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A’s lineup, pregame news for Wednesday

Red Sox legend Jim Rice popped into the A’s clubhouse and was chatting w/Nomar Garciaparra earlier this afternoon. You never know who you’re going to see from day to day, especially when the A’s visit a team with such a rich history as Boston … We’ve got some dark clouds hovering over Fenway at the moment. Batting practice was canceled for both teams as a steady rain fell earlier. But the tarp is off the infield right now. Weather.com says there’s anywhere from a 35-45 percent chance of showers around first pitch, and for the next couple hours after that.

On to the news: Reliever Jeff Gray, who knows the route between Oakland and Triple-A Sacramento quite well, was recalled to take the 25-man roster spot of Dana Eveland. The right-hander has some nasty stuff, but he hasn’t gotten much of a chance to show it in two brief stints with Oakland this season. He was called up twice in May and retired the only batter he faced each time. Gray, 27, was 2-2 with a 1.99 ERA with Sacramento and was 11-for-11 in save opportunities.

Bob Geren’s phone buzzed w/a call from Dallas Braden while he was meeting w/reporters, but there’s still no word on whether the lefty will return to start one of the games this weekend in Tampa Bay … Brett Anderson will throw either Saturday or Sunday, w/Gio Gonzalez pitching the other day if Braden doesn’t go …

Jason Giambi gets his second day off in four games, with Bobby Crosby playing first and Jack Cust serving as DH. Giambi and Geren both said his body was in need of some overall rest, and he’ll get two days off with no game scheduled tomorrow. There might be a few guys who wouldn’t have minded taking tonight off with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield going for Boston. It can’t be too much fun gearing up for the heat that Josh Beckett brings, and then adjusting to Wakefield’s floating stuff 24 hours later. Now that I’ve written that, of course, the A’s will put a 10-spot on the scoreboard tonight …

The lineups, w/Trevor Cahill trying to snap out of a two-start slump for Oakland …
A’s
Kennedy 3B
Cabrera SS
Hairston CF
Holliday LF
Suzuki C
Cust DH
Sweeney RF
Ellis 2B
Crosby 1B

Cahill RHP

Sox
Drew RF
Pedroia 2B
Youkilis 3B
Ortiz DH
Bay LF
Ellsbury CF
Kotsay 1B
Green SS
Kottaras C

Wakefield RHP

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A’s-Sox pregame update — Tuesday

It was pouring rain earlier today in Boston, and I was giving this game zero chance of being played. But the skies have cleared a bit and the sun is out over Fenway, so it’s looking more promising. Dana Eveland takes the hill for the A’s tonight in place of Dallas Braden, who is on bereavement leave. You might remember Eveland’s only previous start at Fenway didn’t go so well last August. He surrendered nine runs in two innings, including five in the first. He goes against Josh Beckett tonight.

We were all speculating earlier about whether they might play a doubleheader tomorrow if tonight was rained out. The A’s also play a four-game series here July 27-30, so they could play a twin bill one of those days, I suppose. Anyway, this game should get in. …

Scott Hairston is starting in center and hitting third for the A’s. “Third is where he hit all year in San Diego (before Sunday’s trade),” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “I like what our 1-2 guys are doing. I think (Hairston) could be a nice fit (hitting) 1,2 or 3.”

Geren added that Rajai Davis would still get some starts, either spelling Sweeney in right field or Hairston in center. And he didn’t rule out Jack Cust still getting a little time in right. Jason Giambi and Nomar Garciaparra figure to eat up some at-bats at DH ….

Here are your lineups:

A’s
Kennedy 3B
Cabrera SS
Hairston CF
Holliday LF
Giambi 1B
Suzuki C
Cust DH
Sweeney RF
Ellis 2B

Eveland LHP

Red Sox
Drew RF
Pedroia 2B
Youkilis 3B
Bay LF
Ortiz DH
Varitek C
Ellsbury CF
Green SS
Bates 1B

Beckett RHP

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Nomar’s return to Fenway

Here’s a few snippets of Nomar Garciaparra’s press conference before today’s game at Fenway Park. It’s his first time returning to Fenway as an opposing player … Some of his quotes will read like he’s laying it on a bit thick. But I gotta say, the guy came across pretty sincere in person. And he absolutely loves the Red Sox franchise, even saying he still holds out hope of ending his career with Boston.

