Geren discusses backup infielders

Checking in from Papago, where a Sports Illustrated photo crew took up residence in the A’s clubhouse this morning. SI is doing a story on the A’s, with a focus on Jason Giambi. The team’s offseason moves seem to have caught the attention of the national media this spring.

Moving on …

–Manager Bob Geren talked a little about the candidates for the backup infielder spot. Assuming the A’s roster includes a healthy Eric Chavez at third and Mark Ellis at second, Bobby Crosby at shortstop and the Daric Barton/Jason Giambi combo at first, that would leave room for one backup infielder. Geren mentioned Jack Hannahan, Cliff Pennington, Gregorio Petit, Eric Patterson and non-roster players Joe Dillon and Corey Wimberly as candidates. Wimberly also can play outfield (so can Patterson), but Geren said he wants Wimberly working mostly in the infield this spring, so he can be tutored by infield coach Mike Gallego. … Hannahan has the most experience of this group, but considering he hit .218 last season, he’s far from a lock.

–Speaking of Wimberly, a little tidbit I didn’t squeeze into today’s notebook: Considering he’s one of the A’s fastest players in camp, I asked Wimberly who was faster between him and Rajai Davis, hands down the speediest player on the A’s roster last season. Wimberly gave the nod to Davis. “I may be a little quicker out of the box because I’m starting from the left side,” said Wimberly, who’s actually a switch hitter. “I think he’s probably a little bit faster.”

–Here’s the pitching schedule as games start next week:
Tuesday’s intrasquad game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium: Edgar Gonzalez, Brad Ziegler, Kevin Cameron, Andrew Carignan, Andrew Bailey.

Wednesday’s Cactus League opener vs. Milwaukee in Maryvale: Josh Outman, Gio Gonzalez, Vin Mazzaro, Chris Schroder, Jeff Gray, Jared Lansford, Jerry Blevins, Arnold Leon, Tyson Ross.

Thursday vs. the Angels in Tempe: Sean Gallagher, Brett Anderson, Tyson Ross (if he doesn’t throw Wednesday), Brett Hunter, Santiago Casilla, Michael Wuertz, Joey Devine.

–Catcher Joel Galarraga arrived in camp, so everybody is here now

–Last but not least, after I mentioned the Dodgers as the possible favorite to sign middle infielder Orlando Cabrera, they went and agreed to terms w/Orlando Hudson as their second baseman. We’ll see if this re-ignites the A’s pursuit of Cabrera …


“Lack of Interest”

I enjoy seeing the back-and-forth that occurs during the blog discussions on this site, but generally I’m not a big fan of commenting on the comments. In this case, however, I feel it’s a must.

My blog the other day referred to a “lack of interest” about the A’s.  It was a sarcastic answer to the fact that one of the beat writers is not on this trip — again, for myriad well-founded reasons — and intended as humorous way to start the debate about how much interest in the A’s there remains. Because, frankly, if I were a fan, I wouldn’t have a whole lot right now, at least about this year’s edition. And if the attendance is any indication, there hasn’t been a lot of interest all year.

But one of the comments the other day suggested he’d like to know how much interest the players are showing. I’m not around the team as much as the daily beat writers, but I can tell you that in my dealings with them, a lack of work or interest is not the issue. A lack of talent is. And I can tell with absolute certainty that Mark Ellis — the one who offered up the “Lack of Interest,” comment — should never ever be accused of giving less than full interest to his profession. You don’t become the best second baseman in franchise history by not doing so.

For the record, Ellis was making a sarcastic remark that reflected what is obvious to everyone. There’s not much interest in this team right now. It’s absolutely the correct assessment, though that doesn’t mean some individual interest among fans still exists. The blog the other day was not meant to insinuate that either Ellis, the players or every single fan has lost interest. If it gave off that impression, my bad.


September at last

Had the privilege to share a post-game table with A’s second baseman Mark Ellis and clubhouse man Steve Vucinich at the team’s hotel during the visit to Seattle last week. It’s a lost art among the print media, and it really can give you insight, even if the bulk of it may never see the public light of day.

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Facing a familiar face

Went down to the hotel lounge after the A’s 15-1 smashing of Brandon Webb and Arizona on Tuesday and saw a few non-playing members of the organization. And the joke among the group was that given what the A’s did to Webb, they would certainly be shut down by former teammate Dan Haren tonight.

Well, we’ll see in less than two hours. Haren gets the ball for the first time against his former teammates, and the A’s are throwing out the same lineup that has scored 29 runs and gone 4-0 on this six-game trip through the National League West. Haren said he’s having the time of his life in Arizona, and his numbers have been good. No chance he’ll be as bad as Webb was last night (and if, by chance, he is, at least Haren will talk about it). 

Mark Ellis, Haren’s old buddy, gets the first crack at him. He’s hitting leadoff for the fifth straight game, and for good reason. Ellis is 16-for-35 with five doubles, three home runs, 10 RBI and 11 runs scored in his past eight games.

Another eye-popping stat. The A’s six-home run outburst Tuesday ended their longest homerless streak since 1983.




A’s score first

Mark Ellis hit a career-high 19 HR’s last season, and it would probably be silly to expect that kind of production again. Nevertheless, he just smoked a pitch from Daisuke Matsuzaka over the wall in left to produce the first run of 2008.

Matsuzaka’s homecoming has been a big story, but he doesn’t look entirely comfortable early. Travis Buck grounded out on Matsuzaka’s first pitch, but he grooved the pitch that Ellis whacked out of the park, and now he’s walked Daric Barton and hit Jack Cust in the heel. Looks terrible.

By the way, what does that say about Barton that he’s hitting third in the first game of his rookie season?