A's Notes: Duke Looking For 'What's Fair'

The A's successfully avoided arbitration with their leading home run hitter in 2008 by signing Jack Cust to a one-year, $2.8 million deal, leaving just starter Justin Duchscherer to file for arbitration.

Oakland is still optimistic about signing Justin Duchscherer to a deal before any hearing. The club has gone to arbitration just twice in the last 12 years, coming out on top in hearings with pitchers Ariel Prieto and Juan Cruz.

Duchscherer is in an interesting spot in terms of compensation: He spent the first four full years of his career as a reliever, making the All-Star team as a setup man, and then he made the All-Star team last year as a starter. Starters typically earn far more in salary than relievers with similar amounts of service time.

However, Duchscherer missed most of the final two months with a hip injury, and he has had four stints on the DL in the last three seasons.

Duchscherer is a key figure for the A's in 2009. The lineup is greatly improved with the additions of Jason Giambi and Matt Holliday, but Duchscherer is the only starter with substantial major league experience.

Duchscherer is coming off minor hip surgery, and while he is expected to be ready to go when the season begins, his health always will be a concern. If the A's are to contend, they need him to be the leader of the staff and to make at least 30 starts.

He made $1.2 million last year and earned a $500,000 bonus for making the All-Star team. Duchscherer's agent told Media News that he and the team have significant differences about "what's fair."

A's Notebook

--DH/OF Jack Cust, Oakland's top home-run hitter and RBI man last year, agreed to a $2.8 million deal for 2009 that helped the sides avoid arbitration. Cust made $410,000 in 2008 and hit 33 homers. He is expected to play in the outfield, at least initially, because of Jason Giambi's signing.

--1B Daric Barton told MLB.com that he is looking forward to playing with Jaosn Giambi even if Giambi takes away some of the youngster's playing time. Barton said he believes Giambi will make the club better, and he hopes to pick Giambi's brain about hitting. Manager Bob Geren recently said he considers Barton the team's starting first baseman.

--LHP Dennys Reyes was linked to the A's in a Foxsports.com report. Oakland is known to be seeking some veteran relief help after choosing not to pick LHP Alan Embree's option, and Reyes had a 2.33 ERA for the Twins last year. Lefties hit .202 against him.

--1B Nick Johnson continued to be rumored in connection with the A's. The team requested Johnson's medical reports from the Nationals after last season, and Washington is among the clubs believed to have interest in Barton. Oakland recently signed Giambi, who can play first on a semi-regular basis if needed, and Johnson could provide excellent defensive work at the position in a backup role. Johnson is a significant medical risk, however, having missed most of the past two seasons.

BY THE NUMBERS: 10 -- The most victories by an Oakland starter in 2008. All-Star Justin Duchscherer went 10-8, but his season was shortened by the reoccurence of a hip injury late in the season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Look at everything he's done. Look at his numbers. I've just always admired the way he plays the game. It's going to be a privilege to be the guy's teammate." -- 1B Daric Barton on the team's signing of Jason Giambi.

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