4

“Moneyball” might clean up at Golden Globes, plus A’s trade updates and free agent news

The Golden Globe nominations are out, and “Moneyball” scored big across the board. Among the movie’s nominations: Best Picture, Drama; Brad Pitt (Best Actor, Drama); Jonah Hill (Best Supporting Actor); Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian (Best Screenplay). Could it be a foreshadowing of things to come at the Academy Awards? The Oscars are handed out Feb. 26. Here’s the full list of Golden Globes nominations

So big things could be in store for the A’s from the Hollywood angle. As for baseball? That’s shaping up as a much gloomier scene, based on the cornerstone players the A’s are likely to continue dealing. Cbssports.com’s Danny Knobler says the Reds are interested in Gio Gonzalez, and that the A’s want first baseman Yonder Alonso as part of any deal. That’s not surprising, considering the A’s needs at first base. Closer Andrew Bailey also remains a strong bet to be dealt.

And it’s open season for signing free agent A’s outfielders. Earlier today the Twins inked Josh Willingham to a three-year, $21 million contract. In this mlb.com video clip, the Cubs’ interest in Coco Crisp is discussed. Given the A’s outfield needs, I think they should be taking a harder look at re-signing Crisp. But they’re putting off any free agent pursuits as they await word on their stadium situation. The Dodgers also are reportedly interested in Crisp, a Los Angeles native.

–The A’s released their spring training schedule, which includes just 21 Cactus League games because of the team’s season-opening trip to Japan. The spring opener is March 2 against the Mariners at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The A’s and Giants play just once in Arizona — an A’s split-squad game March 17 in Scottsdale. Oakland’s Cactus League finale is March 21 against the Royals in Surprise, Ariz., and then the A’s fly to Tokyo to open the regular season against the Mariners in a two-game set March 28-29. They’ll return to exhibition play — a strange sequence, just as it was after their 2008 Japan trip — to play a March 31 exhibition against Triple-A Sacramento at Raley Field, and then follow up with the Bay Bridge series against the Giants on April 2-4. The A’s resume the regular season at home April 6 against Seattle.

Here’s the A’s full spring training schedule

9

Jemile Weeks, Gio Gonzalez earn honors; Willingham might play vs. Texas Rangers

Here’s the latest on another very warm day at the Coliseum …

A couple of individual awards came the A’s way Tuesday, as second baseman Jemile Weeks was named the American League’s co-Rookie of the Month along with Minnesota Twins outfielder Ben Revere. Left-hander Gio Gonzalez earned AL co-Player of the Week honors with the Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista. It’s the sixth time an A’s player has earned Rookie of the Month, but Weeks is just the second  position player to do it. Shortstop Bobby Crosby was honored in June 2004.

It’s impressive in that this truly was Weeks’ first month in the major leagues. He’s hitting .299 with 13 runs and six stolen bases in 25 games since being called up June 7, providing a jolt of excitement immediately upon his arrival. But I’ll be interested to see what happens with him once cleanup man Josh Willingham returns from the DL. I would think Hideki Matsui goes back to the No. 3 spot, Coco Crisp returns to leadoff and Weeks might drop back down to the No. 9 spot. I think that makes for an overall stronger batting order. Where would you like to see Weeks hit once Willingham comes back? …

–Speaking of Willingham, he’s been running for the past couple days and is doing well enough that both he and manager Bob Melvin think he could return sometime during the four-game series at Texas that begins Thursday. “Cautiously optimistic” is how Melvin characterized things. Willingham said the key is how his strained Achilles responds AFTER he’s done running. That’s when he still experiences problems. “If it continues to get better, I’ll play in Texas,” he said.

–Check out this all-encompassing review of the Oakland Coliseum, courtesy of www.stadiumjourney.com. Do you agree with the points made? Disagree? Feel free to share …

The lineups:

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

Mariners – Ichiro DH, Ryan SS, Kennedy 3B, Smoak 1B, Ackley 2B, Olivo C, Peguero LF, Guiterrez CF, Halman RF; Hernandez RHP.

