14

Thoughts on the 2010 Oakland A’s batting order

I was rummaging through my notes from last week’s A’s media event, and wanted to share some thoughts from Bob Geren about his possible batting order. Geren was asked how he would handle the 1-2 spots, with Coco Crisp and Rajai Davis being the prime candidates at the top of the lineup. His take:

“You can do that a couple different ways. You can go Raj-Coco or Coco-Raj. It might depend on who I bat third and fourth. If you have Suzuki batting third, a right-handed hitter, maybe you go Raj first and Coco second. And then Cust could bat fourth, a lefty. I kind of like to (alternate lefties and righties) if it makes sense, so it’s more difficult for the opposition to match up in the bullpen.”

I know … You were hoping that by now, the A’s might have obtained a better fit for the No. 3 hole than Suzuki, right? Perhaps that’s why we’re hearing the Johnny Damon reports. Anyway, Rajai-Coco (or vice versa) is a natural combo in the 1-2 spots. But I could also see a scenario where Suzuki or Ryan Sweeney could bat second and Davis or Crisp could drop down to the ninth spot. Nothing wrong with lighting a fuse at the bottom of the order.

Here’s my stab at a full lineup if the A’s took their current roster into Opening Night. This is assuming that Eric Chavez is coming off the bench, as the A’s plan, and Chris Carter and Michael Taylor are starting the season at Triple-A:

1. Davis LF
2. Crisp CF
3. Suzuki C
4. Cust DH
5. Kouzmanoff 3B
6. Sweeney RF
7. Ellis 2B
8. Barton 1B
9. Pennington SS

**I didn’t purposely try to go right-left all the way down, just worked out that way …

Let’s hear some thoughts on the A’s options …

3

Scratch Adrian Beltre off A’s list of third base candidates

47 days and counting until A’s pitchers and catchers report … Here’s a few baseball tidbits in case you’re suffering bowl-game overload …

–Numerous outlets have reported details of Adrian Beltre’s deal with the Boston Red Sox. Looks like he’s getting a one-year contract for $9 million, with a $5 million player option for 2011. I don’t think he was a realistic option for the A’s at that price, but regardless, that’s one less free agent third baseman available. The A’s still want to find an insurance plan at third in case Eric Chavez isn’t healthy. What would you like to see them do? Dip into their past and sign Miguel Tejada, as they did last winter w/Jason Giambi? Give prospect Adrian Cardenas a crack at third? See if Adam Kennedy, still unsigned, would re-consider playing third again? None of the above?

–Speaking of former Athletics: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Mark Mulder is close to signing with the Brewers.

–Speaking of a much lower-profile former Athletic: right-hander Colby Lewis is looking for a major league job after two fine seasons as a starter for the Hiroshima Carp in Japan. You might remember Lewis’ time with Oakland in 2007. He got hammered for 10 earned runs in his first appearance — and only start — against the White Sox, then worked out of the bullpen much of the season. Even with Justin Duchscherer back in the fold, I could see the A’s bringing another veteran to spring training, to at least provide some competition for a rotation spot. Lewis seems like a decent, low-cost option to me, although the above story quotes Lewis’ agent as saying six teams are “aggressively bidding” for him.

Check back w/you soon …

12

Adrian Beltre-to-A’s speculation heats up

Think back to the winter meetings, when there wasn’t a trickle of concrete news to report from the A’s camp. I kept getting the same questions from writers and scouts: “What’s going on with the A’s? Are they doing anything?” The meetings finished a little more than two weeks ago, and obviously, that was the calm before the storm. The A’s have been swift to act since then – trading third baseman Brett Wallace for outfielder Michael Taylor, signing outfielder Coco Crisp and bringing back free agent pitcher Justin Duchscherer. Now, speculation is heating up that Oakland is perhaps the front-runner to sign free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, according to ESPN. Here’s a few thoughts on that situation. Feel free to chime in with your own:

Beltre is a logical fit for the A’s considering their need at third base (you’ve got to operate as if Eric Chavez won’t be available until he proves he can stay in the lineup). I can tell you Beltre has been in the A’s thoughts since the offseason began, but I don’t see them shelling out $10 million per season for him. The above ESPN piece lists the A’s as his only serious suitor right now, but it mentions a good point: If Beltre drops his asking price, other teams are sure to join the pursuit (including the Giants). I expect the A’s and other teams to play the waiting game with Beltre. That paid off for teams last winter, when the price tag dropped on free agents as the season drew closer.

–The A’s obviously aren’t viewing Jake Fox – acquired from the Cubs shortly before the winter meetings – as a full-time third baseman. If they were, Beltre wouldn’t even be a consideration. The A’s like Fox for his hitting ability – they’ll find a spot that suits him in the field. If Beltre is signed, I see Fox possibly playing a lot of first base (though the A’s already have depth there) or logging lots of at-bats at DH.

