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Reminiscing on Little League day; Dallas Braden to see doctor

It’s Little League day at the Coliseum, so there was a trail of kids making their way past the A’s dugout high-fiving Gio Gonzalez and Bobby Cramer this morning. … I have vivid memories of attending Little League day as an 8-year-old, wearing my uniform and making a lap around the field before the game. Rickey Henderson was playing left field. This was Rickey’s first stint in Oakland, when he wore No. 35. My earliest memories of going to A’s games are seeing Henderson in left field, Dwayne Murphy in center and Tony Armas in right. In Toronto recently, I got to interview Murphy, who’s now the Blue Jays hitting coach, about Rajai Davis. That was cool … Friends ask me if I get star-struck interviewing major league players. For me, it’s more the current crop of coaches around the majors that I get a thrill out of talking to. Because the guys coaching now were the ones I idolized as players when I was growing up. … Anyway, everybody’s gotta take the trip down memory lane now and then, right?

–Dallas Braden is not a happy camper right now regarding his stiff shoulder. He had very little to offer on the injury this morning. “Still sore, stiff, hurts. I’m not gonna throw.” Asked if he was holding out hope of making his next start, Braden just shook his head no. A’s manager Bob Geren said Braden would get checked by a team doctor later today, so maybe we’ll get more information after the game. Geren isn’t speculating yet on whether Braden will miss any time. And with Monday’s day off, the A’s can push Braden’s start back several days if they wish. But on first impression, it sure doesn’t seem like good news for Braden based on his demeanor. Might Tyson Ross or Bobby Cramer be in line for a stint in the rotation?

–Coco Crisp is not in the lineup. With no game Monday, the A’s want to try to give him two straight days off to rest his back. But Geren said Crisp is available if needed off the bench. David DeJesus is playing center field with Conor Jackson in right. Geren said he was considering giving Ryan Sweeney a start, but Sweeney’s hamstring tightened up as he legged out a triple last night. He’s also available if needed, but Geren didn’t want him starting.

–Somewhat lost in the shuffle with the A’s terrific starting pitching so far: The fact that Trevor Cahill has not been very sharp. He’s failed to complete five innings in two of his first three starts, so we’ll see how he fares this afternoon. Tigers starter Brad Penny is facing the A’s for just the third time in his career. He’s allowed 15 earned runs in 16 1/3 innings this season.

The lineups:

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

Tigers – Rhymes 2B, Jackson CF, Boesch DH, Cabrera 1B, Raburn LF, Kelly 3B, Peralta SS, Avila C, Wells RF; Penny RHP.

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A’s place Michael Wuertz on DL with strained left hamstring; Tyson Ross called up as expected

The latest from Toronto …

The A’s have called Tyson Ross up as a reliever, with Michael Wuertz going on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. This is the first we’ve heard of Wuertz’s injury. Dallas Braden is still starting Wednesday night’s game … I’ll update again after Bob Geren addresses the media …

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Kevin Kouzmanoff’s wardrobe malfunction and other A’s tidbits

Pretty entertaining scene today as the A’s took the field to stretch. They’re on the road against Cleveland, so the entire team was wearing their gray pants – except third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff. He came out wearing his bright white home pants, sticking out like a sore thumb and hearing it from his teammates. Sometimes Kouzmanoff wanders around the clubhouse as if he’s in his own little world, so I’m not too surprised. … Speaking of Kouzmanoff, a standard he set during the 2010 regular season is carrying on this spring — the guy spends more time signing autographs and chatting with fans than anyone else on the team.

On to the news …

–Rich Harden experienced a setback with his injured lat muscle while throwing long toss Sunday, so he’s going to get checked by a doctor, according to manager Bob Geren. It seems safe to say Harden will stay in Phoenix and work in extended spring training when the major league club heads north for the regular season.

–After Sunday’s regular season-style lineup, the A’s will start just four regulars against the Indians today. They occupy the first four spots in the order:

Crisp CF; Kouzmanoff 3B; Willingham LF; Matsui DH; Carter 1B; Powell C; Carson RF; Weeks 2B; Sogard SS; Braden LHP.

