Duchscherer doesn’t throw because of back problem

Oakland Athletics pitcher Justin Duchscherer is off to a slow start
at spring training.

The two-time All-Star, who missed all of last season after
having surgery on his right elbow and being treated for clinical
depression, didn’t throw Sunday during the first workout for
Oakland pitchers and catchers.

Duchscherer is feeling pain in his lower back and is likely
to undergo some procedure Monday to treat the problem.

While Duchscherer missed out, oft-injured Ben Sheets was at
work.

The four-time All-Star was pounding the strike zone, and the
sound of his fastball hitting the catcher’s mitt echoed during the
Athletics’ practice.

“Any baseball player is going to be excited about the start
of a new season,” Sheets said. “You tend to get a little antsy as
spring training draws near.”

Sheets will be one of the most closely watched pitchers of
the spring as he returns from the right elbow surgery he underwent
nearly a year ago to the day.

Sheets, who signed a one-year contract worth $10 million plus
incentives in late January, wants to show he can still pitch.

“It was an alone year but that’s in the past,” Sheets said.
“I felt like I had a chance to get healthy and do other things in
my life.”

Sheets grew up in the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization, which
has its spring training headquarters in another section of Phoenix.

“It was kind of strange putting on the green for the first
time,” said Sheets, who owns a major-league record of 86-83.
“When you’re with one organization for so long, you tend to
identify with that color. I even made a wrong turn out of where I
stay the first day I was in town. Old habits die hard.”

Left-hander Dallas Braden, the Athletics’ opening day starter
last season, was also anxious to get going after having his season
end prematurely with a foot injury.

“There’s no way you can be disappointed entering spring
training,” said the animated Braden, who dealt with breathing
issues all of last year in addition to his aches and pains. “I was
ready for this on Aug. 5, two days after I realized I wasn’t going
to pitch again. I started playing catch in late November. I wanted
that feeling. I wanted to know I was still a baseball player.”

Braden underwent surgery to correct blockage in his nasal
passages and has been able to sleep better ever since.

“There were days I would go workout where after 30 minutes I
wanted to pass out,” he said. “But sleep is the biggest thing.
It’s taken a lot of weight off me mentally.”