Linden learns he won't make club
Non-roster invitee was tearing up Cactus League pitching
PHOENIX -- First baseman/designated hitter Mike Sweeney got half of the good news he's been hoping for Sunday when the A's informed him he'll be going to Japan with them Wednesday. Outfielder Todd Linden on Monday received news which only hours earlier he said he'd be stunned to get.
Sitting on an emerald-green folding chair in front of his locker in the near-empty clubhouse at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, Linden, arms folded and wearing a grim visage, said he'd just been informed that his .577 (15-for-26) batting average in Cactus League play through Sunday wasn't enough to earn a spot on the team.
"They told me I'm not going to Japan," Linden said. "So I'm obviously not making the team. ... I am not happy."
The clubhouse was almost empty because the rest of the players still in camp were taking batting practice in preparation for their game against the visiting Royals. Linden was listed on the lineup card as one of Oakland's reserves, and the team didn't make any announcement regarding the non-roster invitee's status, but Linden essentially said he was in no hurry to get into uniform and sit on the bench for a team that's already dumped him.
"I'm just going to get some lunch, and I guess I'll be ready to be a backup today," he said.
Asked how the club's decision was explained, Linden seemed at a loss.
"I don't know if I got a reason," he clipped.
One of the few players still lingering who happened to be close enough to hear the conversation piped up and said, "Did they say you should have hit .900?"
On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum was Sweeney, who broke into the big leagues with the Royals as a 21-year-old in 1995 and was a respected team leader there before he was cut loose and signed with the A's to a Minor League contract this offseason.
Royals players, coaches and media members came at Sweeney in waves, everyone greeting him like a favorite big brother, uncle or son.
Earlier in the day, Sweeney, who started at DH on Monday and brought a .364 batting average (12-for-33) into the game, said he's still not counting his chickens as far as being on the 25-man roster. The A's have to set it right before their March 25 season opener against the Red Sox in the Tokyo Dome, and it remains a possibility that Sweeney will return to the United States on March 26 without a big league job.
"I'd be heartbroken if I didn't get to play with this team," Sweeney admitted, "but I'd still be very thankful for my time here. I've had a blast this spring. I put a lot of energy and emotion into this, and I feel very blessed to have gotten the at-bats I've gotten here.
"I feel like I'm in the right spot, and I'm very proud of what I've done here."
So is Linden, who early Monday morning was asked if he'd be surprised if he were told he wasn't going to Japan.
"Yeah, very much so," he said. "I didn't expect to have this kind of batting average, but I know what I'm capable of when I get a chance to show it. Nobody's going to hit .500 forever, but I feel like I've done all I could."
Then, in a moment of foreshadowing, he shook his head and said, "But it's not my decision."
Mychael Urban is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.