By Jason Wojciechowski on February 25, 2006 at 8:26 PM
The Frank Thomas health stories will likely come fast and furious during spring training (and the regular season, but that's another matter). The update in today's Chronicle is that Thomas has been cleared to do a little soft-toss, some tee work, and maybe, eventually, some jogging. This isn't all that exciting. What's more exciting is Jerrald Goldman's comment:
"I think he looks good for Opening [Night]. That's certainly no guarantee but if he keeps going the way he's been going, it would be hard to keep him from playing.''
That said, I'd be perfectly happy bringing him back slow, essentially giving him an extra month of spring training (or whatever it takes) and have him in a position where the risk of reinjury is minimized. Of course, I'll also trust the doctors on this one, because I certainly don't have the expertise or information to make any kind of judgments on whether the way the team and Thomas are handling the situation is right or wrong.
Another amusing note is that the A's are looking for some orthopedic shoes that might help Thomas. I knew Thomas was old, but I didn't know he was that old!
Juan Cruz is having some trouble eating because of some issues with the roof of his mouth. That could be a serious problem for a guy who doesn't have a lot of weight to lose.
Joe Roderick at the Mercury News reported the same thing, but added that Cruz is a long shot to make the team anyway. Oakland apparently has room for seven relievers. I count Huston Street, Kiko Calero, Joe Kennedy, Jay Witasick, Justin Duchscherer, and Kirk Saarloos in the pen. That's six, leaving room for Cruz to pop on as the seventh. However, that group only has one lefty, and Ken Macha apparently wants two, so I guess that means Ron Flores or somebody on the team instead of Cruz.
That strikes me as a bad idea. Handedness seems entirely less important than the ability to get guys out. On the other hand (no pun intended), Cruz didn't show the ability to get guys out at the major league level last year. He did dominate AAA, and he has performed well in the majors before, though, so I'd give him the benefit of the doubt, especially since he's the kind of power strikeout pitcher that always puts people at ease.
If Macha insists on a second lefty, I'd let Saarloos be a AAA starter and put Cruz in the pen. With Kennedy, Duchscherer, and Cruz not too far removed from starting, the A's shouldn't be hurting for a long man or emergency starter. And if Flores is on the team as a second lefty, Macha shouldn't be shy about using Kennedy in that long role sometimes.
These kinds of decisions are what drive fans batty about any manager. It seems like they're always picking the wrong guy, and for the wrong reasons.
A cute note from Josh Suchon at the Oakland Tribune:
Jeremy Brown accidentally hit fellow catcher Kurt Suzuki in the head with his bat, but Suzuki's helmet was pointed in the right direction, and he was unharmed -- but that naturally led to some jokes about Brown trying to take out the competition.
The callous joke would be that this is the only way Brown will ever get to the majors. But I won't make that joke. Story.