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Avoiding the slippery slope

It goes without saying the A’s badly need a victory after losing four straight. But regardless of today’s result, this series obviously has dealt a serious blow to their long-term prospects for the rest of 2009. They’re 11 games under .500, and 11 games back in the AL West. The way I see it, this team can go one of two ways at this point. They can stick together and start playing better from a pure pride standpoint, or they can start drifting off mentally, and then things tailspin in a hurry. I think it’s a big test for Bob Geren to see whether he can keep this team from checking out psychologically. There’s a lot of baseball left to play …

–As for today’s news, Jack Cust is in the lineup at DH and Jack Hannahan is slated to play third base. It’s best to write this in pencil, as we’ve learned the past couple of days. Both players are battling lower back spasms, but apparently they’re good enough to give it a go today.

A’s full lineup:
Cabrera SS
Kennedy 2B
Cust DH
Holliday LF
Giambi 1B
Suzuki C
Sweeney CF
Cunningham RF
Hannahan 3B

Braden P

Rangers:
Kinsler 2B
Young 3B
Jones DH
Cruz RF
Blalock 1B
Byrd CF
Murphy LF
Saltalamacchia C
Andrus SS

Millwood P

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Buck placed on DL

It figured that roster moves were coming down today. The A’s placed Travis Buck on the 15-day DL with a strained left oblique muscle and optioned reliever Jeff Gray to the minors. Infielder Gregorio Petit and outfielder Aaron Cunningham were recalled from Triple-A Sacramento.

Jack Cust? It looks like he’ll avoid the DL, although he’s not in the lineup today. He says his back spasms have calmed down, but that one more day of rest might have him 100 percent by tomorrow. “I probably shouldn’t have played yesterday,” said Cust, who only lasted one at-bat before having to be replaced.

How bad is this injury situation? There wasn’t even a lineup posted in the A’s clubhouse by the time players hit the field to stretch. And during his media chat, Bob Geren had difficulty remembering the lineup he finally settled on, because he scribbled out so many drafts based on who might/might not be available.

I didn’t catch Buck before BP to discuss his injury. He had said he thought he’d be available today. … Cunningham and Petit each return for their second stint w/the big club, and Cunningham is starting in right field tonight. Petit played some third base in his latest stint w/Sacramento, and I’d expect he’d get some time there w/the A’s. He provided a nice spark earlier this season (he had that game-winning RBI in Seattle, when Bobby Crosby plowed over the catcher). I could see him playing third against left-handed pitchers, particularly when Crosby plays first and Jason Giambi is DH …

The A’s are back to 12 pitchers (seven relievers) and 13 position players. That gives Geren four position players off the bench, although Cust probably isn’t much of an option tonight …

Tonight’s lineups:
A’s — Cabrera SS; Kennedy 2B; Holliday LF; Giambi DH; Suzuki C; Sweeney CF; Cunningham RF; Hannahan 3B; Crosby 1B; Anderson P.

Rangers – Kinsler 2B; Young 3B; Hamilton DH; Jones LF; Cruz RF; Blalock 1B; Byrd CF; Saltalamacchia C; Andrus SS; McCarthy P.

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A’s minor league recap: Rivercats win in 16; Weeks homers again

Here’s a look at the A’s minor league leaders as well as a brief look at what happened down on the farm Friday for their affiliates:
Continue Reading

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Postgame wrap-up

Just a couple quick notes in the aftermath of the A’s getting swept in today’s doubleheader:

–As things stand now, Bob Geren said he sees Edgar Gonzalez staying in the rotation for another start, which would come Wednesday or Thursday against the White Sox (Josh Outman would pitch whatever game Gonzalez doesn’t).

–No word on whether Jack Cust or Travis Buck are heading to the DL. Perhaps we’ll know more tomorrow. Buck, for what it’s worth, thinks he’ll be ready to go tomorrow. You might be wondering how a player could go 3-for-4 with a homer in the first game of a doubleheader and not be able (physically) to play in the second. Buck said as the game went on, his oblique strain began to hurt with every step. Cust wasn’t available to get his thoughts on his own injury, which is lower back spasms …

More tomorrow …

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Update — Cust, Buck unavailable for second game

Quick note after the A’s dropped the opener of tonight’s doubleheader, 6-3, to the Rangers. Jack Cust and Travis Buck are both unavailable for the second game. It was back spasms that forced Cust from game 1 after one at-bat. Buck’s sore oblique continued to tighten up through the first game, manager Bob Geren said. Too bad for the A’s: He was 3-for-4 with a homer in the opener. Geren didn’t have much information on the severity of the injuries, but Thursday’s day off didn’t help either player much.

