petit’s status is still pending.

Eveland was part of the six-player package the A’s received from Arizona in the Dan Haren trade prior to the 2008 season. He opened each of the last two years in Oakland’s rotation. After going 9-9 with a 4.34 ERA in 29 starts in 2008, he struggled to find any kind of consistency in 2009, spending most of the season w/Triple-A Sacramento.

Just two of the six players received in that Arizona trade are still w/the A’s — Brett Anderson and Chris Carter. Shortly after that deal, a scout told me that if just two of the six players turned into impact major leaguers, the deal would be a success for the A’s. They have to be happy w/Anderson’s development at this point, and they’re obviously high on Carter’s potential. They’ve taken others received from that trade — Carlos Gonzalez, Greg Smith and Aaron Cunningham — and flipped them in deals that eventually netted a starting third baseman (Kevin Kouzmanoff) and highly rated outfield prospect (Michael Taylor).

How do you critique that Dan Haren trade to this point. Is the jury still out?


Thoughts on the 2010 Oakland A’s batting order

I was rummaging through my notes from last week’s A’s media event, and wanted to share some thoughts from Bob Geren about his possible batting order. Geren was asked how he would handle the 1-2 spots, with Coco Crisp and Rajai Davis being the prime candidates at the top of the lineup. His take:

“You can do that a couple different ways. You can go Raj-Coco or Coco-Raj. It might depend on who I bat third and fourth. If you have Suzuki batting third, a right-handed hitter, maybe you go Raj first and Coco second. And then Cust could bat fourth, a lefty. I kind of like to (alternate lefties and righties) if it makes sense, so it’s more difficult for the opposition to match up in the bullpen.”

I know … You were hoping that by now, the A’s might have obtained a better fit for the No. 3 hole than Suzuki, right? Perhaps that’s why we’re hearing the Johnny Damon reports. Anyway, Rajai-Coco (or vice versa) is a natural combo in the 1-2 spots. But I could also see a scenario where Suzuki or Ryan Sweeney could bat second and Davis or Crisp could drop down to the ninth spot. Nothing wrong with lighting a fuse at the bottom of the order.

Here’s my stab at a full lineup if the A’s took their current roster into Opening Night. This is assuming that Eric Chavez is coming off the bench, as the A’s plan, and Chris Carter and Michael Taylor are starting the season at Triple-A:

1. Davis LF
2. Crisp CF
3. Suzuki C
4. Cust DH
5. Kouzmanoff 3B
6. Sweeney RF
7. Ellis 2B
8. Barton 1B
9. Pennington SS

**I didn’t purposely try to go right-left all the way down, just worked out that way …

Let’s hear some thoughts on the A’s options …


A’s add Chris Carter to 40-man roster — where does he fit best?

As you all know, the battle at first base will be one of the more interesting storylines for the A’s come spring training. Clearly, they need more pop at the plate from whoever’s playing first. The A’s have a logjam of youngsters at the position, but things would be less crowded if stud hitting prospect Chris Carter could play the outfield adequately. Check out this interview at Minor League Ball, where GM Billy Beane addresses that very topic. He says the ideal scenario would have Carter playing the outfield once he’s brought up to the majors. A couple different A’s officials have told me for some time now that Carter has the tools to be a decent left fielder.   And honestly, would he have to be that great? The A’s have shown they’re willing to use a defensive question mark in the outfield if it means getting a needed bat in the lineup.

Carter, by the way, was added to the A’s 40-man roster Friday, along with pitchers Fautino De Los Santos, Pedro Figueroa and Justin Souza.

But here’s a couple issues to consider: How soon will Carter be ready for the majors? Will one of the other first base candidates – Daric Barton, Sean Doolittle, Tommy Everidge, etc. – hit well enough to allow Carter to play somewhere else? Doolittle missed most of the 2009 season recovering from a tear in his left patella tendon, which he tried to rehab without surgery. He encountered road blocks in his recovery, and scout.com reported that Doolittle recently underwent knee surgery to fix the tear. It’s unknown whether he’ll be ready for the start of spring training.

Let’s remember that Scott Hairston’s status also will affect Carter, if Carter is indeed considered for left field. I honestly don’t have a read on how the A’s feel about Hairston at this point. They gave up three pitchers to get him from San Diego in July, and used him as the regular left fielder when he was healthy. Now Hairston is arbitration-eligible. I see the A’s tendering him a contract, but he got a rather lukewarm endorsement from Beane at the end of the season.

