Notes: Crosby, Harden making strides
Shortstop takes batting practice; righty strikes out five
PHOENIX -- Shortstop Bobby Crosby and right-hander Rich Harden on Sunday passed very different but equally important tests, prompting manager Bob Geren to proclaim it a "good day in A's camp."
At about 9:45 a.m., Crosby stepped in at Phoenix Municipal Stadium and took part in batting practice with the team for the first time since a back injury ended his 2006 season in August.
"I think I'll be ready for Opening Day," said Crosby, who estimated the intensity of his 20-something swings at 70-75 percent. "I don't see that being a problem."
About four hours later and 40 miles or so away, Harden climbed the mound at Peoria Stadium and dominated the Padres in his Cactus League debut, striking out five in a scoreless two-inning relief appearance. Harden, who missed most of the 2006 season with injuries of his own, gave up one hit.
"For how early it is, I felt really strong," said Harden, who struck out the final four batters he faced. "I'm not feeling stress on any part of my body."
Crosby has stressed plenty about his health over the past several months, and he's hoping that stress will be gone soon.
"I felt great. It was encouraging," Crosby said. "And it's not imperative to get me into a game tomorrow, so I'm sure [the trainers] still want me to take it slow. ... I don't think they'll throw me out there [in a game] for a while, but we've got a lot of time to get ready, and I can always get at-bats in B games or at the Minor League camp later in the spring if I need to catch up."
With a stiff wind blowing in from left field, Crosby crushed a few balls that got knocked down in front of the warning track. He thinks a more controlled swing -- he's a max-effort hacker at heart -- will help his game and his health.
"Even though I'm only swinging at 70, 75 percent, the ball still jumps off the bat," he said. "That's encouraging, too. If I can get up to 90 percent and still drive the ball, this [injury] could be a blessing in disguise."
Harden also might ultimately reap some rewards for the pain he's suffered. The elbow strain that cost him most of the second half last year was the result of repeatedly hyperextending his arm while throwing his changeup, but he's cleaned up his mechanics and looked as sharp as ever Sunday.
Throwing fastballs and changeups exclusively, Harden retired the first batter he faced, Marcus Giles, on a fly ball to center before fanning Giles' brother, Brian. Adrian Gonzalez then doubled, after which Harden finished his work with a flourish. He struck out Josh Bard to end the third inning, then set down Russell Branyan, Khalil Greene and Geoff Blum, all swinging, while ripping through the fourth.
"Rich was awesome," Geren said. "He used only two pitches and still dominated. I saw more than I needed to see. He exceeded all first-game expectations."
"The ball's coming out of my hand real good," said Harden, who plans to work his slider and split-fingered fastball into the mix his next time out. "Right now I'm just working on location and feel. ... The changeup feels good. I just have to be aware of what my arm's doing and what my body's doing."
Duke hurting: Righty reliever Justin Duchscherer has yet to appear in a Cactus League game and hasn't thrown at all since Feb. 28. On Sunday, MLB.com learned that in addition to still being a bit weakened by a flu bug that swept through the A's clubhouse early in the week, Duchscherer has tendinitis in his elbow.
A clause in the new collective bargaining agreement that prohibits club medical personnel from discussing injuries with the media has turned the dissemination of such information spotty at best this spring.
"He's got a little bit of everything," pitching coach Curt Young said of Duchscherer, who missed 42 games last season while on the disabled list with elbow tendinitis from May 7-June 23. "We just want to make sure he's 100 percent."
Asked when Duchscherer might throw again, Geren said, "Probably within a day or two. Soon."
Game notes: Righty Esteban Loaiza, who was repeatedly roughed up last spring, started and threw two shutout innings, allowing three hits and a walk. The Padres loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, but Loaiza got two strikeouts to escape the jam. "I thought he threw the ball well, and he seemed to feel good about it, too," Geren said. "Not everyone can strike out five of six hitters." ... Non-roster invitee Erubiel Durazo got his first start of the spring at first base and blasted a double high off the batter's eye in center field in his first at-bat to score Dan Johnson from first with the game's first run. Durazo wasn't tested much on defense, though he gamely dived to his right in an unsuccessful attempt to stop a smash off the bat of Blum. "His best chance [to make the team] is to show he can play first base, here or anywhere else," Geren said of Durazo. "I'd like to see him more. I haven't seen enough to evaluate him." ... Center fielder Charles Thomas provided his second defensive highlight of the spring when he made a long run to the warning track and hauled in a deep first-inning drive by Marcus Giles with an over-the-shoulder grab. Later in the inning, Thomas was charged with an error after his bobble of a single by Gonzalez allowed runners to take an extra base. ... Non-roster outfielder Vince Faison flashed some wheels when he scored from first on a double into the left-field corner by catching prospect Kurt Suzuki.
Dribblers ...: Geren said outfielder Mark Kotsay, with whom he spoke by phone Saturday, "is real positive about what he's heard so far" regarding his balky back. Kotsay, who has a herniated disk in his lower back, flew to Los Angeles on Friday to get an outside opinion, and he's scheduled to see another independent doctor Monday. ... Outfielder Bobby Kielty, who had torn meniscus in his left knee surgically repaired Friday, made an appearance in the A's clubhouse during the morning workout. He had crutches with him, but he walked around without them for a bit and said he's already doing exercises to get a jump on his rehab, which is expected to last from three to six weeks. ... A's general manager Billy Beane doesn't often go to his club's Cactus League road games, but he made the trip to Peoria to catch up with his mentor, former A's GM and current Padres CEO Sandy Alderson. When Beane asked a press-box attendant, "Do you know where Sandy is?" he was told, "Maybe she's not here yet." Said Beane to the employee: "Failed that test."
Up next: The A's will start lefty Brad Halsey on Monday in their 12:05 p.m. PT game at Tempe Diablo Stadium against the host Angels, who plan to start righty Ervin Santana. It will be the second start of the spring for Halsey, who gave up three hits over two shutout innings against the Brewers last Thursday.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.