0

A’s Doolittle honored as a finalist for Hutch Award

There is some nice news out of the Pacific Northwest in that A’s reliever Sean Doolittle is one of the 10 finalists for the Hutch Award.

For those of you who haven’t heard of this particular award, it’s a big deal, if for no other reason that the names who have won it already – the first three winners were Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax and Carl Yastrzemski. In all, 11 members of the Hall of Fame have been given the award, given to a Major League player who “best exemplified the fighting spirit and competitive desire of Fred Hutchinson by persevering through adversity.’’

Continue Reading

7

Wrapping up a busy A’s news day

After all the talk about whether Gio Gonzalez or Andrew Bailey might be traded, Trevor Cahill wound up being the first prominent A’s player dealt this winter , getting sent to Arizona along with Craig Breslow for starting pitcher Jarrod Parker, reliever Ryan Cook and outfielder Collin Cowgill. Figure this won’t be the last major A’s trade before spring training. Here’s a few notes and observations, some that made my story for tomorrow’s paper and some that didn’t:

–Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday that Cahill was breaking on to the scene, unexpectedly making the A’s rotation as a rookie along with Brett Anderson in 2009? Back then Cahill was so symbolic of an A’s youth movement that came on the heels of the Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, Joe Blanton and Rich Harden trades. Now he’s on the other end of a rebuilding effort, making room for a new crop of young players. Cahill took the news hard, that was apparent from talking to him on the phone. “I loved playing for Oakland,” he said. “I knew everybody, I got along with everybody, I liked the club. I liked it from the minor leagues all the way up.”

–A’s assistant GM David Forst said trading Cahill does not make the A’s less inclined to trade another starting pitcher. So Gonzalez’s name will continue to fly in rumors. I still think Bailey will be dealt before Gonzalez, just because it will be easier for another team to offer up a package to the A’s liking.

–And if Bailey isn’t the closer in 2012, who will be? I know we’re all kind of assuming Fautino De Los Santos might be the guy. Perhaps, but Forst speaks very highly of Cook, a right-hander who brings a fastball in the high 90’s. Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes will be options too, but even they might be trade candidates. “It’s too soon to say (if Cook can pitch the ninth),” Forst said. “He closed for (Arizona) in Double-A. It’s not out of the question he could pitch at the end of the bullpen at some point.”

–The A’s have liked Cowgill for a long time. They drafted him back in 2007 out of the University of Kentucky, but he went back to school. Then they wanted him as part of the return package for Brad Ziegler last July (they liked Cook back then too). Cowgill has played lots of center field, though he played the corners last season during his time in the majors because Chris Young was in center for the D-backs. The A’s will give him every chance to win the starting center field job. Cowgill gets high marks from scouts for his competitiveness and the way he goes about playing the game, but one scout told me it’s a “leap of faith” to think he’s an everyday center fielder.

–Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports certainly doesn’t think the A’s are done dealing, as this story reveals.

That’s all for now …

17

Catching up on a quiet (so far) A’s offseason

Hello everybody … long time, no blog.

I’ve been doubling up lately with Cal football coverage and that’s taken the lion’s share of my time. But “Inside the A’s” has been neglected long enough, so I wanted to drop in. Not that there’s been a ton of A’s news to report anyway this offseason. By now you’ve caught the drift that the A’s won’t be as aggressive going after players as they were last winter (unless those acquisitions come in the form of prospects via trade). You might have seen this story from ESPN’s Buster Olney regarding the A’s being sellers, largely because their stadium situation remains unsettled. If the A’s get approval to build a ballpark in San Jose, we know that GM Billy Beane plans to rebuild with younger players, hoping to have a nucleus ready to blossom when that ballpark opens for business. If they were to be denied, it’s possible they might open the checkbook a little more. And what if the issue continues to drag through the winter with no word from MLB? The indications I’ve gotten are that the A’s won’t spend aggressively as long as they remain in limbo.

Olney wrote that he could see the A’s trading starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and closer Andrew Bailey. Of the two, I see Bailey as the stronger possibility to go. If the A’s don’t see themselves contending in 2012, then a dominant closer becomes less of a necessity. And Bailey could fetch a nice haul given he’s just 27 and under team control for the next three seasons. A front-of-the-rotation starter such as Gonzalez is more of a foundation piece and much tougher for a team to replace. Having said that, if a team knocks Beane’s socks off with an offer for Gonzalez, I think he would certainly pull the trigger. The Marlins are looking for starting pitching as they move into their new ballpark in Miami, and this report out of Florida says they’re eyeing Gonzalez, who is from the Miami area and would be a great addition from a baseball and marketing standpoint. The question is whether the Marlins (or any team) have the pieces to pry Gonzalez away.

