0

Coco a no-go again with strained calf

The A’s finish off their nine-game road trip with three against the Blue Jays here at the Rogers Center. This is the first time in Oakland history that the A’s have played in all domes on a three-city trip, according to the team’s media relations department. I put an asterisk next to that, because Safeco Field in Seattle – even when the roof is closed — has lots of open space and you can see out of it. It doesn’t feel like you’re watching baseball inside a Costco, which is the vibe I get in Tampa Bay and Toronto. But I don’t mind Tropicana Field and Rogers Center — it’s a change of pace for a series or two. I just wouldn’t want to cover a full season in either venue.

–Coco Crisp’s strained right calf is still bothering him, so he’s sitting for a second straight game. A’s manager Bob Melvin had said Sunday he thought Crisp would be able to return today (Conor Jackson’s sore back is feeling good enough that he’s starting at first base after sitting Sunday).

It doesn’t seem that the DL is being considered yet for Crisp, because Melvin holds out hope that he can either pinch-hit in this series or perhaps even start Thursday. But past experience shows us that none of Crisp’s injuries should be taken too lightly. It’s worth noting that Melvin was pleasantly surprised to see Crisp emerge from the clubhouse and stretch with his teammates today. So maybe he is doing better.

(Breaking news!!! After writing about indoor baseball here at Rogers Center, the retractable roof just began to open and a blinding sun is hitting me right in the face. That’s what I get for comparing this place to a Costco).

–There’s quite a buzz in Toronto about the home debut of hotshot rookie third baseman Brett Lawrie, who was just called up Friday. He’s from British Columbia, and he’s just the 17th Canadian to play for the Blue Jays. Tonight’s A’s starter, Rich Harden, also is from British Columbia, so that adds some intrigue to their individual matchup.

–Reliever Craig Breslow is available today after being shut down Sunday with upper back pain.

Tonight’s lineups:
A’s – Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, Jackson 1B, DeJesus RF, Suzuki C, Sweeney CF, Sizemore 3B; Harden RHP.

Jays – Escobar SS, Thames LF, Bautista RF, Lind 1B, Encarnacion DH, Rasmus CF, Hill 2B, Arencibia C, Lawrie 3B; Cecil LHP.

1

Harden, Matsui and more from A’s 5-4 win over Arizona Diamondbacks

Since I didn’t blog pre-game, here’s a look at the A’s notebook for tomorrow’s paper. And a few postgame notes following the A’s 5-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks …

–A’s manager Bob Melvin thought Rich Harden’s effectiveness came from him changing speeds on his fastball, which complemented his changeup and split-fingered fastball. Indeed, Harden wasn’t blowing up the radar gun (he topped out at 94 mph), but he was in control during six innings of two-run ball. Hideki Matsui said he remembered Harden dominating with his fastball when facing him in the past. “His command really stood out (Friday),” Matsui said.

–Speaking of Matsui, Melvin credited the veteran with knowing when he had an opportunity to swipe a bag. Arizona first baseman Juan Miranda was playing behind Matsui in the fourth, and Matsui easily stole second base, putting him in position to score on Ryan Sweeney’s bloop single. That was Matsui’s first steal since Sept. 12, 2007. “That was big for us,” Melvin said. “It got us on the board and got momentum back in our dugout.”

–Melvin said Chris Carter would draw another start at first base Saturday.

Here’s tomorrow’s notebook …

Kirk Gibson may have been managing his first game in Oakland on Friday, but the Arizona Diamondbacks skipper obviously has fond memories of the Coliseum.

That’s where his Los Angeles Dodgers clinched the 1988 World Series title, a run that Gibson ignited with his legendary homer off Dennis Eckersley to win Game 1 at Dodger Stadium.

Gibson reminisced about the abuse he took from fans in the outfield bleachers at the Coliseum during that series.

“(A’s) fans have always been very honest with opponents,” Gibson said. “In the end, I kinda got them back.”

But he added that as his playing career drew to a close with the Detroit Tigers in 1995, he actually chatted pleasantly with a few of those fans who had heckled him through the years at the Coliseum.

