Is Cahill ready for the big leagues?
The Oakland A's might have one or two of their top pitching prospects with them when they break camp. Vince Mazzaro, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson all have been impressive this spring while competing for at least one and possibly two spots.
Vince Mazzaro got his first Cactus League start on March 12, and he extended his spring scoreless streak to eight innings this week. Scouts have raved about Mazzaro all spring, and at 22, he is slightly older than Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson, who are both 21. Mazzaro was the Texas League's Pitcher of the Year in 2008, which was a break-through season for the right-hander. It was his first professional season with an ERA under 5.00.
Mazzaro also has more experience at higher levels in the minors, having played at Triple-A last year during the regular season. Another plus for Mazzaro is that he has been working on a new changeup.
He's using it with regularity and getting outs. Catcher Landon Powell told the San Francisco Chronicle that batters don't know what the pitch is, and when they have to ask the catcher, that's a good sign.
Anderson pitched for Triple-A Sacramento in the playoffs, winning the deciding Pacific Coast League playoff game, and he is the only left-hander of the three. He was also one of the top starters for Team USA at the Olympics last summer. Anderson was the winning pitcher for the A's on Sunday, as he tossed four scoreless innings against the A's top rival, the Angels of Anaheim. He has allowed only two runs on eight hits in 9.2 innings this spring. The only negative of his spring thus far is that he has struck-out only one batter.
Cahill hasn't pitched beyond Double-A, as he returned from the Olympics with a strained oblique muscle that sidelined him for the post-season and he wasn't able to join Anderson on the River Cats' post-season roster. Cahill has a nasty sinker and excellent mound presence for such a young pitcher. He has twice been named the A's Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Non-roster right-hander Edgar Gonzalez also is in contention for one of the rotation spots. He could have an edge if the A's decide they would like a bit more experience, particularly if Justin Duchscherer is unavailable early in the season because of elbow discomfort. He has a 4.00 ERA this spring. Non-roster veteran Jerome Williams is also in the mix. He threw two innings on Sunday and he also has a 4.00 ERA this spring.
--3B Eric Chavez was expected to play third base by March 9 or 10, but instead he was shut down for several days after experiencing discomfort in his surgically repaired right shoulder. Chavez is receiving shockwave treatment to break up scar tissue, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. He began taking grounders again on March 12 but threw underhand and did not hit. Chavez told the Chronicle he still expects to be ready for Opening Night.
--RHP Justin Duchscherer (elbow) has resumed his throwing program, getting to a distance of 140 feet. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, if Duchscherer is not ready to start the first week of the season, there is a good chance that, in an effort to minimize injuries, he will be moved to the bullpen when he returns to full health.
--1B Daric Barton was sidelined for a week because of a quadriceps strain. Barton, who is coming back from October hip surgery, had only five at-bats in the first two weeks of spring training, and it is becoming increasingly unlikely that he will make the Opening Day roster, particularly with the addition of Nomar Garciaparra.
--RHP Joey Devine has missed a week because of elbow discomfort, but he is expected to be throwing off the mound by Monday or Tuesday, which could get him back into game action soon since he only needs to be ready to throw an inning. Devine is expected to be a co-closer with Brad Ziegler, at least initially. Ziegler allowed a run on three hits in one inning for Team USA in their win on Sunday over the Netherlands.
--SS Bobby Crosby has played three games at third base and one inning at first base since the A's signed SS Orlando Cabrera. With Eric Chavez sidelined because of shoulder pain, Crosby could wind up with more time at third than expected. Crosby said he'd never played first base in his life and hadn't played third since he was 11.
BY THE NUMBERS: 28.6 -- The average age of the Oakland's projected Opening Day roster. Last year's roster averaged 26.2 years old on the final day of the season, but the six offseason acquisitions expected to make the 2009 roster have an average age of 34.3 years old, and everyone else is a year older. Should Vince Mazzaro (22), Brett Anderson (21) or Trevor Cahill (21) make the club, the number will dip.