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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.

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Another wet day at Oakland A’s camp; Duchscherer’s procedure postponed

Sorry for the late post … technical difficulties with our blog today. Not that there was a ton to report anyway. The A’s workout was interrupted by rain for a second straight day, and it poured much harder today than yesterday. The team had to shift operations to Papago Park because there’s more covered batting cages over there, although the pitchers were able to throw outside. Weather.com predicts tomorrow will be in the mid-60′s with no rain … We can only hope.

A few tidbits and observations:

–Justin Duchscherer’s procedure to relieve pain in his SI joint was rescheduled for tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. No reason given for the postponement.

–Jake Fox has taken the early lead for chattiest player in the clubhouse. The guy is just friendly as can be. Some players see reporters and head the other direction. Fox invites you to sit down, talks your ear off, and then encourages you to drop by again soon. Gotta love it …

–Manager Bob Geren and pitching coach Curt Young both were impressed with RHP Tyson Ross today. “His delivery looks cleaner and cleaner,” Geren said. Ross split last year between Single-A and Double-A, and the A’s are very high on him.

–Coco Crisp and stud first base prospect Chris Carter were among the position players to report today. All position players are due in Thursday, with the first full-squad workout Friday.

–Never knew Ben Sheets had such a dry wit about him. He’s a really funny dude, and seems to relish it when reporters are around. It’s early, but that bodes well for us covering the team, because he’s going to be a big story for as long as he’s with the A’s. Poking fun at his (lack of) hitting ability, Sheets said he wants the chance to dig in against CC Sabathia. “Just let him know that if I ever face him in Yankee Stadium, the porch is short.”

Check in w/you tomorrow …

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A little more on Michael Ynoa, other A’s prospects

If you haven’t seen it, click here for the story I did today on some of the A’s top hitting prospects. Here’s some updates on a few other players in the farm system. Some names you might be familiar with, others not so much:

RHP Michael Ynoa: The prize of the 2008 international amateur signing class has been slowed by injuries. The A’s shut Ynoa down over the summer as he had elbow soreness, and he’s recently battled tendinitis in one of his knees. But his elbow is doing better and he’s been on a throwing program for the past month, according to Keith Lieppman, the A’s director of player development. Ynoa, who turns 18 in two weeks, has been back home in the Dominican Republic, but he’ll return to Phoenix and participate in the fall instructional league, which starts in about a week. Considering his age, and the $4.25 million bonus he was signed to, the A’s will treat him carefully.

RHP Tyson Ross: There’s nothing flashy about the stats for Ross, the Cal product the A’s took in the second round in 2008. But Lieppman is enthusiastic about Ross’ development in his first full professional season. He began 2009 with Single-A Stockton and received a promotion to Double-A Midland, going a combined 10-10 with a 4.09 ERA to this point. He’s likely to start next season with Midland.

1B Sean Doolittle: Doolittle was limited to 28 games with Triple-A Sacramento because of a torn patella tendon in his left knee. But his recovery is coming along well, according to A’s GM Billy Beane, and the team is hoping to find a place for him to play winter ball. Doolittle made a nice impression with the club during spring training and should figure prominently in the future mix at first base if he rebounds from his knee injury.

OF Matt Spencer: He was one of three players the A’s received from Philadelphia in the Joe Blanton trade, along with pitcher Josh Outman and infielder Adrian Cardenas. Spencer, who hits and throws left-handed, began the year with Stockton and turned heads after his promotion to Midland, hitting .294 with nine homers and 62 RBI in 93 games with the RockHounds.

RHP Fautino De Los Santos: After the long recovery from last season’s Tommy John elbow surgery, De Los Santos threw a little bit for the A’s rookie league team this summer and will continue rounding into form during instructional league. He was acquired along with Ryan Sweeney and Gio Gonzalez from the White Sox in the Nick Swisher deal.

RHP Andrew Carignan: The reliever was deep in the organization’s thoughts when spring training began, but a right shoulder injury sabotaged his season. He didn’t require surgery, but spent the whole season rehabilitating. Carignan will begin throwing again Oct. 1 during instructional league, Lieppman said.

RHP Mickey Storey: Storey was “nowhere on the radar” when the season began, according to Lieppman, but this reliever is climbing rapidly through the system. He began the season as a closer with low Single-A Kane County but is now in Double-A. His combined season stats: A 1.22 ERA with 71 strikeouts and eight walks. Keep an eye on this guy.

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The Midland Mashers

Not so long ago, any numbers generated by somebody at Double-A Midland had to be taken with a skeptical eye. Adam Piatt, of all people, earned Minor League Player of the Year honors playing there.