He recalled his favorite chant he heard from A’s fans.

“’What’s the matter with Gibson? He’s a bum!’” he said. “I’ve known that for years.”

A’s manager Bob Melvin, who was playing for the Giants in 1988, was asked his memories of Gibson’s homer off Eckersley.

“I think everybody remembers where they were when it happened,” Melvin said.

And where was he?

“A bachelor party … but everybody stopped to watch it.”

–Melvin said Brandon McCarthy will come off the disabled list and start Monday against Seattle. Guillermo Moscoso, on turn to pitch then, will slide to Wednesday, and the A’s will go with a six-man rotation until a starter absolutely has to be sent down, Melvin said.

Their current rotation would unfold as follows beginning Saturday — Josh Outman-Gio Gonzalez-McCarthy-Trevor Cahill -Guillermo Moscoso-Rich Harden.

“We’ll make the decisions when we need to make them,” Melvin said. “Certainly, with the way guys have pitched, it makes for difficult decisions.”

–Catcher Kurt Suzuki, now the longest tenured Athletic after Mark Ellis was traded Thursday, moved into Ellis’ locker, which is sectioned off by a wall on one side and provides some privacy.

Equipment manager Steve Vucinich approached Suzuki to ask if he wanted to switch.

“I consider that the best locker,” Vucinich said, then added with a smile: “You can avoid the press if you want.”

–Right fielder David DeJesus’ throwing error Thursday snapped his 301-game errorless streak, which was the longest among active major league outfielders.

0

Rain continues to fall at the Coliseum, but A’s-Angels game is still on

Here’s the situation at the Coliseum … The rain is falling steadily, batting practice has been canceled on the field, but the A’s have no plans to postpone tonight’s game against the Angels. That’s what we’re hearing. The forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of rain by 7 p.m., dropping to 15 percent by 8 p.m. If the A’s haven’t canceled this thing by now, they’re willing to wait it out to see if they can squeeze it in, even if it means delaying the 7:05 first pitch.

Remember what it was like during rainy day recess in elementary school, when everyone was stuck in the classroom and all activity was indoors? That’s the scene right now in the A’s clubhouse. Everyone is milling around, grabbing a bite to eat and wondering if this game is going to be played. The busiest guy in the building right now? Head groundskeeper Clay Wood, who was walking the field earlier – in shorts, with rain pouring down – surveying what kind of condition the field was in. There are puddles on the warning track, and groundskeepers are sweeping water off the infield tarp. It’s not going to be ideal playing conditions even if the rain stops.

It’s bizarre to even consider a rainout for an A’s home game. The last home rainout was May 5, 1998 against the Detroit Tigers. How many will show up for this one? Monday night games usually draw poorly anyway, and you can take it to the bank that tonight’s crowd is below the season-low of 9,193 that showed up for a May 2 game against the Rangers.

The update from Bob Geren’s pregame media chat:

–Andrew Bailey is heading to Phoenix to throw in another extended spring training game Tuesday. “That’s what he felt he’d like to do. Ronny (pitching coach Ron Romanick) talked with him on where he’s at, what he’s comfortable doing,” Geren said. The other option was for Bailey to just go out on a rehab assignment with Single-A Stockton or Triple-A Sacramento. The advantage for the A’s in an extended spring game is it’s a “controlled” environment. The A’s can stop the action, manipulate innings to keep Bailey out there for four outs if they choose – the situation can be tailored to what he needs. But pitching in minor league games will be a better test for Bailey because it’s regular game conditions. That’s the next step after Tuesday. There’s still no indication of how many minor league games Bailey will need to pitch in before returning.

–Dallas Braden’s shoulder surgery has been rescheduled for Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. He was originally supposed to have the operation today, but his flight to New York was canceled Sunday.

–Rich Harden, on the 60-day DL with a side muscle injury, is doing strengthening exercises but still not throwing. He’s nowhere close to returning yet.

