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A’s 4, Twins 3

Just a quick update on the A’s outfield corps, which has suddenly gotten pretty thin. Aaron Cunningham left tonight’s game with a concussion after he was beaned in the helmet by an Anthony Swarzak fastball. Cunningham was taken to the hospital for X-rays, but there was no further update on his condition. The A’s were already down to four outfielders, because Ryan Sweeney went on the DL and they chose to promote first baseman Daric Barton rather than another outfielder. A trip to the DL would certainly seem possible for Cunningham, but we’ll know more tomorrow.

–Anyone out there got any thoughts on who the A’s will choose with the 13th pick in the draft tomorrow? The common logic is it will be a pitcher, since the top of the draft is so deep with pitching. I threw out a few candidates in my notebook for tomorrow’s paper, so check that out.

A couple names I didn’t throw out:

–Arizona State right-hander Mike Leake. The A’s drafted this kid out of high school back in 2006, and now he’s one of the top right-handers in this year’s class after a standout career as a Sun Devil. He doesn’t blow up the radar gun, but he’s said to have great command, and we know the A’s often value that more than velocity (see James Simmons: 2007).

–We’re talking a real dark-horse candidate here, but keep the name Mike Trout in mind. He’s a high school center fielder from New Jersey that Baseball America projects will go in the first round. I know GM Billy Beane was in New Jersey doing some scouting recently, though he could have been checking out any number of prospects. Anyway, this is a longshot, since the A’s haven’t taken a high school position player in the first round since Eric Chavez in 1996. But scouts think Trout is a five-tool guy, and his competitiveness draws comparisons to Aaron Rowand.
Just throwing this one out there.

When it comes to outfielders, they could also consider Sacramento State’s Tim Wheeler or Notre Dame’s A.J. Pollock. Or, they could just do the expected thing and grab a pitcher. We’ll find out tomorrow …

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Ryan Sweeney to DL; Daric Barton returning

Bob Geren was late for his pre-game media chat, but he had a pretty good excuse: The A’s decided to put Ryan Sweeney on the 15-day DL with a sprained MCL in his left knee. His replacement on the roster?

First baseman Daric Barton.

Barton got word about 4:30 p.m. and is driving to the Coliseum from Sacramento right now. The A’s like the way he’s been swinging the bat lately at Triple-A. He’s hitting just .245 with three homers and 32 RBI after getting off to a slow start. But he’s turned it on over his last 10 games, hitting .357 with a homer and eight RBI. Who could have predicted he’d be back this soon? You know all about his 2008 season, when he got his shot as the everyday first baseman but struggled mightily at the plate.

He was hard-pressed to win a roster spot in spring training after the A’s signed Jason Giambi and Nomar Garciaparra, and a quad injury ensured Barton would start in Triple-A.

Sweeney has missed five games, so his DL stint is retroactive to June 3, and he’s eligible to return June 18. Geren said surgery does not appear necessary for Sweeney. He added that Barton could draw some starts at first base to allow Giambi (who’s dealing with a sore lower right calf) to DH some. Jack Cust’s back is well enough for him to play right field in that scenario. Plus, Bobby Crosby is still with his wife, who’s in labor with their first child, so he won’t be available as an infield option for tonight and perhaps longer.

There’s been speculation about whether prospect Sean Doolittle had passed Barton on the pecking order as the future first baseman. But Doolittle is on Sacramento’s DL right now w/knee tendinitis. The A’s still think highly of Barton’s potential.

“He’s still very young and talented, and he’s hit very well at every level,” Geren said. “We’re going to give him a chance.”

The lineups:

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

Outman P

Twins:
Span LF
Mauer C
Morneau 1B
Cuddyer RF
Harris SS
Young DH
Gomez CF
Tolbert 3B
Casilla 2B

Swarzak P

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Cust returns to right field

The A’s lineup has a few wrinkles in it today as they shoot for their first six-game winning streak since August 2006.

Jason Giambi is at DH, not surprising since he often DH’s in a day game after a night game. His right lower calf also is bothering him, so the rest can do him well from that standpoint. Jack Cust returns to right field for the first time since the back spasms kicked in last week in Texas. He told me his back tightens up after a couple of at-bats, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting him greatly. With lefty Rich Hill on the mound for Baltimore, right-handed hitting Gregorio Petit gets a start at third base, just his third in nine games since being recalled from the minors.

