6

A’s finalize one-year contract with outfielder Jonny Gomes

The A’s finally made official the signing of outfielder Jonny Gomes to a one-year contract, reportedly worth $1 million plus $200,000 in possible incentives. To make room for Gomes on the 40-man roster, the A’s designated for assignment infielder Adrian Cardenas, meaning they have 10 days to trade or release Cardenas, or send him to the minors if he clears waivers.

This decision might have surprised some fans. Cardenas was the marquee prospect obtained from Philadelphia in the Joe Blanton trade of 2008, but he’s failed to crack the majors to this point. “There’s a lot of people in this organization who believe in Adrian and put in a lot of time (with him),” A’s assistant GM David Forst said. “This time of year, you end up having to make tough roster decisions.”

Cardenas’ main position is second base (where Jemile Weeks is now entrenched), and the A’s have also tried him at third base and left field. He’s a career .303 hitter in the minors but has never reached double-digit homers in a single season. You would like to see more power from a potential third baseman or corner outfielder.

The A’s received three players in that 2008 Blanton trade: Cardenas, lefty Josh Outman (recently traded to Colorado along with Guillermo Moscoso for outfielder Seth Smith) and outfielder Matt Spencer (traded to the Cubs along with two others after the 2009 season for Jake Fox and Aaron Miles). Looking back, that deal simply hasn’t panned out.

But it’s worth noting that Cardenas is still just 24. Forst said the A’s would like to retain him if he clears waivers, so perhaps he can still make an impact.

As for the right-handed hitting Gomes, he’ll definitely get at-bats against lefties, either in the outfield or at DH. Smith, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick are the A’s projected outfield starters, left to right. Smith and Reddick hit left-handed and Crisp is a switch hitter. “Clearly we’re left-handed-heavy in both corners and with our potential first base/DH options,” Forst said. “We’ve been on the lookout for an experienced right-handed bat, and Jonny has had a lot of success hitting left-handers over the years.”

5

A’s trade Outman, Moscoso to Rockies for outfielder Seth Smith

Some A’s news for your Monday morning:

They’ve traded pitchers Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso to the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Seth Smith, who may very well be in their Opening Night lineup at one of the corner outfield spots. I’m not surprised the A’s dealt for Smith, 29, since they’ve been rumored to be interested in him. But I am surprised they dealt both Moscoso and Outman for him. The A’s have holes in the rotation (even if they do finalize a one-year deal with Bartolo Colon), and Moscoso and Outman were considered two candidates to fill out the starting five. The rotation should now go Brandon McCarthy, Dallas Braden (when he’s healthy) and Colon, with two spots to fill. This trade tells me the A’s are comfortable looking at the promising but inexperienced arms they’ve received in other trades this winter to possibly fill in those spots. Consider Jarrod Parker (obtained from AZ in the Trevor Cahill trade) and Brad Peacock and Tom Milone (both received from Washington in the Gio Gonzalez trade) to be prime candidates for rotation spots out of spring training. Graham Godfrey and Tyson Ross will also be in the mix.

Here’s a look at Smith’s career stats with the Rockies. Coco Crisp will start in center field for the A’s, and he could be flanked by Smith and Josh Reddick, with Michael Taylor and Collin Cowgill also possibilities.

1

Chris Carter’s potential playing time, and a Grant Balfour injury update

Trevor Cahill takes the hill tonight looking to help the A’s snap a three-game losing streak. He matches up against Cole Hamels, one of the tougher left-handers in the game. Hideki Matsui is the only natural lefty hitter in the lineup against Hamels.

The starting nine(s):

A’s – Weeks 2B, Ellis 1B, Crisp CF, Matsui LF, Jackson RF, Sizemore 3B, Suzuki C, Rosales SS, Cahill RHP.

Phillies – Rollins SS, Polanco 3B, Utley 2B, Howard 1B, Victorino CF, Ibanez LF, Brown RF, Ruiz C, Hamels LHP.

–Cliff Pennington gets a regularly scheduled day off, with Mark Ellis getting his second start at first base and batting second for a day.

–A’s manager Bob Melvin said he’ll try to get Chris Carter a DH start on the next homestand, preferably against a left-hander. With these final two games in a National League park, Melvin prefers Carter as a pinch-hit option. Why hasn’t Carter drawn a start yet if the A’s are struggling so much offensively? Remember that he’s still an unknown quantity to Melvin, who hasn’t had time to get familiar with the farm system. So far, in his only look at Carter, Melvin has seen him butcher a catchable pop-up, and that’s probably fresh in Melvin’s mind. Still, Carter has to get a couple starts – somewhere in the lineup – before he gets sent down. Otherwise it was pointless to promote him.

–Reliever Grant Balfour is dealing with a sore oblique. That left him unavailable last night, according to Melvin, and he might be sidelined tonight as well. One pitcher that Melvin says he will definitely try to work in is Andrew Bailey, who has gone a full week since his last appearance. “I have to get him in the game today,” Melvin said.

