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Notes: Relieved Crosby takes first cuts

Notes: Recovering Crosby takes first cuts

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PHOENIX -- A's shortstop Bobby Crosby took the first baby steps toward his healthy return to the lineup on Tuesday when he hit off a tee in the batting cage at Papago Park.

The swings were Crosby's first since being sidelined for the remainder of the 2006 season in August with what eventually was diagnosed as a fractured vertebra in his lower back.

"It's a big relief," Crosby said. "I've been wondering about this for the past four months."

After taking about 30 hacks at between 60 and 70 percent intensity, Crosby said he felt no pain during the session. Manager Bob Geren observed and said it went the way he'd been expecting it to go.

"I spoke with him so many times this winter, I was fairly positive he'd feel great," Geren explained. "He told me he would, and he did, so that's great."

The plan is for Crosby to be brought along through a slow progression of increased activity. After he graduates to soft toss, he'll move on to hitting on the field. Once he's hitting on the field, he hopes to have a more specific timeline for his eventual return in place.

"Obviously, I'd like to be ready when the games start [on March 1], but that's what, a week and a half away?" he said. "I don't know if I'll be ready by then, but in three or four days, I'll have a better idea."

Asked if Tuesday's success made him want to try swinging at 100 percent next time out, Crosby quickly said, "No. I'm not willing to risk it."

"I'm sure it's hard for Bobby, because he's an energetic guy who likes to be doing things," Geren said. "But we've got plenty of time to get him ready for the start of the season, so we'll be pretty cautious with him for a while."

One theory that's been frequently floated about Crosby's injury history -- he's missed 132 games over the past two seasons -- is that he swings too hard. Geren said he'd only want Crosby to dial back his hack if it were in the name of improved performance, "but don't do it for any other reason."

Crosby said he's considered shortening up and would like to do it, but he's not sure if a lifelong approach of letting loose on every swing will prove too difficult to deprogram.

"I don't know if I can do it," he said. "But if I can, I do think it will help me stay healthy and be a better player."

Crosby also did some work on Tuesday with new infield coach (and bench coach) Bob Schaefer and said his back is a non-issue on defense.

"I'm taking grounders just like I do during the season," Crosby said.

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More arrivals: Recently signed outfielder Shannon Stewart made his first appearance of spring in the clubhouse and took some batting practice on the field, while third baseman Eric Chavez went the stealth route and got some work in without drawing any media attention.

Chavez and former A's infielder Frank Menechino, who will report to Rockies camp later this week, hit in the tarp-covered cage early on Tuesday.

"Eric looked great," Geren said. "He looked really, really strong and happy. It was nice to see him. And it's always good to see 'Big Bank' Frank."

Oakland's position players are required to check in with the team by the close of business on Wednesday, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Thursday. The only players expected to be on the big-league roster who haven't yet made an appearance are outfielders Mark Kotsay and Bobby Kielty, infielders Marco Scutaro and Antonio Perez and designated hitter Mike Piazza.

"As far as I know," Geren said, "everyone will be here by tomorrow."

Dribblers: Geren was impressed with Crosby's new look, which features the scruffy beginnings of a full beard and curly, medium-length hair that makes him look like Justin Timberlake's buffed-out big brother. "I'm not used to seeing him with any hair." ... Owner Lew Wolff was at camp on Tuesday, meeting some of the new players and coaches. ... Rule 5 outfielder Ryan Goleski, who underwent offseason wrist surgery and will have to make the big-league team this spring or be offered back to the Indians, impressed Geren during batting practice. "He has a nice swing," Geren said. "Very nice swing." ... Rawlings has included Chavez on a ballot listing the 50 greatest Gold Glove winners of the past 50 years. The company is asking fans to vote for the best player at each position during its Gold Glove Golden Anniversary celebration, titled the "Summer of Glove," at RawlingsGoldGlove.com. Chavez has won six of the awards, but it'd be a major upset if he beats out Orioles legend Brooks Robinson, who won a record 16 Gold Gloves at the hot corner.

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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