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:

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

Braden LHP.

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.


A few vets, lots of prospects on display in Friday intrasquad game; some thoughts on the outfield

There wasn’t a whole lot of news coming out of A’s camp this morning, but here’s a brief rundown:

–Kurt Suzuki is behind the plate for one side in today’s intrasquad game after he got yesterday off. Center fielder Coco Crisp, right fielder David DeJesus and shortstop Cliff Pennington are also in the lineup, though Pennington won’t hit as his left shoulder is still recovering from surgery. Lots of top prospects are playing: Chris Carter (playing first, though the A’s still consider him mainly an outfielder right now), second baseman Jemile Weeks, catcher Max Stassi, left fielder Michael Taylor and shortstop Grant Green.

–Ryan Sweeney is at DH today but he’s still not playing in the field. Manager Bob Geren offered March 7 as the date Sweeney might make his exhibition debut as he comes back from right knee surgery, and Geren believes that is plenty of time to have Sweeney ready for the regular season.

–Geren talked about his outfield rotation and who might play where. Notably, he likes DeJesus as his main choice to play center when Crisp needs a day off. I envision Crisp getting a substantial amount of rest this season as the A’s try to keep him healthy. A writer who has covered DeJesus extensively told me that he’s an underrated defensive player, but that he’s lost a bit of range and therefore isn’t ideal in center anymore. I’ll be interested to see what kind of ground he still covers. I could also see Sweeney drawing the occasional start in center to spell Crisp, especially against right-handers. Conor Jackson will see time in left and right field this spring, Geren said, but Jackson is playing first base in today’s intrasquad game. He’s a backup option at first when Barton isn’t playing.

–Reliever Michael Wuertz will resume throwing Saturday or Sunday, according to Geren.


Gabe Gross quotes, other leftovers from busy A’s Monday

***I heard back from Gabe Gross tonight (after turning my story in) and just thought I’d share with you some highlights of the conversation. Safe to say he’s pretty psyched about his situation w/the A’s:

–He compared the A’s potential to that of his 2008 Rays team, a 94-win squad that made the World Series that season and went worst-to-first in the AL East. “I’ve been a part of one of the biggest upset stories in (baseball) history, it seems, with the 2008 Rays. There seems no reason that a team with as much talent on it (as the A’s), especially from a starting pitching standpoint, can’t do the same thing.”

–A’s GM Billy Beane said the team has pursued Gross in the past. Maybe that’s why Gross felt he eventually would be wearing green and gold someday: “I felt for one reason or another I’d wind up in Oakland one day. I’m glad to be there now. I feel like, the way I play the game, and the things I do well, are things they appreciate and look for in players. It seems my game fits well with their idea of the way the game is played.”

–Gross says he’s comfortable in all three outfield spots but that he’s probably most at home in center field, where he’s played the least. “It’s probably the easiest spot to play as far as angles and routes. When the ball is hit to one side, it stays to that side.”

***I was talking to Beane today about his outfield situation, which could be set with Rajai Davis, Coco Crisp and Ryan Sweeney starting, Gabe Gross as a backup, and Jack Cust as a possible fifth outfielder when he’s not DH. Beane also threw Eric Patterson’s name into the mix as someone with a great shot of making the Opening Day roster. “He played well last year, he’s got versatility, he can back up at second. Given his performance, he certainly deserves that opportunity.” Noticeably absent from the discussion was Travis Buck, who is stewing over his status w/the team. Not that Buck’s low spot on the totem pole is a revelation. That’s been obvious for some time now.

****In a bit of housekeeping news, the A’s have re-signed right-hander Dan Giese to a minor league deal. Giese is recovering from Tommy John surgery on his elbow, which was performed in June. He was expected then to be out 12-18 months. …

That’s all for now … 19 days until pitchers and catchers report.


Report: A’s talking with outfielder Gabe Gross

Just when it appears things might go quiet on the A’s front, they’re linked to another player. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports Oakland and free agent outfielder Gabe Gross are talking seriously about a one-year deal. The left-handed hitting Gross, 30, supposedly would be an option off the bench against right-handed pitchers.

This speculation has me scratching my head much as the Johnny Damon talk does. I’m not sure the A’s have a need for another outfielder, particularly if they’re serious about keeping opportunities open for a young guy like Michael Taylor. Gross hit .227 with six homers and 36 RBI in 282 at-bats last year for Tampa Bay. He started 67 games in right field.