Here’s some key dates to keep an eye on:

Nov. 23: This is the last day for teams to offer salary arbitration to a Type “A” or “B” free agent in order to get compensation should that player sign elsewhere. The A’s have decisions to make on outfielders Josh Willingham and David DeJesus. Willingham is a Type A, meaning the A’s stand to get a first-round pick and a sandwich pick (between the first and second rounds) should he be offered arbitration and sign elsewhere. DeJesus is Type B, meaning the A’s would get a sandwich pick if he’s offered arb and signs elsewhere. The risk for teams, of course, is that a player unexpectedly accepts arbitration, and the team is stuck paying a large salary to a player it didn’t expect to have around. I see no such risk with Willingham. He’s likely to land a multi-year deal somewhere and would seemingly want to keep his options open. DeJesus might be more willing to accept arbitration, so unless the A’s feel good about him returning, they have a decision on whether to offer it. Sometimes a team and player will reach a gentleman’s agreement that the player won’t accept arbitration if offered. I’m not sure if that’s being discussed with DeJesus.

Dec. 5-8: The four-day event known as the winter meetings, where reporters bump into each other as they walk with noses buried in cell phones, monitoring Twitter. The A’s are often subject of rumors at the meetings, but usually this period is a time for them to lay the groundwork for future moves. Now that I’ve said that, they’re bound to pull a blockbuster there. Just you watch …

Dec. 12: The deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. It’s an important day because any arb-eligible player not offered a contract is cut loose and becomes a free agent. The A’s have 10 players eligible for arbitration – Gonzalez, Bailey, relievers Craig Breslow and Joey Devine, starters Dallas Braden and Brandon McCarthy, first baseman Daric Barton, outfielder Ryan Sweeney, infielder Adam Rosales and catcher Landon Powell. Beane said at his season-ending press conference he expects all will be tendered contracts, but we won’t know until deadline day.

0

Coco a no-go again with strained calf

The A’s finish off their nine-game road trip with three against the Blue Jays here at the Rogers Center. This is the first time in Oakland history that the A’s have played in all domes on a three-city trip, according to the team’s media relations department. I put an asterisk next to that, because Safeco Field in Seattle – even when the roof is closed — has lots of open space and you can see out of it. It doesn’t feel like you’re watching baseball inside a Costco, which is the vibe I get in Tampa Bay and Toronto. But I don’t mind Tropicana Field and Rogers Center — it’s a change of pace for a series or two. I just wouldn’t want to cover a full season in either venue.

–Coco Crisp’s strained right calf is still bothering him, so he’s sitting for a second straight game. A’s manager Bob Melvin had said Sunday he thought Crisp would be able to return today (Conor Jackson’s sore back is feeling good enough that he’s starting at first base after sitting Sunday).

It doesn’t seem that the DL is being considered yet for Crisp, because Melvin holds out hope that he can either pinch-hit in this series or perhaps even start Thursday. But past experience shows us that none of Crisp’s injuries should be taken too lightly. It’s worth noting that Melvin was pleasantly surprised to see Crisp emerge from the clubhouse and stretch with his teammates today. So maybe he is doing better.

(Breaking news!!! After writing about indoor baseball here at Rogers Center, the retractable roof just began to open and a blinding sun is hitting me right in the face. That’s what I get for comparing this place to a Costco).

–There’s quite a buzz in Toronto about the home debut of hotshot rookie third baseman Brett Lawrie, who was just called up Friday. He’s from British Columbia, and he’s just the 17th Canadian to play for the Blue Jays. Tonight’s A’s starter, Rich Harden, also is from British Columbia, so that adds some intrigue to their individual matchup.

–Reliever Craig Breslow is available today after being shut down Sunday with upper back pain.

Tonight’s lineups:
A’s – Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, Jackson 1B, DeJesus RF, Suzuki C, Sweeney CF, Sizemore 3B; Harden RHP.

Jays – Escobar SS, Thames LF, Bautista RF, Lind 1B, Encarnacion DH, Rasmus CF, Hill 2B, Arencibia C, Lawrie 3B; Cecil LHP.

