PHOENIX — Nick Swisher often jokes about growing up in West Virginia, making light of his redneck background, but his pride and love of the region is evident when asked about the mining tragedy in early January.

"It was just so sad," Swisher said. "That's a huge part of income for the state of West Virginia. The whole state is in mourning. Just a terrible tragedy."

Twelve miners were trapped in an underground accident and died. The original story was all but one survived, but then it turned out to be the opposite. Swisher was back home in Parkersburg, which is about a 90-minute drive from the site in Tallmansville.

"Regardless of whether your family works in (the mining industry) or not, it was a tough time," Swisher said. "Everybody felt everybody's pain."

CRUZ ARRIVES: Pitcher Juan Cruz arrived in camp Friday, and while it's hard to tell on the pitcher listed at 155 pounds, A's manager Ken Macha said it looks as if Cruz put on a few pounds.

"They should test him (for steroids)," Macha joked, before turning serious. "He's actually one of the stronger guys with leg presses. That helps him throw fastballs 95 (mph)."

Cruz prefers starting and excelled in the Triple-A rotation, but he's a bullpen candidate this spring. That could change if another team makes a trade for him — there's been interest — or he returns to the minors.

THOMAS UPDATE: The best way to view the progress on Frank Thomas' foot, A's team Dr.


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Jerrald Goldman says, is the smile on Thomas' face.

Still, reviewing the latest MRI is important, and Goldman said the foot is progressing as expected. It's still healing, and Thomas still won't be running full speed anytime soon, but he could start hitting off a tee in the near future.

"There's never a guarantee it won't break down again," Goldman said. "We won't take any shortcuts. Other than his attitude is so positive, I don't think he will push us to do something too soon."

ONE-HOPPERS: The South African team, wearing green-and-gold jackets (the colors of their country), observed the A's practice Friday and will train for the World Baseball Classic by sharing some of the A's facilities in Phoenix. "Nice colors," Macha said, after giving a short speech. ... South Africa's pitching coach is Lee Smith, the all-time saves leader, who said his wife thought he should take the job so they can vacation in Cape Town. Never at a loss for words or jokes, Smith said he got the job because "I tricked'em. They ain't seen my stats yet." ... Jeremy Brown accidentally hit fellow catcher Kurt Suzuki in the head with his bat, but Suzuki's helmet was pointed in the right direction, and he was unharmed — but that naturally led to some jokes about Brown trying to take out the competition.