I wouldn’t read too much into Kouzmanoff batting second. But I was intrigued by him hitting eighth Sunday. Geren said he’ll continue experimenting with the bottom half of the order during exhibitions to see what he likes.

–Dallas Braden has not been concerned about his three lackluster starts so far, but the lefty needs to start putting together some quality outings.

–Gio Gonzalez will pitch in a simulated game Wednesday, when the A’s are off. That keeps him on his regular five-day turn. Judging by the pitching schedules, Gonzalez is the logical candidate to get the ball for the April 1 opener against Seattle. As it stands, his turn would come March 31, but the A’s may take the opportunity to give him the extra day’s rest. But Geren – who’s in midseason form with his “Don’t Tip My Hand” philosophy – pointed out he has some cushion to adjust the rotation leading up to the opener. The A’s don’t play March 31, and they’ve got another day off April 4. But Gonzalez’s sterling form so far makes him a strong contender for the opener.

–The daily bullpen updates: Michael Wuertz is still scheduled to make his exhibition debut Tuesday; Craig Breslow is throwing off the mound today, and Geren said Saturday is a possibility for the lefty’s first game. “That’s a solid 12 days before Opening Day,” Geren said. “I’ll take it.” … Closer Andrew Bailey will make his second appearance today.

–Reliever Danny Farquhar was reassigned to minor league camp this morning.

–A little radio news: The A’s confirmed that Chris Townsend will be back hosting the call-in show before and after every regular season game on KTRB. His first broadcast is March 28, the first game of the Bay Bridge Series against the Giants.

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Hideki Matsui reports to camp — where might he hit in A’s lineup?

We had a little more intrigue than normal in the A’s clubhouse this morning with Hideki Matsui reporting. He’ll work out and then finish shooting the commercial he began filming Saturday at Papago Park.

Dallas Braden had a gift waiting for Matsui at his locker: A large inflatable Godzilla doll dressed in an A’s uniform. Very quality effort, though the reaction once Matsui arrived was a bit awkward. Matsui saw the doll but wasn’t quite sure how to react to a room full of people staring at him. And the rest of the A’s weren’t quite sure whether to clap. Somewhere, a pin dropped and I clearly heard it. It was a good gesture, however, to welcome Matsui. It will be interesting to see how he assimilates into the clubhouse with the language barrier, but he’s got a reputation for being a great guy, and he’s plenty used to the situation after eight seasons in the United States.

With 30-35 members of the Japanese media on hand (that’s what’s expected as a daily turnout this season), manager Bob Geren had a big crowd for his morning media session. He said he hadn’t decided where Matsui would bat in the order, but he’s considering him in the fourth or fifth spot. A logical batting order would go Crisp, Barton, DeJesus, Willingham and Matsui in the 1-5 spots. But Geren said he doesn’t want more than two lefties hitting together in a row near the top of the lineup. And against right-handed pitchers, Willingham would be the only right-handed bat with the switch-hitting Crisp batting from the left side. So perhaps we could see an order that goes Crisp, DeJesus, Willingham and Matsui in the top four spots, with Barton dropping down a bit. It’s not clear how this will shake out right now. Geren said he probably won’t start playing an opening day-type lineup until the second half of the Cactus League schedule.

It’s freezing today, by the way. Not that I expect a lot of sympathy from readers in the Bay Area, as I hear it’s been nasty there too. We got heavy rain last night, and the temperature is in the low 50’s right now. OK, so it’s not that cold, but it’s all relative. When it’s normally in the 70’s here, you want to crank up the heater on days like this.