–Geren talked about Michael Wuertz’s dominant form lately out of the bullpen. The guy has given up just one hit in eight appearances since coming off the DL for a hamstring injury. You’ll notice he’s starting to be used more in late-inning situations, and Geren considers him another right-handed setup option, filling the same role as Grant Balfour when Balfour isn’t available. Until Bailey returns, Wuertz’s effectiveness is even more important for the ‘pen. I’ll have more on Wuertz in tomorrow’s paper. …

Tonight’s lineups (assuming there’s baseball)

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

Angels – Aybar SS, Abreu DH, Izturis 2B, Hunter RF, Kendrick LF, Callaspo 3B, Trumbo 1B, Wilson C, Bourjos CF; Pineiro RHP.

4

Dallas Braden joins 15-day DL; A’s trade for lefty reliever David Purcey

There’s some A’s news for your Monday morning …

Dallas Braden was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left shoulder stiffness. The team acquired left-handed reliever David Purcey from Toronto in exchange for reliever Danny Farquhar, and Rich Harden was transferred from the 15-day to 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster for Purcey.

Purcey will join the big league bullpen, according to A’s assistant GM David Forst. So either Tyson Ross or Bobby Cramer remain the front-runners to take Braden’s spot in the rotation for now (Bob Geren mentioned Ross as a candidate yesterday). The A’s had been trying to work a trade for Purcey since Toronto designated the lefty for assignment Tuesday, Forst said. So going after him was not directly related to Braden’s injury in Saturday’s game. But it does provide depth, as the A’s likely will take Ross or Cramer from the bullpen and insert him into the rotation. Braden’s DL stint is retroactive to Sunday, meaning he would be eligible to return May 2.

Forst said the A’s didn’t know the severity of Braden’s injury based on his exam Sunday. Braden hasn’t undergone an MRI or any other tests yet. “We’re still hopeful that it’s not serious. We don’t have anything definitive as of yet,” Forst said.

Purcey, who turns 29 on Thursday, was 0-0 with an 11.57 ERA in five relief appearances with the Blue Jays this season. He made 12 starts as a rookie in 2008 and went 3-6 with a 5.54 ERA. He was Toronto’s first-round draft pick in 2004. Forst said A’s scouts clocked Purcey’s fastball in the 93-94 mph range. He’s got size — the A’s press release lists him at 6-4, 242 pounds. Farquhar had been acquired over the winter from the Jays as part of the Rajai Davis trade, so he’s going back to a familiar organization. He’d been pitching for Triple-A Sacramento thus far.

0

A’s lock up another starter: Trevor Cahill signs five-year extension

Checking in from Chicago, where the A’s begin a three-game series against the White Sox …

Right-hander Trevor Cahill signed a five-year contract extension today worth a guaranteed $30.5 million, meaning the A’s have two of their top young starters locked up with long-term deals. They signed Brett Anderson to a four-year, $12.5 million last April. Cahill’s contract kicks in with this season and runs through 2015, with the A’s holding a $13 million club option for 2016 and a $13.5 million option on 2017. Cahill could have been eligible for free agency following the 2014 season, so he’s potentially giving up three seasons of free agency if the A’s pick up his options. However, if that happens, Cahill will be collecting $57 million over seven seasons, which is a large chunk of money.

The A’s could have saved lots of money locking up Cahill around the same time they signed Anderson. Cahill went on to make the All-Star team last season and won 18 games, driving his price up. But I don’t blame them for not acting that quickly. They had no idea what they had in Cahill at the time Anderson signed. “This is always sort of a guessing game for when the club makes a commitment or when the player makes a commitment,” A’s GM Billy Beane said. He added: “I would probably say in all my years here, I don’t’ know that I’ve seen somebody make such great strides in such a brief amount of time as Trevor.”

–Here’s tonight’s lineups, with Conor Jackson starting in right field and Andy LaRoche playing shortstop against lefty Mark Buehrle.

A’s: Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Jackson RF, Willingham LF, Ellis 2B, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Kouzmanoff 3B, LaRoche SS. Braden LHP

White Sox: Pierre LF, Beckham 2B, Rios CF, Konerko 1B, Quentin DH, Ramirez SS, Morel 3B, Castro C, Lillibridge RF; Buehrle LHP.

