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Conor Jackson in right field as A’s try to break through vs. Mariners

The weather is absolutely perfect in Seattle right now as the A’s take batting practice, but the temperature is sure to drop big-time as the night wears on. Still, it was nice to sit in the dugout while the A’s were hitting and not freeze. …

A’s manager Bob Geren said last night that he planned to start both Conor Jackson and Andy LaRoche tonight against Seattle left-hander Jason Vargas. But only Jackson is in there, playing right field in place of David DeJesus (who is actually hitting .346 over his past seven games). Geren said he thought about giving Cliff Pennington a day off and playing LaRoche at shortstop, but he likes the way Pennington’s swing has looked lately.

The lineups:

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

Mariners – Ichiro RF, Figgins 3B, Kennedy 1B, Cust DH, Saunders CF, Rodriguez SS, Gimenez C, Peguero LF, Wilson 2B; Vargas LHP.

–Andrew Bailey threw a 35-pitch bullpen session. All indications are he continues to progress well, but pitching coach Ron Romanick said Bailey will throw at least once more on the side before facing hitters.

That’s all for now …

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All-AL West road trip provides an early test

It’s only April, but any road trip made up solely of AL West foes is important for the A’s. They begin a four-game series against the Mariners tonight, and then play three against the Los Angeles Angels, who found themselves alone in first place beginning play today. “It’s an early run through the division, but you want to fare well,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “It seems year to year that whoever does best in the division ends up winning.”

Not that you would care much about this, but Safeco Field might have the coldest press box in the American League. It’s just big and spacious and there’s not a lot of warmth, so you have to game-plan with what you wear in here. I brought a heavy jacket, but I try to hold off on wearing it until the later innings. Once you put your jacket on, it’s your last line of defense. When you start freezing in your jacket, forget about it. So I try to tough it out as long as I can. Grrrr ….

The A’s draw a hard assignment tonight against Felix Hernandez, who is 5-2 with a 2.26 ERA at home against the A’s in eight career starts (62 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings). He also threw a five-hitter to beat them opening night at the Coliseum. But the A’s counter with Brandon McCarthy, who has been a real pleasant surprise for Oakland at the back of the rotation. It’s a quality pitching matchup to start this road trip …

Hideki Matsui is out of the lineup, with Josh Willingham serving as DH and Conor Jackson getting a start in left field. Matsui is a .207 career hitter against Hernandez with one homer in 29 at-bats. Jackson is hitless in three at-bats against King Felix.

Michael Wuertz will pitch again for Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday. Wuertz gave up three runs on three hits with two walks in one inning against Reno on Wednesday. “Hopefully he’ll pitch more efficiently,” Geren said. “He hasn’t been sharp yet.” So the five lefties remain in the A’s bullpen …

The lineups, with Daric Barton just announced as a late scratch (no reason given).

A’s – Crisp CF, DeJesus RF, Jackson 1B, Willingham DH, Sweeney LF, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; McCarthy RHP.

Mariners – Ichiro RF, Figgins 3B, Kennedy 1B, Cust DH, Saunders CF, Olivo C, Peguero LF, Ryan SS, Wilson 2B; Hernandez RHP.

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A few vets, lots of prospects on display in Friday intrasquad game; some thoughts on the outfield

There wasn’t a whole lot of news coming out of A’s camp this morning, but here’s a brief rundown:

–Kurt Suzuki is behind the plate for one side in today’s intrasquad game after he got yesterday off. Center fielder Coco Crisp, right fielder David DeJesus and shortstop Cliff Pennington are also in the lineup, though Pennington won’t hit as his left shoulder is still recovering from surgery. Lots of top prospects are playing: Chris Carter (playing first, though the A’s still consider him mainly an outfielder right now), second baseman Jemile Weeks, catcher Max Stassi, left fielder Michael Taylor and shortstop Grant Green.

–Ryan Sweeney is at DH today but he’s still not playing in the field. Manager Bob Geren offered March 7 as the date Sweeney might make his exhibition debut as he comes back from right knee surgery, and Geren believes that is plenty of time to have Sweeney ready for the regular season.

–Geren talked about his outfield rotation and who might play where. Notably, he likes DeJesus as his main choice to play center when Crisp needs a day off. I envision Crisp getting a substantial amount of rest this season as the A’s try to keep him healthy. A writer who has covered DeJesus extensively told me that he’s an underrated defensive player, but that he’s lost a bit of range and therefore isn’t ideal in center anymore. I’ll be interested to see what kind of ground he still covers. I could also see Sweeney drawing the occasional start in center to spell Crisp, especially against right-handers. Conor Jackson will see time in left and right field this spring, Geren said, but Jackson is playing first base in today’s intrasquad game. He’s a backup option at first when Barton isn’t playing.

–Reliever Michael Wuertz will resume throwing Saturday or Sunday, according to Geren.

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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 …