The lineups:
A’s — Cabrera SS; Kennedy 2B; Cust RF; Holliday LF; Giambi DH; Suzuki C; Crosby 1B; Davis CF; Petit 3B; Mazzaro P.
O’s — Jones CF; Reimold LF; Markakis RF;Scott DH; Mora 3B; Salazar 1B; Wieters C; Wigginton 2B; Andino SS; Hill P.

I didn’t dive real deep into Trevor Cahill’s outing last night, or Bob Geren’s rationale for pulling him after 91 pitches. I was pretty surprised that he wasn’t allowed to go longer. To shed some light on things, Geren said he went to the bullpen because Cahill gave up two hits to start the seventh, and that he wanted Brad Ziegler’s ability to get a ground ball. I was still scratching my head, and not just in hindsight because Ziegler got roughed up. These young pitchers need to be given the opportunity to work their way out of jams late in games, especially when they’re working w/a big lead. I think there’s a lot more confidence to be gained when leaving a game after completing an inning, as opposed to being pulled in the middle of one. There are times when your starter needs the hook, and leaving him in one batter too long can be disastrous. Last night wasn’t one of those times.

That’s all for now …

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Cahill adding to his arsenal

Something to look for tonight from Trevor Cahill: Bob Geren says he’s been working to perfect a “front-door” sinker against left-handed batters. The pitch basically starts at a guy’s hip and works its way back over the plate. It takes a lot of confidence and trust in the pitch to throw it, because you’re basically aiming for a hitter knowing the pitch will tail back. “It’s not something that’s easily perfected, but it’s almost like having a new pitch,” Geren said. He added that not many pitchers utilize a front-door sinker, but Greg Maddux is an example of somebody who’s had incredible success w/it …

–Checked in w/Ryan Sweeney about his left knee, and he doesn’t sound all that optimistic right now. The A’s staff doesn’t want him to hit or run today. Sweeney found out yesterday he has a sprained MCL. “It’s irritated, so if I start doing stuff it’s going to flare up,” he said. “It’s frustrating.” No talk of the DL yet for Sweeney.

–Geren said he doesn’t expect Nomar Garciaparra to come off the DL when he’s eligible Monday, not a big surprise considering he hadn’t done much in the way of baseball activity since going on the DL.

–Tough news on reliever Dan Giese, who is having Tommy John surgery Tuesday w/Dr. Lewis Yocum. He thought his ulnar nerve simply needed to be moved, but his ulnar collateral ligament was torn, which was causing all the pain with his nerve. He’ll definitely be out at least a full year.

The lineups for tonight’s game, serving as a Jordin Sparks opening act:

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

Cahill P

Orioles
Roberts 2B
Markakis RF
Jones CF
Scott DH
Huff 1B
Mora 3B
Zaun C
Pie LF
Andino SS

Berken P

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A’s 9, Orioles 1

Jack Cust and Matt Holliday both went deep Friday night as the A’s have now hit 12 home runs in their last six games. Remarkable considering everyone’s struggles at the start of the season. Coming into Friday, the A’s had 44 home runs, which ranked third-to-last in the American League.
 
Cust had an MRI on his lower back Friday afternoon and said he’s still not 100 percent, but he’s managed to hit homers in two of his last three games. 
 
Dallas Braden continues to be Oakland’s most consistent starter as he went seven innings Friday for the third time in four games. He also matched a career-high with seven strikeouts as he won for the second time in three starts. Oakland starters are now 8-4 with a 2.88 ERA over their last 18 games.
 
Holliday’s three-run homer in the fifth inning off of Mark Hendrickson was hit first off of a left-handed pitcher since July 21, 2008 (the Dodgers’ Eric Stults). Holliday is batting .370 (30-for-81) over his last 24 games.
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A’s pre-game notes

A few tidbits before tonight’s game.

An MRI on Ryan Sweeney’s left knee Friday revealed a sprained medial collateral ligament. He said he’s day-to-day right now as he waits for the inflammation to settle down and expects to have to play in a bit of pain when he does get back on the field. Sweeney hoped to take batting practice Friday, but A’s trainers wanted him to take it easy for another day. Rajai Davis gets the start in center field, with Aaron Cunningham in right. Jack Cust, who missed Thursday’s game with back problems, returns as the A’s DH.

