A's set roster for trip to Japan

A's set roster for trip to Japan

PHOENIX -- What little suspense remained is gone, and all it took to eliminate it was a three-paragraph press release.

The A's on Tuesday morning optioned right-hander Joey Devine to Triple-A Sacramento, leaving 35 players in big league camp. Five of those players already had been told that they won't be on the charter flight that leaves for Japan after Wednesday's Cactus League split-squad finales, so the 30-man roster that Oakland is allowed to take to the Far East is set.

The A's, who are scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on March 20 and play a pair of exhibition games against Japanese pro teams on March 22-23 before opening the regular season with a two-game series against the World Series champion Red Sox on March 25-26, will carry 12 pitchers, three catchers, nine infielders and six outfielders on the trip.

All four games will be played at Tokyo Dome, and before the March 25 game, the A's will have to further pare the roster to 28, with three of the 28 considered "ineligible" to compete.

The ineligible players -- two are expected to be Oakland's starting pitchers in the exhibition games -- don't have to physically be in Japan, however, so it's possible that third baseman Eric Chavez, who is staying in Phoenix to continue working his way back into baseball shape, will be the third.

Before the A's resume the regular season back in the U.S. with their April 1 home opener, also against the Red Sox, they'll have to finalize a 25-man roster. If Chavez, who had offseason back surgery, is listed as one of the three ineligibles rather than placed on the disabled list on March 25, he'll be available to play on April 1. If he's placed on the DL, the earliest he could return to the roster is April 4.

"Obviously, I want to be there [on April 1]," Chavez said this week. "Hopefully, that's how it works out."

Rookie left-hander Dana Eveland, who appears to have secured the final spot in the starting rotation, will start in the first exhibition game in Japan, followed by veteran right-hander Justin Duchscherer. Righty Joe Blanton has drawn the first Opening Day assignment of his career for the March 25 game, and righty Rich Harden is scheduled to start the second game in Japan against the Red Sox.

The other pitchers making the trip are righties Andrew Brown, Keith Foulke, Huston Street, Santiago Casilla and Rule 5 draftee Fernando Hernandez, and lefties Dallas Braden, Lenny DiNardo and Alan Embree.

The infielders on the travel squad are first baseman Daric Barton, non-roster second baseman Brooks Conrad, shortstop Bobby Crosby, second baseman Mark Ellis, third baseman Jack Hannahan, non-roster first baseman/designated hitter Mike Sweeney, first baseman Dan Johnson, and utilitymen Gregorio Petit and Donnie Murphy.

The outfielders are Emil Brown, Travis Buck, Jack Cust, Chris Denorfia, Jeff Fiorentino and Ryan Sweeney, and the catchers will be Kurt Suzuki, Rob Bowen and non-roster invitee Justin Knoedler.

Among those still in big league camp and staying behind with Chavez are right-handed relievers Kiko Calero and Chad Gaudin, outfield prospect Carlos Gonzalez and non-roster outfielder Todd Linden. Calero (shoulder), Gaudin (hip, foot) and Gonzalez (hamstring) aren't traveling to Japan because of health reasons.

Linden, who was batting .577 heading into Tuesday's road game against the Rangers, was told on Monday that he wasn't going to make the 25-man roster, but the A's have yet to make a formal roster move.

Devine, 24, is a highly regarded relief prospect acquired in the offseason trade that sent outfielder Mark Kotsay to Atlanta. Devine gave up two earned runs over four innings in four Cactus League appearances this spring.

"He's a talented pitcher with a bright future," manager Bob Geren said of Devine, who likely will start the season as the closer at Triple-A Sacramento.

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