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Gio to pitch out of ‘pen

A newsie nugget coming out of Bob Geren’s pre-game media chat: Gio Gonzalez is heading to the bullpen for the time being, with Josh Outman starting in his place Saturday against Texas. You could see this one coming, considering Gonzalez’s 9.32 ERA through his first seven big league starts. “We’re going to give Gio a few outings out of the bullpen, possibly give him another start later,” Geren said. “… I think pitching in relief in a few non-pressure situations might be best for him.”

Outman was called up last week for his first major league action after coming over from Philadelphia in the Joe Blanton trade in July. He threw two scoreless innings against the Royals on Sept. 2 and then gave up three earned runs in 2 1/3 innings against Detroit on Monday. Outman would have drawn his first big league start last Saturday in the first game of a doubleheader with Baltimore had it not gotten rained out.

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He’ll be missed …

One of the classier players in major league baseball walked out of the A’s clubhouse for good today, as Mike Sweeney was released to make room on the 40-man roster for third baseman Jeff Baisley, who was called up from Triple-A. Sweeney was hobbled by bad knees this season but was activated last week and has been saying he’s 100 percent.

This likely brings his impressive career to a close, since Sweeney said last week that he needs more surgery on his knees and that 2008 could very well be his final season. Doesn’t seem like the right way for this career to end, does it? He’s a five-time All-Star, to say nothing of the fact he’s stuck on 199 homers and a .299 career batting average. Sweeney hardly says a bad word about anybody, but he made it clear — in his polite manner, of course — that he didn’t agree with the A’s decision. He also took the time to address the team as a group when the news came down, just to reiterate how much he enjoyed playing with them. When the A’s signed him after he played 13 seasons with Kansas City, a Royals writer told me Sweeney was one of the 10 nicest people he had come across in his life. Having known the guy for just one season, I can’t really argue that point.

From the A’s perspective, they want to give Baisley a shot considering third base is such a question mark right now (with Chavez’s health troubles and Hannahan’s hitting struggles.) They didn’t want to bump a valued prospect off the 40-man roster, expose him to waivers and have him get claimed by another team. Just seems to me that Sweeney deserves a better send-off if this is the end of the line …

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The ‘Who Are Th-A’s’

At one point Monday, I took a quick glimpse of the television. I take care of my two boys on Monday nights, which means it’s usually “Hannah Montana” or “SpongeBob”. But somehow I found a spare moment of freedom, and flipped it on. The A’s already were way behind, and some lefty was flipping some unimpressive stuff up there. From the kitchen, I couldn’t spy the number or the name on the back of the jersey.

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First game postponed …

This morning’s opener of a doubleheader between the A’s and Baltimore Orioles has been rained out, but the nightcap is still on if weather permits.

That game is set for 4:05 p.m. (West Coast time) and will be televised by KICU. Greg Smith (6-14) will take the ball for the A’s against Daniel Cabrera (8-8).

Tropical Storm Hanna, and the heavy winds that come with it, hit the Baltimore area hard as expected Saturday morning. Weather.com forecasts a high chance of rain until about 6 p.m. local time, one hour before the scheduled first pitch.

Regardless, the A’s will leave for Detroit tonight, team spokesperson Mike Selleck said. That means they won’t play Sunday for sure, with a three-game series against the Tigers beginning Monday.

If they do get tonight’s game in, it’s unknown if Major League Baseball will force the A’s and Orioles to make up the postponed game. The teams have a common off-day Sept. 25, but that’s sandwiched between A’s road series at Texas and Seattle. Sometimes MLB will allow teams to cancel a game that has no bearing on postseason consequences and just finish with a 161-game schedule.

Officials likely would wait through the afternoon before announcing any postponement of tonight’s game.

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Who said this is a dull series?

Well, Camden Yards may play host to some mediocre baseball this weekend between the A’s and Orioles, but that doesn’t mean there’s no excitement at the ballpark. About 20 minutes ago, (4 p.m. local time), smoke began drifting out from the seats along the first-base line. According to a stadium employee, a kitchen fire broke out on the club level of the stadium, where the luxury suites are located. The sight and smell was enough to stop several Orioles from their pre-batting practice stretching. (One player fired a baseball into the upper deck. I’m not sure what that was supposed to accomplish).

