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 …

1

A’s pitchers and catchers hit the field

The first blog from spring training has arrived … I’ll try to post each morning, but that could change slightly depending on how heavy/light news is. And if news develops throughout the day, I’ll throw it on here too. You can also get updates at twitter.com/joestiglich

–A’s pitchers and catchers just took the field for their first workout. The sun is out and it’s good baseball weather, though not as picturesque as yesterday. We may get a little rain over the weekend, but nothing that’s expected to disrupt things too much once the full squad holds its first workout Monday. But you didn’t come here for weather reports …

–Manager Bob Geren held his first extended media session today. The most noteworthy item was that relievers Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow and Michael Wuertz will be brought along more slowly than the other relievers. That’s a precautionary move and probably a smart one – Breslow has thrown a ton of innings over the past two seasons, Bailey is coming off minor elbow surgery and Wuertz had a shoulder injury early last season after he logged a ton of innings in 2009. The A’s will budget most relievers for 10-13 Cactus League outings, but Bailey, Breslow and Wuertz (no, that’s not a law firm) will be closer to the 8-10 range.

–How’s this for showing gratitude? Dallas Braden sent catcher Landon Powell and his wife, Allyson, on an all-expenses paid trip to Maui in January to show his appreciation for Powell catching his perfect game. Braden put them up at the Four Seasons. I mentioned in today’s paper that Bailey and pitcher Brett Anderson have lost weight. Throw Powell in the mix, too. He says he’s lost 15 pounds.

–It was interesting seeing new bench coach Joel Skinner, a former catcher, huddled with all of Oakland’s catchers and dishing some wisdom earlier this morning. In the opening days of spring training, players take time to get acquainted with each other. But this spring, Oakland’s players are also feeling out several new coaches. Skinner and hitting coach Gerald Perry are new to the staff, and Ron Romanick has shifted from bullpen coach to pitching coach. Obviously, the big news will be whatever impact new players such as Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham have on the team, but this reshuffled coaching staff is an under-the-radar factor to watch.

–One final note for those who might be visiting Phoenix next week: The A’s changed their practice schedule. They will only work out at Papago Park on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before shifting back to Phoenix Municipal Stadium for intrasquad games Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

That’s all for now …

0

Kevin Kouzmanoff, A’s agree on one-year, $3.1 million deal; Rajai Davis gets $1.35 million (WITH UPDATED INFO)

LATEST INFO: Reliever Michael Wuertz is the lone arb-eligible Athletic to remain unsigned. Wuertz, who made $1.1 million last season, is asking for $2.9 million and the A’s are offering $1.9 million. This info comes courtesy of Ed Price at AOL Fanhouse.

A’s assistant GM David Forst told me he’s optimistic the A’s can work out a contract with Wuertz and avoid a formal hearing, which would come sometime in February.

************

The A’s just sent out a release announcing that newly acquired third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff also agreed to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. The AP is reporting he gets $3.1 million.

************

Just got it confirmed that the A’s and outfielder Rajai Davis avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year, $1.35 million contract w/incentives. It’s a well-earned bump from the $410,000 that Davis made last season, and it avoids the possibility of the A’s going to an arbitration hearing with him in February. Now the team will focus on signing its lone remaining arb-eligible player: reliever Michael Wuertz. Check back here later for updates.

To recap the arbitration process: A player is eligible for arbitration after three years of major league service time (and in some scenarios, two-plus years, which was Davis’ case). If a team doesn’t reach a contract agreement with an arb-eligible player, a hearing is held before an independent panel, where the team submits a proposed salary figure, and the player’s agent submits a proposed salary. The panel hears each side’s case and decides on one salary or the other — there’s no middle-ground compromise. These hearings can get nasty because a team is forced to criticize its own player to justify why the lower salary should be given.