–Good news for the A’s: Andrew Bailey threw from the mound for the first time since going on the DL, and his forearm felt good after his 20-pitch session. He’ll throw again in 2-3 days. Bad news for the A’s: Rich Harden felt soreness in his right side while warming up, and his live batting practice session was scratched. He won’t get back on the mound for the time being. That lat muscle is the same problem area that landed him on the DL to begin with (though the A’s list the injury as a shoulder strain) …

That’s all for now …

3

Kevin Kouzmanoff’s wardrobe malfunction and other A’s tidbits

Pretty entertaining scene today as the A’s took the field to stretch. They’re on the road against Cleveland, so the entire team was wearing their gray pants – except third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff. He came out wearing his bright white home pants, sticking out like a sore thumb and hearing it from his teammates. Sometimes Kouzmanoff wanders around the clubhouse as if he’s in his own little world, so I’m not too surprised. … Speaking of Kouzmanoff, a standard he set during the 2010 regular season is carrying on this spring — the guy spends more time signing autographs and chatting with fans than anyone else on the team.

On to the news …

–Rich Harden experienced a setback with his injured lat muscle while throwing long toss Sunday, so he’s going to get checked by a doctor, according to manager Bob Geren. It seems safe to say Harden will stay in Phoenix and work in extended spring training when the major league club heads north for the regular season.

–After Sunday’s regular season-style lineup, the A’s will start just four regulars against the Indians today. They occupy the first four spots in the order:

Crisp CF; Kouzmanoff 3B; Willingham LF; Matsui DH; Carter 1B; Powell C; Carson RF; Weeks 2B; Sogard SS; Braden LHP.

I wouldn’t read too much into Kouzmanoff batting second. But I was intrigued by him hitting eighth Sunday. Geren said he’ll continue experimenting with the bottom half of the order during exhibitions to see what he likes.

–Dallas Braden has not been concerned about his three lackluster starts so far, but the lefty needs to start putting together some quality outings.

–Gio Gonzalez will pitch in a simulated game Wednesday, when the A’s are off. That keeps him on his regular five-day turn. Judging by the pitching schedules, Gonzalez is the logical candidate to get the ball for the April 1 opener against Seattle. As it stands, his turn would come March 31, but the A’s may take the opportunity to give him the extra day’s rest. But Geren – who’s in midseason form with his “Don’t Tip My Hand” philosophy – pointed out he has some cushion to adjust the rotation leading up to the opener. The A’s don’t play March 31, and they’ve got another day off April 4. But Gonzalez’s sterling form so far makes him a strong contender for the opener.

–The daily bullpen updates: Michael Wuertz is still scheduled to make his exhibition debut Tuesday; Craig Breslow is throwing off the mound today, and Geren said Saturday is a possibility for the lefty’s first game. “That’s a solid 12 days before Opening Day,” Geren said. “I’ll take it.” … Closer Andrew Bailey will make his second appearance today.

–Reliever Danny Farquhar was reassigned to minor league camp this morning.

–A little radio news: The A’s confirmed that Chris Townsend will be back hosting the call-in show before and after every regular season game on KTRB. His first broadcast is March 28, the first game of the Bay Bridge Series against the Giants.

0

Rangers (at least some of them) face A’s in first spring matchup

The Texas Rangers roll into town today to play their first exhibition against the A’s, but it won’t be a real accurate representation of the squad the A’s will see in the regular season. Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre (who’s hurt) are not making the trip. But ace C.J. Wilson is on the mound.

The lineups:

A’s:
DeJesus RF
Suzuki C
Jackson 1B
Matsui DH
Kouzmanoff 3B
Carson CF
Carter LF
Tolleson SS
Weeks 2B

Braden LHP.

Rangers:
Borbon CF
German 2B
Moreland 1B
Barden DH
Davis 3B
Teagarden C
Deeds RF
Engel Beltre LF
Andres Blanco SS

Wilson LHP

–A’s manager Bob Geren said he sees David DeJesus as a good leadoff candidate when Coco Crisp doesn’t play. DeJesus has lots of experience atop the order from his time with the Royals. Mark Ellis and Cliff Pennington could also fill the role, according to Geren, but DeJesus is the most natural fit.

