1

Yoenis Cespedes shows up to take physical, will join A’s on Sunday

Well, Yoenis Cespedes arrived to A’s camp Saturday — sort of. He showed up to take his physical and met a few people, but the team isn’t announcing he has joined the team yet. Passing his physical is the last step for the Cuban outfielder’s four-year, $36 million deal to be finalized. It’s rather odd to see a player walk into the clubhouse, shake some hands, but no one is officially acknowledging his existence. At any rate, Cespedes missed the first two weeks of spring training while awaiting his visa paperwork to be processed. He will join his teammates on the field Sunday and address the media for the first time. Players were having fun with his arrival. “It’s a big day for you guys,” Jonny Gomes joked to writers, knowing full well how much ink Cespedes has received before he even showed up.

In other news, A’s manager Bob Melvin discussed his closer situation and said that choosing a ninth-inning man will depend partly on what the full composition of the bullpen looks like. He said spring results for veterans such as Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes won’t factor so much into the decision because of those pitchers’ vast experience. He stopped short of labeling those two front runners to be closer. Fautino De Los Santos and Joey Devine are also under consideration.

But one factor in the decision will be how many left-handed relievers the A’s break camp with. If Fuentes is the only lefty in the bullpen, for example, it might be tough to use him as closer because he might be needed for matchup situations earlier in the game. And that will take some time to play out. Jerry Blevins, Jordan Norberto and Pedro Figueroa, who has impressed early, are all lefty relievers who are legitimate candidates to make the team.

Manny Ramirez originally was going to serve as D.H. on Sunday against the Cubs in Mesa. Instead, Chris Carter will play that entire game at D.H. and Ramirez will start Monday’s split-squad home game against the Angels. “Carter’s the one guy, he had just one at-bat (Friday) and he’s not starting (Saturday),” Melvin said. “So I’ll give him several at-bats (Sunday).”

First baseman Daric Barton had an MRI on his surgically repaired right shoulder, which will delay his throwing program and likely hinder his chances in the first base competition. Barton said he started feeling sore recently as his throwing increased. After missing a couple of days, he was back doing infield work Saturday morning. He is scheduled to swing the bat Sunday and might be available to DH on Monday.”It’s good to be back on the field and be a part of the team again,” Barton said.

We’re off to Peoria for this afternoon’s game against (who else!!) the Mariners. It’s one of the longer Cactus League road trips for the A’s. Surprise Stadium, spring home of the Rangers and Royals, still takes the prize for longest drive from A’s headquarters.

0

A’s manager Bob Melvin talks pitcher/catcher relationship, and the search for a closer

On the first day that pitchers and catchers worked out, A’s manager Bob Melvin had a predictable topic in his team meeting Sunday. “The message today was about the pitcher/catcher relationship, we’re trying to cultivate that,” said Melvin, a former catcher with the Giants. “The catchers are an extension of the pitchers. We want our guys to feel like when the pitcher gives up a run, that’s their run. That’s their ERA.”

The A’s had an opportunity to begin camp about a week earlier than they did, due to their early season opener against Seattle on March 28 in Tokyo. The Mariners opted to take advantage of that time and report earlier. Melvin defended the A’s decision not to, saying there’s sufficient time to get everyone ready. “You can do all the work like this to get their arms ready and so forth, but it’s when you get into games that you really start to find out about people,” he said. “We didn’t feel like we needed to go too early. We’re talking about two regular-season games (in Japan).”

And Melvin was asked again about the closer’s position, which is sure to be a hot topic in coming weeks. The A’s need to identify a ninth-inning man since Andrew Bailey was traded in the winter. “The obvious choices are (Grant) Balfour and (Brian) Fuentes,” Melvin said. “Those are guys in the past that we’ve used to get key outs in earlier innings, too. We do have talented guys like (Joey) Devine and (Fautino) De Los Santos. We have several guys capable of doing it, but we’ll take our time choosing that guy.”