–Brandon McCarthy will next pitch Tuesday for Triple-A Sacramento and Rich Harden is pitching tonight for Sacramento and he’ll go again Thursday. Melvin said it’s possible that each pitcher is activated from the DL following those starts. So projecting it out, McCarthy could rejoin the A’s rotation July 3 against Arizona (in that scenario, he would take Graham Godfrey’s place). Harden’s potential return would fall on Cahill’s turn, so if the A’s see Harden joining the rotation, they’ll have to shuffle things somehow.

–Josh Outman takes the ball tomorrow in the series finale against the Phillies, the team that traded him to Oakland in July 2008 in a deal that sent Joe Blanton to Philadelphia. Outman was pitching for Double-A Reading (Pa.) at the time and said he hardly knows anybody in the current Phillies lineup. But he has some unique memories about pitching in Reading, an industrial town that supports their minor league club very well. Occasionally, the team played 9 a.m. games that were tailored for factory workers who were just finishing the graveyard shift.

Only in the minors …

3

Ryan Sweeney gets a look as No. 2 hitter

All is quiet on the A’s front leading into Game 2 of this three-game set against the Red Sox. Coco Crisp and Kurt Suzuki both have the day off, so David DeJesus leads off and Ryan Sweeney hits second, with Daric Barton in the No. 6 spot again. A’s manager Bob Geren was asked how long he envisions Barton batting lower in the order. “I don’t know,” he said. “I actually like the lineup better when he’s hitting second – when he’s going good. We’ll go day to day. I like the way he swung the bat last night.”

Geren also said he expects Guillermo Moscoso to be fine to start Tuesday after his extended relief stint Friday night. Moscoso threw 40 pitches, which still leaves him an option to go on three days’ rest Tuesday against Baltimore. If Moscoso wasn’t ready for Tuesday, the A’s would probably have to call someone up from the minors, because I don’t see Geren going with Josh Outman on short rest after Outman struggled Friday in his 67-pitch stint.

The lineups:

A’s: DeJesus RF, Sweeney CF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Ellis 2B, Barton 1B, Powell C, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Red Sox: Ellsbury CF, Pedroia 2B, Gonzalez 1B, Youkilis 3B, Ortiz DH, Crawford LF, Lowrie SS, Drew RF, Varitek C; Beckett RHP.

0

Josh Outman sent down, 5th starter battle officially down to three

****Here’s the lowdown on the A’s news of the morning …

Left-hander Josh Outman, who appeared a top candidate to be the fifth starter when spring training started, was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento along with right-hander Guillermo Moscoso, who also merited consideration for the spot early on.

This news doesn’t surprise considering how Outman has struggled to this point. The guy hadn’t pitched since June 2009 as he faced a long road back from “Tommy John” surgery. Still, Outman entered the spring healthy, and the A’s brass talked highly of his chances. But Outman has been frank that it might take a while for him to find his form.

“I had a feeling it was going to be like this,” Outman said this morning. “I haven’t competed as well as the other guys competing for the fifth starter spot.” A’s manager Bob Geren said Outman just needs innings at Triple-A to continue shaking rust off. “He’s been improving, he just needs to keep on that track to be ready to pitch at this level. I told him I’ve been through a lot of things in this game, but I’ve never missed 18 months.”

This leaves Brandon McCarthy, Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer fighting to be the fifth starter. As things are shaping up, McCarthy is emerging as the favorite, especially if he pitches well in today’s start against the Giants. Geren said that all three pitchers have a chance to make the roster “in one capacity or another.” That means any of the three could make the team as a long reliever, even Ross, who the A’s have said they’d like to keep as a starter.

–Split-squad action today:

A’s vs. Diamondbacks at home:
Crisp CF; Suzuki C; Willingham LF; Matsui DH; Kouzmanoff 3B; Jackson 1B; Sogard SS; Taylor RF; Timmons 2B; Braden LHP.

A’s at Giants:
Pennington SS; Ellis 2B; Barton 1B; DeJesus RF; Carter LF; Sweeney DH; LaRoche 3B; Donaldson C; Carson CF; McCarthy RHP.

–Ryan Sweeney had not been cleared to play two days in a row yet on his surgically repaired right knee, but Geren said he’d pinch-run for Sweeney if he gets on base in his third or fourth at-bat. And he’s not playing defense, so it’s a light day.

–Joey Devine (right biceps) said he had no lingering effects from a 35-pitch bullpen session Saturday. He could face minor league hitters in a day or two …

1

Random items on an odd day in A’s land

It just ain’t right. … Today’s A’s-White Sox game starts at 4:05 p.m. local time, and the odd start just throws the daily routine off completely. The A’s clubhouse opened at 11 a.m., players stretched at noon and then took batting practice before they make the long drive to Camelback Ranch in Glendale. Everything is pushed back about three hours from what it’s been for the past four-plus weeks — not really a day game, not really a night game. It’s baseball no-man’s land today. But enough with the drama …

–Today’s lineup against the White Sox looks familiar:

