Duchscherer unlikely to start opener
Right-handed pitcher plays long toss without pain on Friday
PHOENIX -- A's right-hander Justin Duchscherer, whose sore elbow has prevented him from pitching in Cactus League games this spring, played long toss without pain on Friday for the fourth time since he was shut down and sent to see specialists.
He's been told, however, that even if the rest of his throwing program goes according to plan, it's unlikely he'll be ready to make the Opening Day start that manager Bob Geren had planned to give him as a reward for his All-Star season in 2008.
"I would love to start Opening Day, and my elbow's feeling pretty good right now," Duchscherer said after playing catch at a distance of 140 feet during a morning workout at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. "But they said that even in a best-case scenario, it'll be tough to get my innings and pitch count up to the level I need to be at to start the first game."
Thus, Duchscherer has lowered his sights a tad. The A's open the season with a four-game series in Anaheim from April 6-9, and a more realistic goal for their ace is to be ready to take the ball for the fifth game of the season.
It's not Opening Day, but it is the team's home opener, April 10 against the Mariners.
"That's what I'm hoping for," Duchscherer said. "If I can't go Opening Day, I can't go. If I'm ready for the second or third or fourth game, great. But hopefully, I'll be able to take a turn somewhere in those first five games."
Duchscherer, whose past two seasons ended with a hip injury that required surgery, is trying to keep a positive outlook while slowly working his way back, and he thinks he'll be able to throw off a bullpen mound within the next couple of days. But it's been a trying spring for the converted reliever, who was none too pleased to read reports that the A's were considering moving him back to the bullpen in the wake of his latest injury.
"I'm sick of it," Duchscherer said of being unable to properly prepare for his final season before hitting the free-agent market. "I've rehabbed the hip for two years in a row, and that feels fine, so to have something else come up now is frustrating.
"I really want to show that I can stay healthy and pitch for a full year. ... It ticks me off."
Geren on Friday said Duchscherer will have to be throwing off a mound by Monday and have no setbacks for the rest of the spring to get enough work in to take a turn in the first rotation cycle of the season.
"That sounds about right," Duchscherer said. "I don't think I'm gonna have many days off from here on out if I'm going to get back online and try to be ready, especially for Opening Day."
In other Oakland news: On Friday morning, the A's optioned outfielder Javier Herrera to Triple-A Sacramento, and Geren confirmed that newly acquired shortstop Orlando Cabrera will make his A's debut as a designated hitter Saturday against the visiting Giants.
Assistant general manager David Forst shot down a report that catcher Rob Bowen had been cut loose.
"Don't you think we'd put out a release on that?" Forst said. "That's absolutely not true."
Bowen, who signed a non-guaranteed contract that will pay him $525,000 if he keeps his job as Kurt Suzuki's backup, said his agent had heard he'd been placed on waivers but hadn't heard anything from A's management.
Bobby Crosby debuted at first base in Friday's game against the Indians. Crosby didn't handle any chances, but the fact that he played there only hours after working out at the position with infield coach Mike Gallego for the first time impressed Geren.
"He worked with Mike this morning, and he looked good, so I asked him in the fifth inning if he wanted to play over there a little bit," Geren said. "I like the confidence he has to go give it a shot."
Replaced by Cabrera as the starting shortstop, Crosby has been told he'll be used a utility player if he isn't traded. He hasn't yet played second base or in the outfield, but he's expected to before the A's break camp.
"He's a good enough athlete to play all those positions," Geren said.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.