GM Billy Beane said earlier this week that a utility infielder was the next need the team might address. He also praised his current crop of outfielders, particularly right fielder Ryan Sweeney. But I’ve learned not to count anything out this winter w/this team …


Thoughts on the 2010 Oakland A’s batting order

I was rummaging through my notes from last week’s A’s media event, and wanted to share some thoughts from Bob Geren about his possible batting order. Geren was asked how he would handle the 1-2 spots, with Coco Crisp and Rajai Davis being the prime candidates at the top of the lineup. His take:

“You can do that a couple different ways. You can go Raj-Coco or Coco-Raj. It might depend on who I bat third and fourth. If you have Suzuki batting third, a right-handed hitter, maybe you go Raj first and Coco second. And then Cust could bat fourth, a lefty. I kind of like to (alternate lefties and righties) if it makes sense, so it’s more difficult for the opposition to match up in the bullpen.”

I know … You were hoping that by now, the A’s might have obtained a better fit for the No. 3 hole than Suzuki, right? Perhaps that’s why we’re hearing the Johnny Damon reports. Anyway, Rajai-Coco (or vice versa) is a natural combo in the 1-2 spots. But I could also see a scenario where Suzuki or Ryan Sweeney could bat second and Davis or Crisp could drop down to the ninth spot. Nothing wrong with lighting a fuse at the bottom of the order.

Here’s my stab at a full lineup if the A’s took their current roster into Opening Night. This is assuming that Eric Chavez is coming off the bench, as the A’s plan, and Chris Carter and Michael Taylor are starting the season at Triple-A:

1. Davis LF
2. Crisp CF
3. Suzuki C
4. Cust DH
5. Kouzmanoff 3B
6. Sweeney RF
7. Ellis 2B
8. Barton 1B
9. Pennington SS

**I didn’t purposely try to go right-left all the way down, just worked out that way …

Let’s hear some thoughts on the A’s options …


A’s tied to Chone Figgins, Vladimir Guerrero in speculation

Can we expect the A’s to make as big an offseason splash as they did last winter? That might be hard to top. But with the World Series wrapped up, the Hot Stove speculation can officially begin. The MLB Network’s Jon Heyman discussed this winter’s crop of free agents, and he mentioned the A’s as potential suitors for third baseman Chone Figgins and outfielder/DH Vladimir Guerrero.

Juicy names, indeed. But I don’t see the A’s making a push for Figgins. Clearly, they need to sign someone at third. The odds are stacked against Eric Chavez remaining healthy, and it’s asking a lot of prospect Brett Wallace to be ready Opening Day. That’s why making the call on whether to re-sign Adam Kennedy is the A’s first crucial decision of the winter.

Figgins would cost a bundle, with some speculating he could command $10 million per season on a multi-year deal. Look at the A’s offensive strength right now – it’s tied to their speed and athleticism with guys like Rajai Davis and Cliff Pennington. They don’t need another burner such as Figgins. They need someone who can drive in those speedy guys once they get on base.

Guerrero is intriguing, if only because his injury struggles in 2009 should drive his price down. But he’s a huge gamble even at a bargain cost. I’m more intrigued by the A’s pursuing someone like Jermaine Dye. His 2010 option was declined by the White Sox on Friday, making him a free agent. He’ll turn 36 in January (making him a year older than Vlad), but he’s coming off a far more healthy and productive season. Dye plays right field, where the A’s have a terrific defender and still-developing hitter in Ryan Sweeney. But remember, Billy Beane acknowledged that the A’s need more offense from the corner outfield spots, and that they could look to upgrade in left or right.

Team owner Lew Wolff wants the A’s to abandon the philosophy of signing aging sluggers. But let’s face it – the A’s aren’t going to outspend the big-budget teams to sign any superstars. And trading for an impact hitter in his prime will cost the A’s some of their elite pitching prospects. I don’t see them easily parting with those players (then again, I didn’t see them trading for Matt Holliday last winter, either).

Just a few thoughts for you to ponder as the Hot Stove season starts heating up. Let’s here what some of you think …


One more from the road; A’s-Mariners lineups

It’s a slow news day as the A’s prepare for their final road game of 2009. Seattle has not been kind to them, as they’ve gone just 1-7 in the Mariners’ home park. Brett Anderson takes the hill for his final start of the season. He’s 11-10 with a 4.12 ERA — pretty solid rookie season no matter how you slice it.

