5

A’s trade Outman, Moscoso to Rockies for outfielder Seth Smith

Some A’s news for your Monday morning:

They’ve traded pitchers Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso to the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Seth Smith, who may very well be in their Opening Night lineup at one of the corner outfield spots. I’m not surprised the A’s dealt for Smith, 29, since they’ve been rumored to be interested in him. But I am surprised they dealt both Moscoso and Outman for him. The A’s have holes in the rotation (even if they do finalize a one-year deal with Bartolo Colon), and Moscoso and Outman were considered two candidates to fill out the starting five. The rotation should now go Brandon McCarthy, Dallas Braden (when he’s healthy) and Colon, with two spots to fill. This trade tells me the A’s are comfortable looking at the promising but inexperienced arms they’ve received in other trades this winter to possibly fill in those spots. Consider Jarrod Parker (obtained from AZ in the Trevor Cahill trade) and Brad Peacock and Tom Milone (both received from Washington in the Gio Gonzalez trade) to be prime candidates for rotation spots out of spring training. Graham Godfrey and Tyson Ross will also be in the mix.

Here’s a look at Smith’s career stats with the Rockies. Coco Crisp will start in center field for the A’s, and he could be flanked by Smith and Josh Reddick, with Michael Taylor and Collin Cowgill also possibilities.

5

Coco Crisp to re-sign with A’s on two-year, $14 million deal

Finally, there’s some A’s news about a player returning rather than being shown the door. Free agent center fielder Coco Crisp will return to Oakland on a two-year deal worth $14 million, plus a $7.5 million club option for 2014, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney. All indications I’m getting are that this is all but a done deal. Here’s my story on the topic. A’s officials aren’t confirming anything and neither is Crisp’s agent, Steve Comte. But Oakland GM Billy Beane had complimentary things to say about Crisp even as he declined direct comment on whether a contract was in the works.

Does this signing surprise you? I’m a little shocked that Crisp would return given the direction of the franchise. Top starting pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill have been traded, as have closer Andrew Bailey and fellow reliever Craig Breslow. Beane and Co. have clearly stated they don’t think it’s realistic for the A’s to contend in the AL West this season, and they’re building for a future they hope includes a new stadium in San Jose. Crisp told me in September that playing for a contender would be important to him as he entered free agency. I asked Comte how Crisp viewed the A’s given the trades that have been made this winter. “(GM) Billy (Beane) always finds a way to piece it together,” Comte said. “ … I think we’ve seen a few teams with young talent that have probably exceeded expectations.”

A two-year, $14 million deal is pretty steep for a player with Crisp’s injury history. And you figure there weren’t many teams offering Crisp as much as the A’s did on a multi-year deal. Nonetheless, this is an important signing for the A’s simply because it brings a recognizable player back into the fold after they’ve sent so many guys packing. Does it improve Oakland’s chances in the AL West? Not really. Does Crisp bring the power this team so desperately lacks with Josh Willingham’s departure? Negative. But he provides a steady glove in center field, and manager Bob Melvin is preaching improved defense in 2012. Crisp also brings a little name recognition, as second baseman Jemile Weeks was looking like the A’s only hope to build a marketing campaign around. Given how this offseason has unfolded, I’m guessing fans are chalking this up as a surprise victory.

Am I right?

7

Wrapping up a busy A’s news day

After all the talk about whether Gio Gonzalez or Andrew Bailey might be traded, Trevor Cahill wound up being the first prominent A’s player dealt this winter , getting sent to Arizona along with Craig Breslow for starting pitcher Jarrod Parker, reliever Ryan Cook and outfielder Collin Cowgill. Figure this won’t be the last major A’s trade before spring training. Here’s a few notes and observations, some that made my story for tomorrow’s paper and some that didn’t:

–Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday that Cahill was breaking on to the scene, unexpectedly making the A’s rotation as a rookie along with Brett Anderson in 2009? Back then Cahill was so symbolic of an A’s youth movement that came on the heels of the Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, Joe Blanton and Rich Harden trades. Now he’s on the other end of a rebuilding effort, making room for a new crop of young players. Cahill took the news hard, that was apparent from talking to him on the phone. “I loved playing for Oakland,” he said. “I knew everybody, I got along with everybody, I liked the club. I liked it from the minor leagues all the way up.”

