© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
05/12/07 4:53 PM ET
Notes: Walker designated to make room
Veteran infielder heading home; Loaiza, Harden working back
By Rick Eymer / Special to MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Todd Walker has appeared in 1,288 Major League games. If he appears in any more, it won't be with the Athletics, who designated the 33-year-old infielder for assignment before Saturday's game against the Indians.
"No one wants to get released, but I don't take it personally," said Walker, a former first-round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins. "Part of me wants to be at home. There comes a time in every athlete's life where everything surrounds baseball -- until you get a family and priorities change."
Walker heads for Shreveport, La., where he will spend time with his family and wait for the phone to ring. The A's have 10 days to determine Walker's future. He's not going to hold his breath. He's come to terms with the fact he may have appeared in his final Major League game.
If Thursday's win over the Royals was his final appearance, at least he ends on a positive note. Walker singled in the eighth inning of the A's 17-3 victory.
Walker became expendable because the A's are getting healthy and they needed to make room for left-hander Dallas Braden, who started against the Indians on Saturday.
"I've thought that, possibily, this could be it for me and I'm fine with that," Walker said. "On this team, there's really not a spot for me. As good as guys as they have in this clubhouse, my role was fairly easy. I don't have a problem not playing so much. The A's have a great team and they are playing well. I told [general manager Billy Beane] I'll give him my address so he can send me a [World Series] ring at the end of the year."
The A's signed Walker on March 30, after he was released by the Padres. He was on the A's Opening Day roster and hit .271 with four RBIs in 18 games.
Walker, who turns 34 on May 25, collected 1,316 hits over a 10-year career that began with the Twins and continued with the Rockies, Reds, Red Sox, Cubs and Padres before his time with the A's.
"I think Billy did me a favor by picking me up at a time when rosters were set on every team," Walker said. "It's hard to find a job when you get released at the end of spring camp."
Walker looks forward to heading home and celebrating his daughter Riley's sixth birthday, which he missed by a couple of days. There's also Jackson and wife Katie waiting for him. For now, it's the only place he wants to be.
"I'm excited about going home," Walker said. "There's a whirlwind of emotions, and Billy said he'd let me know what happens in the next 10 days and I'll make a decision based on that. I've had my days in the Minors. If I were to be sent down, it would be a waste of time."
Walker said he's thought of staying in baseball in some area, whether it be on the field as a coach or in the broadcast booth. But that's for later. Now it's time for some home-cooked meals.
"He's a great guy to have on a team," manager Bob Geren said. "I feel strongly somebody will pick him up. I'll be rooting for him."
Pitchers nearing return:
Right-handers Esteban Loaiza and Rich Harden are slowly pitching themselves back into the starting rotation.
Loaiza (spasms in right trapezius) is closer to returning, leaving for Arizona on Sunday to begin a rehab assignment. Harden (strained right shoulder) played catch on Friday for the first time.
Loaiza went through a bullpen session on Saturday and said he was going to pitch in the desert on Monday.
"My arm feels good," he said. "I know I'll pitch again on Friday, but I don't know where."
Loaiza will likely get four or five rehab starts before coming off the 60-day disabled list on May 31.
"He really has to have Spring Training," Geren said. "He needs to treat it like Spring Training."
Geren said Harden "was in a great mood after he threw."
A's pitching coach Curt Young will develop a throwing plan for Harden, in consultation with head trainer Larry Davis.
Right-hander Chad Gaudin (2-1, 2.40 ERA) takes the mound against the Cliff Lee (1-0, 3.60 ERA) and the Indians in a 1:05 p.m. PT start on Sunday. Gaudin got back on track Tuesday in Kansas City by dominating the Royals over eight strong innings. He threw in the low- to mid-90s and had an excellent slider and changeup, allowed a run on five hits and a walk while striking out eight in his longest outing of the year. Gaudin has lost only one of his eight starts this season and hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any of them.