–What happens if Beltre becomes an Athletic, and – work with me on this one – Chavez puts together a healthy season? Surely the A’s would want to squeeze all they can out of Chavez, who makes $12 million in the final year of a six-year contract. It would make sense for Beltre (a Gold Glover like Chavy) to play third and Chavez to DH simply to ease the burden on Chavez’s back. But then where does Fox fit in? The options would be first base or the outfield, and the A’s are fairly crowded at both spots. GM Billy Beane likes to point out that having too many healthy players hasn’t been a problem for the A’s recently, so maybe injuries will sort out who plays where.

Would you like to see Beltre signed? How would you handle the playing rotation?

7

A’s tied to Chone Figgins, Vladimir Guerrero in speculation

Can we expect the A’s to make as big an offseason splash as they did last winter? That might be hard to top. But with the World Series wrapped up, the Hot Stove speculation can officially begin. The MLB Network’s Jon Heyman discussed this winter’s crop of free agents, and he mentioned the A’s as potential suitors for third baseman Chone Figgins and outfielder/DH Vladimir Guerrero.

Juicy names, indeed. But I don’t see the A’s making a push for Figgins. Clearly, they need to sign someone at third. The odds are stacked against Eric Chavez remaining healthy, and it’s asking a lot of prospect Brett Wallace to be ready Opening Day. That’s why making the call on whether to re-sign Adam Kennedy is the A’s first crucial decision of the winter.

Figgins would cost a bundle, with some speculating he could command $10 million per season on a multi-year deal. Look at the A’s offensive strength right now – it’s tied to their speed and athleticism with guys like Rajai Davis and Cliff Pennington. They don’t need another burner such as Figgins. They need someone who can drive in those speedy guys once they get on base.

Guerrero is intriguing, if only because his injury struggles in 2009 should drive his price down. But he’s a huge gamble even at a bargain cost. I’m more intrigued by the A’s pursuing someone like Jermaine Dye. His 2010 option was declined by the White Sox on Friday, making him a free agent. He’ll turn 36 in January (making him a year older than Vlad), but he’s coming off a far more healthy and productive season. Dye plays right field, where the A’s have a terrific defender and still-developing hitter in Ryan Sweeney. But remember, Billy Beane acknowledged that the A’s need more offense from the corner outfield spots, and that they could look to upgrade in left or right.

Team owner Lew Wolff wants the A’s to abandon the philosophy of signing aging sluggers. But let’s face it – the A’s aren’t going to outspend the big-budget teams to sign any superstars. And trading for an impact hitter in his prime will cost the A’s some of their elite pitching prospects. I don’t see them easily parting with those players (then again, I didn’t see them trading for Matt Holliday last winter, either).

Just a few thoughts for you to ponder as the Hot Stove season starts heating up. Let’s here what some of you think …

0

Chavez, Tomko pay visits; other A’s tidbits

The A’s were just in Anaheim four weeks ago, and it feels nearly as hot now as it was then. But once the sun goes down, there’s not a better place to watch night baseball than Angel Stadium …

Lots of visitors in the A’s dugout before today’s game, including Eric Chavez and Brett Tomko. I guess I shouldn’t call them visitors really. Point is, they haven’t been around in a while. Chavez has been rehabbing his back in San Diego and made the trip up. He said his recovery from surgery continues to go well, and he’s hoping to begin baseball activity in December.

Tomko, who was shut down for the season last week, said doctors told him he basically “pulled a nerve” that runs through his right bicep. That’s what’s causing the numbness he still feels at times. He’s talked to Giants pitcher Brad Penny about the problem, because Penny had the same injury a few seasons ago. Rest is the only real remedy, and Tomko said he should be 100 percent by the time spring training rolls around. Will he be wearing an A’s uniform then? Who knows … But Tomko thinks he pitched well enough before his injury to open eyes around the majors, and he’s said previously he wouldn’t mind returning to Oakland.

Former A’s catcher Adam Melhuse, who retired earlier this season, also was in the dugout. He lives in San Luis Obispo, and Chavez talked him into paying a visit.

–Scott Hairston’s quad/back/hip injuries aren’t showing much improvement, and manager Bob Geren listed him as doubtful for the Angels series. So Eric Patterson’s back in left, where he’s made a nice impression over the past three games …

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

Gio Gonzalez LHP

Angels
Figgins 3B
Aybar SS
Abreu RF
Guerrero DH
Hunter CF
Rivera LF
Morales 1B
Kendrick 2B
Mathis C

Weaver RHP

0

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

0

Rajai returns to center field for A’s

Another pretty pleasant night at Safeco Field leading up to Game 2 of this series …

The A’s are likely to have a special guest in the dugout for the second straight night — third baseman Eric Chavez, who’s on the mend from June 23 back surgery that he hopes will have him ready for the start of the 2010 season. Chavez’s wife, Alex, is from the Seattle area. He wasn’t in the clubhouse during the media access period earlier this afternoon, and though he was in the dugout for last night’s game, he wasn’t around the clubhouse afterward. I haven’t talked to him personally, but manager Bob Geren said Chavez looked good, was in good spirits and is eyeing a return to baseball activity in January, if not sooner. Next season will be the last of his six-year, $66 million deal.