10

Josh Willingham placed on DL; Chris Carter called up, but for how long?

Chris Carter showed up in the A’s clubhouse this morning, bleary-eyed from a redeye flight from Phoenix but back for a surprise stint with the big club. The A’s placed Josh Willingham on the DL, retroactive to June 18, and called up Carter to take his roster spot. Don’t get too used to seeing him in green and gold. Manager Bob Melvin didn’t say much specifically about Carter, but he hinted that Carter may just be up for the short-term until Willingham returns. Willingham is eligible to come off the DL on July 3, and he said he’s confident he’ll be ready by then.

How much playing time will there be for Carter, the A’s No. 2 prospect according to Baseball America? He’s played strictly first base for Triple-A Sacramento since coming off the DL on June 13 for a thumb injury, and Carter said he definitely feels more comfortable there than left field. “There’s nothing to press about” when playing first, he said this morning. But Conor Jackson has been swinging the bat well, and Melvin has him tapped as the regular first baseman for now (Mark Ellis is starting at first today with Jackson playing left field). I’m not sure the A’s would start Carter in the outfield right now considering how shaky he looked there last year during his big-league stint.

One interesting point Melvin made is that he’s considering giving Hideki Matsui time in left field after the A’s return to American League play after this road trip, and that could provide an opportunity for Carter to get DH at-bats. It’s sort of an awkward time for Carter to get called up. We always think of this guy in the context of him being an up-and-coming power bat that can help revive a sluggish offense. But the A’s have been playing good baseball lately – still not hitting a ton, but looking better – and it’s tough to identify an obvious role for Carter.

As for Willingham, he said his running didn’t go well Wednesday, which is why he became the A’s 11th DL transaction of the season. Willingham doesn’t consider the injury serious, but it’s also the latest in a string of injuries that have hampered him in recent seasons. You have to wonder how his health history will influence teams that view him as a trade target. And from the A’s perspective, I wonder how much they’re taking that into account as they weigh whether to offer Willingham a long-term extension.

–How would you like to be David DeJesus right now? The guy is obviously lost in the shuffle among outfielders (granted, his performance hasn’t demanded he be in there). And now that he’s finally playing today, he gets to face Mets lefty Chris Capuano. DeJesus is 7 for 56 (.125) against lefties this season, the lowest average in the American League against lefties.

–Injury updates: Brandon McCarthy is pitching today for Single-A Stockton in his first rehab start. Rich Harden will make a second start Saturday for Triple-A Sacramento, and Tyson Ross will throw a simulated game Saturday in Phoenix.

Today’s lineups:

A’s – Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Crisp CF, Jackson LF, Sizemore 3B, Ellis 1B, DeJesus RF, Powell C, Godfrey RHP.

Mets – Reyes SS, Turner 2B, Beltran RF, Murphy 3B, Pagan CF, Bay LF, Duda 1B, Thole C, Capuano LHP.

2

Interleague dilemma: Josh Willingham or Hideki Matsui in left field?

There’s not a whole lot to report this morning, though A’s manager Bob Geren reiterated that Hideki Matsui is unlikely to draw any outfield starts against the Giants this weekend. The A’s are in a bind when they play in a National League park with no DH available, because their two best power hitters – Matsui and Josh Willingham – only play left field. Willingham enters today’s game against Minnesota hitting .176 (3 for 17) with 10 strikeouts over his last four games. He’s out of the lineup this afternoon. Matsui hasn’t been on fire either, hitting .206 (7 for 34) over his past 10 games. But he did get two hits Wednesday and notched his first RBI in 10 games.

If Matsui has a big game today, I’d be tempted to get back in there for at least one game this weekend. Playing left field at AT&T Park isn’t nearly as tricky as playing right would be, so I don’t think he’d be much of a liability with the glove …

Let’s throw it out there: Who would you rather have in the lineup right now, Matsui or Willingham?

Here’s today’s lineups, with Coco Crisp back in the leadoff spot for the A’s after missing Wednesday’s game due to a personal matter:

A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Sweeney LF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, DeJesus RF, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Ross RHP.