–A’s assistant GM David Forst said trading Cahill does not make the A’s less inclined to trade another starting pitcher. So Gonzalez’s name will continue to fly in rumors. I still think Bailey will be dealt before Gonzalez, just because it will be easier for another team to offer up a package to the A’s liking.

–And if Bailey isn’t the closer in 2012, who will be? I know we’re all kind of assuming Fautino De Los Santos might be the guy. Perhaps, but Forst speaks very highly of Cook, a right-hander who brings a fastball in the high 90’s. Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes will be options too, but even they might be trade candidates. “It’s too soon to say (if Cook can pitch the ninth),” Forst said. “He closed for (Arizona) in Double-A. It’s not out of the question he could pitch at the end of the bullpen at some point.”

–The A’s have liked Cowgill for a long time. They drafted him back in 2007 out of the University of Kentucky, but he went back to school. Then they wanted him as part of the return package for Brad Ziegler last July (they liked Cook back then too). Cowgill has played lots of center field, though he played the corners last season during his time in the majors because Chris Young was in center for the D-backs. The A’s will give him every chance to win the starting center field job. Cowgill gets high marks from scouts for his competitiveness and the way he goes about playing the game, but one scout told me it’s a “leap of faith” to think he’s an everyday center fielder.

–Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports certainly doesn’t think the A’s are done dealing, as this story reveals.

That’s all for now …

3

Update on Cliff Pennington’s condition, and other notes from A’s 8-4 loss to Mariners

A quick postgame recap of the A’s 8-4 loss to the Seattle Mariners. I figure many of you will get the early-edition story in your papers, and it won’t include the postgame news …

–Shortstop Cliff Pennington left the game in the bottom of the sixth and was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, a nerve condition that causes temporary facial paralysis. He said he began having problems closing his left eye Sunday night, and the condition worsened Monday to the point he had to come out of the game.

Scary stuff, obviously. Scanning some online articles, it appears Bell’s Palsy can last a couple days, a couple weeks or even longer. Sometimes it’s just a one-time occurence for people and never surfaces again. Pennington had never experienced any problems of this sort before Sunday night.

He is on medication right now and is listed as day to day. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes on the DL. This isn’t a condition you want to take lightly, or attempt to play baseball with until you know it’s under control. Plus, the A’s only have a three-man bench right now, and that’s really two when you consider that David DeJesus is still unavailable because of right thumb soreness (manager Bob Melvin hopes to have him back Wednesday).

A reporter who was in the A’s clubhouse afterward said he had a bout with Bell’s Palsy about 30 years ago. It affected him for about six weeks, then symptoms disappeared and he’s never experienced it again. That’s just one person’s experience.

Pennington said “it feels like you went to the dentist and the whole side of your face is numb.”

You have to hope this is a temporary thing …

–As for the on-field news, the A’s did not start this nine-game road trip off on a good note. That bases-loaded, no-out situation in the first, when they came away with no runs, looked an awful lot like their pre-All Star break offensive form.

But perhaps more concerning for the A’s was Trevor Cahill’s outing. He went just four-plus innings, allowed 12 hits and was charged with seven runs. Cahill just hasn’t been able to string together several good outings in a row since his 6-0 start. “We know he’s an elite pitcher, he’s just having trouble running two or three starts together (to build on),” Melvin said.

It’s worth noting that not everything was hit hard off Cahill. And his defense let him down at times. But he was constantly putting runners on base, and when you do that, there’s no margin for error.

–With a double and home run Monday, nine of Kurt Suzuki’s last 12 hits are for extra bases.

That’s all for now …

1

Chris Carter’s potential playing time, and a Grant Balfour injury update

Trevor Cahill takes the hill tonight looking to help the A’s snap a three-game losing streak. He matches up against Cole Hamels, one of the tougher left-handers in the game. Hideki Matsui is the only natural lefty hitter in the lineup against Hamels.