****About being a part of the Red Sox history?

“I always said this many times: You go out to the Green (Monster) and it looks like a golf ball, with all these little dents. It’s been dented so much (by players’ hits). And I always think about those dents. How many great players have a dent on that wall? I know I have a dent in that wall. And I wonder who my dent’s next to. I’ve been lucky enough to go to other franchises that also have a history in this game, but to be a part of (Red Sox history) was truly special.”

****On playing with two big-name players who allegedly took steroids (this was supposedly in reference to Manny Ramirez and Roger Clemens)

“I don’t know their full stories behind it. … Until people actually admit it, I don’t know their stories of what their situation is. I’m not here to throw stones at people. I think it’s disappointing when you hear about some of the people who have done that, because this game doesn’t need that, doesn’t deserve that. There are guys who are going out there who don’t have that edge, going out there and producing just as much. And I think that’s why there are some guys who have admitted it, that I look at and I admire so much. It just kind of disappoints me a little bit, takes away a little bit from that, because you wonder: How much did it affect them?”

***what would you say to Boston fans if you got the chance?

(Garciaparra’s voice started cracking as he addressed the question)

“I’m getting emotional, because when I was gone … Boston fans are everywhere. It’s just awesome. I can’t tell you how many times (I heard) ‘thank you, we appreciate it everything you did.’ … And I can’t tell (you) what that meant to me. Even today, I was just walking down wonderful Newbury Street, and a guy came up to me, shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said ‘Thank you for all you did.’ I just looked at him and said, ‘No, thank you.’ I can’t believe what a wonderful experience I had here, and it’s all because of them.”

***Does he wish he could have played his whole career here?

“The minute I put that uniform on, I always had a dream I was going to start my career in a Boston uniform and end my career in a Boston uniform. I still have that dream. The only difference is in the original (dream) I wasn’t supposed to put another uniform on.”

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Buck optioned to Triple-A; Eveland joins team

There’s no shortage of news here at Fenway, where Nomar Garciaparra held a news conference in front of 50-60 reporters and broadcasters, new A’s outfielder Scott Hairston is due to arrive anytime, and lefty Dana Eveland joined the club in place of Dallas Braden, who was placed on the bereavement list. We also just heard that Travis Buck was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento to clear a roster spot for Hairston.

Let’s recap the A’s news. I’ll try to throw some Nomar nuggets into a separate post.

–Hairston is not in tonight’s starting lineup, but he’ll be on the active roster and available if needed. It depends on how quickly he gets here. His flight was due to land in Boston at about 5:30 local time, 90 minutes before first pitch. Geren held his media chat before we got word of Buck’s demotion. But he didn’t offer much when asked about what the Hairston trade says about Buck’s status in the big picture. “He’s still very young. He’s a player that has a bright future.” Asked whether it’s been Buck’s injuries or flat-out ineffectiveness that’s held him back in the organization’s eyes, Geren offered: “Everything blends together. It’s a hard game to play, period. When he’s out of the lineup, it’s due to one factor or another.”

Geren confirmed that Hairston will take over starting center field duties, with Ryan Sweeney seeing lots of time in right field and Jack Cust sliding into the DH role more often. He said he envisions Hairston hitting somewhere in the 3-5 range in the order. “I like what the guys are doing at the top,” Geren said, referring to Adam Kennedy and ORlando Cabrera.

The A’s outfield defense will definitely be stronger when Matt Holliday, Hairston and Sweeney are playing left to right, with Cust at DH. “(Hairston) definitely improves our team offensively, defensively and on the bases. He’s also a very good base runner,” Geren said.

–I believe I hear the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love?” being played on the Fenway organ right now … just had to share.

