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Sunday pregame update: Thoughts on Gio Gonzalez; Ichiro nearing milestones

Pretty ideal afternoon for baseball at the Coliseum, as the A’s try to split this four-gamer w/Seattle. …

–When we talk about the future of the A’s pitching staff, we tend to focus on Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Vin Mazzaro. But let’s remember that Gio Gonzalez’s development will also help shape the future of this staff. Gonzalez hasn’t looked as sharp in recent outings as he did during that four-start stretch that bridged July and August, when he picked up three wins. He’s still had good stuff — look at his strikeouts (24 in the last three outings). But his command has been off (17 walks over the last four outings).

So I’d say his remaining starts of 2009 will be pretty huge as far as setting him up for next season. I still like Gonzalez’s potential as a starter long-term as opposed to relieving. Some of that will depend on how he develops his change-up as a third pitch, and Bob Geren talked about how Gonzalez continues to work on that pitch. In key situations, he’ll still rely on his fastball and curve, but being able to give hitters another wrinkle to think about will make that fastball and curve even more effective …

–There’s been a larger group of Japanese media covering this A’s-Mariners series than usual, as Ichiro Suzuki is just one hit shy of 2,000 for his major league career. He’s also six hits shy of his ninth straight 200-hit season, which would set a new major league record. A few of us were talking before the game about Ichiro’s potential to rack up these kind of stats into his 40′s. I expect him to do that. You look at the way he flicks at the ball right now on a lot of his hits, and that’s something he can keep doing even as he loses some bat speed. So this string of 200-hit seasons may not stop any time soon if he stays healthy, which he’s done to this point. …

–Here’s today’s lineups

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

Gonzalez LHP

Mariners
Ichiro RF
Gutierrez CF
Lopez 1B
Sweeney DH
Beltre 3B
Hall 2B
Johjima C
Wilson SS
Saunders LF

Fister RHP

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Let the campaign begin: Geren pushes Andrew Bailey for Rookie of the Year

It’s that time of the season when end-of-the-year award discussions start coming into focus. And if you’re bummed about where the A’s sit in the AL West standings, take heart that closer Andrew Bailey is squarely in the AL Rookie of the Year talk. He got a boost today by being named the AL Rookie of the Month for August, when he had 11 scoreless outings and was perfect in seven save opportunities.

Think Bailey will be hurt by the A’s 59-74 record? The New York Times ran this story a couple of days ago that listed him as the AL favorite. You figure Bailey’s selection to the All-Star team will boost his profile in a lot of voters’ eyes. A’s manager Bob Geren gave his endorsement in today’s pregame media chat. “Hopefully the (Rookie of the Month award) will lead on to Rookie of the Year,” Geren said. “He’s had that kind of year … I see him more than anyone, so he’s got my vote.”

Actually, Geren doesn’t have a vote. Rookie of the Year (just like MVP, Cy Young and Manager of the Year) is voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America. But you get his point.

As for Bailey’s competition, Orioles outfielder Nolan Reimold will get serious consideration. White Sox third baseman Gordon Beckham and Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus are in the conversation. Their advantage is each had lots of hype before they even reached the majors, so they’ve been on the radar for some time now. But it’s hard to argue with Bailey’s credentials to this point, or his importance to his team. Right now, I’d have to give him my vote. Of course, like Geren, I’ve seen Bailey much more than anyone else.

I’ll open it up to readers: Do you think Bailey is the man for Rookie of the Year?

–Scott Hairston (left quad) is out of the lineup for a second straight day, w/Eric Patterson playing left for the A’s.

– Geren has set his rotation for the upcoming eight-game road trip that begins Tuesday. The A’s are off Monday and next Thursday, so that gives him some wiggle room to re-arrange guys.

At Chicago: Brett Tomko, Trevor Cahill

At Minnesota: Vin Mazzaro, Edgar Gonzalez, Tomko

At Texas: Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Cahill

Basically, he’s set it up where Tomko will pitch on regular four days’ rest; Cahill and Mazzaro will get six days’ rest, and Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez will get eight days rest between starts.

