A's Spring Notes: Injuries Mount

Crosby's back has flared up.

After last season's struggles with injuries, the Oakland A's were hoping for better luck this season. Thus far this spring, the A's are experiencing some of the same injury woes as last year.

Eric Chavez, who had three surgeries during the off-season, was bothered by increasing stiffness in his surgically repaired lower back and required an epidural. That treatment required the A's to shut Chavez down for the better part of a week, and it makes it far less likely that Chavez will be able to make the A's trip to Tokyo later this month for the season-opening series against the Red Sox. He has said that he is taking his recovery "day-by-day."

Jack Hannahan and Donnie Murphy are getting increased time at third base with Chavez's return delayed. Murphy, who is out of options, was expected to get a roster spot, but Hannahan was less certain of making the squad; now, the A's are likely to need him around, considering that Chavez has had one setback already.

Shortstop Bobby Crosby, who has homered twice already this spring, was scratched on Monday with upper back spasms. Crosby had a fractured vertebrae in his back in 2006, although that was in his lower back. Crosby developed the soreness when taking practice groundballs early Monday. He will be re-evaluated on Tuesday.

Relievers Keith Foulke and Kiko Calero are also hurting. Foulke didn't get into a game in the first week of Cactus League play because of a mild right calf strain, but he shouldn't miss much more time than that. He threw a side session Sunday, and A's pitching coach Curt Young said he was close to returning. Calero is trying to rehab a torn rotator cuff, but the recovery has been slow thus far. The A's believe that Calero is likely to miss the start of the season. With Chad Gaudin also a candidate to start the season on the DL, the A's may get to audition two more pitchers into the first few weeks of the regular season before deciding on their final pitching staff.

Newly acquired reliever Joey Devine's spring debut was delayed because of back spasms. The team doesn't believe the problem is serious, but the reliever had lower back problems in 2006 with the Braves, so it's something to keep an eye on. He has a similar tear in his lower back to the one that Chavez had repaired this off-season. The A's hope to have Devine pitch in middle relief to start the season and gradually give him more responsibility as the season progresses.

Outfielder Ryan Sweeney returned to the line-up on Monday for the first time since he bruised his knee in a collision with Prince Fielder during the spring opener last Thursday. He went 0-2 versus the Angels, who beat Oakland on Monday by a score of 6-1.

Designated hitter Jack Cust left the A's spring game versus the Angels on Monday early after being hit in the elbow with a pitch. The injury wasn't believed to be serious.

In addition, infielder Kevin Melillo has yet to appear in a spring game. He is trying to recover from off-season wrist surgery and a sprained ankle.

Outfielder Emil Brown was one of several A's players to be hit with the flu bug. He has been feeling better and should return to regular action soon.

The A's did get some good news on the injury-front on Monday. Starters Justin Duchscherer and Rich Harden both made their spring debuts and both reported that they felt good on the mound. Duchscherer allowed one run in one inning, while Harden allowed two runs in three innings. Both of Harden's runs came in the first inning when Jack Cust misplayed a fly-ball into a hit.

The A's relief corps also received a boost this weekend with the arrival of Santiago Casilla, who had been stuck back in the Dominican Republic waiting for his visa. Casilla had hoped to arrive in Phoenix early this year to work out with his teammates before camp opened, so he applied for his visa in the Dominican Republic on Jan. 25 because he'd been told it would take 10 days. He didn't get the visa until Feb. 29 and arrived in Phoenix on March 1, but the delay shouldn't affect the reliever much. He threw three innings at the A's complex in the Dominican a day before he got to Arizona, and he played winter ball. He appears to be in excellent shape, and he's a virtual lock for a bullpen job.

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