–Under-the-radar Athletic who is having a nice camp so far: Matt Carson. He homered yesterday and made a great catch slamming into the right field wall against the Brewers. He’s getting a start in center today.

–Outfielder Ryan Sweeney thinks about three weeks is needed for him to get his timing at the plate and be ready for the regular season. He’s scheduled to play in his first game Wednesday – he’s been brought along slowly while he recovers from knee surgery – and that would give him three weeks before the April 1 opener. “In batting practice, everything feels great. It’s just the timing in games,” he said. Sweeney was scheduled to face Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow this morning in batting practice. He said he’s been shagging flies and his knee feels good.

–Reliever Joey Devine reached the 92-93 mph range in his last outing Wednesday, and Geren said his slider was sharp too. That’s a good sign for the A’s, obviously, and if Devine continues to round into form in Cactus League games, one of the seven bullpen spots surely is his. Speaking of relievers, Michael Wuertz threw 30 pitches yesterday off the mound and his shoulder came out of it fine. He’ll throw off the mound at least one more time before facing hitters. “He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t need 10 to 12 outings,” Geren said. “It could be five or six and he’ll be ready to go.”

–Rich Harden (side muscle injury) played catch at 80 feet today, but there’s no word on when he’ll get back on the mound.

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.

0

From bad to worse

OK, last night was extra bad. And in the context of what the A’s are doing lately, that’s really saying something.

In one park, you had Sean Gallagher getting lit up like a firecracker. In another, you had Rich Harden dominating.  That just says so much about the state of the A’s, and why that state would earn an “F.”

It’s not just that Gallagher has stunk lately and that Harden has been outstanding. It’s that Gallagher already has had issues with a sore shoulder (and I wonder if it isn’t bugging him; he just can’t be as bad as he looked last night), and that Harden has had no physical maladies at all since going to Chicago. Even pitching on four days’ rest has seemed to agree with him in a way it never seemed to for the A’s.

Now, if I’m Billy Beane, I want to know why the heck that is? What does that say about my team’s training methods, our exercises, etc. I can’t recall too many teams being rocked this many injuries two years in a row, and it’s not just old, breaking down players who are feeling the pain. Gallagher is only 22. Harden’s ailments were particularly galling, because he just now is approaching 27. It seems that donning an A’s uniform brings any physical issue to the forefront, and at some point, that’s on the A’s and not the player. I think the A’s passed that time a long time ago, and the Gallagher-Harden trade has put it into even sharper focus.

I keep a daily log of stats during the season, and here’s all you need to know about the A’s this season. Of the 25 primary players on the Opening Day roster (and I’m not counting outfielders Jeff Fiorentino and Carlos Gonzalez or pitcher Dallas Braden, because they were included only because rosters were expanded to accomodate the Japan trip), only seven have stayed on the active roster all season. That’s the kind of thing you usually see with clubs that lose 95-100 games, and well, that’s where the A’s are headed.

One of the lucky seven is Mark Ellis, and it kills me him go through this, too. He’s been around long enough that what he’s seeing must seem unacceptable. The A’s right now are overmatched against every team, and it’s a waste for a guy who’s such a winning player to be stuck in such a situation.

As for the other six on the list, here they are: Jack Cust (he was in the minors 10 seasons for a reason), Kurt Suzuki (he won’t hit .290 every year if he’s always playing 145 games, and that’s the A’s m.o. for their catchers), Jack Hannahan (stinks), Rob Bowen (never plays), Emil Brown (better than expected, but you’re in trouble if he’s your main run producer),  Huston Street (a bad, bad season), and Alan Embree (not much better).

So here’s a question. How long does Beane keep getting the benefit of the doubt among A’s fans. I see a lot of comments on here from folks who think Beane should be canned. I’m not of that opinion. But unless this organization solves its health woes, produces some hitters and has acquired some better pitching than we’ve seen, I can’t promise I’ll still feel that way at this time next year.