Tonight’s lineups in the opener of a four-game set w/Seattle:

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

Tomko RHP

Mariners
Ichiro RF
Gutierrez CF
Lopez 2B
Griffey Jr. DH
Beltre 3B
Hall LF
Carp 1B
Johjima C
Wilson SS

Snell RHP

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Friday update from Cleveland

Major leaguers find no shortage of ways to kill time leading up to batting practice. And the visitors’ clubhouse here at Progressive Field in Cleveland has an arcade-like vibe going on with the selection of video games. Several A’s players were taking full advantage this afternoon. It sounded like Chuck E. Cheese when I walked in …

On to today’s news … The A’s starting rotation has been tweaked for the upcoming games. Gio Gonzalez and Brett Anderson have been flip-flopped, with Gonzalez pitching Sunday against the Indians and Brett Anderson going Monday against the Red Sox. The A’s liked what they saw with Anderson in terms of his velocity in his last start, when he had two extra days’ rest because of arm fatigue. Bob Geren said Anderson is feeling fine physically right now, and that the A’s simply wanted to give him a little extra rest again. Because the A’s were off Thursday, Gonzalez still gets to go on four days’ rest. “Brett responded well last time with the extra days, so we’re going to give him one more day,” Geren said.

The plan is for Gonzalez to pitch out of the bullpen against Tampa Bay next weekend leading into the All-Star break, so Sunday will be his last start of the first half. With another day off this Thursday, the A’s had some flexibility in the rotation. This lines up the other four starters — Trevor Cahill, Vin Mazzaro, Anderson and Dallas Braden — to make two more starts before the break, while Gio gets one.

–Geren made a late change in tonight’s lineup, putting Nomar Garciaparra at first base and Jason Giambi at DH. They originally were flip-flopped. Geren wanted to see how Garciaparra felt taking infield practice before making the switch. This marks Garciaparra’s first defensive start since coming off the DL.

–The babies keep arriving for A’s players. SEcond baseman Mark Ellis’ wife, Sarah, gave birth to a girl yesterday. Ellis is flying to Cleveland as I write this, so Adam Kennedy moves back to second base for a day, and Bobby Crosby gets the start at third.

Your lineups:

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

Cahill RHP

Indians
A. Cabrera SS
Sizemore CF
Martinez C
Choo RF
Hafner DH
Peralta 3B
Garko 1B
Valbuena 2B
Francisco LF

Huff LHP

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Buck returns to Oakland; Outman having surgery tomorrow

The A’s just announced that outfielder Travis Buck has been recalled from Triple-A Sacramento and third baseman Jack Hannahan will be optioned out.  We’ve been told Buck won’t arrive at the Coliseum until after the game starts. With Adam Kennedy now getting time at third and Bobby Crosby still available to play the corner spots, Hannahan’s chances were going to be limited . Buck was hitting .350 for Sacramento as of today, and he gives the A’s a better defensive option in right than Jack Cust, who can also DH (Cust is still in tonight’s lineup in right, as of my writing this). Or perhaps the A’s will give Cust a day off here or there. The guy has played a ton of innings, and it looks like he could benefit from a break. He’s hitting seventh today for the second time in three games.

More news of the day: Left-hander Josh Outman is having surgery on his elbow tomorrow, to be performed by Dr. James Andrews. But still no official word on whether it will be Tommy John (ligament replacement) surgery or something else. Details of the surgery, and Outman’s timetable for recovery, should come after the procedure. But all signs are that Outman won’t be back until sometime during the 2010 season. “He had a great season for us. He’s a fine young pitcher,” Geren said. “Obviously it’s a setback. Obviously a second (opinion) was deemed necessary to (decide on having) surgery.” As for Outman’s replacement in the rotation, Geren still isn’t committing to Gio Gonzalez beyond tomorrow’s start.