0

Bob Melvin talks pitcher/catcher relationship, and the search for a closer

On the first day that pitchers and catchers worked out, A’s manager Bob Melvin had a predictable topic in his team meeting Sunday. “The message today was about the pitcher/catcher relationship, we’re trying to cultivate that,” said Melvin, a former catcher with the Giants. “The catchers are an extension of the pitchers. We want our guys to feel like when the pitcher gives up a run, that’s their run. That’s their ERA.”

The A’s had an opportunity to begin camp about a week earlier than they did, due to their early season opener against Seattle on March 28 in Tokyo. The Mariners opted to take advantage of that time and report earlier. Melvin defended the A’s decision not to, saying there’s sufficient time to get everyone ready. “You can do all the work like this to get their arms ready and so forth, but it’s when you get into games that you really start to find out about people,” he said. “We didn’t feel like we needed to go too early. We’re talking about two regular-season games (in Japan).”

And Melvin was asked again about the closer’s position, which is sure to be a hot topic in coming weeks. The A’s need to identify a ninth-inning man since Andrew Bailey was traded in the winter. “The obvious choices are (Grant) Balfour and (Brian) Fuentes,” Melvin said. “Those are guys in the past that we’ve used to get key outs in earlier innings, too. We do have talented guys like (Joey) Devine and (Fautino) De Los Santos. We have several guys capable of doing it, but we’ll take our time choosing that guy.”

17

Catching up on a quiet (so far) A’s offseason

Hello everybody … long time, no blog.

I’ve been doubling up lately with Cal football coverage and that’s taken the lion’s share of my time. But “Inside the A’s” has been neglected long enough, so I wanted to drop in. Not that there’s been a ton of A’s news to report anyway this offseason. By now you’ve caught the drift that the A’s won’t be as aggressive going after players as they were last winter (unless those acquisitions come in the form of prospects via trade). You might have seen this story from ESPN’s Buster Olney regarding the A’s being sellers, largely because their stadium situation remains unsettled. If the A’s get approval to build a ballpark in San Jose, we know that GM Billy Beane plans to rebuild with younger players, hoping to have a nucleus ready to blossom when that ballpark opens for business. If they were to be denied, it’s possible they might open the checkbook a little more. And what if the issue continues to drag through the winter with no word from MLB? The indications I’ve gotten are that the A’s won’t spend aggressively as long as they remain in limbo.

Olney wrote that he could see the A’s trading starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and closer Andrew Bailey. Of the two, I see Bailey as the stronger possibility to go. If the A’s don’t see themselves contending in 2012, then a dominant closer becomes less of a necessity. And Bailey could fetch a nice haul given he’s just 27 and under team control for the next three seasons. A front-of-the-rotation starter such as Gonzalez is more of a foundation piece and much tougher for a team to replace. Having said that, if a team knocks Beane’s socks off with an offer for Gonzalez, I think he would certainly pull the trigger. The Marlins are looking for starting pitching as they move into their new ballpark in Miami, and this report out of Florida says they’re eyeing Gonzalez, who is from the Miami area and would be a great addition from a baseball and marketing standpoint. The question is whether the Marlins (or any team) have the pieces to pry Gonzalez away.

Here’s some key dates to keep an eye on:

Nov. 23: This is the last day for teams to offer salary arbitration to a Type “A” or “B” free agent in order to get compensation should that player sign elsewhere. The A’s have decisions to make on outfielders Josh Willingham and David DeJesus. Willingham is a Type A, meaning the A’s stand to get a first-round pick and a sandwich pick (between the first and second rounds) should he be offered arbitration and sign elsewhere. DeJesus is Type B, meaning the A’s would get a sandwich pick if he’s offered arb and signs elsewhere. The risk for teams, of course, is that a player unexpectedly accepts arbitration, and the team is stuck paying a large salary to a player it didn’t expect to have around. I see no such risk with Willingham. He’s likely to land a multi-year deal somewhere and would seemingly want to keep his options open. DeJesus might be more willing to accept arbitration, so unless the A’s feel good about him returning, they have a decision on whether to offer it. Sometimes a team and player will reach a gentleman’s agreement that the player won’t accept arbitration if offered. I’m not sure if that’s being discussed with DeJesus.

