When it comes to the A’s lineup card, it’s always wise to keep the White Out handy. We didn’t find out until Oakland started batting in the top of the first that Eric Chavez was scratched from the lineup. Since the morning began, he went from playing first base, to playing third, to not playing at all. There’s been no further explanation yet, but my guess would be his elbow began acting up. Bobby Crosby is starting at third (and just made a sweet diving grab on Ian Kinsler’s grounder), with Landon Powell playing first …
Quick update here from Rogers Center, where the A’s wrap up a three-game series against the Blue Jays. A victory today would give them the series win and take some good vibes into a three-game series w/the Yankees, where the intensity is sure to crank up a notch.
Eric Chavez is in the lineup at third base. He threw this morning and took BP and looked good (that’s according to Bob Geren, who was pitching to him). Still no Nomar Garciaparra, who can’t lick this right calf problem. “He feels better today than he did yesterday,” Geren said, adding that the DL is not being discussed yet for Nomar. Not having his right-handed bat Saturday or today hurts the A’s, as Toronto has gone w/three left-handed starting pitchers. The A’s also get lefties Andy Pettitte and C.C. Sabathia out of the chute in New York.
Jason Giambi is at DH, w/Landon Powell playing first base, his second start there in the past four games. It’s an effort to preserve Giambi’s legs a bit. Plus, Geren wanted to get Powell, a switch hitter, into the lineup without sitting Kurt Suzuki, another right-handed bat.
A’s lineup: Sweeney CF; Cabrera SS; Giambi DH; Holliday LF; Cust RF; Chavez 3B; Suzuki C; Ellis 2B; Powell 1B; Braden P
Jays lineup: Scutaro SS; Hill 2B; Rios RF; Wells CF; Millar DH; Rolen 3B; Overbay 1B; Raul Chavez C; Snider LF; Romero P
The morning happenings as the A’s prepare to play the Dodgers today at Camelback Ranch, their second game at the Glendale ballpark in the past six days:
–Backup catcher Landon Powell is recovering from a strained intercostal muscle (located in the ribs), enough to where he’ll make today’s trip to catch bullpens. He’s also hitting off a tee. With the regular season starting a week from today, the A’s need to figure out if Powell will be ready for the active roster or if he needs to go on the DL. Recently acquired Curtis Thigpen is starting today at catcher, and he’ll be the likely backup should Powell not be ready for Opening Night. “Any time you have a player not healthy a week before the season, it’s a concern,” Bob Geren said of Powell. “But it’s been eight days now, and that injury usually is a week- to 10-day type thing.”
–Center fielder Ryan Sweeney isn’t playing today because of a tight left quad, but he’s doing all other baseball activity and could be back in the lineup tomorrow.
–Gio Gonzalez is testing his sore left shoulder in a minor league game today. If all goes well, Geren said he would probably pitch in a game with the big league club later in the week.
–Nomar Garciaparra gets his first start at first base today. With Eric Chavez coming along well at third, it makes sense to get Garciaparra some time over at first. If Chavez plays regularly, Garciaparra’s main role will be spelling Chavez at third and Jason Giambi at first (along with some DH time). Garciaparra told me this morning he doesn’t think he’ll need much time at first to be ready for the regular season. He’s been doing pre-game work all over the diamond.
Brett Anderson pitching …
I’ll try to throw a couple in-game updates on here, so check back a little later …
The A’s just announced that backup catcher Rob Bowen has been released, which means Landon Powell is likely to take over as Kurt Suzuki’s backup. The wheels had been in motion on this move for much of the spring, as Powell was getting lots of playing time and playing well offensively and defensively. GM Billy Beane stopped short of saying Powell was assured of a roster spot as the No. 2 backstop, but said the team has been very impressed with Powell this spring. “I think we felt that some of our other options have come quite a ways,” Beane said. “Kurt’s the incumbent. We’ve got some pretty good choices (for a backup) with Landon being the leading candidate.”
Bowen, one of the most outgoing and classiest guys in the clubhouse since he came over from the Cubs in the Jason Kendall trade of 2007, said he wasn’t shocked by the move. He added he appreciated the A’s making the call now and allowing him time to hook on w/another team.
After the A’s second day of workouts wrapped up, manager Bob Geren went out of his way to praise catching prospect Josh Donaldson, who was acquired from the Cubs as part of last July’s Rich Harden trade. Donaldson, 23, is a long-range prospect (he didn’t start catching until his junior year at Auburn). But the A’s like his bat as well as his physical tools behind the plate. “I had some (discussion) with him about how many games he’s caught in his life,” Geren said. “He thought maybe 160. I told him that’s (close to) how many Kurt Suzuki caught last year. With the minimal exposure he has now, I think he can improve rapidly.” A former big league catcher himself, Geren said the biggest thing for a player who’s relatively new to catching is to master the fundamentals of the position. From there, learning how to handle pitchers and call a game comes with experience.
The backup catcher situation might merit paying attention to. The A’s re-signed Rob Bowen as the No. 2 man behind Suzuki, but the team also has Landon Powell in camp. A first-round pick in 2004, Powell’s career has been sidetracked by a knee injury, but he appears to be 100 percent now. Bowen has an edge in experience (his at-bats are few and far between because Suzuki logs so many innings as the starter). But Powell still has lots of upside and could force the A’s to make a decision if he has a big spring. And, of course, Donaldson figures to get his chance down the road …
Other Sunday bits:
–Ace Justin Duchscherer threw his first bullpen session, and he’s shown no lingering effects from right hip surgery last September.
– Geren, on whether third baseman Eric Chavez would be ready for the exhibition opener Feb. 25: “I have no reason now to say he wouldn’t be, but I want to see him in daily workouts first.”
–Trevor Cahill, the club’s other blue-chip pitching prospect along with Brett Anderson and Vin Mazzaro, threw Sunday. Catcher Anthony Recker, who was behind the plate for many of Cahill’s games last season in Double-A, also caught him Sunday, and said his fastball, curve and slider seemed sharp. “But I tell you what, I was really impressed with his change-up,” Recker said.
–In his morning chat w/reporters, Geren said competition should be fierce for what figures to be one or two available spots in the bullpen. Non-roster pitcher Jerome Williams doesn’t seem to be a candidate, as Geren said Williams is being considered primarily as a starter. Along those lines, it’s assumed that lefties Gio Gonzalez and Josh Outman will be considered for the ‘pen if they don’t open the season in the rotation. But judging from Geren’s comments over the offseason, I’m gathering that Outman is seen as being better suited for relief if it comes to that. This is speculation on my part, but I see Gonzalez beginning the season in the Triple-A rotation if he doesn’t crack Oakland’s starting five. …
That’s all for now …