A few minutes later, sirens could be heard echoing through the nearby streets, and a stream of firemen came marching in through the right-field gates. The employee did not yet know how the fire started, but the smoke disappeared within about 10 minutes and the fire was extinguished.

It was quite a scene to see A’s players and personnel step off one of the team buses in front of the stadium, with three fire trucks surrounding it. Just another day at the yard …

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Let’s play two (tomorrow)

Today’s A’s-Royals game is officially a rainout, with a doubleheader set for tomorrow. First game is at 2:10 p.m. (West Coast time), with the second game starting 30 minutes after completion of the first one. It doesn’t change the A’s starting rotation any, with Dana Eveland pitching the early game and Dan Meyer taking the ball in the second. But this does set the A’s up for two doubleheaders in a three-day span, with a previously scheduled twin bill on Saturday in Baltimore. Five games in three days tends to stretch a bullpen pretty thin, so it’s possible the A’s will call up some extra arms. But manager Bob Geren said he’ll wait to see how tomorrow’s doubleheader plays out before that decision is made.

The rainout also delays the return of Mike Sweeney, who was activated from the 60-day disabled list Wednesday. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the A’s placed Frank Thomas on the 60-day DL. That officially ends Thomas’ season, which was looking like a probability anyway.

Had I known there’d be no game today, maybe I could have spent a little more time at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. It gets a big thumbs-up. Highly recommended if you’re ever in Kansas City.

That’s all for now …

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“Lack of Interest”

I enjoy seeing the back-and-forth that occurs during the blog discussions on this site, but generally I’m not a big fan of commenting on the comments. In this case, however, I feel it’s a must.

My blog the other day referred to a “lack of interest” about the A’s.  It was a sarcastic answer to the fact that one of the beat writers is not on this trip — again, for myriad well-founded reasons — and intended as humorous way to start the debate about how much interest in the A’s there remains. Because, frankly, if I were a fan, I wouldn’t have a whole lot right now, at least about this year’s edition. And if the attendance is any indication, there hasn’t been a lot of interest all year.

But one of the comments the other day suggested he’d like to know how much interest the players are showing. I’m not around the team as much as the daily beat writers, but I can tell you that in my dealings with them, a lack of work or interest is not the issue. A lack of talent is. And I can tell with absolute certainty that Mark Ellis — the one who offered up the “Lack of Interest,” comment — should never ever be accused of giving less than full interest to his profession. You don’t become the best second baseman in franchise history by not doing so.

For the record, Ellis was making a sarcastic remark that reflected what is obvious to everyone. There’s not much interest in this team right now. It’s absolutely the correct assessment, though that doesn’t mean some individual interest among fans still exists. The blog the other day was not meant to insinuate that either Ellis, the players or every single fan has lost interest. If it gave off that impression, my bad.

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Status for tonight’s game

Quick update from Kansas City. … Tonight’s series opener might be in serious jeopardy. We’re 50 minutes from the scheduled first pitch and there’s a heavy thunderstorm moving through. The tarp is on the field and batting practice was canceled. What few fans are here are gathered up top near the concourses.

With one doubleheader already set for Saturday in Baltimore, surely the A’s will want to squeeze tonight’s game in if at all possible. I’ll check back in soon with another update.

Some roster news to report: Lefty pitcher Josh Outman was brought up from Triple-A and Dan Meyer also is back. Meyer is set to start Thursday, which would have been his normal rotation spot were he not sent down Saturday in the first place. Mike Sweeney is here but he was not activated today for some unknown reason. To make room for Outman on the 40-man roster, Lenny DiNardo was outrighted to Sacramento. DiNardo had been with the River Cats anyway. All this means now is he cleared waivers and is no longer on the 40-man roster.

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September at last

Had the privilege to share a post-game table with A’s second baseman Mark Ellis and clubhouse man Steve Vucinich at the team’s hotel during the visit to Seattle last week. It’s a lost art among the print media, and it really can give you insight, even if the bulk of it may never see the public light of day.

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