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A’s 3, Giants 2

There were big smiles and long faces inside the A’s clubhouse after today’s 3-2 win over the Giants, as you would expect on final cutdown day. Things played as was expected with the roster decisions (you can check out my earlier blog today for the entire roster).

Andrew Bailey made the bullpen out of his first big league camp, and Sean Gallagher was kept as a reliever over Gio Gonzalez. Since Gallagher and Bailey each used to be starters, manager Bob Geren said he’ll use both as long men and situational guys. “They’re similar guys stuff-wise,” Geren said. “Both could come in and blow a couple hitters away. Both can give me some length too. We have a young staff, and if the need arises, we need a guy that can go a few innings.”

Gonzalez was pretty dejected afterward, understandably, even though his chances didn’t look great after coming back from a shoulder injury. The A’s want to use him as a starter at Triple-A, but he’ll start out throwing 1-2 innings at a time and work his way up from there. “If I’m healthy, everything else falls into place. It’s not up to me, it’s what Bob wants. I respect the decision,” Gonzalez said.

–Eric Chavez and Jack Cust drilled back-to-back homers off Ramon Ortiz in the sixth to put the A’s ahead in the game for good. Brett Anderson looked strong in 6 2/3 innings, giving up two runs with 5 strikeouts and one walk.

Although Chavez’s shoulder is feeling much stronger, he says he still can’t play more than 3 or 4 days in a row.

–The A’s official roster moves: Gonzalez, first baseman Daric Barton, infielders Jack Hannahan and Cliff Pennington, and outfielder Chris Denorfia were optioned to Triple-A.

Anderson, Bailey and right-hander Trevor Cahill were added to the 40-man roster. Reliever Joey Devine was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, and the A’s still need to free up one more spot by noon tomorrow. Right-hander Justin Duchscherer and outfielder Ben Copeland were placed on the 15-day DL as expected. …

That’s all for now …

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A’s rotation set; Outman in, Gallagher out

The A’s waited until the last possible moment here in Arizona to drop some concrete news regarding their rotation.

After today’s 8-8 tie against the Chicago Cubs, Bob Geren unveiled his starting five: Dallas Braden, Trevor Cahill, Dana Eveland, Brett Anderson, Josh Outman, in that order.

We knew for a while the 21-year-old duo of Anderson and Cahill looked pretty solid for the rotation. The big news here is Outman’s inclusion in the No. 5 spot over Gallagher. Outman, who gets the April 10 home opener vs. Seattle, pitched very well yesterday in a start against the Royals, and that probably sealed it for him. Gallagher, who the A’s envisioned as an instrumental part of their rotation when they acquired him from the Cubs last season, is still a long relief candidate, Geren said.

More details in tomorrow’s paper …

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Denorfia’s walkoff HR snaps losing streak

Chris Denorfia lined a two-run homer to left field off Franklin Morales in the bottom of the ninth to lift the A’s past Colorado 7-6 today. That snapped the A’s 10-game Cactus League losing streak, their longest in spring training since records started being kept in 1986.

–Sean Gallagher wasn’t his sharpest in five innings, and both he and Bob Geren said he was leaving too many pitches over the plate after getting ahead of hitters. Gallagher got a not-so-subtle hint that he needs to pull it together, as GM Billy Beane grabbed him for a private chat as reporters were showing up to the clubhouse to talk to him. “Just basically lighting a little fire under the butt,” Gallagher said of the conversation. Gallagher is on turn to pitch Friday’s Bay Bridge Series game against the Giants, and would then pitch the third game of the regular season if the current rotation holds. I don’t see an obvious replacement for him if he wasn’t in the starting rotation. Josh Outman is an option, but he’s coming off a poor outing.

–The A’s sent six players down to the minors after the game. They optioned reliever Chris Schroder, infielder Gregorio Petit and outfielder Aaron Cunningham to Triple-A, and reassigned right-hander Edgar Gonzalez, catcher Joel Galarraga and infielder Corey Wimberly to minor league camp.

The biggest news there involves Gonzalez, who had pitched his way out of contention for the starting rotation but still could have been a long relief candidate. The A’s will keep at least one long reliever (Geren hasn’t ruled out two), and Outman and Gio Gonzalez are the top contenders for that …

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A’s lose to Royals; rotation still undecided

The A’s dropped their seventh straight Cactus League game tonight, 8-3 to the Royals, though that’s hardly their primary concern at the moment. Earlier today, GM Billy Beane pretty much called Oakland’s starting rotation an open competition outside of Dallas Braden, who is on track to start Opening Day. You can read all about Beane’s take on the pitching staff (and Bob Geren’s contract extension) in tomorrow’s paper. Basically, Beane said even guys like Dana Eveland and Sean Gallagher don’t have spots sewn up and that four rotation spots are up for grabs. If you ask me, I think he’s just trying to light a fire under Eveland and Gallagher so they don’t get too comfortable. I don’t see how this rotation can function w/out them, particularly if Justin Duchscherer isn’t ready to go to start the season.

Gallagher certainly helped his cause with 4 2/3 shutout innings against K.C. That came after starter Josh Outman imploded, giving up eight runs in 3 1/3 innings. I still think Outman might land in the bullpen, and with the current state of things, he may not be out of the rotation running!

A couple items you won’t find in tomorrow’s stories:

–It’s been speculated that Duchscherer could pitch out of the bullpen temporarily as he gets his pitch count up following his elbow injury (You should see the look of disgust on Duchscherer’s face when a reporter asks him about it. He’s willing to pitch in relief temporarily, but he really dislikes relieving. More than anything, he’s sick of talking about it.) Anyway, Beane didn’t shut the door on that idea completely, but he’d rather have Duchscherer pitch in the rotation when he’s healthy.

