0

Coco Crisp returns, Hideki Matsui sitting today with neck stiffness

We’ve got much better weather today, so the A’s-Reds game is definitely on, with Brett Anderson getting the start.

–Coco Crisp is back in the lineup and said his sore left hamstring is better. But designated hitter Hideki Matsui will not make the trip to Goodyear because of a stiff neck he got from sleeping wrong a couple of nights ago. He did not hit Monday and said he might return Wednesday, depending on how his hitting goes today. He didn’t expect his neck to factor into whether he plays in the outfield Thursday, when the A’s play the Arizona Diamondbacks and won’t have a DH. Manager Bob Geren said he’s anticipating Matsui being his DH on Wednesday and playing the outfield Thursday.

–Geren reiterated that he’ll probably announce his Opening Day starter by the end of the week, as well as the other starters for that first three-game series against Seattle. He also says he’s inclined to NOT skip his fifth starter early in the season because of off days. He likes the idea of all the starters getting an extra day of rest.

The lineup vs. the Reds
Crisp CF
Barton 1B
DeJesus RF
Willingham LF
Sweeney DH
Suzuki C
Ellis 2B
Kouzmanoff 3B
Pennington SS

Anderson LHP

0

A’s face Felix Hernandez in his Cactus League debut

Are the A’s getting a preview of what’s to come opening night? Felix Hernandez takes the mound today for his first start of the spring, and there’s a great chance he’ll also be pitching the April 1 opener at the Oakland Coliseum. Ichiro Suzuki is in Seattle’s lineup today and Hideki Matsui is at DH for the A’s, which is creating a buzz among the many Japanese reporters on hand.

The lineups:

A’s

DeJesus CF
Jackson 1B
Matsui DH
Kouzmanoff 3B
Carter LF
Carson RF
Powell C
Tolleson 2B
Green SS

Moscoso RHP

Mariners

Ichiro RF
Figgins 3B
Gutierrez CF
Carp 1B
Wilson 2B
Ryan SS
Saunders LF
Gimenez C
Mangini DH

Hernandez RHP

–Things are a bit rocky for left-hander Josh Outman right now, and he doesn’t hide that. He’s allowed 11 hits, six walks and six earned runs in three outings (4 2/3 innings). It’s not all that shocking that Outman is struggling after being sidelined since June 2009 by elbow surgery, but he’s still frustrated.

“It sounds kind of stupid to say I felt good (against San Diego on Sunday), but physically my arm felt fine,” Outman said. “Just mechanically, I’m not where I need to be and it’s obvious by the performance. It’s just when I get up to game speed, I’m not where I need to be with making pitches and throwing ball where I need to throw it. The result is not great. It’s good that it’s not the end of March yet. But at the same time, I feel like my command has kind of gone backward as the exertion level is going up.”

–I considered Outman the front-runner for the No. 5 starter spot entering camp, and if he rights the ship I think he still is. But Bobby Cramer and Tyson Ross have sure looked good so far in their push for the job. A’s manager Bob Geren has been impressed with Ross, saying the right-hander hit 95 mph seven times Sunday against the Brewers. And Brandon McCarthy remains in the mix as well. Rich Harden has yet to get back on the mound since suffering a side muscle injury, so his chances of being ready for the start of the season look remote.

–Daric Barton is day-to-day after bruising his right calf during a collision at first base yesterday. Barton jumped for a high throw from Kevin Kouzmanoff and got hit while in the air. “It should be minor,” Barton said. “It’s kind of like a charlie horse, a knot. Just some tightness. The runner hit me. It could have been his foot, knee, shin … Whatever it was, he got me pretty good. He knocked my feet out from under me.”

–Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow were scheduled to throw in a simulated game today, and if that goes well, manager Bob Geren said they’d pitch in their first exhibition Thursday.

