Thomas Closing In On Opening Day Clearance

Inside: Frank Thomas is inching closer to being cleared for major league spring training action; Juan Gonzalez is not coming to Oakland, according to the A's; Antonio Perez and Dan Meyer appear to escape injury; Bobby Kielty still hurting; and more...

It's become a foregone conclusion that Frank Thomas will be in the A's Opening Night lineup.

"I can get in there with the big boys," Thomas said. "I'm ready now. I'm comfortable. I could start the season right now and be fine."

Thomas faced A's pitchers Joe Blanton, Kirk Saarloos, Jay Witasick and Joe Kennedy in an intrasquad game Thursday morning at the team's minor league complex. Thomas went 2-for-8 with two doubles and two deep flyballs that likely would have been home runs if there weren't such a strong wind blowing straight in.

"His timing is great," hitting coach Gerald Perry said. "He's putting the barrel of the bat on the ball. He's laying off tough pitches off the plate."

Thomas still needs medical clearance for his sore left ankle before playing in a Cactus League game, which could be provided this weekend when Dr. Jerrald Goldman is in town. Thomas' next MRI is scheduled for March 27.

The Big Hurt jogged to first base whenever he put the ball in play. He isn't in an all-out sprint because it's not necessary now, and there won't be many times he'll do it in the season.

The A's don't expect Thomas to score from first base on doubles anyway, just to score from second on certain singles. He's scheduled to run the bases again Friday.

Thomas hasn't played in a game since July, but he's had 29 plate appearances in the last six days. Previously, it was against minor-leaguers.

Thomas was happy to face major-leaguers Thursday, so he could see fastballs with more movement and sinkers.

"He's been going pretty hard," Perry said. "He'll be ready for Opening Day. I have no doubt about it, to be honest."

Thursday's Notebook

--OF Juan Gonzalez was reportedly leaving the Red Sox and joining the A's, a story that started in a Puerto Rico paper earlier this week, but the A's insist it's not true and they are not interested in Gonzalez.

--UT Antonio Perez was hit in the nose with a foul ball he hit off of the plate in the seventh inning of Thursday's 6-5 A's win. He left the game, but the team stated that Perez should be fine. Perez was hit in the face with a pitch during Winter Ball and missed much of the winter season with a broken cheekbone. He hadn't shown any ill-effects from that injury in camp thus far.

--IF Scott McClain won the game for the A's with a two-out single in the top of the 10th to drive in Nick Swisher and give the A's a 6-5 lead. Reliever Ron Flores came on in the bottom of the inning and allowed only one hit to close out the game. Flores struggled early in camp, but has now put together two straight good outings. He ended the game on a strikeout.

--RHP Joe Blanton, who hadn't pitched more than three innings this spring, pitched six innings and got his pitch count into the upper 80s in an intrasquad game. Blanton was glad to get the chance to do it, working on his inside fastball and changeup, and he was happy with the results.

--LHP Dan Meyer landed awkwardly on his right (non-throwing) shoulder trying to field a bunt to start Thursday's game, and his next pitch wasn't close to home plate, but he was not injured and pitched five innings, giving up three runs.

--OF Bobby Kielty (strained oblique) is starting to run out of time to be ready for Opening Day, after he didn't respond favorably to batting practice Wednesday and didn't hit Thursday. Manager Ken Macha said Kielty needs to play in four or five games to be deemed ready. Kielty is the fifth outfielder, so his playing time will be limited anyway.

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