Geren continues to shuffle around his batting order looking for a combination that produces some results. Orlando Cabrera is back up in the second spot in the order after Kennedy. Switch-hitting Landon Powell gets a start at DH in order to get as many left-handed bats in against right-hander Rick Porcello as possible. …

The lineups

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

Anderson LHP

Tigers
Granderson CF
Polanco 2B
Cabrera 1B
Thames DH
Raburn LF
Inge 3B
Ordonez RF
Laird C
Everett SS

Porcello RHP

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Barton optioned; Outman switched to 60-day DL

It wasn’t a shock that first baseman Daric Barton was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento to make room on the A’s 25-man roster for Mark Ellis. The bigger news this morning was that the team transferred left-hander Josh Outman to the 60-day disabled list to clear a spot for Ellis on the 40-man roster. That means Outman, nursing what’s been described as a sprained elbow, won’t return to the mound for the A’s until late August, at the earliest. The A’s announced the news in a release, after manager Bob Geren talked to the media. So we didn’t get a chance to ask him about it this morning.

Outman told me yesterday he’ll be examined by Dr. James Andrews on Monday morning in Alabama, but the A’s obviously feel already that it’s a severe enough injury that he needs to be shelved for a while. This presents a big opportunity for Gio Gonzalez, who could stick in the rotation for a while if he bounces back with a good start Tuesday vs. Detroit. And it’s a pretty tough break for Outman, who has pitched very well in his first season as a big league starter.

Today’s lineups, featuring Adam Kennedy at third base for Oakland:

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

Mazzaro P

Rockies
Fowler CF
Barmes 2B
Helton 1B
Hawpe RF
Tulowitzki SS
Stewart 3B
Iannetta C
Gonzalez LF
Smith DH

Cook P

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Outman to DL for A’s

Not a huge shock today when the A’s announced that Josh Outman was placed on the DL to make room for Gio Gonzalez, who takes the hill tonight against the Giants. Outman and the team still haven’t gotten results from the contrast MRI he had today on his elbow. It’s a tough break for Outman, who has been a pleasant surprise after claiming the fifth starter’s spot at the end of spring training. His take on hitting the DL: “I expected to be put on the DL. They needed to get a starting pitcher in there. I’m not upset. I’m obviously hurt to some degree. Hopefully I hear the lesser of several evils.”

Things to watch tonight w/Gonzalez: His fastball control and overall presence on the mound. A huge crowd is expected tonight. It should be a charged atmosphere and a good test for Gonzalez. Geren said the lefty’s had so much movement on his fastball in the minors that it can be tough to control. That’s similar to what Trevor Cahill and Vin Mazzaro deal with from start to start. …

Tonight’s lineups:

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

Gonzalez

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

Johnson P

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A’s minor league recap: Gio Gonzalez is on a roll for RiverCats

Here’s a brief look at what happened down on the farm Wednesday for the A’s affiliates:

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

RiverCats 3, Salt Lake City (Angels) 1: Story l Boxscore

Gio Gonzalez had his second consecutive dominant showing for the RiverCats, who improved to a PCL-best 33-30. Gonzalez (2-1, 3.50) went six innings, allowing just two hits and one run. He walked just two and struck out five. In his last two starts, Gonzalez has gone a total of 13 innings and given up just four hits and one run.

Gonzalez, Dana Eveland, Sean Gallagher and James Simmons are shaping up to be a rather solid rotation for the Cats.

Daric Barton, still batting an uninspiring .223, broke a 1-all tie with a two-out, RBI single in the seventh inning. Barton then scored on a double by Eric Patterson.

Eric Munson, the Cats’ catcher and cleanup hitter, went 2-for-5 with an RBI.

MIDLAND (Double-A)

RockHounds 16, NW Arkansas (Royals) 8: Story l Boxscore

Matt Spencer’s grand slam keyed a seven-run first inning as the RockHounds pounded Northwest Arkansas. Tommy Everidge and Adrian Cardenas each drove in three runs for Midland, which also got three hits and three runs each from Josh Horton and Archie Gilbert.

Chris Carter drove in a pair of runs and now has 42 in 51 games. The first baseman also has an on-base percentage of .396 and an OPS of .886.

Jason Fernandez improved to 3-0 since arriving from Stockton. He scattered 11 hits and allowed two runs in five innings.

