Camp Notes: Thomas Moving Forward

PHOENIX--Slugger Frank Thomas arrived at the A's camp with a big smile on his face and optimism about his physical health. His emotional well-being, however, came under attack last week after a war of words with White Sox general manager Ken Williams.

Newly signed DH Frank Thomas said he felt the White Sox didn't give him proper respect this winter, when they declined to bring back their all-time leading home run hitter after a 16-year run. The slugger was upset at a lack of communication from the team's brass about the decision to let him go.

White Sox GM Kenny Williams fired back in a widely televised interview, calling Thomas "an idiot."

Thomas initiated a phone call to Williams, and the men finally spoke for 20 minutes. But they came away agreeing to disagree.

"You know, it was a heated discussion. Lasted for a while," Thomas said. "But, I think everything that needs to be said was said. ... We're just moving forward."

On the field, Thomas will move forward slowly. He won't play in many Cactus League games and will do more jogging than running this spring. It will be a spring of constant caution for Thomas with the goal playing Opening Day.

"We're going to take it slow," Thomas said. "There is no urgency here. They know what I can do and they want me healthy. And April 1 is the goal.

"The scans have been fine already, but they want to see how much more healing has taken place over the last month and a half."

Thomas felt as if he could run a month and a half ago. He's done speed-walking, cut and planted, jumped and hopped, and was originally hoping to run around with his teammates on his first day in green and gold.

Doctors nixed that idea, which was fine with Thomas. The big slugger believes he came back about a month too soon a year ago from a broken ankle, before it healed completely, and that was the reason he re-injured it.

"Last year was a special year," Thomas said. "I could tell watching the (White Sox), being around the team, that something was clicking there, so I was anxious to get back. I probably should have waited an extra month."

If Thomas does play in exhibition games, it will be late in spring. He'll be on back fields taking at-bats against minor-leaguers so he doesn't have to run. But, of course, that could change after doctors review the latest MRI on his left foot and ankle.

"It's going to take me a solid six weeks," Thomas said. "I haven't swung a bat since late July. I've done a lot of video work and the simple things that I've always worked on."

Thomas, 37, feels there's a lot of baseball left in him. This year is hardly his farewell. He spoke with energy, passion and excitement throughout his interview with local and national reporters.

"I feel young still," Thomas said. "My body is still strong. The nagging ankle injury is something that bothered me for two years, but hopefully I can play until I'm 41 or 42. That's realistic for me, and that's my goal."

News and Notes

--LHP Joe Kennedy will likely have a role that's a work in progress. Since he's the only lefty in the bullpen, it will be rare when he's asked to just get one lefty out in a game. He could start an inning, or enter against a stretch of tough lefty power hitters in the middle of the lineup. He can still pitch multiple innings, if necessary. The A's use of their only lefty will be intriguing to watch.

--2B Mark Ellis gets first crack at the leadoff spot in the lineup, after thriving in the role the final two months and ending last season as the A's best hitter. After a remarkable comeback from a horrendous shoulder injury in 2004 spring training, Ellis is back to his old self and primed for an even bigger breakout year. Ellis doesn't have to look over his shoulder for playing time either. He won the job last year, twice actually, and it's all his now.

--1B Dan Johnson added about 18 pounds in the off-season in an attempt to get stronger and stay more consistent. Johnson appeared to hit a wall during the late August dog days of summer and hit just .198 in September. He might not play against many left-handers, and could start a bunch of games at designated hitter. But after hitting 15 homers and driving in 58 runs in about four months, the A's can reasonably expect bigger numbers from him.

--SS Bobby Crosby has experienced shoulder soreness in this early spring and is taking it slow in the field. Crosby was the DH in the A's intrasquad game on Wednesday and the A's plan to use him only as a DH for at least another week. Crosby has thrown from 150 feet, but he hasn't yet taken regular throws from the shortstop position.

--UT Hiram Bocachica is still struggling with the after-effects of a broken wrist suffered last spring. Bocachica was to undergo tests on Wednesday to see if the wrist had healed properly after he felt a pop in that wrist earlier in the week. He missed the Winter League season in an attempt to get the wrist back to 100%.

--Four Oakland A's players are leaving major league camp to join rosters for the World Baseball Classic. Closer Huston Street will be part of a USA bullpen which recently lost star closer Billy Wagner when the Met left-hander withdrew from the tournament. Set-up man Kiko Calero will pitch for Puerto Rico and newly signed starter Esteban Loaiza will be one of the headliners for the Mexican team. Infielder Marco Scutaro will play for Venezuela. Scutaro recently helped Venezuela win the Caribbean Series.

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