Oakland A's Notes: Holiday Weekend Round-Up

Over the Thanksgiving holiday period, the Oakland A's announced the signing of four more minor league free agents and the purchase of the contract of a Mexican League pitching prospect. In addition, the team mourned the sudden loss of a friend.

Oakland Signs Four More; Purchases Leon's Contract
The Oakland A's announced last week that they had come to terms with four more minor league free agents: right-handed pitchers Chris Gissell and Angel Garcia, first baseman/ outfielder Casey Rogowski and catcher Justin Knoedler. The A's have invited all four to major league spring training, in addition to previously signed minor league free agents Todd Linden, Troy Cate and Brad Ziegler. The team also purchased the contract of right-handed pitcher Arnold Leon from Saltillo of the Mexican League and invited him to spring training.

The A's look to have assembled a strong group of minor league free agents this season. In addition to Cate and Linden, Knoedler and Gissell have major league experience. Gissell also has two seasons of experience pitching in the Japanese Professional League. Below are brief profiles of the five newest A's signings:

Angel Garcia: Garcia was signed out of the Twins organization. The Puerto Rican native was a fourth round selection of the Twins in 2001. In seven seasons in the Minnesota organization, the right-hander pitched mostly in relief, posting a 3.96 ERA 232.1 minor league innings. In 2005, Garcia was the number one pick in the Rule 5 draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He allowed nine runs in eight innings during big league spring training that year and was returned to Minnesota. He pitched two scoreless innings for the Twins in major league spring training in 2006. Garcia underwent Tommy John surgery in 2003. Despite playing seven minor league seasons, Garcia just turned 24 years old in late October. Garcia is 6'6'', 200 pounds and he can throw his fastball in the mid-90s. He has averaged more than a strike out an inning during his minor league career, but he has struggled with his control, walking nearly five and a half batters a game.

Chris Gissell: Gissell is a long-time veteran of professional baseball. A fourth round pick of the Chicago Cubs as an 18-year-old in 1996, Gissell spent the next seven seasons as part of the Cubs chain. He then signed with Colorado, and he made his major league debut with the Rockies in 2004, allowing 14 runs in 8.2 innings. After one year in the St. Louis chain, Gissell signed with Seibu of the JPL. He posted a 3.96 ERA in 18 games (16 starts) for Seibu in 2006. He struggled in 2007, posting a 5.21 ERA and a 1-9 record for the Lions in 2007. The Washington state native has a 79-74 career minor league record with a 4.22 ERA and 1074 strike outs in 1329.1 minor league innings.

Justin Knoedler: Knoedler is the second former Giants prospect to sign with the A's this winter, joining Linden. The Miami University product was a fifth round selection of the Giants in 2001. He spent six years with San Francisco, appearing in the major leagues with the Giants in 2004, 2005 and 2006. The right-handed hitting catcher is a career .266 hitter 572 minor league games. He has two hits in 18 major league at-bats. Knoedler spent the 2007 season with the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies, batting .288 with seven homers and 42 RBI in 89 games. He began his career as a pitcher, but was converted to catcher in 2002. He can also play the corner infield positions and some outfield. He was removed from the Giants 40-man roster before the 2007 season after spending three seasons as a 40-man roster player. He had nine hits in 18 at-bats for the Giants in major league spring training in 2007.

Arnold Leon: Oakland purchased the rights to Leon's contract of from Saltillo of the Mexican League. The 19-year-old right-handed pitcher was 3-0 with one save and a 1.94 ERA in 35 relief appearances for Saltillo in 2007. He struck out 38 in 41.2 innings and had one save. He also walked 24 and held opposing batters to a .217 BAA. Leon is currently pitching for Culiacan in the Mexican Pacific Winter League and is 4-0 with a 2.55 ERA in 17 relief appearances. He has 16 strike outs in 17.2 innings.

Casey Rogowski: Rogowski joins the A's organization after nine seasons in the Chicago White Sox chain. He was a 13th round pick as an 18-year-old in 1999 by Chicago. Rogowski spent the past three springs in major league camp with the White Sox and he has 14 hits in 60 major league spring at-bats. He is an imposing figure at 6'3'', 240 and is a former high school wrestling champion. His best minor league season came in 2004, when he hit .286 with 18 homers and 90 RBIs for High-A Winston-Salem. Rogowski is a first baseman primarily, although he has played some outfield, as well. Last season, Rogowski hit .245 with 14 homers and 54 RBI for Triple-A Charlotte. He has a career .270/.363/.412 line in 1017 minor league games.

Former A's Lefty Kennedy Passes Away Suddenly
Former A's left-hander Joe Kennedy passed away suddenly early Friday after passing out at his in-laws' home in Florida. The cause of death wasn't immediately known, although preliminary reports indicated that he may have had an enlarged heart. Kennedy was a popular member of the A's clubhouse after joining the team in July 2005 in a trade from Colorado with Jay Witasick for Eric Byrnes and Omar Quintanilla. He was with the A's until August of this season, when he was claimed on waivers in early August by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He finished the year with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Kennedy, who is survived by his wife and one-year-old son, was a California native. He was selected in the eighth round of the 1998 draft by Tampa Bay and he spent six seasons with the Devil Rays. Kennedy made his major league debut in 2001 as a 22-year-old. He was the Tampa Opening Day starter in 2003. In 2004, he was traded to the Rockies. He had his best season as a pro in 2004, posting a 3.86 ERA 162.1 innings with Colorado despite pitching his home games at Coors Field. He was traded from Colorado to Oakland in 2005 and went 4-5 with a 4.45 ERA in 60.2 innings as a starter and reliever for the A's.

In 2006, Kennedy was a big part of the A's bullpen that helped the team reach the American League Championship Series. In 39 relief appearances, he had a 2.31 ERA. He threw 3.2 scoreless innings in the playoffs for Oakland. Kennedy split his time between starting and relieving with Oakland in 2007. He had a 3-9 record and a 4.37 ERA in 101 innings for the A's this season.

"We are deeply saddened and shocked to hear of Joe's passing," A's assistant general manager David Forst said in a release issued by the team.

"He was a valued teammate and friend to everyone with the A's organization. On behalf of the entire A's organization, we extend our condolences to Joe's wife, Jami, and his entire family."

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