“Right now we’re pushing to put him in the rotation even if it’s in an abbreviated sitauton, and we’ll build up from there,” Beane said. “If it means he can only go four innings, we’ll take those four innings.”

–Bobby Crosby didn’t get much action in his debut at second base Tuesday night. Two routine grounders, one pop-up. And he took a throw from Kurt Suzuki to nail a would-be base stealer. “He did a nice job,” Geren said. “He just needs to get acclimated on little things, where to go on bunt plays …”

A’s are in Glendale tomorrow against the White Sox. Seven more games left in Arizona …

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Duchscherer lightens the mood …

Your Sunday update from Phoenix Municipal Stadium, where the morning’s most entertaining moment came courtesy of Justin Duchscherer. Somehow, a pair of Edgar Gonzalez’s game pants ended up in Duchscherer’s locker. Just for kicks, he put them on and started walking around the clubhouse. Duchscherer is one of the skinnier players on the team, and you probably could have fit two of him inside the pants. …

–Joey Devine says he’s going to play catch Tuesday to see how his elbow is feeling. If it goes well, he wants to get in a game later in the week.

–Sean Gallagher is still feeling sick and was sent home. Manager Bob Geren said he could pitch Tuesday in Tucson against the Rockies. If not, he’ll probably pitch Thursday against the Diamondbacks after Wednesday’s offday.

–Eric Chavez is still targeting tomorrow for his first day playing third base in a game.

–Geren said he’ll soon get Bobby Crosby some playing time at different spots around the infield, but he’ll let Crosby and infield coach Mike Gallego decide when it’s time to try it. Crosby worked out briefly at third, second and first base yesterday.

–Four minor league pitchers were brought in today to make sure the A’s have enough arms for split-squad games against Cleveland in Phoenix and the Giants in Scottsdale: right-handers Jason Windsor, Jason Glushon and Steven Sharpe II, and lefty Brad Kilby. You’ll remember Windsor made four appearances with the A’s in 2006, starting three games. …

The lineup vs. the Giants

Buck RF
Cunningham LF
Sweeney CF
Ellis DH
Dillon 3B
Crosby SS
Carter 1B
Bowen C
Patterson 2B

Eveland on the mound …

The lineup vs. Cleveland

Davis CF
Cust RF
Holliday LF
Giambi 1B
Chavez DH
Suzuki C
Hannahan 3B
Pennington SS
Wimberly 2B

Brett Anderson on the mound …

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Duchscherer’s Opening Day start “in jeopardy”

A’s ace Justin Duchscherer will not throw for the next week because of his elbow soreness, and manager Bob Geren acknowledged that it’s doubtful Duchscherer will take the ball Opening Day against the Angels because he won’t be ready. “His Opening Day start is definitely in jeopardy,” Geren said in his morning media session.

Duchscherer had an MRI taken Monday with Dr. Doug Freedberg, but no structural damage was found. Duchscherer still wants a second opinion, and the plan is to send his images to Dr. Lewis Yocum in Southern California to examine.

When I talked to Duchscherer this morning, more than anything he sounded uneasy about not knowing the extent of his injury. The A’s and Freedberg think it’s an inflammation problem, Duchscherer said, and the hope is that rest will help calm his elbow down. “Every day I’ve thrown it hurts,” Duchscherer said, adding that he feels the discomfort when he cranks it up to around 80 percent intensity.

Asked if he still hoped to pitch Opening Day, Duchscherer said: “Of course I do. (But) honestly, I don’t know what’s going on with my elbow.”

What’s this mean for the A’s rotation? Sean Gallagher, Dana Eveland and Dallas Braden are the only three healthy pitchers who seem locked into spots. The A’s will likely need to choose two starters from a pool that includes Edgar Gonzalez, Gio Gonzalez, Josh Outman and Jerome Williams. And the possibility of throwing one of their stud prospects — Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill or Vin Mazzaro — into the rotation isn’t quite so far-fetched now. Geren has raved about all three at one point or another.

The A’s could also look to sign someone. Remember, ex-Athletic Mark Mulder is hoping to catch on with a team at some point …

Other bits:

–Eric Chavez will DH today against the White Sox, but Geren said Mark Ellis might relieve him and get a couple at-bats. If both players are ready tomorrow, Geren would like to DH one in a split-squad game against the Giants, and the other in a split-squad game against South Africa.

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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.

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Chavez close to Cactus League debut

Not much coming out of A’s camp this morning before they hop a bus to Maryvale to play the Brewers. A quick recap:

–Bob Geren said Eric Chavez will probably DH tomorrow against the Angels in Tempe, and he’s on target to make his debut on defense March 3, with five innings at third base. I’d say that’s still written in pencil, but A’s fans should be encouraged that Chavez has been feeling good through the early workouts.

–Still no word on when Justin Duchscherer will get back on the mound, but he threw long toss yesterday and his elbow felt good.

–Josh Outman gets the start today on the mound. If you’re heading to Tempe tomorrow, Sean Gallagher will start. Highly touted lefty Brett Anderson and Tyson Ross, the former Cal star, will also go (there’s a chance Ross pitches today, but they probably won’t need him). In Friday’s first game at Phoenix Muni, Dana Eveland starts, w/Brad Ziegler and newcomer Russ Springer among those following him.

Today’s lineup is same as Geren projected yesterday:
Buck RF
Sweeney CF
Holliday LF
Giambi 1B
Suzuki C
Crosby SS
Hannahan 3B
Patterson 2B
Outman P

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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.