With just 12 position players currently on the roster, catcher Kurt Suzuki is the only healthy non-pitcher off the bench in game 2…

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Cust leaves after one at-bat

Bobby Crosby replaced Jack Cust at DH in the top of the third, as Cust’s back spasms started acting up. I asked him how his back was feeling a couple hours before the game (he had just gotten out of the batting cage), and he didn’t sound real sure he’d make it through the whole game. This lineup — already minus Eric Chavez, Nomar Garciaparra and Mark Ellis — can ill-afford to lose Cust, to state the obvious.

It’s a 2-2 tie after three innings. Travis Buck mashed a 423-foot two-run homer in the second inning to tie the game. An absolute laser to right …

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A’s-Rangers: Let’s play two

Just checking in before the first game of today’s A’s doubleheader in Arlington. Not a whole lot to report from the pre-game scene. Bob Geren said Jack Cust (lower back spasms) and Travis Buck (oblique strain) were questionable, but both are in the lineup for first pitch. Buck apparently hurt his oblique before Wednesday’s game.

Things to watch tonight:
–Edgar Gonzalez’s performance in the nightcap. A solid outing probably solidifies him in the rotation for the time being. If he struggles, that could impact how soon we see a high-profile prospect such as Vin Mazzaro get promoted. Regardless of how Gonzalez does tonight, the A’s need to call up a starter for Tuesday’s game at Chicago, as they play five games over this four-day stretch through Monday.

–Adam Kennedy is batting second and Kurt Suzuki sixth in the current lineup for the first game, not surprising because Geren said he might do this against right-handed starters. Texas has two righties going tonight in Tommy Hunter and Scott Feldman.

First game lineups –
A’s:
Cabrera SS; Kennedy 2B; Cust DH; Holliday LF; Giambi 1B; Suzuki C; Sweeney CF; Buck RF; Hannahan 3B; Outman P.

Rangers:
Kinsler 2B; Young 3B; Hamilton CF; Jones DH; Cruz RF; Byrd LF; Davis 1B ; Saltalamacchia C; Andrus SS; Hunter P.

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A’s minor league recap: Weeks hits his first HR

Here’s a brief look at what happened down on the farm Thursday for the A’s affiliates:

Second baseman Jemile Weeks, the A’s No. 1 draft pick last June, has quickly made his presence felt with the Stockton Ports. Weeks went 3-for-6 and hit a home run, and is now 4-for-12 overall in just two games.

The 22-year-old second baseman had been rehabbing at extended spring training while recovering from a torn hip flexor that ended his season last July 29 at Low-A Kane County. He was also battling other minor leg ailments this spring.

Fans in the Bay Area can get their first look at Weeks beginning Sunday in San Jose when the Ports begin a four-game series against the Little Giants. You wouldn’t get them to admit it, but the A’s probably envision Weeks spending much of his career in San Jose.

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

RiverCats 9, Iowa (Cubs) 1: Story l Boxscore

In finishing off Iowa, Sacramento closed its road trip winning seven of eight and has now won 14 of its last 17 overall.

Dana Eveland had his second straight solid start. The lefty allowed just one earned run in 6 2/3 innings, striking out nine. He still struggled with his control, walking four. Still, Eveland has permitted just one earned run in his last two starts, covering 12 2/3 innings, and has given up just five hits while striking out 12.

Loaded question, to be sure, but am I the only one who feels Eveland still has some value?

Aaron Cunningham is hitting .315 after going 3-for-5 with a homer and double.

Daric Barton, who hit his second HR on Wednesday, had two hits and a walk and is now hitting .215.

Danny Putnam hit a grand slam in the ninth for his RiverCats HR. He had seven for Double-A Midland before being promoted. The ex-Stanford star had three hits Thursday night.

The Cats added Henry Rodriguez to their bullpen. Rodriguez worked in three games for Stockton, allowing no runs in five innings and striking out 11.

MIDLAND (Double-A)

RockHounds 12, NW Arkansas (Royals) 8: Story l Boxscore

First baseman Chris Carter drove in three runs and now has 38 RBI, second to Tommy Everidge, who homered for the seventh time and now has 43 RBI. Carter, by the way, would just as soon play all of his games at Midland’s Citibank Ballpark — he’s hitting .384 at home and just .182 on the road.

Adrian Cardenas went 0-for-4 with an RBI. The second baseman came into the game hitting .403 after going 10-for-19 since being sent down from Sacramento.

Corey Brown went 2-for-4 and is hitting .345. In his last six games, the center fielder has gone 13-for-29 (.448).

Carlos Hernandez from Santa Clara picked up his second win in as many Double-A starts. He gave up three runs in six innings.

