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A rough ending

Just when you thought all the pitching woes were reserved for the big club, a rough night at Triple-A Sacramento. The River Cats allowed three runs in the ninth in a 7-6 loss to Round Rock. J.R. Towles hit a three-run home run off Jerry Blevins. Not sure what Blevins’ deal is, but he’s gone from being very promising to very nauseating. His combined ERA this season between the A’s and Sacramento: 7.79.

BTW, Sean Gallagher got what he deserved after his pathetic outing.

The rest of the rundown:

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

— Righty Vin Mazzaro earned pitcher of the week honors in the Pacific Coast League after allowing just a run in 13 2/3 innings. Question for the readers: Do you want to see Mazzaro called up.

— Lefty Dana Eveland still stinks.

Interesting promotion by the River Cats.

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

— The Rockhounds’ pitching staff had just as brutal an outing Monday. Chad Tracy’s two-run double highlighted a three-run sixth after another Chris Carter RBI made it 6-2. that tied it after Midland reliever James Heuser walked a pair while loading the bases. In the 10th, Sam Demel allowed three straight hits without getting an out to cap a 7-6 loss.

— How did outfielder Matt Spencer adjust to his promotion from Single-A Stockton? On the third pitch of his debut, he smacked a two-run single in a 9-1 win over Frisco. Here are Spencer’s numbers since his promotion.

Travis Banwart is a guy to track. He was 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his first seven starts.

SINGLE-A STOCKTON

— Another tough loss for Craig Italiano, who has pitched better than his numbers. The Ports are showing signs of life.

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A’s moves: Gallagher, Gio Gonzalez sent down, Javier Herrera released

The A’s roster shuffling continued Tuesday as they announced six player moves, including bringing up pitchers Edgar Gonzalez and Chris Schroder and releasing one-time prospect Javier Herrera.

Pitcher Sean Gallagher (1-2, 8.16 ERA), who gave up nine runs in two-plus innings in Monday’s 13-4 loss to Tampa Bay, was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento, as was left-hander Gio Gonzalez. In addition, the A’s transferred Eric Chavez to the 60-day disabled list.

Herrera was in the A’s minor league system for the past eight years and never fulfilled his promise. He was on the disabled list at Double-A Midland. The Herrera and Chavez moves enabled the A’s to make room on their 40-man roster for Edgar Gonzalez and Schroder.

Edgar Gonzalez was 3-2 with a 5.22 ERA in seven starts for Triple-A Sacramento. The ex-Diamondbacks pitcher was signed to a minor league contract by the A’s in February.

The 30-year-old Schroder, a one-time Washington National, was 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA in 14 games for Sacramento.

Gallagher was tagged for nine runs, seven earned, in last night’s 13-4 loss at Tampa Bay, as the 23-year-old righthander yielded five walks, three hits and a wild pitch before being lifted from the game in the third inning. It was his first start of the season with Oakland, but now leaves for Sacramento with a 1-2 record and 8.16 ERA in six games and 14.1 innings of work.

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Rays 13, A’s 4

I’d say these comments sum up tonight’s game pretty good:

“Horrible, absolutely terrible. I’m an absolute disgrace to myself right now.”

– A’s right-hander Sean Gallagher, after he gave up six first-inning runs and lasted just 2 1/3 innings.

“Brutal. It’s terrible. Whatever bad word you can say about it. It’s frustrating.”

–DH Jack Cust

“Walks aren’t acceptable. From Day 1, that was the message in spring training.”

–A’s manager Bob Geren

If you saw tonight’s game, it was pretty simple. Gallagher couldn’t locate any pitch he threw, and the Rays led 6-1 after one inning.

Making matters worse for the A’s, backup catcher Landon Powell, after entering the game at first base, strained a hamstring running out a grounder in the ninth. His status is unknown, but Geren and assistant GM David Forst were huddled after the game discussing their catcher situation. Kurt Suzuki and Powell are the only catchers currently on the 40-man roster, so there could be some juggling of the roster tomorrow to promote a catcher, assuming Powell won’t be available.

That’s all for now… It’s up to Josh Outman to try to turn things around tomorrow …

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A’s pregame update — Monday

We’re less than an hour from first pitch here in Tampa Bay (St. Petersburg to be precise) … It’s a pretty heavy-activity day for Nomar Garciaparra. He’s run the bases and taken grounders, and he’s about to hit. If today goes well with his right calf injury, I’d think he’s a decent bet to be activated Wednesday, as A’s manager Bob Geren is hoping. ….

Gio Gonzalez was scheduled to land in Tampa at about 4 p.m., but hadn’t made it to the park by the time we talked with Geren. He’ll be used in the same long relief role that Dan Giese was filling before going on the DL. Gonzalez walked 11 batters combined in two outings at Triple-A since he was last optioned, so it’ll be interesting to see how he responds up here when he gets in a game. I think the A’s just like the fact that he has some big league experience, and he’s pitched decently in relief up here. So he got the call.

