Norberto mum about any link to probe of Biogenesis

PHOENIX – His name came up Tuesday in connection with the expanding investigation into Miami-based Biogenesis and its boss, Tony Bosch, but A’s pitcher Jordan Norberto had nothing to say about the matter Wednesday morning.

Norberto said he didn’t want to talk about the situation one way or another and that he was focused on baseball.

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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.


De Los Santos shapes up as key man in A’s bullpen

Three days until the A’s first full-squad workout. Here’s the morning update …

The bullpen holds some mystery for the A’s this spring, but manager Bob Melvin expects right-hander Fautino De Los Santos to play a key role one way or another. De Los Santos went 3-2 with a 4.32 ERA in 34 games as a rookie last season, notching 43 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings.

“This is a big year for him,” Melvin said. “We’re not targeting him (for a specific role yet) … But now there’s a little bit more of target on him in that we expect big things out of him.” De Los Santos primarily needs to continue developing his slider to complement a high-90s fastball, Melvin said. But De Los Santos also must cut down walks and hold runners better.

Another reliever in camp, lefty Jordan Norberto, could also land a spot in the bullpen. He was acquired last season from Arizona in the Brad Ziegler trade but struggled with his command. Norberto worked as a starter in the Dominican Winter League this past offseason but has primarily been a reliever since 2008. Melvin mentioned the possibility of experimenting with Norberto as a starter in the minors if he doesn’t make the big league club out of camp.

–As for the A’s rotation, it’s shaping up to be right-handed heavy no matter who the five starters are. If Dallas Braden were to begin the season on the disabled list, Tom Milone is the only left-handed starting candidate currently in camp. Melvin doesn’t see it as a big issue. He said the five best pitchers will land in the rotation, and if it’s five right-handers, so be it …

–Melvin likes what he sees so far from Sean Doolittle, the injury-riddled first baseman trying to make a comeback as a pitcher. Doolittle was a stellar pitcher/first baseman for the University of Virginia but the A’s converted him to a full-time position player upon drafting him. Melvin said he’s particularly impressed with how still Doolittle keeps his head through his delivery, which should help his command. “For a guy who hasn’t pitched a whole lot, that impressed me,” Melvin said.


Conor Jackson draws start in left field; Hideki Matsui gets rare rest

Here’s your pregame lowdown as the Toronto Blue Jays arrive for a four-game series at the Coliseum …

–Conor Jackson returns to the A’s lineup and he’s playing left field, with Josh Willingham serving as DH and Hideki Matsui getting a day off. So that’s one way for A’s manager Bob Melvin to work Jackson back into the lineup without removing Allen. Beyond today, we’ll see what happens, but I’d expect to see Jackson coming off the bench for the near future, at least until Allen cools off. And I think that makes the A’s an overall stronger team because Jackson’s versatility is valuable off the bench. At this point in the season, it’s all about evaluating young players to see what you have for next season, so Allen needs to stay in there.

As for Jackson’s neck soreness, he said he “feels good enough to play,” an indication that he’s still not back to 100 percent yet.

–It’s just a regular day off for Matsui, who has started 30 of the first 31 games after the All-Star break.

–The A’s placed reliever Trystan Magnuson on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation and recalled lefty Jordan Norberto. The late-inning bullpen situation is something to watch tonight, as Melvin said he was unsure of the availability of Grant Balfour, Andrew Bailey and Brian Fuentes. Bailey has pitched two days in a row and Balfour and Fuentes have been used a lot lately too.

–Check out this story on former A’s third baseman Jack Hannahan and the birth of his son. Pretty good stuff. … Hannahan is now with the Cleveland Indians.

Tonight’s lineups:
A’s — Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Crisp CF, Willingham DH, Allen 1B, Jackson LF, Suzuki C, DeJesus RF, Sizemore 3B; Cahill RHP.

Jays – Escobar SS, Thames LF, Bautista RF, Lind 1B, Encarnacion DH, Rasmus CF, Lawrie 3B, Hill 2B, Arencibia C; Romero LHP.


A long journey begins

The key number for this nine-game road trip the A’s are starting: 6,544.

That’s the total miles the team will fly from Oakland to Seattle, to Tampa, to Toronto and back home. There are off-days sandwiched around both ends of the Rays series, but that is one brutal trip given the crazy routing. Not exactly ideal for a team sporting a 18-35 road record, though I’m not sure how much the travel itself has factored into the A’s play on the road. Given how well they played on the last homestand, an obvious key is whether the A’s bats can stay hot on this three-city journey. They open up against a Seattle team that just traded two-fifths of its starting rotation in Doug Fister and Erik Bedard.

Speaking of travel, the Mariners won’t have too much sympathy for the A’s, given the grind they annually face as a result of being tucked away in the northwest corner of the country. The difference for the Mariners and, say, the teams situated way up in the Northeast is that Seattle’s division opponents are much more spread out, making for longer trips (and more often) throughout the season.

Personally, I’m just happy I remembered my passport for when we cross into Canada.

–Lefty Jordan Norberto, one of the players obtained in the Brad Ziegler trade, joined the A’s today. He knows Conor Jackson (a former teammate with Arizona), Jemile Weeks (an opponent in the minors) and Fautino De Los Santos (who grew up in a neighboring town in the Dominican Republic.). His addition gives the A’s eight relievers – four lefties and four righties – and manager Bob Melvin said he likes the flexibility that gives him for matchups. I’d expect a reliever to be sent down sometime after this series, however. Melvin acknowledged that it’s tough operating with a three-man bench, and since Toronto and Tampa Bay both play on turf, he would like to give some position players a game off to save them wear and tear. He’ll need more depth in order to do that.

–Norberto throws a fastball, slider and change-up, and he said his command has improved a little lately because he’s repeating his delivery better.

–Still no David DeJesus in the lineup, but he swung off a tee today and said his right thumb is feeling better.

Tonight’s lineups:

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

Mariners – Ichiro RF, Ryan SS, Ackley 2B, Carp DH, Kennedy 1B, Olivo C, Wells LF, Figgins 3B, Gutierrez CF, Beavan RHP.