Crisp CF; Barton 1B; DeJesus RF; Willingham LF; Matsui DH; Suzuki C; Ellis 2B; Kouzmanoff 3B; Pennington SS; Cramer LHP (with Outman to follow) …

–Manager Bob Geren says he’ll tinker with his lineup, but this is the third time we’ve seen this look (and second day in a row) when Geren has penciled in an ‘A’ lineup. So he likes something about it. The top five hitters are no surprise. As for the 6-8 hitters, Geren says they could be interchangeable. I had Kouzmanoff pegged as the possible No. 6 guy, but Geren said there’s justification to hit him eighth. “You need power down in the lineup too. I’m not saying he’s going to hit there. I fully expect him to rebound in his second year in the league. If the spring is any indication, his swing looks great. He could definitely climb up in the order depending on how he does.” Kouzmanoff is hitting .387 with one homer and seven RBIs in 12 games.

–Lefties Bobby Cramer and Josh Outman both take the hill tonight, and it’s an important outing for both. Cramer is squarely in the 5th starter discussion and needs to keep up with Brandon McCarthy and Tyson Ross. Outman, who has struggled, really needs to turn things around quickly.

–Keep an eye on the backup infielder situation. Geren said Adam Rosales is recovering as expected from his right foot injury, but from talking to Rosales yesterday, I know he was hoping to be further along by now. Tough to say whether he’ll return by May 1 as the A’s hope. Andy LaRoche is hitting .324, but he’s very unproven as a shortstop. And Steve Tolleson and Eric Sogard have each missed some time and haven’t distinguished themselves yet. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the A’s sign someone with shortstop experience to back up Cliff Pennington.

That’s all for now …

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 …

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 …

0

Trevor Cahill to start Sunday vs. Cubs in exhibition opener

It’s day 2 of a three-day stretch of workouts for the A’s at Papago Park, which is just a five-minute drive from Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The logistics are a little wacky for players these three days. They show up at Muni, dress and gather up their belongings, carpool over to Papago and then return to Muni after the workout to finish whatever treatment they might need. But at least the sunshine is back after a couple days of cold weather and rain.

Bob Geren confirmed that Trevor Cahill will start Sunday’s exhibition opener against the Chicago Cubs in Mesa. Going by the current schedule, others who could throw that day are Josh Outman, Bobby Cramer, Tyson Ross and Joey Devine. But there’s nothing confirmed after Cahill. It’s still tough to decipher who might get the Opening Night start because all pitchers are throwing once every three days right now. A natural every-fifth-day routine has yet to be established. Geren told reporters earlier he had a good idea of who he’d give that first start too. And I’ve got to think Cahill is at the forefront in his thoughts. Why not? He had the best season last year and his demeanor is perfect to take the ball in big games – he’s low-key and not easily excitable.

Michael Wuertz is not too concerned about the shoulder soreness that cut short his workout Monday. He said his arm speed was a little slow in Sunday’s throwing session, and he’s working through a normal kind of soreness he gets during most springs. Now, Wuertz said similar things last spring, and he wound up having tendinitis that sent him to the DL. But he told me this morning that this feeling is nothing like last year’s. The A’s are taking extra precaution with their front-line guys early in camp if there’s even a hint of physical problems. Geren said Wuertz could throw as soon as Thursday. Wuertz said he could take “three, four or five days.”

Remember, you can get updates on anything noteworthy that happens during daily workouts at twitter.com/joestiglich. I try to throw pictures up there when I can and I’m hoping to start posting some live video clips soon. Stay tuned …

3

Rich Harden to miss two weeks with strain in right side

The first A’s injury news for 2011 came down today, as right-hander Rich Harden will be shut down for two weeks with a strain in his right side, just underneath his arm. You can read the nuts and bolts of the story by clicking on the above link. But here’s the rundown:

Harden, a fifth starter candidate and potential reliever, felt pain about 10-15 pitches into a bullpen session on Tuesday. Pitching coach Ron Romanick decided to shut him down, and manager Bob Geren announced Harden won’t throw for approximately two weeks. “The exact words from (the training staff) was we’ll wait until he’s pain free,” Geren said. “It’s estimated it would be two weeks. Obviously we want to make sure when he cranks it back up that he’s ready to go.”

The glass-is-half-full outlook:The A’s now have the depth on their pitching staff to withstand such injuries. Spring camp is just three days old and Harden has plenty of time to come back. In talking to him this morning, he didn’t seem concerned that this would be a long-term problem.

The glass-is-half-empty outlook: This is an all-too-familiar theme developing for the A’s, and we haven’t even reached March yet. The A’s know Harden’s injury history from his first stint with the team, and should have taken that into consideration before re-signing him this winter. Plus, the other pitchers who now move into contention to be the fifth starter also are injury risks. Josh Outman is trying to come back from major elbow surgery and Brandon McCarthy has long had shoulder problems (though he’s healthy now). Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer also are possibilities for the spot. And keep an eye on right-hander Guillermo Moscoso, an under-the-radar acquisition from Texas this winter. Geren said he looked good yesterday and considers Moscoso in the mix to be the No. 5 starter.