PHOENIX -- A sense of renewed optimism, along with plenty of fresh faces, made their way onto the field Sunday as A's pitchers and catchers enjoyed their first official workouts of the spring under a steady rain. A total of 28 pitchers and five catchers -- including seven non-roster pitchers and three non-roster catchers -- found themselves on the diamond at Phoenix Municipal Stadium for less than 10 minutes before escaping to reach cover in the inside facilities. "The work will get done today," manager Bob Geren said. "Either way, we will get our work in, no problem."
Such was the scene within minutes, as drops diminished and the workouts increased, leaving all eyes eagerly awaiting the sight of a healthy Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer, two of 14 pitchers scheduled to throw bullpen sessions for the day. Sheets threw several hard strikes while debuting No. 15 -- digits he graciously acquired from Ryan Sweeney. Duchscherer, meanwhile, never made it out of the clubhouse. The A's right-hander, who missed all of last year because of an elbow injury and a bout with clinical depression, revealed he is dealing with an irritated sacroiliac joint, which connects the base of the spine to the hip bones. Duchscherer was bothered by the same problem last year while rehabbing from elbow surgery and has had three cortisone shots for the joint, but it is no longer responding to the treatment like it did before. Thus, on Monday he will undergo a short nerve ablation procedure, which involves the burning of the nerve ends of his SI joint using radio waves to produce heat that will destroy the nerve and relieve pain. "It's frustrating," he said. "I thought all I was going to have to worry about this season was my mental problems, and now something like this happens." However, Duchscherer insists it's a minor setback and was told that recovery time usually varies from one day to one week, leaving questions of when he'll make it back on the mound lingering once again. His recovering partner in crime, however, made impressive strides Sunday morning. Sheets, who has insisted since his arrival in Oakland that he's 100 percent healthy despite missing all of last year due to elbow surgery, proved his word to be true in front of several coaches and media members who stood closely watching his bullpen session. "I'm feeling good today," Sheets said after throwing. "I can't compare it to how I felt before in previous seasons because that seems so long ago, but I felt comfortable today." The four-time Milwaukee All-Star, who represents the team's biggest offseason acquisition with a price tag of $10 million, has thrown the same two pitches -- fastball and curveball -- since he was 11 and was asked about both. "The fastball was obviously not 95 [mph], but I don't need to be there right now," he said. "I'm dialing it back up, and it might take awhile, but there's no sense in rushing it." As for his curveball, "it will take awhile for it to come, but it's going to come when it wants to come. It only ever didn't come once in eight years." Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson and Brad Ziegler were among some other pitchers who took to the mound Sunday, with plenty more -- including Dallas Braden and Andrew Bailey -- expected to throw a bullpen session Monday. Catcher Joel Galarraga, who is waiting on a visa in Mexico, and pitcher Henry Rodriguez -- expected to make it in from Venezuela late Tuesday -- were the only two missing from the day's events. Geren said Sunday's happenings were mostly about making the team familiar with certain procedures. The big pep talk, the one that sends out an annual message of optimism to his team, comes Thursday when the entire squad, including position players, is in camp. "Everybody's undefeated," Geren said. "It's an exciting time."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.