1

A’s lineup will have opening day feel in Friday’s exhibition opener

A’s manager Bob Melvin said spring camp is beginning to feel like Groundhog Day, so the Cactus League schedule is probably arriving just in time. The A’s play their exhibition opener Friday against the Seattle Mariners in Phoenix, and Melvin said he expects to play what’s close to an Opening Day lineup. Put an asterisk next to that, as the A’s still don’t know who their first baseman or DH will be, or how their outfield will shake out. Point is, Melvin wants to see his regulars in a game environment. That means most starters probably won’t be playing in Thursday’s intrasquad game, which begins around noon (AZ time) at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Catchers Landon Powell and Anthony Recker, and infielders Eric Sogard and Adam Rosales are among those who will see action in the intrasquad game, according to Melvin. I’m interested to see a few guys pitch Thursday, including 2011 first-round pick Sonny Gray, first baseman-turned-pitcher Sean Doolittle and bullpen candidate Ryan Cook.

–Dallas Braden is doing well in his comeback from shoulder surgery, but Melvin said he still needs to be cautious with the lefty. The timetable remains “anywhere from late April to May 1,” in Melvin’s words.

2

Lefty Tom Milone is making a good impression with A’s

Left-hander Tom Milone, one of four players the A’s obtained from Washington in the Gio Gonzalez trade, has earned good reviews early in spring training. Catcher Kurt Suzuki praised Milone’s command and compared his change-up to that of Dallas Braden. On Tuesday morning, A’s manager Bob Melvin noted that Milone’s fastball doesn’t jump out but it can be deceptive: “He definitely knows where the ball is going. If he stays at 86 or 87 (mph), he’s probably got 89 in his pocket when he needs it. It seems like he’s a polished guy.”

Milone is a candidate for one of at least two rotation spots that are available. If Dallas Braden doesn’t return by mid-April, there will be three spots open behind Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon. Jarrod Parker and Brad Peacock, also obtained in trades, and Tyson Ross and Graham Godfrey are all fighting for those spots as well.

3

Jose Canseco dreams; Bartolo Colon signs; FanFest information and other A’s news

I’m coming at you late in the day with this, but here’s a roundup of A’s-related items as we creep closer to spring training …

–If you didn’t catch this story on our website, I talked to Jose Canseco today. The man still dreams of returning to the major leagues, and he thinks he could help the A’s at DH. More than anything, he just wants a big league team to give him a tryout. I’ll say this: He came across very sincere in his ambition. I’m just not sure how much demand there is for a 47-year-old who hasn’t played in the majors since 2001.

–The A’s made it official today, signing right-hander Bartolo Colon to a one-year, $2 million contract. So that makes three spots filled in the rotation – Brandon McCarthy, Dallas Braden (assuming he’s healthy) and Colon. But how does the back of the rotation materialize? That’s what I’m interested to see in spring training. A couple of those young newcomers are definitely going to come into play, depending on whether Tyson Ross grabs the reins on a starting job. I definitely think the A’s needed to sign a veteran starter, but can we expect Colon, 38, to duplicate what he did with the Yankees last year? And remember, he struggled in the second half.

The A’s have yet to announce the Jonny Gomes signing, but that will come any time now, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

–The lowdown on Sunday’s FanFest at Oracle Arena: It runs from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for kids 14 and under. You can buy them at the A’s Ticket Services Office or online at oaklandathletics.com/fanfest. Parking is free … Which players will be there? Practically the entire roster, including Jemile Weeks, Coco Crisp, Dallas Braden, Kurt Suzuki, Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy. Manager Bob Melvin and his coaching staff will be on hand, along with former A’s greats Gene Tenace, Vida Blue and Joe Rudi. Scott Hatteberg and David Justice – who found themselves back in the spotlight thanks to “Moneyball” — will also attend. I’m told GM Billy Beane will not be in town Sunday, but assistant GM David Forst will take part in the fan Q & A session.

The most intriguing FanFest attraction: The chance to meet one-on-one with A’s co-owner and managing partner Lew Wolff “to discuss a variety of topics in an intimate setting,” according to a team release. I’d like to be a fly on the wall for some of these conversations. Wolff has taken substantial heat from fans in recent years for a number of reasons, so I’m somewhat surprised he’s making himself available. Fans can sign up to meet Wolff at the information booth on the plaza located between the Coliseum and Oracle Arena from 9-10:30 a.m.

