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 …


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 …


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 …


More on Chavez

The A’s are still holding out hope that Eric Chavez will be able to return healthy next season. A’s assistant GM David Forst says that Dr. Robert Watkins, who will perform Chavez’s June 23 back surgery, believes Chavez can rehab and be ready for spring training in February. But Forst added that the picture will be clearer after surgery. I’d certainly expect the A’s to pursue a full-time alternative at third base during the offseason, and the front office has hinted that will be the case. But Chavez has a year left on his contract (at $12 million), and he’s been determined to give the A’s some production in return for that.

Watkins also performed Chavez’s microdiscectomy in October 2007. It’s worth noting that this is not the complicated spinal fusion surgery that has been mentioned as an option for Chavez, which would definitely end his career. But Chavez told me recently that any type of surgery, even microdiscectomy, would probably leave his back too unstable to play. Tough to predict what this means for his future … Former A’s outfielder Mark Kotsay is one player who has had two microdiscectomy surgeries and returned to the field …


Talking Vinny

No doubt, you’ve read or heard the big news by now. With Vin Mazzaro’s promotion in mind, here’s a recap of some of the points director of player personnel Billy Owens made about him when we talked a recently.

On Mazzaro’s progress: “He’s definitely taken a strong step forward in the past 18 months. He has an exceptional arm, and can top out at 96 or 97 mph, and his ball has natural sink. Last year, and really most of this year, he’s gotten to the point where he’s trusted his fastball and sinker a lot more, and he’s pitched more comfortably at 93 or 94 (mph).

On his offspeed stuff: “His soft game has gotten a lot better. His overall command has gotten a lot better. His ground ball-to-fly ball ratio was very strong last year, and the rest of his ratios have been where they need to be, and it has stayed that way. … ”

Personally. I’m a tad surprised that Mazzaro is coming up now. I would say it’s reminiscent of the day in June of 1999 when the A’s recalled Tim Hudson. But that A’s eam was going places, and this team clearly isn’t. It also starts his service time clicking early, and likely means that he’ll be eligible for arbitration one winter early.

I asked assistant general manager David Forst about that very thing last week. His response: “Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world that always allows you the luxury” of bringing up a player at the most idealistic time for a franchise. There may be other teams out there with the options to do that, but right now, we don’t have it.”

Incidentally, Melissa Lockard of scout.com has a very good piece discussing Mazzaro’s promotion.