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Weeks sighting and more

The A’s top pick in last year’s draft finally is on the stat sheet at Single-A Stockton. Jemile Weeks made his debut for the Ports in Stockton’s 10-5 over Bakersfield. It wasn’t a great night for the second baseman, as he collected just one hit in six at-bats. But his lone hit did drive in two runs to give the Ports a nice start to a seven-game road trip, their longest of the season.

More encouraging news out of Stockton. Tyson Ross, the Cal product who followed Weeks on the A’s draft list last season, retired the final 11 of the final 12 he faced. His overall line needs to be better, but he continues to work on being more effecient and getting his pitch-count up. The A’s are being careful with him.

Last for Stockton: A very good night for Frank Martinez. The shortstop doubled twice and had three RBI.

Elsewhere:

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

— “Vin Mazzaro, white courtesy telephone. Vin Mazzaro, white courtesy telephone.” You half expect a public address announcement to go out, given how this kid is pitching lately. Mazzaro lowered his ERA to 2.38 in his third straight outstanding outing. By the way, talked with A’s assistant general manager Davd Forst this week, and Mazzaro would have to be called up right around the June 15-20 period to avoid becoming a Super2 guy and becoming eligible for arbitration an extra year earlier.

— Another promising pitching prospect did his thing in the second game of a doubleheader. Nice to see that James Simmons is gaining some consistency.

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

— Highlight of the night was Graham Godfrey. Dynamite stuff while fanning 11 in  a 9-4 win over Northwest Arkansas. Godfrey has 28 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings during May.

— Adrian Cardenas, who recently was sent back to down from Triple-A Sacramento, continues to smoke Double-A pitching. He’ll get another opportunity in Triple-A at some point.

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Weekend Wrap

A busy weekend down on the farm. Here’s a quick review while hoping (futily, probably) for the day that we similar promotions to the one taking place in Las Vegas today. A 10:30 a.m. start to accomodate local school children on field trips. Brilliant. Wouldn’t you just love to see major leaguers forced out of bed before 8 a.m. for a game just once in a season?

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

The River Cats entered Monday’s morning meeting having lost the first three of four-game series at Las Vegas and had dropped six straight to teams in Nevada (Reno won three in a row earlier in the week). Among the lowlights:

James Simmons surrendered six runs in 3 2/3 innings in a loss Sunday. At this point, the A’s would be smart just to leave Simmons in the minors all season. Why use up a year of service time for a team that doesn’t appear headed anywhere. And given that Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill look like they’ve arrived prematurely, no need to rush Simmons. Besides, the righty has had his issues.

— Reliever Brad Kilby walked four straight hitters in the 10th inning Saturday, resulting in an 8-7 Sacramento loss. Not to sound like my late grandfather, but in my opinion that shouldn’t happen at any level of professional sports. Gio Gonzalez wasn’t much better in that one, either.

— Joel Galarraga had three RBI and helped stake Sacramento to a 9-0 lead on Friday, but the River Cats still couldn’t win. The starting pitcher who allowed a good portion of the lead to get away? Dana Eveland. Frankly, I would just as soon not see him in an A’s uniform again. Who’s with me?

Anyway, the common theme, here, obviously, is that help for the A’s sorry starting pitching isn’t 90 minutes up Interstate 80.

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

— A very forgettable weekend as well. The Rockhounds lost three times to Corpus Christi by a combined score of 23-6.

— First baseman Chris Carter increased his RBI total to 28, tops on the team and second in the Texas League. First baseman Tommy Everidge collected RBI No. 26. Both have got to be en route to a promotion at some point this season.

SINGLE-A STOCKTON

— The Ports (9-22) extended their winning streak to a season-high three before losing the finale of a three-game series to Rancho Cucamonga. Cal product Tyson Ross, the A’s second pick last season, allowed two runs and three hits in only two innings and walked the first three he faced. He has not an auspicious beginning to his professional career.

— Outfielder Matthew Spencer is bucking for a promotion. Spencer homered in victories Friday and Saturday and has gone deep 10 times. The rest of his numbers are pretty good, too.

Yusef Carter is hitting .333 in his first exposure to High-A and had the game-winning single Saturday.

LOW-A KANE COUNTY

— First baseman Steve Kleen is hitting .303 and his 33 hits trail only Dusty Coleman’s 34 on the Cougars. Both Kleen and Coleman are in the top 10.

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The Farm Report

A quick post today before heading out to catch the big club at the Coliseum later this afternoon:

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

— The River Cats used Adrian Cardenas at second base in a 5-3 win over Reno last night, and Cardenas made the defensive play of the night, going behind second base to start a 4-6-3 double play. Keep an eye out to see if he also sees time at shortstop. The A’s are going to need somebody at that spot down the road.

