And though that best-case scenario would allow Duchscherer time to squeeze in no more than five outings before the A's leave the desert, there doesn't appear to be a great deal of concern regarding the former All-Star's readiness for the regular season.
Before Oakland's night game against the visiting Diamondbacks on Friday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, manager Bob Geren said that pitching coach Curt Young was "comfortable" with the situation.
Much of that comfort stems from the quality and depth of Oakland's bullpen. Even before Duchscherer went down, Geren was hoping to reduce his workload. Duchscherer missed 42 games last season with a similar ailment.
"We've got a bunch of guys Curt can use in Duke's role," Geren said. "We might have to do it a little more than we expected early on, until Justin gets his arm strength back, but I don't see that being a problem."
Righty Kiko Calero has frequently worked in the eighth inning during his two years with Oakland, and the big offseason bullpen addition, lefty Alan Embree, has plenty of experience as a setup man. Righty Chad Gaudin steadily moved up the responsibility ladder and into a late-innings role last season, and righty Jay Witasick also might get some late work.
"That's the beauty of depth," Geren said. "I'd be comfortable with a lot of those guys closing, too."
Duchscherer threw in the bullpen on Friday and will not throw on Saturday. He's tentatively scheduled to make his 2007 debut on Sunday in one of the club's split-squad games.
Crosby update: Shortstop Bobby Crosby served as designated hitter in a Minor League game against the Angels in Tempe, going 1-for-4 with a double and two walks in his second game action of the spring.
The next test in Crosby's recovery from a fractured vertebra in his back comes on Saturday, when he'll take the field on defense for the first time in another Minor League game.
"Defense is the last thing I'm worried about," Crosby said earlier this spring. "I'm taking ground balls and doing everything defensively that I do during the regular season. But it will feel good to finally get out there. When you're just hitting, you kind of feel like half a player."
Geren was noncommittal as to when Crosby might make his Cactus League debut, calling Sunday a "maybe." Barring a setback, Crosby is expected to be ready for Opening Day.
Game notes: Righty Joe Blanton, who gave up five consecutive hits to open the game and allowed six runs on nine hits -- two of them homers -- over 3 1/3 innings, said his location wasn't great and that his fastball was "the worst its been this spring." But he insisted he felt fine otherwise and was pleased to have rediscovered his slider, which he threw often. "That's the positive I'll take from tonight. They squared some balls up, but it's what -- March 16? It's still early. I'm not going to worry about a bad Spring Training game."
Non-roster invitee Mike Mitchell relieved Blanton with runners at the corners and one out in the fourth and got out of it unscathed. With a nifty fake-to-third-throw-to-first pickoff move and a nasty full-count slider that fanned Eric Byrnes, Mitchell, 25, extended his spring-long streak of consecutive scoreless outings to six. "I thought that was awesome," Blanton said of Mitchell's pitch to Byrnes. "He's pretty impressive for a guy in his first big-league camp."
The A's were held to one hit through the first five innings, and it took red-hot Milton Bradley's RBI double to left-center in the sixth to finally get them on the scoreboard. Bradley has been on base in nine of the 10 games in which he's played and is batting .454 (10-for-22) with two triples and two doubles.
Dribblers: With the exception of Marco Scutaro at shortstop and batting ninth, Oakland's starting lineup and batting order on Friday looked a lot like what A's fans should expect to see on Opening Day: catcher Jason Kendall, left fielder Shannon Stewart, center fielder Bradley, DH Mike Piazza, third baseman Eric Chavez, right fielder Nick Swisher, second baseman Mark Ellis, first baseman Dan Johnson and Scutaro.
"Pretty close, yeah," Geren said. "I like the lineup very much."
Byrnes, a former A's fan favorite and now an outfielder and fan favorite with the D-backs, spent some time during batting practice chatting with Geren, for whom he played while in the Minors with the A's.
"I'm so happy he got this job," Byrnes said. "He's my favorite manager ever. The best. He's going to be great for these guys."
ESPN's Peter Gammons and Fox's Ken Rosenthal, two of the higher-profile baseball journalists in the country, hung out near the A's dugout during batting practice. Not coincidentally, so did A's general manager Billy Beane.
Up next: Lefty Joe Kennedy, who has a 15.95 ERA in three spring starts, will try to establish some positive momentum on Saturday when he takes on the visiting Brewers, who will counter with righty David Bush at 1:05 p.m. PT at Phoenix Muni.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less