–“Moneyball” scored big when Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday, landing nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Brad Pitt) and Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill) among other awards. Adding a touch of Vegas to the Hollywood proceedings, bookmaker Jimmy Shapiro placed odds at 30-1 for “Moneyball” to win Best Picture (“The Artist,” at 2-7 odds, is the favorite) and 10-1 on Pitt to win Best Actor.

–Lastly, the A’s signed 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Yairo Munoz for a $280,000 bonus, according to the Dominican Prospect League website. Munoz’s defensive skills are said to be his strongpoint, along with above-average speed. It’s tough to project how any of these international prospects will develop when they’re signed at such a young age. Will the A’s ever get a return on the $4.2 million they invested in Dominican right-hander Michael Ynoa, 20, who is coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery? The A’s are pouring lots of money into their international scouting and player development, thinking they can get a jump on teams that are focusing their big spending at the major league level …

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

A’s update: Dallas Braden, Andrew Bailey, and of course, the rainy weather

It’s déjà vu at the Coliseum, where the rain has been falling, the tarp is on the infield and the A’s and Angels are hoping to start tonight’s game on time. Weather.com calls for a 25 percent chance of rain at 6 p.m., but then it appears we could get a break until about 10 p.m.

–Big A’s news of the day so far: Dallas Braden’s shoulder surgery in New York was successful, but the A’s announced that he will definitely be sidelined for the rest of the season. Will he recover in time to be ready for the start of the 2012 campaign? There’s no indication one way or another. Johan Santana had the same surgery (to repair a torn capsule in his shoulder) in September and it’s estimated he may be out until mid-season. The recovery appears to be anywhere from the 7-10 month range.

Braden will be missed on the mound. He’s an innings-eater and an intense competitor. But Tyson Ross has filled in more than capably. From talking to players around the clubhouse, the feeling is that Braden’s leadership and clubhouse presence will be missed the most. However, I’d expect that Braden will be around the team a lot, much like Ben Sheets was last season after he got hurt. We know that tonight’s starter, Gio Gonzalez, would welcome Braden’s presence. Can Gonzalez bounce back after Wednesday’s disastrous outing in Texas? He’s 3-2 with a 3.90 ERA against the Angels in six career starts.

–Andrew Bailey said he feels good after yesterday’s one-inning outing at extended spring training. He’ll play catch tomorrow and be re-evaluated, and he’s hopeful of starting a rehab assignment Thursday, Friday or Saturday. How many outings will he require before coming off the DL? Bailey estimates he’ll need at least four, but emphasized that it’s just a guess.

–Infielder Adam Rosales (fractured right foot) has a doctor’s appointment in Los Angeles tomorrow, and if he gets cleared, he hopes to start playing in extended spring games by the end of the week.

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

Angels: Aybar SS, Abreu DH, Izturis 2B, Hunter RF, Kendrick LF, Callaspo 3B, Trumbo 1B, Mathis C, Bourjos CF; Chatwood RHP.

That’s all for now …

0

Rain continues to fall at the Coliseum, but A’s-Angels game is still on

Here’s the situation at the Coliseum … The rain is falling steadily, batting practice has been canceled on the field, but the A’s have no plans to postpone tonight’s game against the Angels. That’s what we’re hearing. The forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of rain by 7 p.m., dropping to 15 percent by 8 p.m. If the A’s haven’t canceled this thing by now, they’re willing to wait it out to see if they can squeeze it in, even if it means delaying the 7:05 first pitch.

Remember what it was like during rainy day recess in elementary school, when everyone was stuck in the classroom and all activity was indoors? That’s the scene right now in the A’s clubhouse. Everyone is milling around, grabbing a bite to eat and wondering if this game is going to be played. The busiest guy in the building right now? Head groundskeeper Clay Wood, who was walking the field earlier – in shorts, with rain pouring down – surveying what kind of condition the field was in. There are puddles on the warning track, and groundskeepers are sweeping water off the infield tarp. It’s not going to be ideal playing conditions even if the rain stops.

It’s bizarre to even consider a rainout for an A’s home game. The last home rainout was May 5, 1998 against the Detroit Tigers. How many will show up for this one? Monday night games usually draw poorly anyway, and you can take it to the bank that tonight’s crowd is below the season-low of 9,193 that showed up for a May 2 game against the Rangers.