–For what it’s worth:

*Outfielder Matt Carson is tied for second in the Cactus League with three doubles.
*Coco Crisp is 7 for 15 (.467) through five games.
*Mark Ellis is 5 for 12 (.417) in four games.
*Conor Jackson is 0 for 14 through five games, but he’s hit a few balls on the nose.
*Michael Taylor is 1 for 13 since hitting a three-run homer last Monday.
*Hideki Matsui is 0 for 8 through four games with four walks.

–I’m heading home for a few days, but Carl Steward is on the scene and will be providing your daily coverage in the paper and on the blog …

2

A’s relievers still being handled carefully; the batting order takes shape

Hideki Matsui makes his A’s debut today, but don’t read too much into the rest of the lineup against the Angels with so many regulars getting the day off. David DeJesus is still trying to shake off a stomach bug, but it’s possible he’ll play tomorrow against the Reds. Here’s your starting nine:

Ellis 2B
Suzuki C
Matsui DH
Jackson 1B
Kouzmanoff 3B
Carson CF
Carter LF
Taylor RF
Tolleson SS

Braden P

**Joel Pineiro is on the hill for the Angels.

–Michael Wuertz is scheduled to throw off the mound Thursday for the first time since his shoulder soreness started. Fellow reliever Craig Breslow has had some tenderness in his throwing arm, according to manager Bob Geren, so there’s no indication yet when he’ll appear in a game. Closer Andrew Bailey is probably 5-7 days away from his first game. Those are three key guys in the bullpen, but I’d attribute their inactivity to the A’s precaution as opposed to anything seriously bothering any of these guys. The plan has been to limit their throwing early to preserve them for the regular season.

–A little insight into the batting order: Geren said he wants a right-handed hitter to bat behind Hideki Matsui (the likely No. 5 hitter). He mentioned Kurt Suzuki, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Mark Ellis as possibilities for the sixth spot. So bit by bit, we can piece together how the order will look. If I had to project right now, I’d say: Crisp, Barton, DeJesus, Willingham, Matsui, Kouzmanoff/Suzuki, Ellis, Pennington.

How would that lineup strike you, A’s fans?

0

A’s roundup: The heart of the order; Devine and Outman’s roster chances; Conor Jackson to see action at first base

We’ve got an A’s intrasquad game this afternoon, which really isn’t all that exciting or revealing in the big picture. But after watching nine days worth of workouts, it’s nice to get some variety. And it’s the first chance to see the team in a somewhat realistic game environment.

A few items of note:

–David DeJesus, Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui are batting 3-4-5 for one team, and that’s a heart of the order I’d expect to see lots in the regular season. “That’s a potential 3-4-5 for the season. We’ll see how the spring goes,” manager Bob Geren said.

–I’ll be interested to see Josh Outman and Joey Devine pitch today. Both have endured a long recovery from Tommy John surgery, and they could factor heavily into the pitching plans for the season – Outman as a fifth starter, Devine as a setup man.

Asked about the prospects of both making the 25-man roster out of camp, Geren said: “If they look like they’re ready, they’re gonna be here, without a doubt.” Seems telling to me: There’s open competition for the No. 5 starter spot, but if Outman looks decent and is healthy, he’ll be the guy, especially with Rich Harden delayed by injury. And Devine’s stuff is too good for him not to break camp w/the team if he’s healthy.

–Conor Jackson will start working at first base a little, giving Geren a right-handed option for the position to complement the left-handed hitting Daric Barton. “Daric played (159) games last year,” Geren said. “Quite frankly, there were a couple times we would have liked to give him a day off but we didn’t have the right option over there. The fact that (Jackson) is a righty over a lefty, it makes that option more enticing to me.” Jackson also will be an extra outfielder. He’ll occupy a roster spot that could have gone to Chris Carter – a right-handed hitting outfielder/first baseman. But the A’s obviously feel Jackson is a better bet to hit early in the season, and another factor that can’t be ignored – Jackson is a better defensive player than Carter, in the outfield and probably at first base.

That’s all for now …

6

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 …