0

Crisp sits with back soreness as A’s try to clinch winning road trip

Today feels like one of those “swing games” for the A’s, where the outcome really shapes how you look back on this road trip. A win leaves them at 5-4, which would be a nice accomplishment for a challenging nine-game trip early in the year. A 4-5 finish wouldn’t be terrible, but the A’s don’t want the momentum from their three-game winning streak to evaporate completely. Brett Anderson takes the ball after his sharp eight-inning effort last time out against the Twins …

–Coco Crisp is not in the lineup — his back is still bothering him. A’s manager Bob Geren said Crisp felt about the same as he did last night when he left the game for a pinch hitter, so he’s getting some rest. No indication right now that this is anything to be alarmed about.

Daric Barton gets his first day off, with Andy LaRoche playing first base. Barton played in 159 of 162 games last season, and I think he could benefit from a few more off-days. But is it best to sit a guy when he’s coming off a four-hit night? Geren said it was a tough call, but added that Barton’s body was in need of a break. “He could use a day.”

–A couple of relievers knocked some rust off last night. Craig Breslow made his first appearance in 10 days, and Brad Ziegler hadn’t thrown in six. That’s a tough gig for guys who’ve been off that long to enter a tight game and be sharp. Breslow, who finished the fifth in relief of Trevor Cahill, was mad at himself for walking the leadoff man in the sixth, which led to the Sox’s tying run. Overall, Geren said he was pleased with how Breslow and Ziegler looked, and that they’d be called on more frequently. With A’s starters pitching deep in games, a few relievers are bound to have long layoffs. But I wouldn’t expect Breslow to get that much inactivity moving forward. His performance is a key to this bullpen’s effectiveness, especially with Andrew Bailey and Michael Wuertz on the DL.

Wuertz, by the way, is scheduled to throw a simulated game Thursday at the Coliseum. If that goes well, he would pitch in a minor league game Saturday. So it looks like his return won’t be far off.

Enough rambling, here’s the lineups …

A’s — DeJesus CF, Ellis 2B, Jackson RF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Suzuki C, LaRoche 1B, Pennington SS; Anderson LHP.

White Sox – Pierre LF, Beckham 2B, Dunn DH, Konerko 1B, Quentin RF, Rios CF, Ramirez SS, Castro C, Morel 3B; Danks LHP.

0

Crisp expects to return Sunday; Sweeney goes deep

Here’s your afternoon A’s update since I didn’t post anything baseball-related this morning:

–Coco Crisp says his left hamstring injury isn’t serious, and he thinks he’ll be back in the lineup tomorrow. Last season he missed time with an injury to his right hamstring, and he said he tried to play through that when he shouldn’t have. “I’m just trying to stay on top of it.” The left hamstring tightened on him last night as he swung during his second at-bat.

Ryan Sweeney started in center field today and hit leadoff in Crisp’s place. A’s manager Bob Geren said this morning that he’s seen more power from Sweeney in batting practice. Then Sweeney drilled a two-run homer to left-center in the third inning off the White Sox’s Jake Peavy — that’s opposite-field pop that Sweeney doesn’t display all that often. …

Craig Breslow is throwing in a minor league intrasquad game this afternoon, and he’ll do fielding drills afterward to test his sore hamstring. Breslow’s arm strength is fine but his mobility is keeping him out of Cactus League action to this point …

0

Rangers (at least some of them) face A’s in first spring matchup

The Texas Rangers roll into town today to play their first exhibition against the A’s, but it won’t be a real accurate representation of the squad the A’s will see in the regular season. Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre (who’s hurt) are not making the trip. But ace C.J. Wilson is on the mound.

The lineups:

A’s:
DeJesus RF
Suzuki C
Jackson 1B
Matsui DH
Kouzmanoff 3B
Carson CF
Carter LF
Tolleson SS
Weeks 2B

Braden LHP.

Rangers:
Borbon CF
German 2B
Moreland 1B
Barden DH
Davis 3B
Teagarden C
Deeds RF
Engel Beltre LF
Andres Blanco SS

Wilson LHP

–A’s manager Bob Geren said he sees David DeJesus as a good leadoff candidate when Coco Crisp doesn’t play. DeJesus has lots of experience atop the order from his time with the Royals. Mark Ellis and Cliff Pennington could also fill the role, according to Geren, but DeJesus is the most natural fit.

–Under-the-radar Athletic who is having a nice camp so far: Matt Carson. He homered yesterday and made a great catch slamming into the right field wall against the Brewers. He’s getting a start in center today.

–Outfielder Ryan Sweeney thinks about three weeks is needed for him to get his timing at the plate and be ready for the regular season. He’s scheduled to play in his first game Wednesday – he’s been brought along slowly while he recovers from knee surgery – and that would give him three weeks before the April 1 opener. “In batting practice, everything feels great. It’s just the timing in games,” he said. Sweeney was scheduled to face Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow this morning in batting practice. He said he’s been shagging flies and his knee feels good.