No news was good news for the A’s on the Rajai Davis front. He’s back in center field tonight and hitting second, so apparently he’ll be able to play despite a fracture in the tip of his right thumb. Davis was able to swing the bat yesterday — the issue was throwing. But his thumb passed the throwing test this afternoon. “I was able to throw effectively and pretty accurate, compared to yesterday,” Davis said. He’s never hurt his thumb before, but in Triple-A he did have an injury to his right middle finger that kept him out a couple of weeks. I’d expect him to get an occasional day off to make sure he completely heals.

The upshot of it all: No transaction made by the A’s, and no extra position player brought up. So Geren still has just three non-pitchers on his bench.

Dallas Braden isn’t with the team in Seattle as he stayed back in Stockton to get physical therapy on his infected left ankle. But Geren said there’s a chance he might join the team in Anaheim for the upcoming four-game series there.

Without further delay, your lineups. With lefty Brett Anderson pitching, Ken Griffey Jr. is not in Seattle’s lineup tonight, but Mike Sweeney is …

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

Anderson LHP

M’s

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

Rowland-Smith LHP

0

Hannahan traded to Seattle for minor league pitcher

I’ll make this brief, but the A’s dealt third baseman Jack Hannahan to Seattle today for minor league right-hander Justin Souza. Souza, 23, was 6-6 with a 3.35 ERA in 20 games (14 starts) with Double-A West Tennessee. Bob Geren pointed out Souza’s good K/BB ratio (62 strikeouts, 18 walks in 78 innings) and said he’s likely to report to Double-A Midland for the A’s. I don’t have much more on him at the moment … Hannahan, acquired by the A’s in August 2007 from Detroit, provided a tremendous glove at third while filling in for Eric Chavez. But he didn’t develop into the impact hitter that teams look for at the corner infield spots. He’ll be reunited in Seattle with Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu, who was on Geren’s staff last season.

Tonight’s lineups:

A’s
Kennedy 3B
Cabrera SS
Hairston CF
Holliday LF
Cust DH
Suzuki C
Giambi 1B
Sweeney RF
Ellis 2B

Braden LHP

Rays
Upton CF
Crawford LF
Longoria 3B
Pena 1B
Zobrist 2B
Burrell DH
Bartlett SS
Kapler RF
Navarro C

Garza RHP

0

Memory lane

The Raider locker room was host to a pregame reception for all of the players on hand to celebrate the A’s 20th Anniversary of their 1989 World Series championship. … The big bonus for the team was that Rickey Henderson did, in fact, show up. The A’s had quietly said he would, but didn’t spend much time promoting it just in case he didn’t make it. He had a big crowd of reporters around him (no surprise) and had lots of entertaining thoughts to share as always. You’ll be reading about them in tomorrow’s CC Times. Dave Stewart, Dave Henderson, Walt Weiss, Mike Moore, Tony Phillips, Lance Blankenship, Matt Young and Ken Phelps were also on hand, as was then-GM Sandy Alderson. Carney Lansford, now the hitting coach for the Giants, dropped in real quick, as did A’s pitching coach Curt Young.

As for the current A’s news …

Josh Outman wasn’t able to get his second MRI on his elbow due to a power outage at the facility in Pleasanton where it was to take place. He’s definitely out for Wednesday’s start, but said he won’t know if he’ll be out longer until he has the MRI tomorrow. Bob Geren said he’d announce after tonight’s game who would take ball tomorrow. It’s between Edgar Gonzalez and Gio Gonzalez. “Obviously it’d be either Edgar or somebody from Triple-A, (and) Gio is scheduled to throw tomorrow,” Geren said.

The A’s were short on details on Eric Chavez’s back surgery today. According to Geren, the surgery went well, and that preliminary indications are that Chavez should be ready for the start of spring training. “He texted (head trainer Steve Sayles) and said he’s doing well,” Geren said. Take all of this w/a grain of salt. We still don’t know many details of the surgery, so it’s tough to put much stock in any timeframe right now.

Mark Ellis can come off the DL on Sunday, and he’s expected to return to second base. In light of that, Geren said Adam Kennedy will bounce around between third base, second base, first base, DH and the outfield. But he’ll be playing regularly somewhere …

Tonight’s lineups:

A’s
Kennedy 2B
Cust RF
Holliday LF
Giambi DH
Suzuki C
Sweeney CF
Cabrera SS
Barton 1B
Hannahan 3B

Mazzaro P

Giants
Rowand CF
Torres LF
Sandoval 3B
Molina C
Ishikawa 1B
Winn DH
Renteria SS
Schierholtz RF
Downs 2B

Lincecum P

0

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 …