Before Thursday night's exhibition game between the Oakland A's and their Triple-A affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats, the A's announced that first baseman Dan Johnson would begin the season on the disabled list. Johnson was diagnosed with torn cartilage in his left hip.
The injury occured on Monday when Johnson collided with Colorado catcher Yorvit Torreabla. At first, the injury was thought to be a strained hip flexor. The A's are not yet sure how long Johnson will be out. He could miss two weeks or as much as three months.
The injury came at a bad time for Johnson, who had broken out of an early spring slump to take control of the race for the starting first base job in Oakland. Johnson is coming off of a difficult season in 2006, during which he was demoted to Sacramento for two months after struggling to start the season.
Johnson's injury could open the door for Erubiel Durazo or Travis Buck to make the team. Durazo, who was the A's starting DH from 2003-2005, has had a good spring at the plate and has looked decent at first base. However, he has a track record of poor defense at the major league level, a fact which could work against him when the A's decide whether or not to keep him on the roster.
If the A's decided that Durazo was too big of a liability at first, they could go with the rookie Buck instead. In this scenario, Buck would be a starting corner outfielder for the A's while Nick Swisher moved from the outfield to first. Buck hit .370 during Cactus League play and is the A's top prospect.
A's Beat Sacramento In Slug Fest
The A's moved out to a big early lead against Sacramento in their Thursday night exhibition, but they had to hold on at the end, squeaking out an 11-10 win. The game featured only one pitcher who is expected to start the season in the major leagues, A's reliever Justin Duchscherer, who allowed two runs in 1.1 innings of work. Both runs came on a two-run homerun by River Cats' third baseman J.J. Furmaniak.
There was a lot of power on display on Thursday. Nick Swisher homered twice and Mike Piazza doubled and homered for the A's. Jason Kendall, Eric Chavez, Bobby Crosby, Travis Buck, Erubiel Durazo and Kurt Suzuki all doubled for the A's, as well.
Dallas Braden was the surprise starter for the A's, as expected starter Esteban Loaiza did not appear. Loaiza missed the game with tightness in his right trapezius muscle. He is still expected to start the A's second game of the season versus Seattle on April 3. Braden wore Loaiza's number 25 jersey, and the left-hander pitched well, for the most part, allowing four runs (three earned) in 4.2 innings. All four runs came during his final two innings of work. Braden had his breaking stuff working early and he struck out five while walking two. He appeared to tire a bit at the end of his outing. Duchscherer relieved Braden and Shawn Kohn finished the game for the A's, allowing four runs in three innings.
For the River Cats, it was a parade of relievers. David Shafer started the game, and he had a rough go of it. His command was spotty and he allowed four runs in 1.2 innings. Marcus McBeth relieved Shafer and he allowed two runs in 1.2 innings, including a homerun by Piazza. One highlight of the game was the battle between McBeth and Buck, both top prospects in the system. McBeth struck out Buck on a nasty change-up to end the second inning.
Santiago Casilla allowed a long homerun to Swisher and gave up three runs in total in two innings of work. He walked two and struck out one. Erasmo Ramirez had a good outing, working two perfect innings. Connor Robertson pitched the final 1.2 innings for the River Cats. He allowed two runs, including a homer by Swisher.