The Oakland A's spring workouts have begun, and for the first time in a couple of years, the team has some expectations coming into the season.
Among the headlines to come out of A's camp so far is the positive feedback they've gotten regarding their new staff ace's health. Ben Sheets reported to camp last week and deemed himself 100% healthy and ready to start pitching again for the first time since September 2008. The A's have penciled him in to start their Cactus League opener vs. the Cubs a week from Thursday and they aren't planning on keeping him on a leash this spring. They aren't quite as optimistic regarding fellow right-handed starter Justin Ducsherer, who reported no ill-effects while throwing a 20-pitch bullpen session last week, but experienced some pain in his lower back afterwords. With the addition of Sheets and the development of their young arms like Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden, the starting rotation is supposed to be the A's strength, and Duchsherer is a very key component to the starting staff. The 32 year-old right-hander thrived in 2008, his first year as a starting pitcher, sporting a 2.54 era and a 10-8 record throughout 22 starts. If he would have gotten to make his other 10-12 starts, he very well could have been mentioned in the Cy Young award mix, as his numbers were really that good. Then he missed all of 2009, and hasn't thrown a pitch in the big leagues since early August 2008. The A's should be cautious with Duchsherer, and ease him along, and although they appear confident with Sheets, they should do the same with him at least in the spring. Those two are just too important for the A's to risk having them go down by overworking in the Spring.
Speaking of guys coming back from injury, the only A's player left over from their winning seasons earlier in the early 2000's, Eric Chavez, is trying to make a comeback after totaling 119 at-bats over the last 2 seasons. Chavez has brought a first basemen's mitt to Phoenix this year as the A's try and find a position for him that will keep him on the field. Chavez's shoulder strength is an issue and the A's figure first base should alleviate that concern, plus he's familiar with playing a corner infield spot and does posses the skill-set to make a smooth transition across the diamond. Him getting reps at first could jeopardize Daric Barton's playing time a bit, but I think a little competition should be good for the 24 year-old first basemen. Barton has failed to reel in the full-time first base gig after the A's have basically handed him the job the last two seasons, so now they're going to mix Chavy, and maybe even a little bit of Jake Fox in at first to possibly spark Barton a bit. Getting Chavez healthy just improves the A's all-around, and that should be a priority for them this spring. I doubt he ever gets back to his pre-2007 form, but I could see him still hitting around .300 with 15-20 homers if he can provide 400-450 at-bats.
Giants Spring Coverage: Like the A's, Tim Lincecum, Pablo Sandoval and the Giants have started their official spring workouts as well. We will occasionally mention the Giants over here at the Bay Area Sports Journal, but most of our Giants coverage we save for our Giants Blog over @ The Giants Baseball Blog so be sure to check it out for Giants consistent Giants updates.
March Madness Coverage: Also, with the NCAA Basketball season approaching the Tournament, make sure you check us out for our March Madness Picks, predictions and full coverage here at the Bay Sports Journal. March will indeed be a busy month as we prepare for the upcoming Major League Baseball Season, April's NFL draft and the NCAA Tournament projections.