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A’s sign pitcher Shawn Chacon; Ryan Sweeney activated

The A’s added a veteran arm to their Triple-A pitching staff, signing right-hander Shawn Chacon to a minor league deal. Assistant GM David Forst confirmed it in a text message. Chacon, 31, will pitch out of Sacramento’s rotation, but he’s also got experience as a reliever. He gives the A’s a veteran fallback option for their young major league starting staff, but I see him being more likely to help the bullpen if called upon at the big league level.

He was pitching for the independent league Newark Bears this season. He made seven starts, with opponents batting .253 against him. In 2007 with the Pirates, 60 of his 64 appearances came in relief. But he made 15 starts for Houston last season. You’ll remember he was released after getting in a physical altercation with Astros GM Ed Wade.

–As expected, the A’s have activated center fielder Ryan Sweeney from the DL and optioned outfielder Chris Denorfia to Triple-A.

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A’s minor league recap: Mazzaro shines in Sacramento

Here’s a brief look at what happened down on the farm for the A’s affiliates the last couple of days:

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

Here’s the recap from Monday’s game, when Jack Hannahan and Chris Denorfia homered in the ‘Cats win. Daric Barton, hitting .158 in 12 games, left in the second inning after getting hit by a pitch.
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Denorfia’s walkoff HR snaps losing streak

Chris Denorfia lined a two-run homer to left field off Franklin Morales in the bottom of the ninth to lift the A’s past Colorado 7-6 today. That snapped the A’s 10-game Cactus League losing streak, their longest in spring training since records started being kept in 1986.

–Sean Gallagher wasn’t his sharpest in five innings, and both he and Bob Geren said he was leaving too many pitches over the plate after getting ahead of hitters. Gallagher got a not-so-subtle hint that he needs to pull it together, as GM Billy Beane grabbed him for a private chat as reporters were showing up to the clubhouse to talk to him. “Just basically lighting a little fire under the butt,” Gallagher said of the conversation. Gallagher is on turn to pitch Friday’s Bay Bridge Series game against the Giants, and would then pitch the third game of the regular season if the current rotation holds. I don’t see an obvious replacement for him if he wasn’t in the starting rotation. Josh Outman is an option, but he’s coming off a poor outing.

–The A’s sent six players down to the minors after the game. They optioned reliever Chris Schroder, infielder Gregorio Petit and outfielder Aaron Cunningham to Triple-A, and reassigned right-hander Edgar Gonzalez, catcher Joel Galarraga and infielder Corey Wimberly to minor league camp.

The biggest news there involves Gonzalez, who had pitched his way out of contention for the starting rotation but still could have been a long relief candidate. The A’s will keep at least one long reliever (Geren hasn’t ruled out two), and Outman and Gio Gonzalez are the top contenders for that …

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Denorfia joining Italy for WBC

A’s outfielder Chris Denorfia got confirmation that he’s on the final roster for the Italian national team that will play in the World Baseball Classic. He’ll leave the A’s on Sunday to train with the Italians in Port. St. Lucie, Fla., before they open the international tournament against Venezuela on March 7. Denorfia, who joked last week that the only Italian he knows is swear words, grew up living in the same house as his Italian grandmother, and he’s excited about the opportunity. Mike Piazza played for the Italian team in the 2006 WBC, and another former Athletic, pitcher Lenny DiNardo, is on Italy’s provisional roster this year. The rest of the final roster will be announced tomorrow. It’s very possible Denorfia could face A’s teammate Brad Ziegler, who will pitch for the U.S. team. The U.S. and Italy open the tournament in the Toronto pool along with Canada and Venezuela.

The morning’s other news …

–A’s manager Bob Geren said tomorrow’s intrasquad game will start at 11:15 a.m. (at Phoenix Municipal Stadium) and probably go 3 1/2 innings. He didn’t reveal both full lineups for the game, but did say one team’s batting order will probably have Travis Buck leading off, followed by Ryan Sweeney, Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi. We may see a lot of that this season …

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Ziegler to pitch in WBC

Reliever Brad Ziegler received word that he’s made the final roster for the Team USA squad that will play in next month’s World Baseball Classic. He’s likely to be one of two Athletics in the WBC, as outfielder Chris Denorfia is expected to make Italy’s roster. Every country’s final roster is expected to be announced by Tuesday.

It’s a huge deal for Ziegler. His family has a military history that goes back generations, and he oozes patriotism.

“I’ve wanted this opportunity for a long time. I was trying to campaign to get on the Olympic team, and they told me I would have got it if I didn’t get called up (to Oakland last season),” Ziegler said. “Considering the magnitude of this tournament, to be mentioned in the same breath (as the other players involved) is truly an honor.”

Team USA reports to Clearwater, Fla., on March 1, and Ziegler will be away from the A’s as long as the Americans remain in the tournament. Their first game is March 5 in Toronto, and it’s possible Ziegler and Denorfia could face each other, as the U.S. is in the same pool with Italy, Canada and Venezuela.

A’s manager Bob Geren isn’t worried about Ziegler’s preparation for the regular season being affected by pitching in the WBC. “I think with the intensity of games like that being higher than spring training or a Cactus League game, it will be good for him. He’s really a one-inning kind of guy. He’ll be fine. When the spring is over, he’ll have the right amount of innings when we go to Anaheim (April 6 for the season opener).”

Other tidbits from Geren’s morning media chat:

–He’s gone over possible batting orders in his head, and is still tinkering with the idea of hitting Jack Cust second because of his high on-base percentage. “I’ve thought about it. I haven’t (decided) one way or another on it.”

–Right-hander Edgar Gonzalez and catcher Joel Galarraga are still being delayed by visa problems in Mexico. Both are non-roster players, but Gonzalez is considered a fifth-starter candidate. Because he pitched in winter ball, Geren doesn’t think Gonzalez will be behind. He didn’t say the same for Galarraga. “I think it hurts him. A catcher needs to get through drills and work with pitchers.”

Still no Jason Giambi sighting today, the reporting deadline for position players. When he does arrive, he’ll likely address the media at some point today. Infielder Gregorio Petit and outfielder Javier Herrera, both from Venezuela, are the only position players along with Giambi yet to show.