STOCKTON (High Single-A)

San Jose (Giants) 4, Ports 2: Story l Boxscore

Ben Hornbeck allowed three runs in the first two innings, including a pair on a two-run Nick Noonan single, and took the loss as Stockton fell in San Jose. Hornbeck, who has lost two straight starts after a 5-0 start, went 4 2/3 innings and struck out seven.

Christian Vitters (10th round, ’06), accounted for the Ports’ runs with a two-run home run in the fifth. Jemile Weeks (1st round, ’08) went 1-for-4 with a double in the ninth and is hitting .333 in seven games (11-for-33).

San Jose starter Garrett Broshuis, a 27-year-old who spent the past three seasons at Double-A Connecticut, went seven strong innings for the win, allowing both Stockton runs.

KANE COUNTY (Low Single-A)

Cougars 3, Clinton (Mariners) 1: Story l Boxscore

Kenny Smalley (24th round, ’08) shut down Clinton to improve to 5-1 and lower his ERA to 1.69. Smalley went six innings, allowing five hits and one run, walking one and striking out four.

Grant Desme smashed his ninth homer of the season to provide an insurance run in the ninth. Jeremy Barfield went 1-for-3 with a pair of RBI and is hitting .348, but saw his streak of five straight multi-hit games come to an end.

Chris Berroa (11th round, ’08) joined the Cougars from extended spring training. He went 0-for-4 in his season debut while batting leadoff and playing left field.

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A’s minor league recap: Rivercats win in 16; Weeks homers again

Here’s a look at the A’s minor league leaders as well as a brief look at what happened down on the farm Friday for their affiliates:
Continue Reading

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A’s pregame report: Tuesday

It’s tough sorting out who’s coming and going from the A’s roster these days, wouldn’t you say?

With Sean Gallagher shipped out to the minors, the plan is for right-hander Edgar Gonzalez to make Saturday’s start against Arizona. Unless, Bob Geren said as a qualifier, he’s needed in relief before then. And would you bet against that possibility, with the way the starting pitching has been?

I thought Gio Gonzalez was a strong candidate to make that start, but assistant GM David Forst said in a pre-game media briefing that the priority right now is to keep the bullpen fully stocked. “Gio did a nice job, but with him being unavailable over the next three or four days, we needed to make a move.” Forst said elite prospect Vin Mazzaro was considered. You’ll remember he made a nice impression in spring training, but showed that he needed more seasoning. He’s 1-2 with a 3.16 ERA in eight appearances (seven starts) for Sacramento. “Vinny’s pitched well and he deserved to be in consideration,” Forst said. “But his development is more important. Right now he’s doing a nice job there, and we prefer for it to continue.”

Landon Powell is nursing a sore right hamstring, and though Geren said he considers Powell available if needed, the A’s are skating on thin ice at this position right now. But in looking at their minor league catching options, Curtis Thigpen hasn’t played all season because of a back injury, and Joel Galarraga is nursing a sore shoulder. Eric Munson is starting at Triple-A, and Anthony Recker, recently demoted to Double-A, was brought back to Triple-A just because depth was needed. So the A’s are crossing their fingers that Kurt Suzuki stays healthy. Jack Hannahan is the emergency catcher if needed.

Eric Chavez doesn’t figure to be ready for another month or so anyway, so I wasn’t surprised to see him go on the 60-day DL. But I just talked to Chavez, and he said he’s definitely shooting to be ready by the time he’s eligible to come off the DL. Believe me, retirement is nowhere on this guy’s agenda, which might surprise you.

More comments from Chavez in tomorrow’s notebook …

Tonight’s A’s lineup: Cabrera SS; Suzuki C; Cust DH; Holliday LF; Giambi 1B; Kennedy 2B; Sweeney CF; Crosby 3B; Cunningham RF; Outman P.

Rays lineup: Upton CF; Crawford LF; Longoria 3B; Pena 1B; Bartlett SS; Aybar DH; Iwamura 2B; Kapler RF; Hernandez C; Shields P.