The A’s have had great success in recent years finding some middle ground and reaching agreements w/players to avoid hearings. Teams and players were due to exchange salary figures at 9 a.m. this morning if they hadn’t reached an agreement, and I assume that’s turning out to be the case w/Wuertz. Teams can continue negotiating a deal with a player anytime leading up to their scheduled hearing, and I’d expect the A’s to hammer something out w/Wuertz before it comes to a hearing …

0

Postgame thoughts after A’s 3-0 win over Angels

Some postgame quotes and observations following the A’s 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels to start this three-game series:

–It seems there’s a switch located somewhere on Gio Gonzalez, and when the switch is “on,” we see outings like tonight’s. The lefty displayed what manager Bob Geren said was “by far his best curve ball of the year.” Gonzalez went 6 1/3 innings and got most of his seven strikeouts with the curve, but he also had his fastball and changeup working. He’s been messing with a new grip on his change-up and two-seam fastball, and he liked the results he had.

–Is there a better under-the-radar MVP candidate for the 2009 A’s than setup man Michael Wuertz? He faced six Angels hitters and struck out five of them. That gives him exactly 100 strikeouts this season, which leads American League relievers and is a career high.
According to closer Andrew Bailey (who got his 26th save), he and Wuertz have a competition going for who can top who on the mound. “Wuertz is really fun to watch,” Bailey said. “He strikes out a lot of guys. He’s been great all year, not just on the field, but off it for me. Going out there and trying to match him is a challenge.” Wuertz is arbitration-eligible this winter, and I’d say he’s making himself some money with each outing. No way the A’s don’t retain this guy.

–It wasn’t all rosy tonight. Third baseman Adam Kennedy has a pretty obvious problem throwing the ball to first base right now. I don’t know if his arm is hurting, and I haven’t asked him yet. But for the second straight game, he lobbed a routine throw that pulled Daric Barton off the bag for an error. He’s committed an error in three straight games (Wednesday’s miscue was a fielding error). What’s funny is Kennedy made a terrific play after tonight’s error, making a bare-handed grab of Juan Rivera’s grounder that ricocheted off Gio Gonzalez and throwing a strike to Barton. Go figure … In the big picture, I still think he’s done a standout job at third considering he’d never played the position in the majors before this season. And his versatility could earn him lots of interest this winter as a free agent.

0

Rehashing Monday night’s chaos

Last night’s game is still the talk at the ballpark this afternoon. Michael Wuertz had a crowd of reporters around him picking his brain about the final out at home plate. From what I’m told, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire still had plenty to say about the play. Something tells me his version of events and Wuertz’s probably clash a bit, huh?

Anyway, looking back on last night’s craziness, I have to think Matt Holliday’s performance made an impression on any teams considering him as a trade target. Scouts from several teams are watching this series — Yankees, Giants, Tigers, just to name a few. All three of those teams are believed to have at least some degree of interest in Holliday. Consider these 10 days left until the trading deadline a showcase for Holliday to convince a team to make a run at him.

In other news, A’s manager Bob Geren said he would wait to see how Andrew Bailey felt in his pregame throwing before determining if his closer was available tonight. Bailey is battling a sore left knee, but it’s not thought to be serious.

Justin Duchscherer threw a 20-pitch simulated game today and came out of it well, Geren said. He’ll pitch in his first minor league game Monday, not Sunday, as was originally announced. There’s no game scheduled in Phoenix on Sunday for Duke to pitch in.

Today’s lineup:

A’s
Kennedy 3B
Cabrera SS
Hairston CF
Holliday LF
Cust DH
Suzuki C
Barton 1B
Sweeney RF
Ellis 2B

Braden LHP

Twins
Gomez CF
Mauer C
Morneau 1B
Cuddyer RF
Kubel DH
Crede 3B
Young LF
Punto SS
Casilla 2B

Swarzak RHP

0

Sunday leftovers

Just some extra thoughts that didn’t get into my stories for tomorrow …

I was a little surprised A’s manager Bob Geren didn’t let Brett Anderson return to the mound for the ninth inning in a 0-0 game. But I can see the logic on this one. Anderson was up to 104 pitches, and if the A’s are serious about monitoring the innings of their young starters for the rest of the season, this was a chance to exercise that strategy. Anderson gave the intelligent response after the game. “I told (Geren) I was fine, but I had thrown over 100 pitches or whatever, so you could kind of tell what was going on,” Anderson said. “I told him I felt fine, but in that situation it’s understandable, especially with our All-Star (closer, Andrew Bailey, available).”

