Oakland A's Notes: A's On International Scene

When the 2007 season ended, A's general manager Billy Beane emphasized that the team would beef up its scouting and development operations, especially internationally, as a means to finding affordable talent for the budget-conscious team.

So far, the club has added a half-dozen area scouts in the United States and is in the process of adding more personnel in Latin America, particularly in the Dominican Republic.

The A's have a complex in the Dominican, at La Victoria, but since Miguel Tejada came up in 1997, Oakland has produced few major-leaguers from its Latin operations, with reliever Santiago Casilla the only A's-drafted Dominican on the 25-man roster at the end of the season. The A's have only five other players on the 40-man roster from Latin America -- Kiko Calero, Jose Garcia, Ruddy Lugo, Marco Scutaro and Javier Herrera -- and only Herrera is a homegrown A's player and he has yet to make his big league debut.

In additon to reviving their once strong presence in the Dominican Republic, the A's plan to boost their visibility in the Asian market and Australia. Special assistant to the GM Randy Johnson played in Japan, and he is heading there this winter to scout and make contacts, and he also will visit Australia.

Because none of this year's most promising Japanese free agents will require posting fees to Japanese clubs, Oakland might take a rare dip into that market. The A's only Japanese-born player to come from the Japanese pro leagues was pitcher Keiichi Yabu, who played for the club in 2005.

This winter, free agents the A's are expected to talk to include outfielder Kosuke Fukudome and right-hander Hiroki Kuroda. Oakland's top potential target, however, might be lefty Hitoki Iwase, one of the two pitchers who worked in Chunichi's perfect game to culminate the Dragons' win in the recent Japan Series.

Last year, Oakland put in a bid on Kei Igawa when he was posted, but the A's missed out on 2007's real find, reliever Hideki Okajima, who did not require a posting fee and who signed with Boston for a bargain price of $2.5 million for two years, with a $1.75 million team option for 2009.

The A's considered pursuing Okajima last winter, and the fact that they didn't land him and he had such a sensational season is one reason that Oakland is determined to be more thorough when it comes to international scouting.

"We've been successful at the major league level, and our focus, to some extent, has been using every dollar at the top, but our long-term success will be based on our ability to stay an organic organization, where we're drafting and developing players," Beane said.

Other Notes:
--For the past two months, the A's have been listed on the preliminary schedule for 2008 as opening in Japan against Boston, and all signs indicate that the late-March series in Tokyo is on. The official announcement finally came down on Wednesday. Oakland is likely to open its spring training camp three or four days early as a result, even though the team did not report early when scheduled to go to Japan in 2003 (a trip that was cancelled because of the war in Iraq). The Japan series will take place on March 25 and 26. The A's are expected to play exhibition games on March 22 and 23. Fans who normally make trips to Arizona for spring training should check this season's schedule carefully, as the A's will be leaving Phoenix earlier than normal. The A's will also have two fewer games on their home schedule this season, as the Japan games will be considered Oakland home dates. The A's will open the US portion of their schedule at home versus the Red Sox on April 1.

--RHP Colby Lewis was claimed off waivers by the Royals on Nov. 2. With the A's strongly considering making reliever Justin Duchscherer a starter next spring, Lewis' chances of making the rotation next year were slim.

--Scott Leventhal, Eric Chavez's agent, confirmed that the A's third baseman has begun physical therapy after his October back surgery. According to Leventhal, Chavez, who had a microdiscectomy, will be ready for the start of the season. Chavez hasn't been completely healthy for more than two years, so his status is a major key for the A's hopes in 2008.

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