Notes: Crosby looks fine taking hacks

Notes: Crosby looks fine taking hacks

PHOENIX -- While most members of the Oakland Athletics were out playing golf on Wednesday, shortstop Bobby Crosby was busy taking hacks against right-handers Esteban Loaiza and Jason Windsor on one of the fields at the A's Minor League complex at Papago Park.

Crosby went 2-for-4 against Loaiza and 0-for-2 against Windsor. Crosby will take it. "Those guys are going to be around the plate," Crosby said of facing two pitchers who combined for 230 strikeouts and just 79 walks with Oakland and Triple-A Sacramento last year. "They know how to pitch."

Crosby showed he knows how to hit, drilling a single and double after striking out twice against Loaiza. Windsor got him to hit two grounders.

"I've gotten a lot of at-bats the last three days," Crosby said. "I've gone six months without swinging. It's going to take a little time. The first couple at-bats I thought the strike zone was different. The last two or three at-bats were good."

Loaiza and Windsor were the first two pitchers on a 40-man roster that Crosby has faced since drawing a walk from Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Brandon League in the top of the seventh inning of an eventual 12-10 A's victory on Aug. 21, 2006.

Crosby went on the disabled list with a lower back strain and was advised to rest it during the offseason. He wasn't allowed to even pick up a bat, let alone swing.

"Anyone who has back pain, they know it's no fun," Crosby said. "I remember walking in last year and seeing [A's outfielder Mark] Kotsay would be [laying] length-wise. Now my body gets sore, but the back is fine. That's not an issue."

Which was music to the ears of A's manager Bob Geren, who said Crosby would likely play in a Minor League game this weekend and possibly get into a Major League game on Sunday or Monday.

Crosby participated in a simulated game against Minor League pitchers on Monday and again on Tuesday to prepare for Wednesday's matchup.

"His timing is a little off but he'll come around," Loaiza said of Crosby.

Geren said he was looking for Crosby to regain his batting eye and wasn't worried about his swing.

"It's the first time he didn't know what was coming," Geren said. "He tried to do some pitch recognition. The first at-bat or two he was getting used to it. Then he got a couple of hits. He smoked that double."

Merloni passes test: A's infielder Lou Merloni, who was hit in the head by a pitched ball on March 6, also stepped in against live pitching for first time since the incident.

Merloni made it known in his first at-bat that everything was fine. He got out in front of a high and inside fastball and drilled it into the left-field corner for a double.

"For an athlete it's the unknown," Merloni said. "If there's any kind of doubt, that's the toughest thing to get over. I had to prove to myself I could get back in the box, stay in there and not think about it."

Merloni, who is trying to win a job as a utility infielder with the A's, will jump back into competition on Thursday and join the A's for a game in Tucson against the Colorado Rockies.

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"I've been sitting around too long," said Merloni, who still has some hearing problems in his left ear. "Everything I did the first four days seemed slow and tiring. I didn't start feeling better until Sunday. The thing was not to rush back. You know when you're ready, and the last thing you want to do is feel you're off."

Merloni said one of the reasons he signed with the A's in the offseason was because Geren and bench coach Bob Schaefer saw him develop as a Minor Leaguer in the Boston Red Sox organization.

"They've seen me play and know what I can do," Merloni said. "It's my job to show them I'm the same guy they remember."

Loaiza loosens up: Loaiza didn't know what the fuss was about. He knew he was healthy. All he needed was to maintain his routine.

Loaiza left last Friday's game against the San Francisco Giants with tightness in his right shoulder, which led some to believe he was injured.

"I know myself, and I just needed my routine," he said. "There was no pain, nothing was involved. I'll carry this into my next start on Monday."

Loaiza was the second pitcher, after Joe Blanton, on Friday, and that bent his normal routine askew. He dealt with the same predicament during last year's World Baseball Classic, when he never knew when he would pitch and it led to a rough start in the regular season.

Up next: Right-hander Rich Harden and left-hander Brad Halsey are slated to pitch against the Colorado Rockies in Tucson. The Rockies will start right-hander Jason Hirsh.

Rick Eymer is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.