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A’s minor league recap: RiverCats promote Chen, Galarraga

Here’s a brief look at what happened down on the farm for the A’s affiliates:

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

Injuries to the A’s Mark Ellis and Nomar Garciaparra led to promotions to Oakland for River Cats infielder Eric Patterson and reliever Kevin Cameron. Sacramento restocked its roster by adding 25-year-old second baseman Yung-Chi Chen, the ex-Mariners prospect who was at Double-A Midland, and 27-year-old catcher Joel Galarraga, signed from the Mexican League in January, who was at extended spring training.

Sacramento was off Wednesday, but Galarraga started Thursday night and caught Vin Mazzarro, who came into the game with a 0-0 record and a 1.35 ERA. Sacramento made room behind the plate for Galarraga by sending slumping Anthony Recker (.156 batting average in 14 games) to Midland.

MIDLAND (Double-A)

Adrian Cardenas continued his torrid hitting by collecting three hits and five RBI in the RockHounds’ 16-9 win over Corpus Christi (Astros) on Wednesday. Cardenas, who moved back to playing second base to make room for Josh Horton at shortstop, is hitting .355.

Chris Carter is in a bit of a Holliday-esque home run slump, but the first baseman collected two more RBI and his 21 runs driven in are second in the Texas League. Horton, limited to DH duties because of a sore throwing shoulder, had three hits and is batting .339.

Meanwhile, a lot of attention at the game was paid to Corpus Christi catcher Koby Clemens’ dad, Roger, who was in attendance. In fact, Clemens threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Thursday night.

STOCKTON (High Single-A)

Three of the A’s four affiliates are in first place. Then there’s the Ports. Stockton fell to 4-16 after Wednesday’s 11-8 loss to Visalia (Diamondbacks).

More bad news came in the form of an injury to ex-Cal and Bishop O’Dowd High pitcher Tyson Ross, who was placed on the seven-day disabled list with biceps tendinitis. Ross had a 4.40 ERA in three starts.

The Ports’ struggling offense got a boost from the promotion of David Thomas (14th round, ’08 draft) from Kane County. Thomas was hitting .360 and was tied for the Midwest League lead in homers with four.

KANE COUNTY (Low Single-A)

Kane County filled the hole left by David Thomas by adding 20-year-old outfielder Jeremy Barfield (8th round, ’08) from extended spring training. Barfield’s father, Jesse, was a former major league outfielder and his brother, Josh, is currently in the Indians’ minor league system after spending most of the last three years in the majors.

Jeremy Barfield is beginning his first full season in pro ball after batting .271 with three homers and 41 RBI last summer at Short-A Vancouver.

The Cougars fell 2-1 to Lansing (Blue Jays) on Wednesday but remain in first place.

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On the farm

Today, we’re going to start something new on this blog.  We’ll be filing periodic minor-league updates that go beyond the daily updates that the minor-league teams provide. I’ve got calls out to Keith Lieppman and Billy Owens, both of whom are in the know regarding the A’s best prospects. No return calls yet, but as soon as I get some, I’ll update.

In the meantime, through the minor-league season’s first 10 days here’s what stands out.

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

— Vince Mazzaro, who lasted just eight total innings in his first two starts, went six while allowing a run on Monday and lowered his ERA to 1.93. Mazzaro, as everyone probably knows, is likely to be the first one tapped if the A’s need another starter.

— James Simmons, another highly rated prospect, had his best start of the year Tuesday in a 4-2 win at Portland. His overall stats so far aren’t overly impressive, but it’s early.

Daric Barton has been awful. And now he may be out a while. He didn’t play last night after being hit by a pitch on Monday. What’s happened to this guy? Remember when he was touted as a potential Albert Pujols?

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

— The Rockhounds have lost two straight after closing their first 10-game stretch at 7-3.

— SS Adrian Cardenas, whom the A’s acquired from Philadelphia last season in the Joe Blanton deal, was hitting .360 through Tuesday and had hit safely in all but two games. He also was tied for the Texas League lead in hits.

— Chris Carter, whose 39 home runs at Single-A Stockton last season led the A’s organization, has gone deep only once so far, but his 14 RBI were tied for the league lead. I saw this guy last year. He’s a beast.

SINGLE-A STOCKTON

— Bad start for Cal product Tyson Ross, who struggled with arm issues last seaon. Ross lost his first two starts, and his 1.67 WHIP (baserunners per inning) is a red flag. Then again, the team behind him isn’t very good. The Ports are 1-12.

LOW-A KANE COUNTY

— First baseman Steve Kleen is hitting .385 out of the gate and also has eight RBI, contributing mightily to the Cougars’ 7-3 start.

— Kleen isn’t the only one tatooing the ball. SS Dusty Coleman (.342), and outfielder David Thomas (.317) all have been key contributors to Kane County’s .275 average as a team.