Notes: Loaiza looks 'great' in return

Notes: Loaiza looks 'great' in return

PHOENIX -- A's righty Esteban Loaiza, forced out of a March 9 game with shoulder tightness, was solid in his return to Cactus League action Monday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

Though he gave up seven hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings, Loaiza allowed just two earned runs and struck out four in his longest outing of the spring.

His previous outing came in a simulated game Wednesday; Loaiza was on the disabled list from April 29-June 8 last year, so the A's wanted to be sure he was healthy before sending him back out against big leaguers.

He looked plenty healthy against the Padres, but two Oakland errors, a fly ball lost in the sun and righty reliever Jay Witasick's first rough outing of the spring made Loaiza's line look a lot worse than it should have been.

"I felt good," said Loaiza, who threw 86 pitches. "I just wanted to go out there and throw strikes and keep the ball low."

Manager Bob Geren said before the game that Loaiza's fastball was clocked in the 85-87 mph range in his Minor League outing, and he rarely topped 88 on the gun Monday. Loaiza typically works at 89-92 when he's healthy.

"I know I can throw harder," he said. "But I'm just working on hitting my spots right now. I don't want to go out there and try to throw as hard as I can and get hurt. I'll air it out a little more against Texas [on Saturday]. ... My shoulder isn't even an issue. It was gone when I pitched in the [simulated] game."

Said Geren: "I thought he looked great. To go from coming out in his first inning to throwing close to 90 pitches, obviously he's feeling pretty good."

Medical report: Shortstop Bobby Crosby (back), who went 1-for-3 with a homer and played four innings on defense in a Minor League intrasquad game Sunday, didn't play in a game Monday but is expected to make another Minor League appearance Tuesday. He'll play seven innings on defense, and if it goes well, he'll likely make his Cactus League debut Wednesday night against the Royals. ... The plan for righty setup man Justin Duchscherer (triceps tendinitis) has changed yet again. He threw 31 pitches in batting practice, and Geren said he'll not throw Tuesday and pitch in a Minor League game Wednesday. If that goes well, he'll take Thursday off and make his Cactus League debut Friday. ... Outfielder Bobby Kielty, rehabbing from knee surgery, took part in batting practice in the morning. ... Outfielder Hiram Bocachica, who missed the previous two days with a "non-baseball-related" condition (he was sick), was back in action Monday.

Game notes: Center fielder Milton Bradley lined a double off the right-field wall against Padres ace Jake Peavy in the bottom of the first inning, then made a nice basket catch after a long run toward the infield to rob Russell Branyan in the top of the second.

Spring Training
News and features:
• Loaiza on being healthy:  350K
• Young on Harden's spring:  350K
• Huston Street on A's bullpen:  350K
• Crosby close to game action:  350K
• Stewart ready to play every day:  350K
Spring Training info: coverage  |  Schedule  |  Ballpark  |  Tickets

Outfield prospect Travis Buck made a sliding catch in right field to end the top of the second with the bases loaded, then went the other way to drill a double off the left-field wall off Peavy in the bottom of the frame. He also lost track of a high fly ball that bounced right next to him on the warning track and over the fence for a ground-rule double in the sixth, but his three hits led the A's.

"He's using the whole field and showing power in every direction," Geren said. "He has a very, very, very similar swing to [Jason] Giambi's."

Shannon Stewart executed a hit-and-run to perfection in the third, using an inside-out swing to drill a single into center that allowed Daric Barton to take third. Barton started at first base and made an error in the fourth inning that led to an unearned run. In the sixth, he couldn't come up with second baseman Mark Ellis' off-balance, one-hop throw with a runner on second, allowing another unearned run to cross. Ellis was charged with the error.

Witasick took over for Loaiza with a runner on second base in the sixth and quickly saw his spring-long streak of scoreless outings come to an end. He faced six hitters in the inning and gave up three singles, a walk and a home run before working a 1-2-3 sixth. Lefty Alan Embree's streak of scoreless outings ended at five games, too. He gave up a triple and a singe in the eighth.

Catcher Jason Kendall went 0-for-4 and is 0-for-14 in his past five games. He started the spring by going 7-for-19 (.368) in his first six games.

Dribblers ...: Righty reliever Mike Mitchell, who didn't allow a run in seven Cactus League outings, was among the five players reassigned to Minor League camp Monday. Also cut loose from big-league camp were infielder Kevin Melillo, outfielder Charles Thomas, catcher Landon Powell and pitcher Erasmo Ramirez. ... Infielder Antonio Perez played center field for the A's in Tucson on Sunday. Perez has been working with coach Tye Waller on outfield play for about a week. "A big part of our success this year will be versatility," Geren said. With Perez clearly in the club's plans for this season, and Crosby and Kielty expected to be ready by Opening Day, the only real competition left among position players is at first base, where Erubiel Durazo and Dan Johnson are battling. ... Nick Swisher, the only projected regular who played in 15 of the team's first 19 games here, was given Monday's game off. ... The A's have hit 10 home runs this spring, lowest in the Cactus League. Only one of them has come at Phoenix Muni.

Up next: A's righty Rich Harden will face righty Charlie Haeger of the visiting White Sox in a 1:05 p.m. PT start Tuesday at Phoenix Muni. Harden is expected to pitch five or six innings.

Mychael Urban is a national writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.