A's Insider notebook: Ross' rockets turning heads

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A's Insider notebook: Ross' rockets turning heads

Feb. 22, 20111
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PHOENIX -- Injuries are an unwelcome reality of spring training, but when they come they're frequently shrugged off with reminders that "it's early," and that a camp injury is far superior to one suffered in the regular season.A's reliever Michael Wuertz, held out of workouts because of his sore right shoulder, was singing that very tune Tuesday -- but he'd re-arrange the notes.Icing his ailing wing as his teammates poured out of the Phoenix Municipal Stadium, Wuertz spoke excitedly -- well, for Weurtz, "excited" means with discernible facial expressions -- about the new course of action the A's are taking in their treatment of what he said is an annual issue.Last year, Wuertz explained, he tried to push through the pain, which typically dissipates late in the spring. That approach didn't work so well; the shoulder issue lingered, and Wuertz was never quite the same shutdown setup man he'd been the previous season.This year, Wuertz has been told by new head athletic trainer Nick Paparesta to simply shut it down for a spell.Duh, right? Seems more like a dose of common sense than expert medical advice. Wuertz conceded as much, adding with a smile that one might be surprised by some of the training theories he's seen and heard over seven seasons in The Show.Pararesta, however, has quickly earned the respect of Oakland's players, many of whom have been hammered by injuries over the past four years."The guys knows how to keep guys on the field," closer Andrew Bailey offered. "He's proactive. He's organized. He's always got a plan, a clear plan that you understand. He's been awesome."ROCKET ROSS
Although Josh Outman's recent bullpen sessions have created quite a buzz, one of Outman's fellow candidates for the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation has been opening some eyes, too.Tyson Ross, a former Cal and Team USA star who opened last season in the A's bullpen, command the attention of anyone within earshot during his side session Monday."I wasn't even there, but I heard about it," said catcher Kurt Suzuki. "He was blowing, like, 97-98 mph."Ross, whose upright delivery has prompted more than a few scouts to suggest arm trouble might be in his future, appears to be making slightly better use of his lower half this spring, and the results have been impressive."He's got a huge arm," Suzuki said. "He's going to be a big leaguer for a long time once he gets up here for good."CAHILL GETS THE NOD
To the surprise of nobody, A's manager Bob Geren on Tuesday announced that his Opening Day starter will be Trevor Cahill. Opening Day for Cactus League play, that is. The A's travel to nearby Mesa to take on the Cubs on Sunday, and Cahill will get the ball first at venerable HoHoKam Park.It keeps him on his one-on, two-off throwing schedule, and it keeps him in line to be Oakland's starter on Opening Day of the regular season.Geren isn't likely to announce his starting rotation for a while, but as former pitching coach Curt Young used to say at the start of every spring, anyone with handle on basic math should be able to figure it out pretty quick.The numbers point to Cahill, with lefty Dallas Braden in the No. 2 spot. Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez are throwing on the same day thus far.SHARING TIME
A common sight during the team's workout at their minor-league complex at Papago Park was that of hitters talking with pitchers and amongst each other, offering feedback and other information during live batting practice.Daric Barton, for instance, gave newcomer David DeJesus a quick mental cheat sheet before DeJesus stepped into the box against Braden. Later, Barton explained to Braden exactly how his ball was moving and when."That's actually one of the neater things about this environment," Geren said of spring training. "You see everyone just talking baseball, and really getting into it. It's a great thing to see as a manager, because players a lot of times see things that maybe the coaches don't or can't."

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

MESA, Ariz. — The A’s are excited about 2016 top pick A.J. Puk, that much was apparent by the crowd the lefty attracted for his first “live” bullpen session Tuesday.

Among those watching closely were executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, general manager David Forst, manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young.

Puk, who shaved about 20 pounds off his 6-foot-7 frame over the winter, looked strong against a group of hitters that included touted infield prospects Franklin Barreto and Yairo Munoz.

