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Emerald City rematch for Bartolo Colon and Felix Hernandez

Greetings from the press box at Safeco Field, the only location in the majors where it’s cold enough to hang meat …

So the A’s and Mariners engage in yet another “opening night.” First there was the regular-season opener in Tokyo, then the A’s home opener last week, and now the Mariners’ home opener to begin this three-game series. Word is that a sellout crowd is expected tonight, as Bartolo Colon and Felix Hernandez square off for the second time in less than a week. This is the third start of the season for each pitcher, and they’ve faced the same opponent every time. That is N-U-T-T-Y, any way you slice it.

Josh Reddick and Cliff Pennington are back in the A’s lineup after leaving Wednesday’s game with minor injuries, so it’s a pretty standard Oakland starting nine …

A’s: Weeks 2B, Crisp LF, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Smith DH, Suzuki C, Barton 1B, Donaldson 3B, Pennington SS; Colon RHP.

Mariners: Figgins LF, Ackley 2B, Ichiro RF, Smoak 1B, Seager 3B, Montero DH, Saunders CF, Olivo C, Ryan SS; Hernandez RHP.

A’s manager Bob Melvin is still mum on his starting pitcher for Tuesday, the first day the A’s need a fifth starter. Things point toward Tyson Ross getting the call though. He had a pretty good outing Thursday for Triple-A Sacramento, going five innings and allowing three runs on five hits. Most importantly, he didn’t walk anybody, and commanding the strike zone is the biggest key for Ross as far as the A’s brass is concerned. He would be on turn to pitch Tuesday, and that’s a big key here. Jarrod Parker also has been solid in two starts for the River Cats (3.00 ERA, 10 Ks, 2 BB in 12 IP), but Melvin’s comments suggest Ross is the guy. “I think over the course of the season all of those guys are still in play,” Melvin said, presumably lumping Brad Peacock into the mix as well. “I think scheduling, for this turn, may factor into it.”

–I’m being dramatic, it’s not really that cold here at Safeco. I’m sure writers in Minnesota have it much worse this time of year. But they lull you into a false sense of security here, leaving the windows closed and then throwing them open shortly before the game starts. The roof is open tonight, and it’s windy. Time to channel my inner Candlestick toughness. …

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Lefty Tom Milone is making a good impression with A’s

Left-hander Tom Milone, one of four players the A’s obtained from Washington in the Gio Gonzalez trade, has earned good reviews early in spring training. Catcher Kurt Suzuki praised Milone’s command and compared his change-up to that of Dallas Braden. On Tuesday morning, A’s manager Bob Melvin noted that Milone’s fastball doesn’t jump out but it can be deceptive: “He definitely knows where the ball is going. If he stays at 86 or 87 (mph), he’s probably got 89 in his pocket when he needs it. It seems like he’s a polished guy.”

Milone is a candidate for one of at least two rotation spots that are available. If Dallas Braden doesn’t return by mid-April, there will be three spots open behind Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon. Jarrod Parker and Brad Peacock, also obtained in trades, and Tyson Ross and Graham Godfrey are all fighting for those spots as well.

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Jose Canseco dreams; Bartolo Colon signs; FanFest information and other A’s news

I’m coming at you late in the day with this, but here’s a roundup of A’s-related items as we creep closer to spring training …

–If you didn’t catch this story on our website, I talked to Jose Canseco today. The man still dreams of returning to the major leagues, and he thinks he could help the A’s at DH. More than anything, he just wants a big league team to give him a tryout. I’ll say this: He came across very sincere in his ambition. I’m just not sure how much demand there is for a 47-year-old who hasn’t played in the majors since 2001.

–The A’s made it official today, signing right-hander Bartolo Colon to a one-year, $2 million contract. So that makes three spots filled in the rotation – Brandon McCarthy, Dallas Braden (assuming he’s healthy) and Colon. But how does the back of the rotation materialize? That’s what I’m interested to see in spring training. A couple of those young newcomers are definitely going to come into play, depending on whether Tyson Ross grabs the reins on a starting job. I definitely think the A’s needed to sign a veteran starter, but can we expect Colon, 38, to duplicate what he did with the Yankees last year? And remember, he struggled in the second half.

The A’s have yet to announce the Jonny Gomes signing, but that will come any time now, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

–The lowdown on Sunday’s FanFest at Oracle Arena: It runs from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for kids 14 and under. You can buy them at the A’s Ticket Services Office or online at oaklandathletics.com/fanfest. Parking is free … Which players will be there? Practically the entire roster, including Jemile Weeks, Coco Crisp, Dallas Braden, Kurt Suzuki, Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy. Manager Bob Melvin and his coaching staff will be on hand, along with former A’s greats Gene Tenace, Vida Blue and Joe Rudi. Scott Hatteberg and David Justice – who found themselves back in the spotlight thanks to “Moneyball” — will also attend. I’m told GM Billy Beane will not be in town Sunday, but assistant GM David Forst will take part in the fan Q & A session.