STOCKTON (High Single-A)

Bakersfield (Rangers) 6, Ports 5: Story l Boxscore

Jemile Weeks had three hits in his last four at-bats Thursday night, including an opposite-field homer while batting left-handed. The switch-hitting Weeks has batted second in both of his games.

Weeks’ home run followed a blast by Jermaine Mitchell, who now has two homers.

Todd Johnson went 2-for-3 with a homer and a pair of RBI.

The Ports had runners in scoring position in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings, but weren’t able to capitalize. Stockton lost on Timothy Smith’s RBI single in the bottom of the 11th.

KANE COUNTY (Low Single-A)

Cougars 5, Great Lakes (Dodgers) 4: Story l Boxscore

Jason Christian drew a bases-loaded walk in the top of the 10th inning that allowed the Cougars to improve to a season-high 11 games above .500 (29-18).

Shortstop Dusty Coleman, one of the more pleasant surprises for Oakland, hit his team-leading eighth homer, a three-run blast to provided a 4-3 lead in the seventh.

Jeremy Barfield, the 20-year-old son of ex-Blue Jays star Jesse Barfield and the brother of Indians infielder Josh, had three hits and is now hitting .295 in 27 games.

Grant Desme had a pair of hits. The 2006 A’s second-round pick is hitting .278.

Pitcher Kenny Smalley, a 24th-round draft pick last year, struck out a career-high nine batters. Smalley went five innings and was charged with two runs when reliever Mike Hart allowed a three-run homer.

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Weeks sighting and more

The A’s top pick in last year’s draft finally is on the stat sheet at Single-A Stockton. Jemile Weeks made his debut for the Ports in Stockton’s 10-5 over Bakersfield. It wasn’t a great night for the second baseman, as he collected just one hit in six at-bats. But his lone hit did drive in two runs to give the Ports a nice start to a seven-game road trip, their longest of the season.

More encouraging news out of Stockton. Tyson Ross, the Cal product who followed Weeks on the A’s draft list last season, retired the final 11 of the final 12 he faced. His overall line needs to be better, but he continues to work on being more effecient and getting his pitch-count up. The A’s are being careful with him.

Last for Stockton: A very good night for Frank Martinez. The shortstop doubled twice and had three RBI.

Elsewhere:

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

— “Vin Mazzaro, white courtesy telephone. Vin Mazzaro, white courtesy telephone.” You half expect a public address announcement to go out, given how this kid is pitching lately. Mazzaro lowered his ERA to 2.38 in his third straight outstanding outing. By the way, talked with A’s assistant general manager Davd Forst this week, and Mazzaro would have to be called up right around the June 15-20 period to avoid becoming a Super2 guy and becoming eligible for arbitration an extra year earlier.

— Another promising pitching prospect did his thing in the second game of a doubleheader. Nice to see that James Simmons is gaining some consistency.

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

— Highlight of the night was Graham Godfrey. Dynamite stuff while fanning 11 in  a 9-4 win over Northwest Arkansas. Godfrey has 28 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings during May.

— Adrian Cardenas, who recently was sent back to down from Triple-A Sacramento, continues to smoke Double-A pitching. He’ll get another opportunity in Triple-A at some point.

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Mariners 6, A’s 1

The A’s record against left-handed starters fell to 5-12 this season as Seattle’s Erik Bedard allowed five hits in 6 2/3 innings.
The A’s have beaten Tampa Bay’s Scott Kazmir and Seattle’s Jarrod Washburn in the last eight days, but still had a batting average of .208 against all lefties coming into Wednesday’s game. Fortunately for Oakland, it likely does not have to face a left-hander during this weekend’s series in Texas.
 
Jack Cust was supposed to start in right field Wednesday but was scratched with lower back tightness. Cust said he felt better after the team’s trainers treated his back before the game, but still wasn’t at 100 percent. He expects to be ready to go for Friday’s doubleheader against the Rangers. 
 
A’s relievers Brad Ziegler and Russ Springer are going though some tough times on the mound. After Wednesday, Ziegler has allowed eight runs (seven earned) in eight games and Springer has given up an earned run in each of his last five appearances.
Springer, who gave up four straight base hits to the Mariners on Wednesday, said there’s nothing wrong with him physically. Springer had actually allowed eight straight hits, an Oakland record, before retiring the last two batters of the ninth.
 
A’s starters are 4-2 with a 2.33 ERA over the last nine games. … Bobby Crosby’s home run in the second inning Wednesday was his first in 72 games and 243 at-bats. … Matt Holliday went 2-for-4 Wednesday and is now 19-for-50 in his last 15 games.