No new news on infielder Nomar Garciaparra, who pretty much stayed away from baseball-related activities while the A’s were on the road. He said he didn’t know if he’ll be able to play next week when he’s scheduled to come off the 15-day disabled list. Just guessing here, but because he hasn’t done much running in the last few days, he may need a bit more time to get fully healthy again.

A’s manager Bob Geren said Justin Duchscherer may have thrown again Friday after having some back issues for the last week. But he wasn’t sure. 

From the O’s clubhouse, Cesar Izturis will miss the game and likely the series after complaining of what’s being described as stomach pain. Robert Andino will start in his place. Also chatted with pitcher and Foothill High product Brad Bergesen, who is excited to be back in the Bay Area in June for the first time since he was drafted in 2004.

The lineups

A’s – Cabrera SS, Kennedy 2B, Cust DH, Holliday LF, Giambi 1B, Suzuki C, Cunningham RF, Hannahan 3B, Davis CF, Braden P

O’s – Roberts 2B, Jones CF, Markakis RF, Huff DH, Mora 3B, Scott LF, Wigginton 1B, Wieters C, Andino SS, Guthrie P.

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A’s minor league update: Gallagher suffers knee injury

Sacramento RiverCats starting pitcher Sean Gallagher left the game after the first inning Thursday night with a left knee injury.

The severity of Gallagher’s injury has not yet been determined, according to the RiverCats. Gallagher, who is 1-0 with a 1.74 ERA in Triple-A and has had a couple of stints with the A’s this year, gave up two hits and one run during the game Sacramento eventually won 19-10.

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A’s minor league recap: Carson, Barton lead big Sacramento win

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

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

RiverCats 19, Salt Lake City (Angels) 10: Story l Boxscore

In a game featuring 29 runs and 37 hits, the RiverCats’ Matt Carson was the big story as the 27-year-old outfielder blasted three home runs in their victory in Utah. Carson, a former BYU star who joined the A’s this winter as a six-year minor league free agent, opened some eyes while hitting .364 in spring training. On Thursday, Carson hit a two-run homer and a pair of solo shots, giving him a team-leading nine on the season.

Daric Barton went 3-for-4 with a homer, two doubles, four runs scored and four RBI. The first baseman is hitting .351 in his past 10 games.

Danny Putnam, the ex-Stanford star, also had three hits and four RBI. In all, 13 of the Cats’ 21 hits went for extra bases.

Eric Patterson and Eric Munson each had three hits. Patterson also stole two bases and has 22 for the season.

One of the Salt Lake relievers facing Sacramento was Antioch’s Dan Denham, who allowed two runs in 1 2/3 innings. Denham spent part of the ’07 season in the minors with the A’s before being dealt to Cincinnati in ’07 for Kirk Saarloos.

MIDLAND (Double-A)

RockHounds 4, NW Arkansas (Royals) 1: Story l Boxscore

Jason Fernandez (11th round, ’06) was the story in Midland as the right-hander threw a complete-game six-hitter to notch his sixth win. Fernandez, who threw 99 pitches, struck out six and didn’t walk anyone.

Matt Spencer homered for the second consecutive game and drove in a pair. Second baseman Adrian Cardenas went 3-for-3 and now leads the Texas League with a .389 average.

Corey Brown had a game-tying RBI double in the fifth and later scored.

STOCKTON (High Single-A)

Ports 5, High Desert (Mariners) 5 (susp.): Story l Boxscore

The Ports and Mavericks played five hours and one minute before having their game suspended after 14 innings in Stockton, due to the Cal League’s rule that no inning can begin after midnight. The teams will resume play Friday night at 6:05 p.m. and their regularly scheduled game will follow.

Jemile Weeks continued to show some pop by belting his third homer in just his eight game with the Ports. Christian Vitters went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBI.

Ports starter Scott Hodsdon went six innings and allowed just two earned runs. He didn’t walk a batter and fanned three.

KANE COUNTY (Low Single-A)

Clinton (Mariners) 5, Cougars 4: Story l Boxscore

First baseman Steve Kleen hit a three-run home run in Kane County’s four-run fourth inning, but the Cougars couldn’t hold their lead and fell into a first-place tie with Cedar Rapids (Angels) in the Midwest League’s Western Division.

