By Jason Wojciechowski on June 8, 2008 at 11:28 PM
(My move to the west coast being completed, I'm back. But look for another outage in a few months, when I move again, this time to southern Texas.)
Mike Sweeney is having surgery on his knee, and he's expected to be out for four to six weeks. That Sweeney got hurt and needs surgery should be no surprise: he managed just 134 games over the last two years. With Frank Thomas still out, there isn't really a logjam to be cleared at the DH spot, but it'll help the roster a little bit that both of those guys won't be coming back at the same time. When Thomas comes back, I'd expect him to again be the full-time DH, a Cust-Gonzalez-Buck outfield, Eric Chavez at third, and Jack Hannahan moving to the bench. I think the fact that Em(a)il Brown hasn't played in the last two Angels games isn't a coincidence, but is rather a sign that he's now an extra bat off the bench, and maybe a candidate to be cut when Thomas comes back, since he's not really a better hitter than anyone in the starting lineup (maybe Kurt Suzuki or Bobby Crosby), and he's not a guy who's going to come in defensively, even though Cust and Buck aren't strong outfielders.
Hannahan's lack of bat and lack of future with this team might make him a candidate to be cut as well, but the fact that he can play second and third, and the fact that he's Eric Chavez's backup (and Chavez needs a backup still, I'm sure) will likely keep him around over Brown.
The A's are carrying 12 pitchers again, so maybe Brad Ziegler will go away back to Sacramento when it's Thomas time. I guess the other option is Gregorio Petit, but I'm not sure the A's want to do that: I don't think they see Hannahan as a middle infielder, despite the aforementioned experience at second base, so they likely think of Petit as their utility guy while Hannahan is more their backup corner guy (especially seeing as how the A's are miraculously down to just one first baseman on the roster, with Mike Sweeney and Dan Johnson both gone, although Sweeney is obviously not gone forever).
On the pitching front, though, it's nice to have Andrew Brown back: he was activated today after his appendectomy has kept him out since May 20. Dallas Braden, who never gets to pitch when he gets called up, got sent down.
So with all that free association done, here's my sort of combined advice / prognostication: when Frank Thomas comes back (call it a week from now), the A's get back to 11 pitchers by sending down Ziegler and going with this lineup: Ellis, Cust, Thomas, Chavez, Buck, Crosby, Barton, Gonzalez, Suzuki. Sandy Casilla should be back in about a week as well. Casilla's been untouchable, and I think he's out of options as well, so he'll stay in the majors. This might be cut-bait time on Keith Foulke or Kiko Calero, although it's not really fair to call it "cut-bait" because both have pitched well. But neither of them is likely to be a major force for this team next year or the year after, so maybe one of them is gone. Or maybe Chad Gaudin gets traded.
At some point down the road, Donnie Murphy will be back, but that's easy to take care of, as you just swap in one utility infielder for another and send Gregorio Petit down to AAA.
Joey Devine will also be back at some point, though it's unclear when. He pitched well, so it'd be a shame to send him to AAA again, but I figure that's what'll happen given that the A's would likely to have to lose Calero, Foulke, or Gaudin, whoever survives Casilla's return, to get Devine back on the roster. It's not a terrible move since Devine will still be available at the next pitching injury, and the point of this year is not to assemble the very best roster right this very minute.
Ryan Sweeney's return is when I figure Em(a)il Brown is done with the team. Sweeney is a better bench outfielder than Brown given the current outfield configuration because of his speed and defense. With Carlos Gonzalez up, it looks like he'll basically play the Chris Denorfia role, tag-teaming with Rajai Davis.
Finally, Mike Sweeney's return is the hardest of all on the roster. Fortunately, it's so far off that the A's are bound to suffer another injury and thus be forced to DL someone, allowing Sweeney back on the team. Finally, there's always the possibility of sending Carlos Gonzalez back to AAA, but that seems unlikely: with a player like him, the A's don't seem interested in just bringing him up as an injury replacement, but rather bringing him up when he's ready to play every day and just handing him the job, as it appears they've done. (Though it's hard to tell because his callup coincided with Sweeney's injury, so maybe he really is just here for a few weeks until Sweeney (Ryan) heals up.)