That’s all for now …

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A’s pitchers and catchers hit the field

The first blog from spring training has arrived … I’ll try to post each morning, but that could change slightly depending on how heavy/light news is. And if news develops throughout the day, I’ll throw it on here too. You can also get updates at twitter.com/joestiglich

–A’s pitchers and catchers just took the field for their first workout. The sun is out and it’s good baseball weather, though not as picturesque as yesterday. We may get a little rain over the weekend, but nothing that’s expected to disrupt things too much once the full squad holds its first workout Monday. But you didn’t come here for weather reports …

–Manager Bob Geren held his first extended media session today. The most noteworthy item was that relievers Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow and Michael Wuertz will be brought along more slowly than the other relievers. That’s a precautionary move and probably a smart one – Breslow has thrown a ton of innings over the past two seasons, Bailey is coming off minor elbow surgery and Wuertz had a shoulder injury early last season after he logged a ton of innings in 2009. The A’s will budget most relievers for 10-13 Cactus League outings, but Bailey, Breslow and Wuertz (no, that’s not a law firm) will be closer to the 8-10 range.

–How’s this for showing gratitude? Dallas Braden sent catcher Landon Powell and his wife, Allyson, on an all-expenses paid trip to Maui in January to show his appreciation for Powell catching his perfect game. Braden put them up at the Four Seasons. I mentioned in today’s paper that Bailey and pitcher Brett Anderson have lost weight. Throw Powell in the mix, too. He says he’s lost 15 pounds.

–It was interesting seeing new bench coach Joel Skinner, a former catcher, huddled with all of Oakland’s catchers and dishing some wisdom earlier this morning. In the opening days of spring training, players take time to get acquainted with each other. But this spring, Oakland’s players are also feeling out several new coaches. Skinner and hitting coach Gerald Perry are new to the staff, and Ron Romanick has shifted from bullpen coach to pitching coach. Obviously, the big news will be whatever impact new players such as Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham have on the team, but this reshuffled coaching staff is an under-the-radar factor to watch.

–One final note for those who might be visiting Phoenix next week: The A’s changed their practice schedule. They will only work out at Papago Park on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before shifting back to Phoenix Municipal Stadium for intrasquad games Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

That’s all for now …

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All’s ‘right’ with A’s batting order tonight

It’s not your typical A’s lineup tonight, with eight right-handed hitters starting against Cleveland lefty David Huff. Nomar Garciaparra (DH) and Bobby Crosby (3B) each get a rare start, and Daric Barton is the lone left-handed bat.

The most intriguing name in the A’s order? Right fielder Matt Carson, called up from Triple-A to make his major league debut at age 28. Ryan Sweeney is battling soreness in his knees, according to Bob Geren. Nothing serious, but enough for the A’s to call up another outfielder, even with Sacramento still in the Triple-A playoffs (the River Cats will be eliminated if they lose tonight, so there’s a chance we could see more call-ups soon).

I remember walking into the A’s clubhouse in spring training, seeing Carson and asking, “Who is this guy?” His signing in November hardly caused a ripple, and he was just one of many anonymous faces around Papago Park when camp opened. But he really caught the A’s attention during Cactus League play, and has only helped his cause this season. Who knows if he’s got a chance to make the team next year? But if Sweeney remains banged up, Carson could see more starts.

With Adam Kennedy getting a day off, Rajai Davis moves into the leadoff spot. Geren said he could easily interchange Kennedy and Davis at the 1-2 slots, but he’s stuck w/Kennedy at leadoff because the offense has been clicking. It’ll be interesting to see if Davis gets a few more looks in the top spot. After all, he’s a pretty realistic leadoff option going into next season.

–Geren on the odds of right-hander Brett Tomko returning to the mound this season: “Probably less than 50-50, but there’s a chance.”

–Dallas Braden, out for the season with nerve damage in his left foot, is with the team today. He’s not doing much in the way of activity, and acknowledged some frustration w/an injury that ended what was a pretty encouraging season for him. He had this to say about his recovery: “There’s about a 90 percent chance of (a full recovery). It could be a month, it could be six months. I could never be the same, or I could bounce back like nothing ever happened.”

Braden and Kurt Suzuki are being honored tonight w/the Dave Stewart Community Service Award.

