Gio a no-go for at least a week
Pitcher unlikely to to have enough time to secure spot
PHOENIX -- The A's still aren't quite sure which five pitchers will comprise their starting rotation when the season opens April 6, insisting that the competition for spots remains wide open more than five weeks into Spring Training.
The field is certainly thinning, though, and left-hander Gio Gonzalez is the latest candidate forced out of the race.
Gonzalez, who's been dealing with tightness in his shoulder and limited to long toss since last appearing in a Cactus League game on March 12, isn't expected to take the mound again for at least a week.
As such, he's essentially in the same boat as staff ace Justin Duchscherer, who's been similarly limited with a sore elbow for most of the spring and hasn't yet appeared in a game.
Simply, there isn't enough time left for either man to build up enough innings and arm strength to be ready to start the season as a starter. A's manager Bob Geren last week conceded as much regarding Duchscherer, and he did the same Saturday regarding Gonzalez.
"He just hasn't been able to throw enough [to be considered for the rotation at this point]," Geren said of Gonzalez, who has a 4.32 ERA over 8 1/3 innings this spring and hasn't pitched more than two innings in any of his four appearances. "It's too bad, because we were excited to see what he could do."
Pitching coach Curt Young said Gonzalez is making progress in his throwing program, extending the length of his throws, but he'll need to get on a bullpen mound at least twice before being turned loose in a game. That, Young said, "won't be for a while."
Duchscherer on Saturday said he felt fine a day after his first bullpen session since late February, and the tentative plan is for him to throw in the bullpen again Monday.
"With Duke it's going to be day to day," Young said when asked what subsequent steps would be. "We'll check with him every day to see how he's feeling and go from there."
Injury updates: Righty reliever Joey Devine (elbow) was scheduled to throw in the bullpen Saturday, but the A's pushed the session back to Sunday. Devine hasn't appeared in a game since March 6, and if Sunday's session goes well he'll pitch in a Minor League game Tuesday. ... Third baseman Eric Chavez (shoulder), who hasn't played since March 8 and hasn't played defense at all this spring, has been cleared to resume hitting and will do so with some work in the cage Sunday. He hopes to hit on the field Monday. ... Lefty Dallas Braden recently chipped one of his molars and needed a root canal Friday, so he was scratched from his scheduled start Saturday. He said he could have pitched, but the A's didn't want him doing it on painkillers. Geren said Braden will pitch Sunday, but Vin Mazzaro is listed as the scheduled starter. ... Lefty Brett Anderson, who was removed from Friday's game against the Indians after two innings because of tightness in his forearm, said he was 100 percent Saturday. ... Rule 5 outfielder Ben Copeland, who bruised his sternum when he crashed into the outfield wall Tuesday, told Geren that he tried to play catch Saturday but couldn't. ... Second baseman Mark Ellis (shoulder) played defense in a game for the first time this spring, going three innings in a Minor League game at Papago Park. He didn't have any ground balls hit to him and didn't have to make any throws but said he felt ready to make any play needed. He'll play five innings in a Minor League game Monday and hopes to make his defensive debut in Cactus League action Wednesday.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.