OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -Mike Piazza picked up a message on his phone Sunday morning from the Oakland Athletics saying they planned to make him a catcher again once he's healthy.
So he stayed put. The catcher-turned-designated hitter was all set to make the 90-minute drive to Sacramento for a rehab assignment with the Triple-A club when the plan suddenly changed - with Piazza receiving no warning whatsoever the switch was in the works.
``That was a little strange,'' Piazza, out since May 3 with a right shoulder injury, said Monday. ``This game is unpredictable at times. I never thought this would be the case, especially at this point in my career, but I learned to go with the flow. Whatever they want me to do. ... I was just as surprised as anybody.''
The development likely pushes back Piazza's timetable to return by about three weeks, considering his arm is not yet in shape and he needs to work on building more leg strength, too.
First-year A's manager Bob Geren, a former catcher himself, acknowledged Monday that the way the team made the decision and the communication with Piazza could have been better.
``You make decisions like that and the timing's not always perfect,'' Geren said before the A's opened a three-game interleague series with the Cincinnati Reds.
The 38-year-old Piazza signed an $8.5 million, one-year contract with the A's in December to replace Frank Thomas as DH, and general manager Billy Beane repeatedly said he had no plans to use Piazza as the backup catcher to durable starter Jason Kendall. Piazza hardly picked up his catching gear during spring training. When asked how long it would take him to be ready to catch again, he said, ``Your guess is as good as mine.''
``Not to insult women, but I'm not (even) throwing like a girl right now,'' Piazza said. ``It's extremely painful.''
Because of Jack Cust's emergence in the DH role during Piazza's absence, the Oakland brass decided late Saturday to keep Cust around and use both him and Piazza for various duties. Cust can also play the outfield.
But now, Piazza must get back into catching and learning pitchers for the first time since his 2006 season ended with the NL West champion San Diego Padres.
Piazza is playing in the American League and as a DH for the first time after 15 seasons as a catcher - a career many think will make him a Hall of Famer. He is batting .280 with one home run and four RBIs in just 25 games in 2007.
``I'm lucky I can draw from my wealth of experience from behind the plate,'' Piazza said. ``I've always prided myself on calling a good game. Even if I were 100 percent healthy, I would still need some time. ... The No. 1 plan is to help the team get to the postseason any way possible, whether as a catcher or DH.''
Geren said it's ``hard to say'' now how much Piazza might catch. Kendall has caught at least 143 games in each of the past seven seasons and 150 or more in four of those years.

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