MESA, Ariz. — The A’s bullpen will finally be with its full cast by the end of the weekend.
Manager Bob Melvin announced that Santiago Casilla is scheduled to report Sunday after visa issues kept him in the Dominican Republic for the first 2 1/2 weeks of spring training. Also, John Axford has decided to withdraw from the World Baseball Classic.
As recently as Thursday, Axford talked with enthusiasm about playing for Team Canada for the second time, and the idea still appeals to him. But in addressing reporters Friday, Axford cited “personal and professional reasons” for his decision to back out. He didn’t get more specific than that, but said he’d been weighing for a while the pros and cons of leaving the A’s for what would have, at minimum, been about a week. He kept both Team Canada and the A’s fully informed as he was pondering his decision.
“Discussing it with (Team Canada), they were very open and happy I was talking to them about it, about my thoughts,” Axford said. “As it kept going, I think that’s what the fight has been for me. I have the Maple Leaf tattooed on my body. I’m very proud to be Canadian. I go back in the offseason, I still live in Canada … I loved putting on the uniform the last time I did. Hopefully what I can look forward to most is staying healthy and continuing my career and being able to do it again at some point in time.”
It seemed that by the time Casilla arrived, Axford would be gone to the WBC. So by Sunday, Oakland will have its full relief corps together. Lefty Sean Doolittle has yet to pitch in his first exhibition, but that time appears to be drawing close. Melvin said Friday morning that Ryan Madson was feeling better after he was scratched from pitching Thursday due to general arm soreness, as Melvin described it.
So of the five players on the A’s 40-man roster who were scheduled to play in the WBC, three backed out and another, starter Sonny Gray, was declared ineligible due to an insurance coverage issue. And now the possibility arises that Casilla, the final WBC participant, also won’t play due to his late reporting date. But Melvin said no decision will be made on that until Casilla arrives and meets with team officials.
“We’ve supported him as far as (playing in the WBC),” Melvin said. “Now, the timing has thrown a little bit of a wrench in it. But until he gets here and we talk about it, I think our stance remains the same.”
In other news, pitching coach Curt Young will be away from the team for several days after undergoing a surgery Friday to repair a disk in his neck.