The update from Bob Geren’s pregame media chat:

–Andrew Bailey is heading to Phoenix to throw in another extended spring training game Tuesday. “That’s what he felt he’d like to do. Ronny (pitching coach Ron Romanick) talked with him on where he’s at, what he’s comfortable doing,” Geren said. The other option was for Bailey to just go out on a rehab assignment with Single-A Stockton or Triple-A Sacramento. The advantage for the A’s in an extended spring game is it’s a “controlled” environment. The A’s can stop the action, manipulate innings to keep Bailey out there for four outs if they choose – the situation can be tailored to what he needs. But pitching in minor league games will be a better test for Bailey because it’s regular game conditions. That’s the next step after Tuesday. There’s still no indication of how many minor league games Bailey will need to pitch in before returning.

–Dallas Braden’s shoulder surgery has been rescheduled for Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. He was originally supposed to have the operation today, but his flight to New York was canceled Sunday.

–Rich Harden, on the 60-day DL with a side muscle injury, is doing strengthening exercises but still not throwing. He’s nowhere close to returning yet.

–Geren talked about Michael Wuertz’s dominant form lately out of the bullpen. The guy has given up just one hit in eight appearances since coming off the DL for a hamstring injury. You’ll notice he’s starting to be used more in late-inning situations, and Geren considers him another right-handed setup option, filling the same role as Grant Balfour when Balfour isn’t available. Until Bailey returns, Wuertz’s effectiveness is even more important for the ‘pen. I’ll have more on Wuertz in tomorrow’s paper. …

Tonight’s lineups (assuming there’s baseball)

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

Angels – Aybar SS, Abreu DH, Izturis 2B, Hunter RF, Kendrick LF, Callaspo 3B, Trumbo 1B, Wilson C, Bourjos CF; Pineiro RHP.

0

Dallas Braden to get 2nd, 3rd opinions on shoulder; Andrew Bailey has another good day

The lowdown from Kauffman Stadium, as Tommy Lasorda is in the house (or on the field) as the A’s take batting practice. …

–Andrew Bailey threw a 30-pitch batting practice session and, for the first time, threw all of his pitches – fastball, curve, cutter, changeup. Manager Bob Geren said he looked good, as did Kevin Kouzmanoff, one of the hitters facing him. And Bailey said he felt good. His road back to the 25-man roster continues gradually. Next up will be a simulated game, which is different from throwing live BP – no protective screen in front of the mound, a count will be kept. It’s more of game situation. Bailey estimates he’ll throw “1 or 2” more times before heading off on a rehab assignment, but consider everything written in pencil.

–Dallas Braden will get a second and third opinion on his shoulder in the next few days. He’ll be examined by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., on Monday. Then he’ll see Dr. David Altchek, the Mets team doctor, in New York on Tuesday.

Tonight’s lineups on a perfect night for baseball in Kansas City:

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

Royals – Getz 2B, Cabrera CF, Gordon LF, Butler DH, Francoeur RF, Hosmer 1B, Aviles 3B, Treanor C, Escobar SS; Hochevar RHP.

0

Coco Crisp out of the lineup again, A’s say it’s precautionary

It’s a perfect afternoon for baseball at the Coliseum. I have no idea what kind of crowd will show up today, a rare non-holiday Monday afternoon game. But it’s a potentially big game for the A’s no matter how many people witness it. Taking a four-game series from Texas, the AL West favorites, would provide a healthy dose of momentum. And that could be helpful considering the surprising Cleveland Indians – with a majors-best 19-8 record – roll into town Tuesday for a three-game series.

–After a big game yesterday, Coco Crisp is back out of the lineup. A’s manager Bob Geren said the team is treating Crisp’s sore quadriceps carefully. “We’re just being cautious with him,” Geren said. “We’re monitoring how the game goes. He had high exertion yesterday with a lot of running, and we have to be cautious.” With a night game tomorrow following today’s day game, Geren said the thinking was that Crisp could get a bit of extra rest and be ready for Tuesday’s series opener with Cleveland. Crisp played down the situation. “I’m perfectly fine,” he told me. “It’s just a day off. I’m not quite 100 percent.” Geren added that Crisp was available off the bench if needed.

Does it concern you that Crisp is sitting again? Judging by how he played yesterday, the leg can’t be bothering him too much. If occasional rest now is going to help him be ready to play regularly for the long haul, it’s probably a smart idea.

–David DeJesus is playing center field in place of Crisp, with Conor Jackson getting another start in right. I asked Geren if he considered playing Ryan Sweeney in center since DeJesus has struggled a bit hitting. Geren said Sweeney would get some playing time soon with the A’s facing a string of right-handed starters coming up.

