PHOENIX, Ariz. -- The one thing Oakland figured was its best bet this spring was its pitching, and now look.
Justin Duchscherer surrendered 11 runs (eight earned) on nine hits in just three-plus innings in a Cactus League game against Kansas City on Saturday.
Ben Sheets was torched for 10 runs without even recording an out three outings ago.
Concern? Not so much. Both pitchers, coming back from a year layoff, continue to progress physically.
But what is a concern -- at least for the next 24 hours or so for manager Bob Geren -- is the shape of the A's bullpen. Which no doubt is why they signed veteran swingman Chad Gaudin -- who can start or relieve -- on Sunday.
Right-hander Michael Wuertz, one of the most underrated set-up men in the game last summer, was scratched from Sunday's scheduled Cactus League appearance against Colorado with a "tender" shoulder.
Meantime, closer Andrew Bailey and lefty reliever Craig Breslow each of whom has been stricken with elbow tendinitis and has missed the past several days, are slotted to return to the mound Monday against Seattle.
That's why Geren says his concern right now is over the next 24 hours. If Bailey and Breslow pass their tests Monday, it will be a boost as the A's continue to prepare for their April 5 opener against the Mariners.
As for Wuertz, whose 102 strikeouts in 2009 led AL relievers, that will not be decided over the next 24 hours. Wuertz, who appeared in 74 games last summer, well could open the season on the disabled list at this point.
All this, and it's fortunate Sheets and Duchscherer are in such good shape, right?
Duchscherer, the latest of the duo to get hammered, shrugged it off Sunday.
"Numbers-wise, you don't like that, but physically I felt good and that's more important than anything," said Duchscherer. "My fastball was 83-84 early, and that's five miles off from normal. And I gave up a couple of hits in counts where normally I wouldn't throw fastballs."
Duchscherer, who suffered from elbow pain and then was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2009, causing him to miss the entire season, was happy with the fact that he threw 86 pitches on Saturday and then felt better Sunday than he did following his previous outing.
Sheets, meantime, didn't throw a pitch in '09 following elbow surgery. He's already been named by Geren as Oakland's Opening Day starter -- though a buzz swept through the baseball land following his 10-run appearance a couple of weeks ago with folks wondering if he was hurt again.
"Aw, that just means a lot of people are rooting for me," Sheets said Sunday. "A lot of people care."
Sheets said he historically has struggled in the spring because he has a hard time focusing. But, as is the case with Duchscherer, he's encouraged that he feels good physically.
"There are some days that are definitely better than others," Sheets said. "I'm trying to get my fastball going. If I can get the right downhill tilt, and locate and throw strikes. ...
"I think I'm going to be OK if I can locate my heater. I think I'm going to get better throughout the year."
So, too, do the A's think that -- about Sheets, about Duchscherer, about their bullpen and about themselves.
Sunblock Day: Little cool in the morning, but gorgeous, 70-some degree day in the desert Sunday.
Likes: Eric Chavez, Oakland's six-time Gold Glove-winning third baseman, is loving his switch to first base this spring. So far, so good with both his back and shoulder. Chavez and the A's are optimistic that he can stay in the lineup at first this year. Chavez says he has only cut loose with about six throws this spring, saving his shoulder as best he can until the regular season. ... There are always silver linings, and here is Ben Sheets' after missing the 2009 season: "It was a long year, but it was a fulfilling year as a dad, being around my kids for the whole summer." Sheets has two boys: Seaver, 7, and Miller, 3. And yes, they're named after Hall of Famer Tom Seaver and after Miller Park in Milwaukee, where Sheets worked for so long. ... Love Bill Raftery as a college hoops announcer. ... Those Southwest Airlines commercials advertising their bags flying free. The one with the men and the older lady on the plane is annoying, but the rest are very clever. ... Gran Torino, the outstanding Clint Eastwood flick, on HBO late the other night in my hotel room. ... Havana Café in Phoenix.
Dislikes: What are we going to do this week with no NCAA games until Saturday? What an incredible, incredible tournament.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Top coat, top hat
"I don't worry cuz my wallet's fat
"Black shades, white gloves
"Lookin' sharp, and lookin' for love
"They come runnin' just as fast as they can
"Cuz every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man"
-- ZZ Top, Sharp-Dressed Man