The starting nine(s):

A’s – Weeks 2B, Ellis 1B, Crisp CF, Matsui LF, Jackson RF, Sizemore 3B, Suzuki C, Rosales SS, Cahill RHP.

Phillies – Rollins SS, Polanco 3B, Utley 2B, Howard 1B, Victorino CF, Ibanez LF, Brown RF, Ruiz C, Hamels LHP.

–Cliff Pennington gets a regularly scheduled day off, with Mark Ellis getting his second start at first base and batting second for a day.

–A’s manager Bob Melvin said he’ll try to get Chris Carter a DH start on the next homestand, preferably against a left-hander. With these final two games in a National League park, Melvin prefers Carter as a pinch-hit option. Why hasn’t Carter drawn a start yet if the A’s are struggling so much offensively? Remember that he’s still an unknown quantity to Melvin, who hasn’t had time to get familiar with the farm system. So far, in his only look at Carter, Melvin has seen him butcher a catchable pop-up, and that’s probably fresh in Melvin’s mind. Still, Carter has to get a couple starts – somewhere in the lineup – before he gets sent down. Otherwise it was pointless to promote him.

–Reliever Grant Balfour is dealing with a sore oblique. That left him unavailable last night, according to Melvin, and he might be sidelined tonight as well. One pitcher that Melvin says he will definitely try to work in is Andrew Bailey, who has gone a full week since his last appearance. “I have to get him in the game today,” Melvin said.

–Brandon McCarthy will next pitch Tuesday for Triple-A Sacramento and Rich Harden is pitching tonight for Sacramento and he’ll go again Thursday. Melvin said it’s possible that each pitcher is activated from the DL following those starts. So projecting it out, McCarthy could rejoin the A’s rotation July 3 against Arizona (in that scenario, he would take Graham Godfrey’s place). Harden’s potential return would fall on Cahill’s turn, so if the A’s see Harden joining the rotation, they’ll have to shuffle things somehow.

–Josh Outman takes the ball tomorrow in the series finale against the Phillies, the team that traded him to Oakland in July 2008 in a deal that sent Joe Blanton to Philadelphia. Outman was pitching for Double-A Reading (Pa.) at the time and said he hardly knows anybody in the current Phillies lineup. But he has some unique memories about pitching in Reading, an industrial town that supports their minor league club very well. Occasionally, the team played 9 a.m. games that were tailored for factory workers who were just finishing the graveyard shift.

Only in the minors …

0

Willingham gets a day off (maybe), plus other A’s pregame notes

Another good pitching matchup is on tap tonight as Trevor Cahill opposes the Chicago White Sox’s Edwin Jackson. Both sport sub-2.00 ERAs …

A’s left fielder Josh Willingham gets his first day off, or as manager Bob Geren called it, his first “non-start.” “They’ve got three good lefties in the bullpen,” Geren said of the Sox. “There may be a pinch-hitting opportunity.” Ryan Sweeney draws the start in left. …

Andy LaRoche makes his second straight start at shortstop, as Cliff Pennington is out of the lineup with an infected sweat gland under his left arm. Geren listed Pennington as day-to-day. You have to count LaRoche as a pleasant early-season surprise for the A’s. He’s held his own defensively all around the infield and he’s hitting .417.

The White Sox get a major boost tonight with the return of DH Adam Dunn, who had been out since undergoing an emergency appendectomy Wednesday. The Chicago media quoted Sox manager Ozzie Guillen as saying he would be extra cautious with Dunn, giving the slugger an extra day once he said he was ready. Apparently that plan went out the window. Dunn, who signed a four-year, $56 million deal with the Sox in the offseason, is hitting .286 with one homer and five RBIs.

Here’s a story on the injury to Texas left fielder Josh Hamilton, which has major implications for the rest of the AL West. The A’s begin play tonight tied for second place with the Angels, four games back of Texas …

The lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, DeJesus RF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Sweeney LF, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, LaRoche SS; Cahill RHP.

White Sox – Pierre LF, Vizquel 2B, Dunn DH, Konerko 1B, Quentin RF, Rios CF, Pierzynski C, Ramirez SS, Teahen 3B; Jackson RHP.