If the A’s are going to limit the starters’ innings, maybe it’s time to start preserving Bailey a little bit as well. I’d like to see him pitching one inning, tops, except for rare occasions. Bailey, Craig Breslow and Michael Wuertz are all carrying a pretty heavy workload.

Allowing Anderson to take the mound in the ninth would have given him a chance to leave to one last ovation, but I don’t expect Geren to manage with that in mind in a tight ballgame. Speaking of the crowd’s reaction Sunday, Anderson gave the fans a thumbs-up. I look around at the mostly empty seats for most home games, and I think it can’t be the greatest atmosphere for these guys to get jacked up to play. But Anderson said he liked the boos he heard when Erick Aybar threatened to bunt while Anderson still had a perfect game going. The feeling around the Coliseum was that it would have been a cheap way to end a perfect game/no-hitter. “I was just happy with the way the crowd responded when Aybar tried to bunt,” Anderson said. “That was kind of special. And another ovation they gave me when I gave up a hit. It’s good to have a crowd like that today.”

The Twins, who have been playing well on the road, arrive for a three-game set starting tomorrow. Check in w/you before the game …

0

Ziegler’s back; Sunday pregame update

There’s a few clouds over head, but the roof is open at Safeco Field leading up to this afternoon’s series finale between the A’s and Mariners. Not a whole lot to report from the A’s clubhouse, but closer Brad Ziegler is back w/the team. He’s unlikely to pitch today, but Ziegler said he wanted to play catch and hopefully be ready tomorrow night against the Angels. Bob Geren echoed that thought.

Ziegler had been battling the flu since Wednesday, and though it wasn’t stomach flu-like stuff, he didn’t eat much and estimates he lost about 8 pounds. He did say he was a little worried considering how much the swine flu has dominated headlines, as were the A’s. They ran his symptoms by doctors, but it was more precautionary, according to Ziegler. “There were some symptoms of (the swine flu) I never experienced. But with something new that you haven’t heard of, you never know.”

Michael Wuertz and Russ Springer are the logical options in a save situation today.

–A bit of a different look w/the A’s lineup, with Kurt Suzuki at DH and Landon Powell catching.

Here’s the full lineup behind Josh Outman, making his first start in 16 days:

Sweeney CF
Cabrera SS
Giambi 1B
Holliday LF
Cust RF
Suzuki DH
Crosby 3B
Petit 2B
Powell C

And for Seattle …

Ichiro RF
Lopez 2B
Sweeney DH
Beltre 3B
Branyan 1B
Balentien LF
Johjima C
Gutierrez CF
Betancourt SS

Jakubauskas P.

0

Update from A’s-Angels

Here’s a few notes from today’s game, where the A’s fell 3-1 to the Angels in Tempe.

–Sean Gallagher started and went two shutout innings but had to work out of jams each inning. Right now these guys are mainly concerned with getting a feel for their pitches. Gallagher said he’s only throwing his fastball, curve and changeup right now, leaving the slider for later. “It’s a pitch I can pick up pretty quick, (and) it’s a pitch that puts a lot of torque on my elbow.” His highlight was a strikeout of new Angels outfielder Bobby Abreu. Gallagher got him to chase for strike three.

–Newcomer Michael Wuertz, who was with the Cubs last year, followed with a scoreless inning. He’s in a crowded competition to win a bullpen spot.

–Jack Cust hit a long homer down the RF line to get the A’s on the board in the sixth. He also took a called third strike (you knew you were going to read that, didn’t you?) and flew out to left.

–Highly touted lefty Brett Anderson pitched the fourth and gave up two runs after two were out. I didn’t see his whole inning as I was hustling down to grab Gallagher. But Anderson said, “I was trying to overthrow. I was throwing too hard. With two out, I learned I can’t coast through it.”

–Eric Chavez went 1-for-3 as DH, singling in his first at-bat. He’s set to DH again Saturday and start at third base Tuesday.