–Reliever Joey Devine reached the 92-93 mph range in his last outing Wednesday, and Geren said his slider was sharp too. That’s a good sign for the A’s, obviously, and if Devine continues to round into form in Cactus League games, one of the seven bullpen spots surely is his. Speaking of relievers, Michael Wuertz threw 30 pitches yesterday off the mound and his shoulder came out of it fine. He’ll throw off the mound at least one more time before facing hitters. “He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t need 10 to 12 outings,” Geren said. “It could be five or six and he’ll be ready to go.”

–Rich Harden (side muscle injury) played catch at 80 feet today, but there’s no word on when he’ll get back on the mound.

2

A’s relievers still being handled carefully; the batting order takes shape

Hideki Matsui makes his A’s debut today, but don’t read too much into the rest of the lineup against the Angels with so many regulars getting the day off. David DeJesus is still trying to shake off a stomach bug, but it’s possible he’ll play tomorrow against the Reds. Here’s your starting nine:

Ellis 2B
Suzuki C
Matsui DH
Jackson 1B
Kouzmanoff 3B
Carson CF
Carter LF
Taylor RF
Tolleson SS

Braden P

**Joel Pineiro is on the hill for the Angels.

–Michael Wuertz is scheduled to throw off the mound Thursday for the first time since his shoulder soreness started. Fellow reliever Craig Breslow has had some tenderness in his throwing arm, according to manager Bob Geren, so there’s no indication yet when he’ll appear in a game. Closer Andrew Bailey is probably 5-7 days away from his first game. Those are three key guys in the bullpen, but I’d attribute their inactivity to the A’s precaution as opposed to anything seriously bothering any of these guys. The plan has been to limit their throwing early to preserve them for the regular season.

–A little insight into the batting order: Geren said he wants a right-handed hitter to bat behind Hideki Matsui (the likely No. 5 hitter). He mentioned Kurt Suzuki, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Mark Ellis as possibilities for the sixth spot. So bit by bit, we can piece together how the order will look. If I had to project right now, I’d say: Crisp, Barton, DeJesus, Willingham, Matsui, Kouzmanoff/Suzuki, Ellis, Pennington.

How would that lineup strike you, A’s fans?

0

Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow, Rajai Davis clip from “Baseball Tonight”

If you haven’t seen this Baseball Tonight clip of Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow and Rajai Davis playing “Name That A,” check it out. Not sure I’m buying Bailey’s modesty on the last question. And I like the long, skinny microphone Karl Ravech is using. Doesn’t get more “game show” than that …

0

Sunday leftovers

Just some extra thoughts that didn’t get into my stories for tomorrow …

I was a little surprised A’s manager Bob Geren didn’t let Brett Anderson return to the mound for the ninth inning in a 0-0 game. But I can see the logic on this one. Anderson was up to 104 pitches, and if the A’s are serious about monitoring the innings of their young starters for the rest of the season, this was a chance to exercise that strategy. Anderson gave the intelligent response after the game. “I told (Geren) I was fine, but I had thrown over 100 pitches or whatever, so you could kind of tell what was going on,” Anderson said. “I told him I felt fine, but in that situation it’s understandable, especially with our All-Star (closer, Andrew Bailey, available).”

If the A’s are going to limit the starters’ innings, maybe it’s time to start preserving Bailey a little bit as well. I’d like to see him pitching one inning, tops, except for rare occasions. Bailey, Craig Breslow and Michael Wuertz are all carrying a pretty heavy workload.

Allowing Anderson to take the mound in the ninth would have given him a chance to leave to one last ovation, but I don’t expect Geren to manage with that in mind in a tight ballgame. Speaking of the crowd’s reaction Sunday, Anderson gave the fans a thumbs-up. I look around at the mostly empty seats for most home games, and I think it can’t be the greatest atmosphere for these guys to get jacked up to play. But Anderson said he liked the boos he heard when Erick Aybar threatened to bunt while Anderson still had a perfect game going. The feeling around the Coliseum was that it would have been a cheap way to end a perfect game/no-hitter. “I was just happy with the way the crowd responded when Aybar tried to bunt,” Anderson said. “That was kind of special. And another ovation they gave me when I gave up a hit. It’s good to have a crowd like that today.”

The Twins, who have been playing well on the road, arrive for a three-game set starting tomorrow. Check in w/you before the game …