Tonight’s lineups:

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

Anderson LHP

Indians
Brantley CF
Carroll 2B
Choo RF
Peralta 3B
LaPorta 1B
Shoppach DH
Marson C
Crowe LF
Romero SS

Huff LHP

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Eric Munson called up as third catcher; Braden to 60-day DL

Thought I’d throw a little news on the blog: The A’s called up catcher Eric Munson from Triple-A Sacramento today. Makes sense for them to add a third backstop now that rosters have expanded. The other benefit: This gives Bob Geren a little more freedom to use backup catcher Landon Powell as DH, knowing that he’s got an extra catching option if Kurt Suzuki were injured.

To make room for Munson on the 40-man roster, the A’s transferred left-hander Dallas Braden to the 60-day DL, which all but ends his 2009 season. Technically, Braden could be activated Sept. 30, with five games left in the season. But it’s highly unlikely the A’s would do this, even if his injured left foot felt great.

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A’s promote relievers Blevins, Eveland, Kilby; Braden still doubtful to return

The A’s clubhouse got a little more crowded this afternoon, with left-handers Jerry Blevins, Dana Eveland and Brad Kilby getting called up on the first day big league rosters can expand to 40. That gives Bob Geren 10 relievers at his disposal (including five lefties), with Edgar Gonzalez moving into the expanded six-man rotation.

You’re pretty familiar w/Eveland and Blevins, who were both on the Opening Day roster. Kilby, 26, is getting his first major league action. Click here for a little information on the San Jose State product.

–Random thought, just for the heck of it: After playing the EXACT SAME batting practice soundtrack for the entire season, we finally have some fresh pre-game tunes being played over the PA. I guess Sept. 1 means that the CD collection expands as well …

And now back to business …

Eveland began the year in the A’s rotation but struggled and was sent down. He came back up for a spot start in Boston on July 6, but was sent right back down afterward. Interesting that the A’s promoted him considering he was 0-4 with a 7.88 ERA over his past five starts. But he’s got substantial big league experience, and he’s at least a pretty known quantity. The A’s saw Blevins as a key part of their bullpen when the season began, but he also struggled and has spent most of the season at Triple-A Sacramento.

Bob Geren said he sees Eveland filling the long reliever role previously held down by Gonzalez, and he said it’s possible the two could flip-flop — with Eveland taking on the starting role — at some point. Geren sees Blevins and Kilby as one-inning type guys right now, and said he wants to find some low-pressure situations to ease them into at first.

Dallas Braden is back w/the team, but isn’t throwing right now. He reiterated that doctors have told him rest is the best remedy for the “traumatized” nerve in his left foot. Does he expect to pitch again this season? “The urgency to get out and prove it’s healthy isn’t there,” Braden said. “If it’s getting better and I get back on the mound, so be it. If not, we’ll look forward to next season.”

As for other possible call-ups, Geren said he doesn’t see a third catcher coming up right now. No real timetable for when other position players may show up in Oakland. I’d expect them to show up one at a time, every few days or so. The A’s aren’t looking to deplete Sacramento’s roster w/the River Cats heading to the playoffs.

Here’s tonight’s lineups:

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

E. Gonzalez RHP

Royals
DeJesus LF
Maier RF
Butler 1B
Jacobs DH
Callaspo 2B
Teahen 3B
Olivo C
Anderson CF
Betancourt SS

Davies RHP

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A’s pregame update: Edgar Gonzalez will start Tuesday, Tomko goes Wednesday

All’s quiet this morning on the A’s front … Sunday mornings are odd because there’s usually no regular BP on the field. The pitchers stretch at their own separate time, and players pop in and out of the batting cage at their leisure. Mostly, players were just sitting around watching the Yankees-White Sox on TV. Probably not real different from how you spent your Sunday morning …

A little news to share w/you …

–Edgar Gonzalez is starting Tuesday unless something unexpected happens. Brett Tomko is slated for Wednesday, which bumps him ahead of Trevor Cahill in the rotation to give Cahill a little extra rest. Manager Bob Geren had mentioned yesterday that Tomko could stay on regular days’ rest in the six-man rotation to give the younger guys a longer break. The A’s will especially monitor the innings of Cahill and Brett Anderson, today’s starter, since those two will surpass their innings from 2008 by such a large margin.