Considering how he struggled for Sacramento, though, I wonder if his last outing with the A’s stuck w/him a bit. Remember, he was optioned out after pitching five innings in relief and giving up a three-run lead in that 15-inning loss May 3 at Seattle. Can’t blame him too much for that game. Five innings of relief is a lot to ask of anybody…

Today’s A’s lineup: Cabrera SS; Suzuki C; Cust DH; Holliday LF; Giambi 1B; Kennedy 2B; Sweeney CF; Crosby 3B; Buck RF; Gallagher P.

Rays lineup: Upton CF; Crawford LF; Longoria 3B; Pena 1B; Zobrist RF; Aybar DH; Bartlett SS; Iwamura 2B; Hernandez C; Niemann P.

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The weekend

Gonna start the weekend minor-league rundown with a bit of a detour. The discussion in the office this morning regarded just how bad this A’s team is — frankly, I think it’s their worst team since 1997 — and how much longer do you give them until you call off the dogs?

My thinking: Two more weeks. The late, great sportswriter Leonard Koppett told me one time that six weeks into the season, the hitters have caught up to the pitchers, and that’s usually when veterans if they get going will start to get going.” In other words, two more weeks of a lousy Jason Giambi doesn’t portend good things.

How does this tie into the minors? Well, time to see which prospect you’d like most to see called up for an extended call-up. Co-worker Ben Enos says Jeff Gray. Cubs fanatic Chase Bryson said Sean Doolittle (“Demote Buck,” he says). I say, “anybody but Vince Mazzaro (don’t start his service time).”

Who’s your pick?

Meantime, while you think about it, here are some candidates.

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

1B SEAN DOOLITTLE: He’s been playing the outfield and is on the disabled list. But he hits left-handed and 10 of his 28 hits have been for extra bases.

RHP JEFF GRAY: His whip is under one. He brings heat. And I’m thinking if you give Brad Ziegler a chance to close in a lost season, why not this guy?

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

1B CHRIS CARTER: We won’t see him this year — why start his service time? — but this kid is the buzz. He continues to drive in runs in bunches.

The usual rundown returns tomorrow.

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A mix-and-match Sunday

The A’s are trotting out a funky looking lineup today as they try to avoid the sweep in Detroit. Catcher Kurt Suzuki is getting a day off, and Jason Giambi gets a turn at DH. So Adam Kennedy is hitting second, Jack Cust moves from DH to right field, Bobby Crosby moves across the diamond to first base and Jack Hannahan starts at third. That’s six left-handed hitters in the lineup against right-hander Armando Galarraga (counting switch-hitter Landon Powell, who’s catching).

 Travis Buck, despite an RBI single last night, gets bumped from the lineup. But we also learned this morning that he’s nursing a sore left shoulder. Buck is still diving with abandon after balls in the outfield, and he thinks he aggravated the shoulder with a dive early in the season. Buck has talked before about the need to be smarter about hurling his body everywhere, and I can think of at least a couple of occasions this season when he’s dove for a ball he had no chance of catching. Not only does that put him at injury risk, it lets a runner take an extra base as the ball gets past him. Anyway, Buck has been told that his left shoulder is somewhat weak structurally. So he’s felt a little discomfort even just reaching across his body to make a catch. ”I would say I’ve got to play knowing it’s not going to be 100 percent,” Buck said. “I’ve got to find a way to strengthen it during the season.”

I asked Bob Geren about Orlando Cabrera’s play last night, when he reached down and slapped the ball on the roll to Adam Kennedy for a force-out at second. You might have caught it on ESPN’s “Web Gems”. Geren thinks Cabrera, a native Colombian, has probably made that play before. “In a lot of Latin American countries, they play a game called ‘Flip’ before batting practice,” Geren said. “It’s kind of a fun game. You hit the ball around with your glove. When I saw (Cabrera’s play), it didn’t surprise me one bit. He’s probably played that game a lot. The great thing was Adam Kennedy was ready for it.”

It looks like the earliest Nomar Garciaparra will return would be Wednesday, Geren said. Garciaparra’s right calf was sore after yesterday’s workout, so he’s taking today off. Tampa Bay starts lefty Scott Kazmir on Wednesday, so Geren would like to have Garciaparra’s right-handed bat in there. I didn’t get a chance to grab Garciaparra before the game.

A’s lineup: Cabrera SS; Kennedy 2B; Cust RF; Holliday LF; Giambi DH; Sweeney CF; Crosby 1B; Powell C; Hannahan 3B; Cahill P.

Tigers lineup: Granderson CF; Anderson LF; Thomas RF; Cabrera 1B; Ordonez DH; Larish 3B; Laird C; Santiago 2B; Everett SS; Galarraga P.

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Tigers 9, A’s 1

So much for that tinkering with the batting order. The A’s didn’t respond to a shuffled order tonight, mustering just four hits against four Detroit pitchers. Manager Bob Geren usually finds a positive spin to put on any loss, but he seemed genuinely stumped at the A’s struggles with the bat. They’ve been outscored 23-2 in the first two games. Apparently he’s taking input from everybody on how to jumpstart things, because he said he’s “running it by everybody.” 

Jack Cust, who was moved from fifth to third in the lineup, was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Jason Giambi, dropped to fifth, was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.