Dec. 5-8: The four-day event known as the winter meetings, where reporters bump into each other as they walk with noses buried in cell phones, monitoring Twitter. The A’s are often subject of rumors at the meetings, but usually this period is a time for them to lay the groundwork for future moves. Now that I’ve said that, they’re bound to pull a blockbuster there. Just you watch …

Dec. 12: The deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. It’s an important day because any arb-eligible player not offered a contract is cut loose and becomes a free agent. The A’s have 10 players eligible for arbitration – Gonzalez, Bailey, relievers Craig Breslow and Joey Devine, starters Dallas Braden and Brandon McCarthy, first baseman Daric Barton, outfielder Ryan Sweeney, infielder Adam Rosales and catcher Landon Powell. Beane said at his season-ending press conference he expects all will be tendered contracts, but we won’t know until deadline day.

3

A’s option reliever Joey Devine to minors, recall Trystan Magnuson

The A’s optioned reliever Joey Devine to the minors today and recalled right-hander Trystan Magnuson to take his place. Obviously, they think Devine’s recent struggles weren’t just about him losing his grip on the baseball. A’s manager Bob Melvin pointed to Devine’s past three outings, when Devine allowed four earned runs and four walks combined against Detroit and the New York Yankees. “Joey was struggling with his command, and in his role, being the seventh inning guy, it’s a difficult one to struggle with your command in,” Melvin said. “… We just felt like it was best to work on things in the minor leagues and get his command back there.”

Devine unintentionally threw pitches behind hitters on Friday and Sunday against the Yankees, saying he was having trouble gripping the ball because of the extreme humidity. He didn’t appear to have much confidence in his fastball Sunday. I lost track of how many sliders he threw in a row at one point, and when a guy possesses a mid-90’s fastball, you don’t want him shying away from it.

Magnuson impressed the A’s with 3 1/3 scoreless innings against Florida on June 30, but then he had to be sent down because the A’s needed a fresh arm for the next day. He told me he’s been working on his split-fingered fastball to use as another weapon against lefties.

Here’s your lineups:

A’s: Weeks 2B, Crisp CF, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, Jackson 1B, Sweeney RF, Pennington SS, Sizemore 3B, Powell C; Cahill RHP.

Rays: Jennings CF, Damon DH, Zobrist 2B, Longoria 3B, Kotchman 1B, Joyce RF, Shoppach C, Fuld LF, Rodriguez SS; Shields RHP.

0

No Andrew Bailey roster move yet; the tarp comes out as rain falls at Coliseum

UPDATE: The rain started falling harder at about 5:35, and the Orioles cut batting practice short as the tarps came out. I’ll update later if tonight’s start looks in jeopardy.

***********************

Is this really Memorial Day weekend? The weather feels more like a Raider game in November. It’s chilly, and a light rain came down as the A’s took batting practice. But if forecasts are right, the rain shouldn’t affect tonight’s 7:05 game. This is the A’s first fireworks night, which typically would draw a bigger crowd. But I’d think the lousy weather might keep some people away …

–There’s no word on when Andrew Bailey will be activated, but he said he feels sharp and ready to come off the DL. Bailey threw last night and said his command all around was better. “I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes. That what I was fighting (before),” Bailey said. He played catch before batting practice, and manager Bob Geren said no decision had been made yet. You figure that if Bailey isn’t an option to pitch tonight after throwing last night, , there’s no use in activating him until Sunday.

Bailey seemed really happy to get reacquainted with Joey Devine in the clubhouse. Bailey was not with the team on the last road trip, when Devine rejoined the team. It’s amazing to think just how much time Devine missed with his elbow injury. His teammates just haven’t had much of a chance to be around him. At any rate, when Bailey returns, the A’s will be stacked in right-handed relievers.