How do you see Carter fitting into the A’s puzzle???


A’s-Rangers pregame update

Tonight’s lineups:

A’s: Kennedy 3B; Davis CF; Sweeney RF; Suzuki C; Cust DH; Ellis 2B; Barton 1B; Pennington SS; Patterson LF; Mortensen RHP.

Rangers: Borbon DH; Andrus SS; Murphy LF; Byrd CF; Blalock 1B; Cruz RF; Davis 3B; Rodriguez C; Vizquel 2B; Hunter RHP.

As you can see, Scott Hairston is out of the lineup again, but A’s manager Bob Geren is hopeful he can return before season’s end. … Nothing substantially newsworthy to report pre-game, unless you count Travis Buck shaving his head as big news. He usually waits until after the season to do so, but went ahead and did it now. “Maybe I’m trying to go incognito,” he said.

Geren praised Daric Barton again today before batting practice. Curious how all of you are feeling about Barton right now. Part of the reason Chris Carter wasn’t brought up was so the A’s could continue evaluating Barton at first. Do you think he’s turning the corner as a big league hitter?


Travis Buck, Henry Rodriguez, John Meloan promoted; Chris Carter unlikely to get call

With Triple-A Sacramento having been knocked from the playoffs last night, the A’s promoted outfielder Travis Buck and relievers Henry Rodriguez and John Meloan.

This is Rodriguez’s major league debut. Meloan, 25, was claimed off waivers from Pittsburgh on Sept. 2, and Bob Geren said he’ll fill a middle relief role similar to what Jeff Gray is doing right now. He’s made seven career appearances in the majors, split between the Dodgers and Indians. “He’s a control guy, not a flame thrower, but good command,” Geren said of Meloan.

One player we probably won’t see in Oakland is first baseman Chris Carter. Geren said it’s “highly doubtful” Carter or anyone else will be added to the big league roster before season’s end. Carter enjoyed as fine an offensive season as anyone in the minors, but the A’s obviously want to keep evaluating Daric Barton at first base. So Carter probably wouldn’t have gotten regular at-bats. “He’s had a great season and he’s going to be forcing his way into the picture, just not at this moment,” Geren said.

Buck, who seemingly has slipped down the totem pole in the A’s outfield picture, said he was pleasantly surprised to get word of his call-up. With Rajai Davis and Ryan Sweeney playing so well, his innings might be limited. And when he does play, I’d expect it to be in left field to spell Scott Hairston.

Rodriguez is the most intriguing newcomer. You’ll remember he impressed in 2008 spring training with his 100 mph fastball, but his big-time strikeout totals in the minors have been countered by a high number of walks too. Rodriguez, 22, was hindered in spring training with his recovery from offseason hernia surgery, and his back also has bothered him. Geren said he’ll look for low-pressure situations to ease Rodriguez into.

It’s another right-handed dominated lineup for the A’s, with Davis again in the leadoff spot. Adam Kennedy gets another day off, but Geren said he’s inclined to keep Kennedy in the top spot when he plays. Ryan Sweeney’s knees are doing better, but Matt Carson gets another start in his place.

Davis CF
Ellis 2B
Suzuki C
Nomar DH
Hairston LF
Crosby 3B
Barton 1B
Carson RF
Pennington SS

Gio Gonzalez LHP

Brantley CF
Carroll 2B
Cabrera SS
Choo RF
Peralta 3B
Hafner DH
LaPorta 1B
Shoppach C
Crowe LF

Sowers LHP


First base is Daric Barton’s — for now

Didn’t the A’s roster activity seem unusually quiet in recent days? That ended today, as first baseman Tommy Everidge was optioned to Triple-A and outfielder/second baseman Eric Patterson was recalled.

It’s a bit of a surprise considering indications were that Everidge and Daric Barton would split time as the A’s evaluated both first base prospects. But Bob Geren pointed out that Patterson provides a versatile option off the bench, especially w/left fielder Scott Hairston nursing a sore quad and center fielder Rajai Davis playing with a fractured thumb.

