PHOENIX -- The A's on Tuesday released catcher Rob Bowen, who had served as starter Kurt Suzuki's backup since being acquired in the 2007 trade that sent Jason Kendall to the Cubs.

The move was hardly unexpected, and it came with a very clear message: Welcome to the big leagues, Landon Powell.

Powell, Oakland's first-round pick (24th overall) in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, has been frequently sidelined by knee injuries as a professional, and over the winter was diagnosed with auto-immune hepatitis, a condition for which he'll need to take daily medication for the rest of his life.

He reported to camp healthy, however, and entering Tuesday's game against the visiting Diamondbacks he was batting .308 with a two homers, seven RBIs and a .400 on-base percentage in 12 Cactus League games.

"We've got some internal options we feel good about, and it's also early enough in the spring for Rob to find a better opportunity," A's general manager Billy Beane said.

Beane didn't come right out and say that Powell, who turns 27 on Thursday, will be on Oakland's 25-man roster to open the season, but what he did say indicates that Powell should start looking into housing in the Bay Area.

"With what Landon has been through with his knees," Beane offered, "I'm not sure we'd want him catching 130 games at Triple-A anyway."

Powell missed the 2005 season after tearing the ACL in his left knee, and his '07 season ended in July with a left knee strain.

A's manager Bob Geren, a former big league catcher, has been particularly impressed with Powell's work behind the plate.

"He moves really well for a guy his size," Geren said of Powell, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds. "He's pretty quick back there, and he has tremendous mechanics and a strong, accurate arm."

The release of Bowen was hardly unexpected. He hadn't played in a Cactus League game since March 10, sidelined by a dislocated thumb, and he was recently placed on waivers.

A 28-year-old switch hitter who has been in the big leagues with the Twins, Padres, Cubs and A's, Bowen told by phone Tuesday afternoon that he'd seen the writing on the wall for some time.

"It's never a good sign when they put you on waivers," said Bowen, who had a non-guaranteed contract that would have paid him $525,000 this season -- about $125,000 more than Powell will make. "Landon's a good young player, he's cheaper than me, and he's a No. 1 pick. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out they were probably going to go with him if he showed them he was healthy.

"Nobody likes to be released, but I'm not mad at anyone. I'm 28 years old and I've already been with four teams, and it's not like this is the end of my career. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, so I'll go hook up with a fifth team and make the most of it."

Bowen, who will receive about a third of his salary as termination pay, batted .176 in 37 games with the A's in 2008. This spring he was batting .200 in six games.

Dribblers ...: Right-hander Justin Duchscherer, who received a cortisone shot in his ailing elbow after throwing Saturday and was told not to throw for three days, was cleared to play catch Tuesday and got through a light session pain-free. ... Outfielder Matt Holliday was sick Monday and sent home early. He hasn't played since Saturday, but he's expected to be in the lineup Thursday against the host Rangers. The A's are off on Wednesday.