The team kept hotshot prospect Carlos Gonzalez on the major league squad Monday as it trimmed to the mandatory 28-man roster required for the two-game series against the Boston Red Sox at the Tokyo Dome.
Gonzalez didn't travel to Japan, instead staying in Phoenix to rehab a strained right hamstring that's kept him out of games since March 13. It was thought the A's might simply option Gonzalez to the minors, as he's just 22 and has minimal experience at the Triple-A level.
But with neither Ryan Sweeney nor Chris Denorfia having won the starting job with their play, the A's may thrust Gonzalez into the lineup when he's healthy.
They'll first take a look at him during the Bay Bridge exhibition series against the Giants on March 28-30.
"All reports say he's doing good," A's assistant general manager David Forst said before Tuesday morning's 6-5 loss to the Boston Red Sox. "He should be able to play against San Francisco. It allows us a couple of extra days to evaluate him."
The A's and Boston can only use 25 players for the Tokyo series, but three players can be designated as inactive. The A's don't have to reduce to a true 25-man roster until March 30.
Pitchers Justin Duchscherer and Dana Eveland, who both started exhibitions in Tokyo, are the other two players on the inactive list.
As expected, the A's placed third baseman Eric Chavez on the 15-day disabled list. Chavez missed the entire exhibition season with a sore lower back, and it's uncertain when he might return.
Right-hander Chad Gaudin, recovering from hip and foot surgery, also went on the DL but is expected to return April 12 to start against Cleveland. Reliever Kiko Calero (shoulder injury) was placed on the 60-day disabled list to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Mike Sweeney.
Gonzalez was the marquee player Oakland received from Arizona in the offseason trade of Dan Haren. He made a strong impression with the A's brass before he got hurt.
A's starter Joe Blanton had a shutout going through five innings Tuesday, but then Boston got to him for three runs in the sixth to erase a 2-0 deficit. Blanton was relieved by Alan Embree with two outs and a runner on second in the sixth. Blanton allowed seven hits and three runs in his 94-pitch outing.
Blanton said the hoopla of the season-opening game, and the boisterous pro-Red Sox crowd, didn't affect his pitching.
"I was a little jittery before I went out there, but when I (was on the mound) I was calm the whole time," Blanton said.
Rich Harden takes the hill in Wednesday's 3:05 a.m. game (7:05 p.m. Tokyo time) that wraps up this series. The A's fly back to Oakland immediately after the game.
A's cleanup man Jack Cust had a horrible night, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Manager Bob Geren started Cust at DH, playing Emil Brown in left field and sitting Mike Sweeney. Geren opted for Ryan Sweeney in center over Chris Denorfia. Ryan Sweeney finished 0-for-3. ... Bobby Crosby made his fifth straight Opening Day start at shortstop, tying the Oakland record for consecutive Opening Day starts at shortstop shared by Bert Campaneris, Mike Bordick and Miguel Tejada. ... The A's returned only eight players from last year's Opening Day roster, their fewest since Opening Day rosters are first available in 1992. ...Tuesday's game marked the second time in their Oakland history that the A's have opened the season at a neutral site. They lost to Toronto 9-6 in Las Vegas to start the 1996 season, when McAfee Coliseum was being renovated. ... A's catcher Kurt Suzuki nabbed his first career stolen base in the bottom of the second. ... Boston right fielder J.D. Drew was a last-minute scratch because of lower back stiffness. Brandon Moss started in his place. ... Walnut Creek resident David Feldman, who scores many A's home games, is serving as the official scorekeeper for the series.
-- Joe Stiglich