The most intriguing FanFest attraction: The chance to meet one-on-one with A’s co-owner and managing partner Lew Wolff “to discuss a variety of topics in an intimate setting,” according to a team release. I’d like to be a fly on the wall for some of these conversations. Wolff has taken substantial heat from fans in recent years for a number of reasons, so I’m somewhat surprised he’s making himself available. Fans can sign up to meet Wolff at the information booth on the plaza located between the Coliseum and Oracle Arena from 9-10:30 a.m.

–“Moneyball” scored big when Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday, landing nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Brad Pitt) and Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill) among other awards. Adding a touch of Vegas to the Hollywood proceedings, bookmaker Jimmy Shapiro placed odds at 30-1 for “Moneyball” to win Best Picture (“The Artist,” at 2-7 odds, is the favorite) and 10-1 on Pitt to win Best Actor.

–Lastly, the A’s signed 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Yairo Munoz for a $280,000 bonus, according to the Dominican Prospect League website. Munoz’s defensive skills are said to be his strongpoint, along with above-average speed. It’s tough to project how any of these international prospects will develop when they’re signed at such a young age. Will the A’s ever get a return on the $4.2 million they invested in Dominican right-hander Michael Ynoa, 20, who is coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery? The A’s are pouring lots of money into their international scouting and player development, thinking they can get a jump on teams that are focusing their big spending at the major league level …

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More on McCarthy, Ross and the A’s bullpen situation

Checking in from AT&T Park, where the outlook for the A’s sure looks different than it did just a day ago …

–Brandon McCarthy said he knew in the three or four days leading up to Wednesday’s start that his shoulder wasn’t feeling right. But he knew he could get through the start, so the plan was to get his shoulder checked by a doctor Thursday morning, which he did. That appointment showed what appears to be a stress reaction – the precursor to a fracture. McCarthy is hopeful of being able to throw again within a two-week period, but he says it will depend on how he feels. Last year, he had a similar injury and tried pitching through it. He eventually missed an extra 1 ½ months because of that, and he hopes by shutting it down now, he’s nipping the problem in the bud. “It’s either stop it at the beginning and try to catch it early, or play it out until you have to stop and possibly miss more of the season,” McCarthy said. The big question: By pitching Wednesday, did McCarthy make his shoulder worse? He said he doesn’t believe that to be the case, and that the pain while pitching in games is bearable. It’s the discomfort between starts, and not being able to work out, that’s most difficult.

–As for Tyson Ross, his MRI today showed he’s got a Grade 2 oblique strain in his left side, which is considered moderate on a scale of 1-3. He said he was told he could be pitching in games again in about two weeks, but obviously it’s a very fluid situation. “You’ve got to stay on top of these things, it’s easy to re-injure it. You’ve got to let it heal and take your time,” Ross said.

Overall, the early prognosis for both McCarthy and Ross could have been worse. But anyone who’s followed the A’s in recent seasons knows that their injuries tend to linger, and setbacks occur. So there’s no clear indication when the A’s will get their two starters back. The A’s will need to call up starters for Monday and Tuesday against the Angels, and manager Bob Geren confirmed that Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso are two pitchers at Triple-A being considered.

–On the flip side of that bad news, reliever Joey Devine is back in the majors after missing the entire 2009 and 2010 seasons recovering from elbow surgery. He’s thrilled to be back, understandably. “It’s been a long while,” Devine said. “It feels good, feels like things are starting to come together. It feels like all the time and patience is starting to pay off.” And he’s still beaming from the birth of his son, Mason Joseph, on April 11. Geren said he’s happy with his late-inning relievers right now, but that Devine could be an option in the late innings if he proves effective. You can bet that Devine will start getting the call in the eighth and ninth innings if he has a couple of good outings right away. With Andrew Bailey still sidelined, you can’t waste an arm like Devine’s strictly in middle relief situations. Oakland’s bullpen has shown vulnerability and was in need of some new blood.

–Another reliever called up today, Fautino De Los Santos, is making his first appearance in the big leagues. He also has made the long road back from “Tommy John” elbow surgery, like Devine, and his fastball has been touching 99 miles per hour. Watching him figures to be like watching Henry Rodriguez, where you’re checking the radar gun every time the ball pops the catcher’s mitt. De Los Santos, speaking through a translator, says he also throws a slider, sinker and changeup.

Finally, tonight’s lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, DeJesus RF, Willingham LF, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Giants – Torres CF, Sanchez 2B, Huff 1B, Posey C, Schierholtz RF, Ross LF, Fontenot SS, Tejada 3B, Vogelsong RHP.