–Nothing much to report yet on Tyson Ross or Brandon McCarthy. Neither has started throwing yet, Geren said.

–Kevin Kouzmanoff is back at third base after missing six games with a right groin strain. This A’s lineup should look familiar – it’s the opening day starting nine – but we haven’t seen it in a while …

–There’s a local boy on the mound for Baltimore – right-hander Brad Bergesen, who was a Foothill High School teammate of the Giants’ Brandon Crawford.

A’s: Crisp CF, Barton 1B, DeJesus RF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Outman LHP.

Orioles: Andino 3B, Jones CF, Markakis RF, Guerrero DH, Reimold LF, Hardy SS, Reynolds 1B, Adams 2B, Tatum C; Bergesen RHP.

6

More on McCarthy, Ross and the A’s bullpen situation

Checking in from AT&T Park, where the outlook for the A’s sure looks different than it did just a day ago …

–Brandon McCarthy said he knew in the three or four days leading up to Wednesday’s start that his shoulder wasn’t feeling right. But he knew he could get through the start, so the plan was to get his shoulder checked by a doctor Thursday morning, which he did. That appointment showed what appears to be a stress reaction – the precursor to a fracture. McCarthy is hopeful of being able to throw again within a two-week period, but he says it will depend on how he feels. Last year, he had a similar injury and tried pitching through it. He eventually missed an extra 1 ½ months because of that, and he hopes by shutting it down now, he’s nipping the problem in the bud. “It’s either stop it at the beginning and try to catch it early, or play it out until you have to stop and possibly miss more of the season,” McCarthy said. The big question: By pitching Wednesday, did McCarthy make his shoulder worse? He said he doesn’t believe that to be the case, and that the pain while pitching in games is bearable. It’s the discomfort between starts, and not being able to work out, that’s most difficult.

–As for Tyson Ross, his MRI today showed he’s got a Grade 2 oblique strain in his left side, which is considered moderate on a scale of 1-3. He said he was told he could be pitching in games again in about two weeks, but obviously it’s a very fluid situation. “You’ve got to stay on top of these things, it’s easy to re-injure it. You’ve got to let it heal and take your time,” Ross said.

Overall, the early prognosis for both McCarthy and Ross could have been worse. But anyone who’s followed the A’s in recent seasons knows that their injuries tend to linger, and setbacks occur. So there’s no clear indication when the A’s will get their two starters back. The A’s will need to call up starters for Monday and Tuesday against the Angels, and manager Bob Geren confirmed that Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso are two pitchers at Triple-A being considered.

–On the flip side of that bad news, reliever Joey Devine is back in the majors after missing the entire 2009 and 2010 seasons recovering from elbow surgery. He’s thrilled to be back, understandably. “It’s been a long while,” Devine said. “It feels good, feels like things are starting to come together. It feels like all the time and patience is starting to pay off.” And he’s still beaming from the birth of his son, Mason Joseph, on April 11. Geren said he’s happy with his late-inning relievers right now, but that Devine could be an option in the late innings if he proves effective. You can bet that Devine will start getting the call in the eighth and ninth innings if he has a couple of good outings right away. With Andrew Bailey still sidelined, you can’t waste an arm like Devine’s strictly in middle relief situations. Oakland’s bullpen has shown vulnerability and was in need of some new blood.

–Another reliever called up today, Fautino De Los Santos, is making his first appearance in the big leagues. He also has made the long road back from “Tommy John” elbow surgery, like Devine, and his fastball has been touching 99 miles per hour. Watching him figures to be like watching Henry Rodriguez, where you’re checking the radar gun every time the ball pops the catcher’s mitt. De Los Santos, speaking through a translator, says he also throws a slider, sinker and changeup.