It’s looking likely that outfielder Ryan Sweeney’s season is done. A’s manager Bob Geren maintains that he’d play Sweeney if his knees felt better, but I can’t believe the A’s would run him out there even if he improved physically. What’s the point? They have a chance to get a last look at guys like Travis Buck and Matt Carson. Buck starts in right tonight, but Geren said Carson would probably play Saturday and Sunday against the Angels, who throw lefties those days.

Tonight’s lineups:

Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Suzuki C
Cust DH
Barton 1B
Ellis 2B
Patterson LF
Buck RF
Pennington SS

Anderson LHP

Ichiro RF
Gutierrez CF
Lopez 1B
Sweeney DH
Beltre 3B
Hall LF
Tuiasosopo 2B
Moore C
Wilson SS

Fister RHP


Sweeney sidelined with knee trouble; Buck draws start

Another A’s outfielder is ailing as the season winds down. Right fielder Ryan Sweeney’s knees are bothering him, particularly his left one. He’s not in the lineup tonight, and manager Bob Geren said he’d know tomorrow whether Sweeney will miss the final four games. Sweeney joins Scott Hairston on the injured list (Hairston has been shut down with quad, hip and back injuries). Sweeney’s knees have been an issue for much of the season, but aside from one DL stint in June, he’s played through the pain. His absence means playing time for Travis Buck, who draws just his second start since being recalled Sept. 19.

Tonight’s lineups:
A’s: Kennedy 3B; Davis CF; Suzuki C; Cust DH; Barton 1B; Ellis 2B; Patterson LF; Buck RF;Pennington SS; Mortensen RHP.

M’s: Ichiro RF; Gutierrez CF; Lopez 2B; Griffey Jr. DH; Beltre 3B; Johjima C; Hannahan 1B; Wilson SS; Saunders LF; Morrow RHP.


Strange stuff at the ballpark; A’s-Angels lineups

True story … I was walking up to the main entry gate at Angel Stadium this morning, and two security guards were trying to corner a rooster that was running free near the will call windows(and I thought last night’s A’s victory was bizarre). But now that I think about it, catching roosters is pretty good training for stadium security personnel. … Builds quickness. At least that’s how Sylvester Stallone trained for Apollo Creed in “Rocky II.” Rocky was chasing a chicken, to be specific. And he eventually caught it. As far as today’s matchup, my money was on the rooster …

I shared that story because it’s more interesting than anything that happened in the A’s clubhouse this morning. Manager Bob Geren wasn’t lying when he said he’d give a few guys the day off. Kurt Suzuki, Adam Kennedy, Ryan Sweeney and Jack Cust all are sitting. So we’ll see how things play out against Angels lefty Joe Saunders. Daric Barton, who’s impressed at the plate lately, hits in the No. 2 spot behind Rajai Davis.

Today’s lineups

A’s: Davis CF; Barton 1B; Ellis 2B; Nomar DH; Bobby Crosby 3B; Carson RF; Powell C; Patterson LF; Pennington SS; Edgar Gonzalez RHP.

Angels: Figgins 3B; Abreu RF; Hunter CF; Guerrero DH; Morales 1B; Rivera LF; Izturis 2B; Napoli C; Aybar SS; Saunders LHP.


A’s-Angels pregame update — Saturday

We’ll keep it short and sweet. The A’s are sticking w/the same lineup as last night as they try to break through against John Lackey. The right-hander has allowed zero earned runs in three starts against the A’s this season. Dana Eveland pitches for the A’s, hoping for his second straight win.

Look for Matt Carson to get a start in the outfield tomorrow afternoon, with Ryan Sweeney getting the day off against Angels lefty Joe Saunders, manager Bob Geren said. Landon Powell will start behind the plate tomorrow. …

Tonight’s lineups
Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Sweeney RF
Suzuki C
Cust DH
Barton 1B
Ellis 2B
Patterson LF
Pennington SS

Eveland LHP

Figgins 3B
Abreu RF
Hunter CF
Guerrero DH
Rivera LF
Morales 1B
Kendrick 2B
Mathis C
Izturis SS

Lackey RHP