PHOENIX — The Italian national baseball team came calling, and A's outfielder Chris Denorfia set off on a study of family history.
Denorfia is one of many major leaguers preparing to play for a foreign country of their heritage in the World Baseball Classic, which begins March 5.
Turns out Denorfia's paternal grandmother emigrated from Caserta, Italy, to the United States, and she's never put in for American citizenship. According to Denorfia, that qualified him to represent Italy should he make the final roster, which will be released Tuesday.
If he makes the team (his chances appear strong), he would leave the A's on March 1 and head to Port St. Lucie, Fla., to train with the Italians. Italy plays its first game in Toronto on March 7 against Venezuela.
But not all is perfect with this development. Denorfia is Irish on his mother's side.
"That went over well," he joked.
Denorfia's grandmother lived with him and his parents for his entire upbringing, so he feels a strong tie to his Italian roots.
"It'll be special," he said. "My grandmother is just overly excited. She can't wait."
All mapped out
The A's have carefully laid out the spring training schedules for third baseman Eric Chavez and second baseman Mark Ellis, with the hopes each returns 100 percent from right shoulder surgery.
The earliest Chavez is slated to play in a Cactus League game is March 3, but "nothing is written in stone," A's trainer Steve Sayles said. "If he doesn't, it doesn't mean it's a setback."
Ellis won't be cleared to play defense until March 25. But he's swinging the bat fine, and A's manager Bob Geren plans to use him as a DH in exhibitions long before then. Ellis has said getting a sufficient number of at-bats is crucial to him being ready for Opening Day.
Reliever Henry Rodriguez has been shut down and will see a doctor this week, as he's hit a snag in his recovery from hernia surgery Dec. 23.
— Joe Stiglich