–Braden flew back to the Bay Area for what Geren called a family matter, but didn’t offer more information. Players can stay on the bereavement list a maximum of seven days. Eveland, 7-1 with a 3.49 ERA in 12 starts w/Triple-A Sacramento since being optioned May 5, could start tomorrow in Braden’s place. But Geren said Edgar Gonzalez also was an option if Gonzalez isn’t needed tonight in relief. If Eveland goes, he’d be pitching on three days’ rest, as he pitched for the River Cats on Friday. Geren said he’d have to check w/Eveland to see if his arm was good to go on three days’ rest, which is odd because Geren also mentioned Eveland could be used tonight (on two days’ rest) if needed out of the bullpen in a pinch …

Tonight’s lineups …

A’s
Kennedy 3B
Cabrera SS
Holliday LF
Giambi 1B
Suzuki C
Garciaparra DH
Cust RF
Sweeney CF
Ellis 2B

Anderson LHP

Red Sox
Ellsbury CF
Lugo SS
Youkilis 3B
Ortiz DH
Bay LF
Varitek C
Baldelli RF
Green 2B
Bates 1B

Smoltz RHP

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A little more on Hairston trade

Thought I’d follow up with a bit more on the Scott Hairston deal that I couldn’t squeeze into today’s paper:

–A’s assistant GM David Forst did not guarantee that Ryan Sweeney was going to slide over and be the regular right fielder if Hairston plays center. From reading the blog comments, I got the feeling that some of you might have gotten that impression. Forst merely said Sweeney was an option in right. Regardless, this trade definitely points to Jack Cust seeing more time at DH and less in right field with Sweeney available as an obvious defensive upgrade in right. But we’ll have a clearer read on the outfield picture after Bob Geren holds court w/reporters before tonight’s game in Boston.

–”This is a trade we made for the long-term,” Forst said of Hairston, 29. The A’s will have control over him for the next 2 1/2 years, as Hairston won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2011 season. He’s arbitration-eligible each season until then. Forst also said that Hairston is probably a natural corner outfielder, but is better suited for center in the A’s current state (read: as long as Matt Holliday is still wearing an A’s uniform and playing left field).

–Some of you have seen this story from mlb.com. Hairston was caught off-guard and not particularly happy about the trade because he liked it in San Diego. I’m sure his .360 average against left-handed pitching this season had to be enticing to the A’s, who have struggled against lefties despite beating Cliff Lee yesterday. Click here for Hairston’s career stats.

–It’s tough to get a read on this deal until we learn who the “player to be named” is that goes to San Diego along with pitchers Ryan Webb and Craig Italiano. The mlb.com story paraphrased Padres GM Kevin Towers as saying he’ll pick from two A’s pitchers sometime this month, with one having major league experience. This deal didn’t come cheaply for the A’s just factoring in Webb and Italiano. If San Diego gets another impact arm, that’s an even steeper price to pay. Time will tell …

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A’s get Scott Hairston from the Padres

A’s just sent over a release detailing their trade for Padres outfielder Scott Hairston, who will likely become Oakland’s new leadoff hitter. The A’s gave up a pair of pretty decent pitching prospects in Ryan Webb and Craig Italiano.

Here’s the release:

OAKLAND, Calif. – The Oakland A’s acquired outfielder Scott Hairston from the San Diego Padres in exchange for minor league pitchers Ryan Webb and Craig Italiano plus a player to be named later, the club announced today. Hairston is expected to join the A’s Monday in Boston.

Hairston was batting .299 with 10 home runs and 29 RBI in 56 games with San Diego, including today’s game against Los Angeles. He also has a career high eight stolen bases in nine attempts. The 29-year old right-handed hitter has made 34 starts in center field and 14 in left field. Hairston was batting .327 in 43 games before going on the disabled list on June 2 with a strained left biceps. He was reinstated from the DL on June 23 and is batting .220 (11 for 50) with two home runs and six RBI in 13 games since his return.

Hairston made his Major League debut with Arizona in 2004 and spent parts of four seasons with the Diamondbacks before he was traded to San Diego on July 27, 2007. He hit a career high 17 home runs last year and is a .255 career hitter with 51 home runs and 127 RBI in 400 games. Hairston’s father, Jerry, played 14 seasons with the White Sox and Pirates, and his older brother, Jerry Jr., is currently playing for Cincinnati.

