Duchscherer hopes to avoid surgery

PHOENIX -- Justin Duchscherer's chances of pitching Opening Day for the Oakland Athletics are looking increasingly more remote, as he plans to shut it down for the next few days in hopes that rest and medication can help alleviate the pain in his right elbow.

Duchscherer visited Dr. Lewis Yocum in Southern California on Thursday after being examined by Dr. Doug Freedberg in Arizona. While surgery is well down the list of options at the moment, he's been switched to a new anti-inflammatory drug and plans to refrain from picking up a ball this weekend.

Duchscherer took part in fielding drills and other activities with the other Oakland pitchers Friday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. But, he'll rest his elbow until Monday, when he plans to play long-toss from a distance of 100-120 feet.

"They said there's no major damage, so I won't need Tommy John surgery or whatever,'' Duchscherer said. "Anytime your body doesn't feel right, you're always concerned. But I know it's not like, 'Holy crap, I'm going to miss a year' type of thing.''

Duchscherer said the new worst-case scenario might be arthroscopic surgery and a cleanup that would force him to miss about six weeks, but doctors have told him several other courses of action will be considered before surgery.

Oakland manager Bob Geren said Thursday that Duchscherer's chances of starting Opening Day are in "jeopardy.'' That's a potential blow to the A's, who have made several big offensive acquisitions, but are counting on Duchscherer to anchor a young starting rotation.

On Friday morning, the A's officially announced the signings of Nomar Garciaparra and Orlando Cabrera, who will join Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi to give the team a revamped offense.

Duchscherer made the All-Star team last season, but injuries limited him to only 22 starts. After going 10-8 with a 2.54 ERA, he shut it down on Aug. 21 and underwent hip surgery in late September.

"I worked hard to rehab my hip and I felt great coming to spring training,'' Duchscherer said. "And then at the worst possible time, my elbow starts bothering me. It's very frustrating.''

With Duchscherer out of action, Sean Gallagher, Dana Eveland and Dallas Braden are the first three starters in Geren's rotation. The A's are also looking at non-roster invitees Jerome Williams and Edgar Gonzalez and prospects Gio Gonzalez, Josh Outman, Brett Anderson, Vin Mazzaro and Trevor Cahill in camp.

Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN.com.