Who can figure out this offense? They seemed to have a good thing going, scoring 19 runs during a two-game sweep of Kansas City earlier in the week.

“It’s just up and down,” center fielder Ryan Sweeney said. “if we can just put those two games together and keep it going … The last two games we’ve kind of struggled.”

–Matt Holliday looked to be in serious pain after being hit in the left elbow by a pitch in the sixth. He had the elbow wrapped but Geren said he was OK after the game. Sweeney banged up his right wrist trying to make a sliding catch in the seventh, but he said he was fine afterward.

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Crosby back in the lineup; Cust hitting third

It rained pretty heavily early this afternoon, but it’s all sunshine at Comerica Park as the A’s get ready for  game two of this three-game series against Detroit. Bobby Crosby was feeling good enough to return to the lineup at third base after a stomach ailment prompted his early exit last night. Crosby is guessing it might have been food poisoning. “About an hour before the game, I was just feeling off,” he said before BP. “By about the second inning, I felt like I had to throw up.”

Whether that played a part in him booting that grounder last night, I’m not sure. But Crosby echoed what Adam Kennedy said after Friday’s game regarding the infield’s four errors: Sometimes bad defense can be contagious.

On the offensive side of things, Bob Geren has flip-flopped Jack Cust and Jason Giambi in the lineup, bumping Cust up to the No. 3 spot and dropping Giambi to fifth. It’s a decision spurred more by Cust’s hot hitting than any struggles Giambi might be having, Geren said. I asked him if he thinks Giambi will benefit from hitting fifth (seeing better pitches, etc.) “I don’t think that makes much of a difference as much as getting one of our top hitters an extra at-bat a game,” Geren said. Cust is hitting .281 right now, Giambi .208.

Geren also bumped Adam Kennedy to sixth and dropped Ryan Sweeney to seventh.

–Sean Gallagher will take Monday’s start in Tampa Bay, with Josh Outman going Tuesday. That’s also puts the duo on turn to pitch the May 29th doubleheader at Texas (when the teams make up their rainout from April 29).   

A’s lineup: Cabrera SS; Suzuki C; Cust DH; Holliday LF; Giambi 1B; Kennedy 2B; Sweeney CF; Crosby 3B; Buck RF; Braden P.

Tigers lineup: Granderson CF; Polanco 2B; Thomas RF; Cabrera 1B; Ordonez DH; Inge 3B; Raburn LF; Laird C; Everett SS; Porcello P.

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A’s minor league recap: Simmons shines in Sacramento

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

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

RiverCats 8, Albuquerque (Dodgers) 1: Story l Boxscore

Former 2007 1st-round pick James Simmons turned in his most impressive start of the season. He had a one-hit shutout after six innings and finished with a three-hitter in a season-high seven innings. Simmons allowed just one run and one walk and struck out three.

Daric Barton went 2-for-4 to stretch his hitting streak to nine games. Thanks to a .298 average in May, Barton’s now batting a season-high .211. Eric Patterson went 5-for-5 and is now hitting .314. Patterson has been starting in center field lately for the Cats.

When the A’s decide they need to bring up a lefty specialist in the bullpen, one possibility is former San Jose State pitcher Brad Kilby, a Sacramento area native who was Oakland’s 29th round pick in 2005. He’s probably behind both Jerry Blevins and Jay Marshall in the A’s pecking order at Sacramento. To be sure, a call-up to the majors would be a dream come true for the 26-year-old, whose career nearly ended last Halloween when he was hit in the head by a line drive during winter ball.

Speaking of relievers, Albuquerque’s Nick DeBarr, a former Amador Valley High standout, gave up two runs in two innings Friday. The Isotopes’ bullpen includes two former East Bay Athletic League pitchers in DeBarr and Livermore’s Erick Threets.

MIDLAND (Double-A)

San Antonio (Padres) 9, RockHounds 3: Story l Boxscore

Bad fielding was apparently contagious in the A’s organization Friday as the RockHounds did Oakland one better (worse?) by committing five errors _ all in the first three innings, including a pair by shortstop Josh Horton.

Midland remains in first place by 1/2 game over Corpus Christi (Astros).

Corey Brown went 1-for-4 with an RBI double, but struck out three times. Brown has struck out five times in the past two nights.

Chris Carter went 0-for-3 and saw his average dip to .268. The big first baseman has gone a season high six games without an RBI.

STOCKTON (High Single-A)

Ports 10, High Desert (Mariners) 3: Story l Boxscore

David Thomas and Frank Martinez each had two RBI as the Ports have now won three of four and five of their last seven. Still, Stockton had four errors to continue the organization’s theme of the night.

Shortstop Michael Richard had two hits and stole his team-leading sixth base.

KANE COUNTY (Low Single-A)

Cougars 3, Burlington (Royals) 2: Story l Boxscore

Shawn Haviland continued to impress for the first-place Cougars (22-12). Last year’s 33rd-round pick improved to 3-1 with five innings of two-run ball, featuring five strikeouts. Haviland’s ERA stands at 2.48.

Jeremy Barfield went 2-for-3 with an RBI and is now hitting .354.