–Geren acknowledged it’s real doubtful Dallas Braden returns from his foot infection in time to rejoin the rotation. A little bullpen duty is still a possibility in Geren’s mind, but like I’ve mentioned here before, I would just shut Braden down and make sure he’s good for 2010. My guess is that will happen.

–Asked if there’s a definitive plan for call-ups on Tuesday when rosters expand, Geren said talks have centered “99 percent about pitching.” That means no Travis Buck, at least not right away. There is a chance they could promote a catcher, Geren said. Eric Munson would be the lead candidate …

–Bobby Crosby is expected to be activated from the DL on Wednesday without going on a rehab assignment. My guess is his playing time would likely come at third or second base, whenever Adam Kennedy or Mark Ellis might need a rest. You figure the A’s will keep running Daric Barton and Cliff Pennington out to first base and shortstop, respectively, to evaluate them as much as possible …

Today’s lineups, featuring Ryan Sweeney batting third. Kurt Suzuki and Scott Hairston both have the day off, and Geren likes the way Sweeney is swinging, so he gets bumped to the middle of the order …

A’s
Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Sweeney RF
Cust DH
Powell C
Ellis 2B
Barton 1B
Pennington SS
Patterson LF

Anderson LHP

Angels
Figgins 3B
Aybar SS
Hunter CF
Vlad DH
Rivera LF
Morales 1B
Kendrick 2B
Matthews Jr. RF
Mathis C

Lackey RHP

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Eric Chavez addresses the media

Eric Chavez popped onto the field today during batting practice at Safeco Field and chatted w/reporters for a few minutes. He looked good and was in good spirits. His wife, Alex, gave birth to their third child — a boy, Cruz — three weeks ago. So no wonder he’s in a good mood. He’s about two months removed from microdiscectomy surgery on his back, and he began rehab about three weeks ago. Among the highlights from his media chat:

–Chavez has every intention of trying to return to third base, but acknowledged that if it turns out he can only DH, maybe that could extend his career a couple of years. Asked about the possibility of playing first base: “Either way (playing third or first), I’d still be bending over fielding ground balls.”

–He joked that he felt old knowing recently acquired third baseman Brett Wallace considers Chavez his favorite player. He also was very pleased to know Wallace has been hitting well, and said he would offer any defensive tips he could to Wallace.

–Chavez said recovery from this microdiscectomy procedure, his second, was more painful the first few weeks out of surgery than the first one. After his first back surgery — in October 2007 — Chavez said he came into the next season w/too many expectations. This time around, “I’ll try to take advantage of the eight-month recovery” period, which would take him right up to spring training.

–His surgically repaired right shoulder still aches every now and then, and he continues doing rehab for that. But the back is still his main physical concern.

–Asked for his thoughts on how the A’s are playing, Chavez said: “It’s fun to watch. … At least now we’re stealing bases and trying to make things happen.”

There’ll be more to read on Chavez in tomorrow’s notebook …

As for other A’s news:

–Bob Geren said Dallas Braden saw a neurologist, and it was found that a nerve in his left foot is “traumatized.” Rest is the only remedy for it, and there’s no timetable for him to get on a mound. It seems even more likely to me now that Braden may have pitched his last game of 2009, although Geren hopes to get him back, even if it’s only for an appearance or two. He didn’t rule out Braden pitching in relief, if that’s what it took to get him some work. That seems odd to me. I’d think that if it got to that late in the season before Braden was ready, it’d make sense to just shut him down for the winter and make sure he’s fully healed for next season.

–Geren said that, no matter what, he plans to incorporate a six-man rotation after rosters expand. Edgar Gonzalez is a possibility to join the rotation as the sixth guy, but that would probably only happen after some relievers are called up to fortify the bullpen.

Tonight’s lineups:

A’s
Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Suzuki C
Hairston LF
Cust DH
Ellis 2B
Sweeney RF
Everidge 1B
Pennington SS

Gonzalez LHP

Mariners
Gutierrez CF
Hannahan 3B
Lopez 2B
Sweeney DH
Hall RF
Branyan 1B
Johnson C
Wilson SS
Saunders LF

French LHP