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Cust, Sweeney sit; Petit playing third

Not a lot to report on the pregame scene. It’s blue skies and sunshine at U.S. Cellular field, as the A’s try to make it three straight over the White Sox. As bad as the road trip started out in Texas, finishing out 3-1 in Chicago would be a nice rebound for the A’s as they head home for a seven-game homestand against Baltimore and Minnesota (and considering they follow up with three games at San Francisco, it’s virtually a 10-game homestand).

No Ryan Sweeney in the lineup, as we suspected. Bob Geren said the soreness in his knee has subsided, but he’ll probably get an MRI tomorrow. Jack Cust also gets a day off, with Jason Giambi at DH and Gregorio Petit playing third. I’m surprised it’s taken this long to get Petit back in the lineup …

Chicago’s lineup features blue-chip prospect Gordham Beckham at third. He took the express route to the majors after just 59 games in the minors …

A’s:
Cabrera SS
Kennedy 2B
Holliday LF
Giambi DH
Suzuki C
Crosby 1B
Cunningham RF
Davis CF
Petit 3B

Anderson P

White Sox:
Podsednik LF
Ramirez SS
Dye RF
Konerko 1B
Pierzynski C
Fields DH
Wise CF
Beckham 3B
Nix 2B

Buehrle P

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A’s minor league recap: Gio Gonzalez is on a roll for RiverCats

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

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

RiverCats 3, Salt Lake City (Angels) 1: Story l Boxscore

Gio Gonzalez had his second consecutive dominant showing for the RiverCats, who improved to a PCL-best 33-30. Gonzalez (2-1, 3.50) went six innings, allowing just two hits and one run. He walked just two and struck out five. In his last two starts, Gonzalez has gone a total of 13 innings and given up just four hits and one run.

Gonzalez, Dana Eveland, Sean Gallagher and James Simmons are shaping up to be a rather solid rotation for the Cats.

Daric Barton, still batting an uninspiring .223, broke a 1-all tie with a two-out, RBI single in the seventh inning. Barton then scored on a double by Eric Patterson.

Eric Munson, the Cats’ catcher and cleanup hitter, went 2-for-5 with an RBI.

MIDLAND (Double-A)

RockHounds 16, NW Arkansas (Royals) 8: Story l Boxscore

Matt Spencer’s grand slam keyed a seven-run first inning as the RockHounds pounded Northwest Arkansas. Tommy Everidge and Adrian Cardenas each drove in three runs for Midland, which also got three hits and three runs each from Josh Horton and Archie Gilbert.

Chris Carter drove in a pair of runs and now has 42 in 51 games. The first baseman also has an on-base percentage of .396 and an OPS of .886.

Jason Fernandez improved to 3-0 since arriving from Stockton. He scattered 11 hits and allowed two runs in five innings.

STOCKTON (High Single-A)

San Jose (Giants) 4, Ports 2: Story l Boxscore

Ben Hornbeck allowed three runs in the first two innings, including a pair on a two-run Nick Noonan single, and took the loss as Stockton fell in San Jose. Hornbeck, who has lost two straight starts after a 5-0 start, went 4 2/3 innings and struck out seven.

Christian Vitters (10th round, ’06), accounted for the Ports’ runs with a two-run home run in the fifth. Jemile Weeks (1st round, ’08) went 1-for-4 with a double in the ninth and is hitting .333 in seven games (11-for-33).

San Jose starter Garrett Broshuis, a 27-year-old who spent the past three seasons at Double-A Connecticut, went seven strong innings for the win, allowing both Stockton runs.

KANE COUNTY (Low Single-A)

Cougars 3, Clinton (Mariners) 1: Story l Boxscore

Kenny Smalley (24th round, ’08) shut down Clinton to improve to 5-1 and lower his ERA to 1.69. Smalley went six innings, allowing five hits and one run, walking one and striking out four.

Grant Desme smashed his ninth homer of the season to provide an insurance run in the ninth. Jeremy Barfield went 1-for-3 with a pair of RBI and is hitting .348, but saw his streak of five straight multi-hit games come to an end.

Chris Berroa (11th round, ’08) joined the Cougars from extended spring training. He went 0-for-4 in his season debut while batting leadoff and playing left field.