1

What are the chances of a complete return for Parker?

The A’s are hitting the reset button with their starting rotation with the news that probable opening day starter Jarrod Parker will undergo Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery in his right elbow and miss the entire 2014 season.

It’s the second time since 2009 that Parker will have Dr. James Andrews perform the surgery. There is a relatively small sample size to determine the success rate of pitchers who have had multiple Tommy John operations, but it’s becoming more and more frequent.

“Unfortunately, there is more data on this than there was four years ago,’’ Oakland assistant general manager David Forst said. “In the last week (the subject) has come up a number of times. It’s hard to predict right now. You don’t know the recovery rate on guys with a second Tommy John. It’s unfortunate that it’s more frequent.’’

According to some medical estimates, the success for the surgery is 90 percent; after a second surgery the number drops to 60 percent.

Former A’s reliever Jason Isringhausen had the surgery three times and came back to pitch each time.

Talking about the multiple surgeries with the Washington Post in 2012, Isringhausen laid out the path ahead of Parker.

“You really have to follow the protocol and do what is asked of you by the doctors and therapists so you don’t re-injure the graft in your elbow,’’ Isringhausen said. “I think that’s the main thing: patience. Because you feel really good really quick, and you want to throw, and then all you can do when you do that is tear it up again.’’

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1

Head’s up – Mr. Head-first joins the A’s

The A’s may be the early favorites to win the head-first-slide title in the American League in 2014.

That’s because they signed Nick Punto Wednesday. He’s 36-year-old utility infielder who is revered around baseball for his willingness to go head-first into any base – including first base – in an effort to help his team.

“Yeah – the head-first slide,’’ A’s assistant general manager David Forst said laughingly Wednesday. “We’ll probably lead the league in head-firsts at first base. Actually I’d like him to do it a little bit less.’’

When he heard that, Punto chuckled.

“Diving into first base, that’s definitely not something I think about when I hit a ball,’’ Punto said from his Southern California home Wednesday. “But it’s part of the way I play.’’

Punto is one of those hard-charging players who tends to maximize his talents playing the game. He’s 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds and he doesn’t have a lot of power – just two homers last year – and it took him until the fifth of his 13 big league seasons to get more than a quick look.

He’s a career .248 hitter who averaged .255 last year with Los Angeles and who begins more games on the bench than he does in the starting lineup. But between his ability to give his team above-average defense at three positions – second, third and short – and his ability to switch-hit, he has managed to play in two-thirds of his team’s games the last decade.

“But the fact that Nick can play shortstop, third and second is a real plus. As far as where he fits in, there is a long time to get that figured out.’’

There seems to be a reasonable chance that Punto will free the A’s up to trade Alberto Callaspo, who is another switch-hitting infielder, but one whose defense isn’t as good and who doesn’t play shortstop. The A’s picked up Callaspo from the Angels at the trade deadline, and he turned out to be a valuable part of the lineup, although his defense at both second base and third wasn’t the best.

More than anything, however, the A’s picked up Punto because he is one of those players who has a tendency to make a good team better. He did it with the Dodgers last year, he did it for years with the Twins, and he won a World Series ring with the Cardinals in 2011.

And for Punto, he sees some of that ring potential in the A’s.

“This is a team that fits the way I play,’’ Punto said. “I won a World Series with the Cardinals, and now I’m trying to find a way to win another one. You watch this team from the other side and they play hard, they play right, and they have good young pitching and a terrific manager.

“Bob Melvin being a great manager was a huge influence in my wanting to come here. His teams always play so hard; you have to love watching them play. Watching on TV and again in the playoffs this year, I saw those young pitchers. They have young, talented arms. I’m hoping to add what I have to that clubhouse.’’

Part of what he adds is in the clubhouse as a player others rally around. He’s called “Shredder’’ for his habit of celebrating ninth-inning and extra-inning wins by tearing the jersey off that day’s hero, shredding it.

Will that be brought to Oakland? Well, maybe. With a contract that brings him $2.75 million for this coming year, plus a $250,000 buyout if his option for 2015 isn’t picked up, the man who calls himself “@ShredderPunto’’ on Twitter just might be able to keep on doing it.

“The shredding, that’s never a planned thing,’’ Punto said. “And every time I do it, it can cost me a little. Those shredded jerseys are $150 a pop.’’

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 …

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 …

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.

0

A’s reportedly interested in Cuban pitcher Noel Arguelles

Check out this story from Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, which discusses the A’s interest in Cuban defector Noel Arguelles, a highly touted left-handed pitcher. I know fans at Athletics Nation are all over this, too. The story says Arguelles attracted quite a crowd of major league executives while pitching in the Dominican Republic recently. It also mentions that A’s GM Billy Beane and assistant GM David Forst met with him in the Dominican. I haven’t asked Beane or Forst about Arguelles. But during my interview with A’s co-owner Lew Wolff yesterday, Wolff mentioned more than once that continuing to sign international talent was a top priority for the team. Something to keep an eye out for …

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!!!