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 …

5

Mark Ellis sits with inner ear problem; Andy LaRoche’s tour of the A’s infield continues

It’s getaway day for the A’s in Toronto, and they want nothing more than to get away with a victory. Trevor Cahill takes the mound looking to help the A’s avoid a three-game sweep. …

Andy LaRoche remains a busy guy. He’s starting at second base today with Mark Ellis experiencing an inner ear problem. LaRoche started at shortstop Tuesday, then played third base Wednesday night. It’s sort of a continuation of what we saw in the spring, when LaRoche bounced around to all four infield spots. Interesting story from the spring: Many utility infielders will have different gloves for different spots – a smaller one for turning double plays at second base or short, and maybe a bigger one for third base. LaRoche told me during camp he prefers sticking with one glove that he’s comfortable with at all three of those positions – advice he once received from Jeff Kent.

Ellis’ inner ear problem is causing him some dizziness but it’s not thought to be vertigo, he said. He felt it a bit during Wednesday’s game (can you imagine backpedaling on a shallow fly to right field if you were dizzy?). Ellis said it was tough sleeping last night, but he gradually felt his ear popping, which relieved some pressure. “I’m not looking forward to the flight (to Minnesota),” he said. Manager Bob Geren said the team was weighing whether it was safe to have Ellis fly today, but driving to Minnesota is not a practical option – too far. The upshot: Ellis won’t play in his 1,000th career game until Friday at the earliest.

Conor Jackson draws a start in right field with David DeJesus getting the day off against Toronto left-hander Ricky Romero. Hideki Matsui is hitting sixth, and Geren said he’ll likely drop DeJesus or Matsui to the No. 6 spot against lefties most games.

A’s: Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Jackson RF, Willingham LF, Kouzmanoff 3B, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, LaRoche 2B, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Jays: Davis CF, Nix 3B, Lind 1B, Hill 2B, Rivera RF, Encarnacion DH, Snider LF, Arencibia C, McDonald SS; Romero LHP.

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 …

0

Sunday pregame update: Thoughts on Gio Gonzalez; Ichiro nearing milestones

Pretty ideal afternoon for baseball at the Coliseum, as the A’s try to split this four-gamer w/Seattle. …

–When we talk about the future of the A’s pitching staff, we tend to focus on Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Vin Mazzaro. But let’s remember that Gio Gonzalez’s development will also help shape the future of this staff. Gonzalez hasn’t looked as sharp in recent outings as he did during that four-start stretch that bridged July and August, when he picked up three wins. He’s still had good stuff — look at his strikeouts (24 in the last three outings). But his command has been off (17 walks over the last four outings).

So I’d say his remaining starts of 2009 will be pretty huge as far as setting him up for next season. I still like Gonzalez’s potential as a starter long-term as opposed to relieving. Some of that will depend on how he develops his change-up as a third pitch, and Bob Geren talked about how Gonzalez continues to work on that pitch. In key situations, he’ll still rely on his fastball and curve, but being able to give hitters another wrinkle to think about will make that fastball and curve even more effective …

–There’s been a larger group of Japanese media covering this A’s-Mariners series than usual, as Ichiro Suzuki is just one hit shy of 2,000 for his major league career. He’s also six hits shy of his ninth straight 200-hit season, which would set a new major league record. A few of us were talking before the game about Ichiro’s potential to rack up these kind of stats into his 40′s. I expect him to do that. You look at the way he flicks at the ball right now on a lot of his hits, and that’s something he can keep doing even as he loses some bat speed. So this string of 200-hit seasons may not stop any time soon if he stays healthy, which he’s done to this point. …

–Here’s today’s lineups

A’s
Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Sweeney RF
Hairston DH
Powell C
Ellis 2B
Barton 1B
Patterson LF
Pennington SS

Gonzalez LHP

Mariners
Ichiro RF
Gutierrez CF
Lopez 1B
Sweeney DH
Beltre 3B
Hall 2B
Johjima C
Wilson SS
Saunders LF

Fister RHP