–Other injury updates: Andrew Bailey will pitch to hitters for the first time Wednesday, and Dallas Braden played catch this morning, but we didn’t get a report on him yet.

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

Rangers – Andrus SS, Moreland 1B, Young 2B, Beltre DH, Cruz RF, Murphy LF, Davis 3B, Teagarden C, Borbon CF; Holland LHP.

1

Tyson Ross gets Friday start vs. Seattle; Dallas Braden visiting Dr. Yocum in Los Angeles

A’s manager Bob Geren confirmed what had seemed likely: Tyson Ross will start Friday vs. Seattle in Dallas Braden’s place. How long will he remain in the rotation? That depends on the severity of Braden’s shoulder injury. Braden is flying to Southern California on Wednesday to be examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum. The A’s have sent several pitchers to Yocum to be examined over the years. Sometimes a long-term injury is revealed, sometimes it turns out to be minor. Braden wasn’t available in the clubhouse before batting practice, though he is at the ballpark.

Ross made the team last season as a reliever, got a couple of spot starts in place of Justin Duchscherer, and then struggled after he was put back in the bullpen, eventually getting sent down to Triple-A Sacramento. I’d like to see this guy get an extended stretch as a starter, whether that’s in the majors or with Sacramento. If the A’s see his long-term potential being in the rotation, then I think that’s where he needs to pitch. He’s not so dominant out of the ‘pen that you absolutely have to pitch him there.

Ross is excited to be getting his shot to start. Michael Wuertz? Not quite so enthusiastic right now. Wuertz (strained left hamstring) says he’s ready to be activated from the DL, but the A’s are having him make a third rehab appearance Wednesday. He’ll travel to Reno to pitch for Sacramento. Wuertz had a shaky first outing for Single-A Stockton, giving up three runs, but fared better Monday. He allowed a run in one inning but struck out three. “They just told me to go down, make another appearance and go from there,” Wuertz said. “To me, I’d like to be out there right now. It’s just the way it is.” Manager Bob Geren said he wants to see how Wuertz fares pitching an inning-plus, and the A’s will decide his next step afterward.

–Got a chance to meet David Purcey, the new addition to the A’s bullpen. Nice guy … After being designated for assignment by Toronto last Tuesday, he went home to Dallas when he got word that the A’s traded for him Monday. Purcey didn’t mind the down time – his wife Kate is expecting twins, the couple’s first children …

Tonight’s lineups:

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

Red Sox – Lowrie SS, Pedroia 2B, Gonzalez 1B, Youkilis 3B, Ortiz DH, Cameron RF, Crawford LF, Saltalamacchia C, McDonald CF; Lackey RHP.

4

Dallas Braden joins 15-day DL; A’s trade for lefty reliever David Purcey

There’s some A’s news for your Monday morning …

Dallas Braden was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left shoulder stiffness. The team acquired left-handed reliever David Purcey from Toronto in exchange for reliever Danny Farquhar, and Rich Harden was transferred from the 15-day to 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster for Purcey.

Purcey will join the big league bullpen, according to A’s assistant GM David Forst. So either Tyson Ross or Bobby Cramer remain the front-runners to take Braden’s spot in the rotation for now (Bob Geren mentioned Ross as a candidate yesterday). The A’s had been trying to work a trade for Purcey since Toronto designated the lefty for assignment Tuesday, Forst said. So going after him was not directly related to Braden’s injury in Saturday’s game. But it does provide depth, as the A’s likely will take Ross or Cramer from the bullpen and insert him into the rotation. Braden’s DL stint is retroactive to Sunday, meaning he would be eligible to return May 2.

Forst said the A’s didn’t know the severity of Braden’s injury based on his exam Sunday. Braden hasn’t undergone an MRI or any other tests yet. “We’re still hopeful that it’s not serious. We don’t have anything definitive as of yet,” Forst said.

Purcey, who turns 29 on Thursday, was 0-0 with an 11.57 ERA in five relief appearances with the Blue Jays this season. He made 12 starts as a rookie in 2008 and went 3-6 with a 5.54 ERA. He was Toronto’s first-round draft pick in 2004. Forst said A’s scouts clocked Purcey’s fastball in the 93-94 mph range. He’s got size — the A’s press release lists him at 6-4, 242 pounds. Farquhar had been acquired over the winter from the Jays as part of the Rajai Davis trade, so he’s going back to a familiar organization. He’d been pitching for Triple-A Sacramento thus far.