Melvin in particular liked the way Puk, the No. 6 overall pick out of the University of Florida, worked his curve ball into the mix. That’s a pitch he hadn’t used since high school, but he dusted it off back in the fall instructional league with some encouragement from minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, and he’s working to sharpen it this spring as a complement to his fastball, slider and changeup.

“It’s just nice to have another pitch that’s slower than my other three pitches,” Puk said before Tuesday’s workout.

“It’s a four-pitch mix,” Melvin said. “He’s really starting to distinguish between this slider and curve ball. It was quite a crowd around his cage too. When you’re a young kid you tend to notice that, but I thought he responded really well.”

Puk, 21, is rooming with shortstop Richie Martin, a teammate at Florida whom the A’s made their top pick in 2015. They also lived near each other in Tampa this offseason and worked out together.

Puk comes off very quiet upon meeting him, but Martin warns against being fooled.

“It takes him a while, but once he feels comfortable he’ll break out. You’ll see.”

Melvin was impressed with Puk’s physical shape, saying he’s fielded his position well in pitchers’ fielding drills.

CAMP BATTLE Jesse Hahn will start the A’s Cactus League opener Saturday against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. It’ll be a chance for Hahn to make an early impression in his bid for the fifth starter spot.

“After the year he had (in 2016), it’s important for him this year. We have to show some faith in him,” Melvin said. “He performed well for us the year before. Last year wasn’t really consistent. We’ll try to get him out there and get him off to a good start.”

Kendall Graveman will take the ball in Sunday’s spring home opener against the Angels. Sonny Gray and Sean Manaea both will pitch Monday against the Giants and Jharel Cotton and Andrew Triggs will be among the group throwing Tuesday against the Indians.

PROSPECT WATCH: Sean Murphy, the A’s third-round pick in June, has shown a very strong throwing arm early in camp. Is it any wonder Melvin, an ex-catcher, was impressed?

“The kid can throw, it’s special,” Melvin said. “We really like him.”

NOTEWORTHY: Still no word on when reliever Santiago Casilla will arrive at camp from the Dominican Republic. Melvin said he isn’t concerned at this stage, and noted that Casilla has been working out at the team’s complex in the Dominican Republic and gave a motivational talk to the younger players there.

Cousins thanks Sacramento: 'Wouldn't trade it for anything'

Cousins thanks Sacramento: 'Wouldn't trade it for anything'

The Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, prompting the All-Star big man to post a heartfelt message on his Instagram account.

Words can't even express how hard it is for me to have to leave the city of Sacramento and all of the amazing people that I have met while out here. I gave it my all for you and you gave it right back. The most amazing fans on the planet and I just want you to know that your support has meant everything to me. It's hard to believe that it was seven years ago that this young kid from Alabama showed up in Sacramento scared and not knowing a soul. As I look back upon my time here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have met so many amazing people, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel right at home from day one. Each and every one of you have played such an important part in my life and helping me become the person I am today. I don't just consider you all as fans, you all are my family...and a couple thousand miles aren't going to change a thing. Thank you Sacramento. 
#LoyaltyisLove #sactownkingforever

Cousins, 26, averaged 27.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks and 34.4 minutes per game for the Kings this year.

Words can't even express how hard it is for me to have to leave the city of Sacramento and all of the amazing people that I have met while out here. I gave it my all for you and you gave it right back. The most amazing fans on the planet and I just want you to know that your support has meant everything to me. It's hard to believe that it was seven years ago that this young kid from Alabama showed up in Sacramento scared and not knowing a soul. As I look back upon my time here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have met so many amazing people, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel right at home from day one. Each and every one of you have played such an important part in my life and helping me become the person I am today. I don't just consider you all as fans, you all are my family...and a couple thousand miles aren't going to change a thing. Thank you Sacramento. #LoyaltyisLove

A post shared by DeMarcus Cousins (@boogiecousins) on