Twins – Span CF, Plouffe SS, Kubel RF, Morneau DH, Cuddyer 1B, Valencia 3B, Young LF, Rivera C, Casilla 2B; Blackburn RHP.

0

It’s baseball in the shadows today at Angel Stadium

We’ve got a wacky 4:05 start time as the A’s try to avoid the sweep in Anaheim. As if A’s hitters needed anything else going against them. Now they get to face Dan Haren as the shadows are moving over Angel Stadium. The twilight hours are always tough on hitters. “It’s not going to be good out here today,” A’s second baseman Mark Ellis said. Not that he was looking to use the shadows as an excuse. Ellis has been struggling as much as any Athletic – he’s hitless in his last 16 at-bats – and he acknowledged that he and his teammates have to turn things around quickly.

Coco Crisp (left quad) and Josh Willingham (back) are both out of the lineup, though Willingham took some swings today and said he could have played if absolutely necessary. With a day off Thursday, the A’s want to maximize his rest so he comes back ready to go against Texas on Friday. “I still felt it but it’s a lot better,” Willingham said. “Hopefully I’ll play Friday.”

Crisp made himself scarce around the clubhouse before batting practice. Chatting with reporters about his injuries is not among Crisp’s favorite activities. So we’ll go with what manager Bob Geren told us: Crisp remains day-to-day and is unavailable in any capacity Wednesday. But Geren said the disabled list is not being considered.

Catcher Josh Donaldson was called up to take Kurt Suzuki’s roster spot. Donaldson was happy to get the promotion from Triple-A Sacramento but knows it will be short-lived. Suzuki’s wife had induced labor this morning so Suzuki is on paternity leave. But it seems possible that he could return Friday (no word yet on the birth of his baby). I’m not sure I’ve mentioned it before, but Donaldson is a dead-on Bill Clinton sound-alike. Close your eyes and you’d swear you were talking to the former President. Donaldson just needs to get that hand gesture down that Clinton used to do during his speeches. If Donaldson dyes his hair gray, he could have a second career, like Kevin Kline in “Dave.”

The lineups:

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

Angels – Aybar SS, Abreu DH, Hunter RF, Wells LF, Callaspo 3B, Kendrick 1B, Conger C, Bourjos CF, Amarista 2B; Haren RHP.

0

Willingham gets a day off (maybe), plus other A’s pregame notes

Another good pitching matchup is on tap tonight as Trevor Cahill opposes the Chicago White Sox’s Edwin Jackson. Both sport sub-2.00 ERAs …

A’s left fielder Josh Willingham gets his first day off, or as manager Bob Geren called it, his first “non-start.” “They’ve got three good lefties in the bullpen,” Geren said of the Sox. “There may be a pinch-hitting opportunity.” Ryan Sweeney draws the start in left. …

Andy LaRoche makes his second straight start at shortstop, as Cliff Pennington is out of the lineup with an infected sweat gland under his left arm. Geren listed Pennington as day-to-day. You have to count LaRoche as a pleasant early-season surprise for the A’s. He’s held his own defensively all around the infield and he’s hitting .417.

The White Sox get a major boost tonight with the return of DH Adam Dunn, who had been out since undergoing an emergency appendectomy Wednesday. The Chicago media quoted Sox manager Ozzie Guillen as saying he would be extra cautious with Dunn, giving the slugger an extra day once he said he was ready. Apparently that plan went out the window. Dunn, who signed a four-year, $56 million deal with the Sox in the offseason, is hitting .286 with one homer and five RBIs.

Here’s a story on the injury to Texas left fielder Josh Hamilton, which has major implications for the rest of the AL West. The A’s begin play tonight tied for second place with the Angels, four games back of Texas …

The lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, DeJesus RF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Sweeney LF, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, LaRoche SS; Cahill RHP.

White Sox – Pierre LF, Vizquel 2B, Dunn DH, Konerko 1B, Quentin RF, Rios CF, Pierzynski C, Ramirez SS, Teahen 3B; Jackson RHP.

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 …