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Tyson Ross gets Friday start vs. Seattle; Dallas Braden visiting Dr. Yocum in Los Angeles

A’s manager Bob Geren confirmed what had seemed likely: Tyson Ross will start Friday vs. Seattle in Dallas Braden’s place. How long will he remain in the rotation? That depends on the severity of Braden’s shoulder injury. Braden is flying to Southern California on Wednesday to be examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum. The A’s have sent several pitchers to Yocum to be examined over the years. Sometimes a long-term injury is revealed, sometimes it turns out to be minor. Braden wasn’t available in the clubhouse before batting practice, though he is at the ballpark.

Ross made the team last season as a reliever, got a couple of spot starts in place of Justin Duchscherer, and then struggled after he was put back in the bullpen, eventually getting sent down to Triple-A Sacramento. I’d like to see this guy get an extended stretch as a starter, whether that’s in the majors or with Sacramento. If the A’s see his long-term potential being in the rotation, then I think that’s where he needs to pitch. He’s not so dominant out of the ‘pen that you absolutely have to pitch him there.

Ross is excited to be getting his shot to start. Michael Wuertz? Not quite so enthusiastic right now. Wuertz (strained left hamstring) says he’s ready to be activated from the DL, but the A’s are having him make a third rehab appearance Wednesday. He’ll travel to Reno to pitch for Sacramento. Wuertz had a shaky first outing for Single-A Stockton, giving up three runs, but fared better Monday. He allowed a run in one inning but struck out three. “They just told me to go down, make another appearance and go from there,” Wuertz said. “To me, I’d like to be out there right now. It’s just the way it is.” Manager Bob Geren said he wants to see how Wuertz fares pitching an inning-plus, and the A’s will decide his next step afterward.

–Got a chance to meet David Purcey, the new addition to the A’s bullpen. Nice guy … After being designated for assignment by Toronto last Tuesday, he went home to Dallas when he got word that the A’s traded for him Monday. Purcey didn’t mind the down time – his wife Kate is expecting twins, the couple’s first children …

Tonight’s lineups:

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

Red Sox – Lowrie SS, Pedroia 2B, Gonzalez 1B, Youkilis 3B, Ortiz DH, Cameron RF, Crawford LF, Saltalamacchia C, McDonald CF; Lackey RHP.

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A’s place Michael Wuertz on DL with strained left hamstring; Tyson Ross called up as expected

The latest from Toronto …

The A’s have called Tyson Ross up as a reliever, with Michael Wuertz going on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. This is the first we’ve heard of Wuertz’s injury. Dallas Braden is still starting Wednesday night’s game … I’ll update again after Bob Geren addresses the media …

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Andy LaRoche, Bobby Cramer make A’s roster; Tyson Ross, Eric Sogard sent down

A quick rundown on the A’s final roster cuts (so much for my predictions from this morning!)

–Andy LaRoche was kept as the utility infielder over Eric Sogard. Score that a mild upset as Sogard is the stronger defensive player and was already on the 40-man roster. Obviously, the A’s feel LaRoche is adequate enough with the glove to get by whenever he’s called upon. But this move was all about LaRoche’s potential impact with the bat. He hit .333 this spring and led the team in homers (4) and RBIs (13). Adam Rosales, the projected backup infielder before he suffered a foot injury, was placed on the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man spot for LaRoche.

–Bobby Cramer was kept as the final reliever over Tyson Ross. That’s despite a rough bottom of the ninth today in a 2-1 loss to the Giants, when Cramer had a throwing error that contributed to the Giants’ winning two-run rally. That gives the A’s four lefties in their seven-man bullpen. Jerry Blevins, Craig Breslow, Cramer and Brian Fuentes join right-handers Grant Balfour, Michael Wuertz and Brad Ziegler (Andrew Bailey was placed on the 15-day DL as expected). This was a surprising call to me. I like the idea of Ross getting Triple-A seasoning as a starter, and I think that’s best for his future. But I still thought his relief experience from last year would trump any potential benefit of keeping Cramer. It’s a great story for Cramer, who was playing in the Mexican League at this point last year and has never been on an Opening Day roster. He said that he was told to be ready for any relief role — one innings, two innings or long relief. A’s manager Bob Geren classified Cramer as predominantly a long man.

–Landon Powell was kept as the backup catcher over Josh Donaldson, which was no surprise …

More in tomorrow morning’s A’s notebook …

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Josh Outman sent down, 5th starter battle officially down to three

****Here’s the lowdown on the A’s news of the morning …

Left-hander Josh Outman, who appeared a top candidate to be the fifth starter when spring training started, was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento along with right-hander Guillermo Moscoso, who also merited consideration for the spot early on.