Finally, tonight’s lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, DeJesus RF, Willingham LF, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Giants – Torres CF, Sanchez 2B, Huff 1B, Posey C, Schierholtz RF, Ross LF, Fontenot SS, Tejada 3B, Vogelsong RHP.

2

Andrew Bailey confirms he’s DL-bound; Joey Devine optioned to Triple-A

We have a little bullpen news this morning, as the A’s get ready to play the Colorado Rockies in their final Cactus League game before flying north for the Bay Bridge Series.

–Joey Devine was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento and closer Andrew Bailey acknowledged he’ll be starting the season on the disabled list. I’m sure you’ll find neither surprising. The good news for Devine is his elbow is feeling good, but he hasn’t been sharp enough to claim one of the seven bullpen spots. Bailey played catch this morning for the first time since being diagnosed with a forearm strain, and he’s hopeful he won’t miss much time. “It’s better to miss a little time now than a month or two or three down the road.”

Significantly, Geren mentioned Grant Balfour as a closer option along with Brian Fuentes until Bailey returns. Fuentes has looked shaky recently and Balfour seems to have put things together after struggling with some mechanical issues earlier in camp. It’s worth mentioning that Geren never had singled out Fuentes as the fill-in closer, but based on Fuentes’ experience, it was assumed he’d be the guy. I can’t blame Geren for leaving his options open. “Breslow has been good in that role too,” Geren said. “I was encouraged with Michael Wuertz (Saturday night).”

Something tells me we’ll see the closer-by-committee approach until Bailey gets back …

Here’s the lineup vs the Rockies:

Sweeney CF
Barton 1B
DeJesus RF
Kouzmanoff 3B
Ellis 2B
Jackson LF
Powell C
Pennington SS
Cramer P

0

Rangers (at least some of them) face A’s in first spring matchup

The Texas Rangers roll into town today to play their first exhibition against the A’s, but it won’t be a real accurate representation of the squad the A’s will see in the regular season. Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre (who’s hurt) are not making the trip. But ace C.J. Wilson is on the mound.

The lineups:

A’s:
DeJesus RF
Suzuki C
Jackson 1B
Matsui DH
Kouzmanoff 3B
Carson CF
Carter LF
Tolleson SS
Weeks 2B

Braden LHP.

Rangers:
Borbon CF
German 2B
Moreland 1B
Barden DH
Davis 3B
Teagarden C
Deeds RF
Engel Beltre LF
Andres Blanco SS

Wilson LHP

–A’s manager Bob Geren said he sees David DeJesus as a good leadoff candidate when Coco Crisp doesn’t play. DeJesus has lots of experience atop the order from his time with the Royals. Mark Ellis and Cliff Pennington could also fill the role, according to Geren, but DeJesus is the most natural fit.

–Under-the-radar Athletic who is having a nice camp so far: Matt Carson. He homered yesterday and made a great catch slamming into the right field wall against the Brewers. He’s getting a start in center today.

–Outfielder Ryan Sweeney thinks about three weeks is needed for him to get his timing at the plate and be ready for the regular season. He’s scheduled to play in his first game Wednesday – he’s been brought along slowly while he recovers from knee surgery – and that would give him three weeks before the April 1 opener. “In batting practice, everything feels great. It’s just the timing in games,” he said. Sweeney was scheduled to face Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow this morning in batting practice. He said he’s been shagging flies and his knee feels good.

–Reliever Joey Devine reached the 92-93 mph range in his last outing Wednesday, and Geren said his slider was sharp too. That’s a good sign for the A’s, obviously, and if Devine continues to round into form in Cactus League games, one of the seven bullpen spots surely is his. Speaking of relievers, Michael Wuertz threw 30 pitches yesterday off the mound and his shoulder came out of it fine. He’ll throw off the mound at least one more time before facing hitters. “He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t need 10 to 12 outings,” Geren said. “It could be five or six and he’ll be ready to go.”

–Rich Harden (side muscle injury) played catch at 80 feet today, but there’s no word on when he’ll get back on the mound.

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 …