3

A’s exec Owens on Padres’ GM list?

Heard an interesting tidbit that I thought I’d pass along, as we watch the Phillies and Yankees march toward the World Series …

You might have seen today’s stories that the San Diego Padres are close to naming Red Sox assistant GM Jed Hoyer as their next general manager. David Forst, the A’s assistant GM, was mentioned as a potential candidate for the Padres’ job two weeks ago, and the A’s quickly released a statement shooting down that possibility. But it appears another member of Oakland’s front office is (or at least was) under some degree of consideration.

It’s my understanding that Billy Owens, the A’s director of player personnel, was on San Diego’s radar. Realize that this hasn’t been confirmed by anybody from the A’s or Padres. But I talked to both Owens and A’s GM Billy Beane today, and neither one came out and denied it either.

“It’s one of those things, (the Padres) are handling everything privately down there, so I’ll just stay out of it,” Owens said, declining to say whether he had been interviewed.

Beane also was mum on the issue, but said Owens has the potential to continue advancing up the front-office ranks. A Padres spokesperson said the team wasn’t discussing GM candidates publicly.

It’s probably a moot point anyway, as Hoyer appears to be the Padres’ guy. MLB.com, ESPN.com, the San Diego Union-Tribune and North County Times all ran stories on the topic Wednesday. But it’s something to keep an eye on for future front office openings around the majors. Forst is considered one of the top young executives in the game, and his name gets mentioned whenever there’s a GM position available (Forst enjoys living in the Bay Area and has always expressed his happiness with the A’s).

Perhaps Owens, 38, is beginning to attract interest as well. He just completed his 11th season with the A’s and sixth as director of player personnel. He scouts everywhere – majors, minors, amateur and internationally – and his input has been key as the A’s have decided which prospects to target in their many trades of recent years.

I expect to hear Hoyer announced as the Padres’ GM in the near future, but keep Owens’ name filed away …

0

Duchscherer seeking treatment for depression

Damon Lapa, the agent for A’s right-hander Justin Duchscherer, just informed media members that Duchscherer is seeking treatment for clinical depression and will miss the rest of the season. Lapa didn’t provide many other specifics on Duchscherer’s condition, and didn’t predict a timetable for when he could return to pitching. Lapa did describe the depression as a “very treatable form.”

“It’s something I think he’s been battling for some time, and he recently made the really difficult decision that he needs to put his career on hold for the time being and focus 100 percent of his efforts on his recovery,” Lapa said.

Duchscherer is a free agent after this season. He’s been out all season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow at the end of spring training, and also has been hindered by back problems.

A’s assistant GM David Forst said the A’s have been aware of Duchscherer’s condition for a while, but didn’t specify how long.

“Our only concern right now is getting him healthy,” Forst said. “He obviously has all the resources available that we can provide and we’ve been trying to help him, and will continue to even beyond this season.”

I’ll post more soon …

0

A little more on Hairston trade

Thought I’d follow up with a bit more on the Scott Hairston deal that I couldn’t squeeze into today’s paper:

–A’s assistant GM David Forst did not guarantee that Ryan Sweeney was going to slide over and be the regular right fielder if Hairston plays center. From reading the blog comments, I got the feeling that some of you might have gotten that impression. Forst merely said Sweeney was an option in right. Regardless, this trade definitely points to Jack Cust seeing more time at DH and less in right field with Sweeney available as an obvious defensive upgrade in right. But we’ll have a clearer read on the outfield picture after Bob Geren holds court w/reporters before tonight’s game in Boston.

–”This is a trade we made for the long-term,” Forst said of Hairston, 29. The A’s will have control over him for the next 2 1/2 years, as Hairston won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2011 season. He’s arbitration-eligible each season until then. Forst also said that Hairston is probably a natural corner outfielder, but is better suited for center in the A’s current state (read: as long as Matt Holliday is still wearing an A’s uniform and playing left field).

–Some of you have seen this story from mlb.com. Hairston was caught off-guard and not particularly happy about the trade because he liked it in San Diego. I’m sure his .360 average against left-handed pitching this season had to be enticing to the A’s, who have struggled against lefties despite beating Cliff Lee yesterday. Click here for Hairston’s career stats.

–It’s tough to get a read on this deal until we learn who the “player to be named” is that goes to San Diego along with pitchers Ryan Webb and Craig Italiano. The mlb.com story paraphrased Padres GM Kevin Towers as saying he’ll pick from two A’s pitchers sometime this month, with one having major league experience. This deal didn’t come cheaply for the A’s just factoring in Webb and Italiano. If San Diego gets another impact arm, that’s an even steeper price to pay. Time will tell …