The big-picture impact is that the A’s want Barton to get the majority of at-bats at first. Asked if Barton is the primary guy at first base for the rest of the season, Geren responded, “Yeah.” He left the door open to Everidge returning when rosters expand, but it’s clear the A’s want to give Barton a hard look. … I wouldn’t read too much into this as far as the A’s plans for next season, because you figure Chris Carter, Sean Doolittle and possibly Brett Wallace will all be in the first base mix in spring training. But Barton gets his chance to leave a strong imprint heading into the offseason, much like Cliff Pennington at shortstop.

Patterson split his latest stint in Sacramento between center field, left field and second base. I see center being his best chance for playing time up here, as Davis could probably use a little rest for his thumb.

–Other newsie bits: Bobby Crosby said his calf feels good after running sprints yesterday. He’s taking today off from running but looks like he could be ready Wednesday, when he’s eligible to come off the DL. … Geren reiterated that Edgar Gonzalez is his preference to start Tuesday at Kansas City, which would set into motion a six-man rotation.

–I’ve mentioned this before about Brett Tomko, who starts tonight: It’s unusual to see a starter, on the day he’s pitching, hang out on the field w/the rest of the team when it comes out to stretch. Starting pitchers typically hole up in the clubhouse until they’re ready to start their pregame throwing. But Tomko seems to enjoy being w/the team. I’ll have to ask him about it …

The lineups:

Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Suzuki C
Cust DH
Hairston LF
Sweeney RF
Ellis 2B
Barton 1B
Pennington SS

Tomko RHP

Figgins 3B
Abreu RF
Hunter CF
Guerrero DH
Rivera LF
Morales 1B
Aybar SS
Kendrick 2B
Mathis C

Bell RHP


Chris Carter promoted to Triple-A

Just saw this report that first baseman Chris Carter — the A’s top power-hitting prospect — was promoted from Double-A Midland to Triple-A Sacramento. I think a lot of people were expecting this to happen any time now. Check out Carter’s stats at Midland — crazy. The A’s are especially pleased with his .337 batting average, a quantum leap from last year’s .259 mark at Single-A Stockton.

The indication I’ve gotten is that the A’s are leaning against promoting him to the majors in September. He’d have to be added to the 40-man roster, and those spots are precious. Also, he could get good experience playing in the Triple-A playoffs this season, and the A’s value that for their prospects. …


What’s the future hold for A’s offense?

The weather here at the Coliseum was unusually warm last night. Different story tonight, as the wind is already kicking up. It’ll definitely be more chilly. And speaking of chilly, the A’s have certainly cooled off at the plate. What happened to that offensive revival? They’ve scored just 13 runs over the past six games, and haven’t topped three runs in any one of them. Adam Kennedy, who’s been such a catalyst for this team since he was acquired, is hitting just .176 (6-for-34) over his last eight games. And remember, five of those hits came in one game last week against the White Sox.

As encouraging as it’s been recently to see the A’s run wild on the bases, and see players like Rajai Davis, Mark Ellis and Kurt Suzuki take turns getting key hits, let’s not forget that this is still a pretty flawed team offensively when you look ahead to next season. As things stand, I don’t see the A’s being good enough offensively in 2010 to support the young pitchers that are obviously going to be the team’s strength. And as team owner Lew Wolff told Bay Area News Group in this story, he’s not crazy about the A’s bringing in more power hitters from the outside as they tried this year with Jason Giambi and Matt Holliday. Problem is, I don’t know if their best hitting prospects (Chris Carter, Adrian Cardenas, Brett Wallace and Co.) will be ready by next season.

My question for you, A’s fans: When it comes to improving this offense, would you rather see the A’s go out and try to obtain another slugger or two as they tried to do this season, or should they abandon the search for power and build a more speed and run-oriented offense, as they’ve shown signs of doing since the All-Star break?

–Not much pregame news today: Dallas Braden’s left ankle is showing no signs of improvement, according to manager Bob Geren, and you have to wonder if we’ll see him on the mound again this season. At this point, it might be better to shut him down and make sure he’s healthy to start spring training.

Tonight’s lineups, featuring Daric Barton playing first for the A’s for the second straight night:

Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Suzuki C
Hairston LF
Sweeney RF
Ellis 2B
Cust DH
Barton 1B
Pennington SS

Cahill RHP

Granderson CF
Polanco 2B
Guillen LF
Cabrera 1B
Huff DH
Thomas RF
Inge 3B
AVila C
Santiago SS

Galarraga RHP