This news doesn’t surprise considering how Outman has struggled to this point. The guy hadn’t pitched since June 2009 as he faced a long road back from “Tommy John” surgery. Still, Outman entered the spring healthy, and the A’s brass talked highly of his chances. But Outman has been frank that it might take a while for him to find his form.

“I had a feeling it was going to be like this,” Outman said this morning. “I haven’t competed as well as the other guys competing for the fifth starter spot.” A’s manager Bob Geren said Outman just needs innings at Triple-A to continue shaking rust off. “He’s been improving, he just needs to keep on that track to be ready to pitch at this level. I told him I’ve been through a lot of things in this game, but I’ve never missed 18 months.”

This leaves Brandon McCarthy, Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer fighting to be the fifth starter. As things are shaping up, McCarthy is emerging as the favorite, especially if he pitches well in today’s start against the Giants. Geren said that all three pitchers have a chance to make the roster “in one capacity or another.” That means any of the three could make the team as a long reliever, even Ross, who the A’s have said they’d like to keep as a starter.

–Split-squad action today:

A’s vs. Diamondbacks at home:
Crisp CF; Suzuki C; Willingham LF; Matsui DH; Kouzmanoff 3B; Jackson 1B; Sogard SS; Taylor RF; Timmons 2B; Braden LHP.

A’s at Giants:
Pennington SS; Ellis 2B; Barton 1B; DeJesus RF; Carter LF; Sweeney DH; LaRoche 3B; Donaldson C; Carson CF; McCarthy RHP.

–Ryan Sweeney had not been cleared to play two days in a row yet on his surgically repaired right knee, but Geren said he’d pinch-run for Sweeney if he gets on base in his third or fourth at-bat. And he’s not playing defense, so it’s a light day.

–Joey Devine (right biceps) said he had no lingering effects from a 35-pitch bullpen session Saturday. He could face minor league hitters in a day or two …

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A’s face Felix Hernandez in his Cactus League debut

Are the A’s getting a preview of what’s to come opening night? Felix Hernandez takes the mound today for his first start of the spring, and there’s a great chance he’ll also be pitching the April 1 opener at the Oakland Coliseum. Ichiro Suzuki is in Seattle’s lineup today and Hideki Matsui is at DH for the A’s, which is creating a buzz among the many Japanese reporters on hand.

The lineups:

A’s

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

Moscoso RHP

Mariners

Ichiro RF
Figgins 3B
Gutierrez CF
Carp 1B
Wilson 2B
Ryan SS
Saunders LF
Gimenez C
Mangini DH

Hernandez RHP

–Things are a bit rocky for left-hander Josh Outman right now, and he doesn’t hide that. He’s allowed 11 hits, six walks and six earned runs in three outings (4 2/3 innings). It’s not all that shocking that Outman is struggling after being sidelined since June 2009 by elbow surgery, but he’s still frustrated.

“It sounds kind of stupid to say I felt good (against San Diego on Sunday), but physically my arm felt fine,” Outman said. “Just mechanically, I’m not where I need to be and it’s obvious by the performance. It’s just when I get up to game speed, I’m not where I need to be with making pitches and throwing ball where I need to throw it. The result is not great. It’s good that it’s not the end of March yet. But at the same time, I feel like my command has kind of gone backward as the exertion level is going up.”

–I considered Outman the front-runner for the No. 5 starter spot entering camp, and if he rights the ship I think he still is. But Bobby Cramer and Tyson Ross have sure looked good so far in their push for the job. A’s manager Bob Geren has been impressed with Ross, saying the right-hander hit 95 mph seven times Sunday against the Brewers. And Brandon McCarthy remains in the mix as well. Rich Harden has yet to get back on the mound since suffering a side muscle injury, so his chances of being ready for the start of the season look remote.

–Daric Barton is day-to-day after bruising his right calf during a collision at first base yesterday. Barton jumped for a high throw from Kevin Kouzmanoff and got hit while in the air. “It should be minor,” Barton said. “It’s kind of like a charlie horse, a knot. Just some tightness. The runner hit me. It could have been his foot, knee, shin … Whatever it was, he got me pretty good. He knocked my feet out from under me.”

–Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow were scheduled to throw in a simulated game today, and if that goes well, manager Bob Geren said they’d pitch in their first exhibition Thursday.

–For what it’s worth:

*Outfielder Matt Carson is tied for second in the Cactus League with three doubles.
*Coco Crisp is 7 for 15 (.467) through five games.
*Mark Ellis is 5 for 12 (.417) in four games.
*Conor Jackson is 0 for 14 through five games, but he’s hit a few balls on the nose.
*Michael Taylor is 1 for 13 since hitting a three-run homer last Monday.
*Hideki Matsui is 0 for 8 through four games with four walks.

–I’m heading home for a few days, but Carl Steward is on the scene and will be providing your daily coverage in the paper and on the blog …

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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 …