Webb was 7-1 with two saves and a 4.34 ERA in 31 games, two starts, at Triple-A Sacramento. He allowed a .313 opponents batting average and had 15 walks and 39 strikeouts in 45.2 innings. The 23-year old right-handed pitcher was originally drafted by the A’s in the fourth round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.

Italiano was 5-6 with a 5.63 ERA in 16 starts at Single-A Stockton. He had 75 strikeouts and 40 walks in 76.2 innings and allowed a .280 opponents batting average. The 22-year old right-handed pitcher was the A’s second round selection in the 2005 draft.

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Andrew Bailey’s an All-Star, Suzuki left off

OK, so there WAS a surprise in store regarding the A’s and the All-Star Game. Rookie closer Andrew Bailey got the call to represent Oakland in the July 14 game in St. Louis over catcher Kurt Suzuki. It’s a shocker to me that Suzuki didn’t get the nod. Minnesota’s Joe Mauer (voted to start by fans) and Cleveland’s Victor Martinez (voted as a reserve by the players) are the only two catchers on the AL roster.

But I can see the logic in taking Bailey, and it continues a storybook ride for the right-hander since making the big league club out of spring training. He leads the A’s with eight saves and leads all AL relievers with 57 strikeouts. The All-Star Game decides home-field advantage for the World Series, so maybe AL manager Joe Maddon figured an extra arm in the bullpen was more critical than an extra catcher.

Bailey is the sixth rookie in Oakland history to make the All-Star team, and the first since outfielder Ben Grieve in 1998.

How do you feel about this decision???

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Awaiting the All-Star word

We won’t know until around first pitch this afternoon (1:05 p.m. in Cleveland) who makes the All-Star team from the A’s. But I’d be shocked if it’s anybody but catcher Kurt Suzuki. He’s really been their most consistent hitter, and I think he’s done very well handling a starting rotation where the average age is just 22 years old. He’s also garnered a lot of respect around the majors for the improvement he’s shown behind the plate. We’ll find out in a little less than an hour …

Jason Giambi is not in this afternoon’s lineup. His average is back down to .197 after last night’s 0-for-4. “He’s definitely in need of (a day off) today,” manager Bob Geren said this morning, adding Giambi could use the rest both from a physical and mental standpoint. Matt Holliday has been batting third, but with Giambi out, he slides into the cleanup spot and Suzuki (today’s DH) hits third. With switch-hitter Landon Powell catching, the A’s have seven right-handed bats in the lineup against lefty Cliff Lee.

Nomar Garciaparra is not one of them. It’ll be interesting to see how much Garciaparra plays in the upcoming three-game series at Boston. This will be his first trip back to Fenway Park as a visiting player (while on the active roster). I’m sure he’d like to play against his old team, but Garciaparra’s calf problems just won’t allow him to play on a regular basis, and he said this morning that serving as DH isn’t necessary less strenuous than playing defense.

As for today’s game, we’ll see how Gio Gonzalez fares in his third start. Tuesday’s five-inning effort against Detroit was a step in the right direction, so we’ll find out if he can build on it. …

Today’s lineups
A’s
Kennedy 3B
Cabrera SS
Suzuki DH
Holliday LF
Cust RF
Ellis 2B
Powell C
Crosby 1B
Davis CF

Gonzalez LHP

Indians
A. Cabrera SS
Carroll 2B
Sizemore DH
Choo RF
Peralta 3B
Garko 1B
Francisco CF
Gimenez LF
Shoppach C

Lee LHP

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Ellis back at second base for A’s; Buck gets start

We’ll keep this one brief. Mark Ellis returns to the A’s lineup at second base, with Adam Kennedy moving back to third base. Travis Buck gets a start in right field w/right-hander Carl Pavano on the mound for Cleveland. No Nomar Garciaparra tonight. The A’s are still being cautious w/him in the field, and Bob Geren said Garciaparra wouldn’t play in the field tomorrow either. I’m thinking he’ll DH tomorrow as the A’s face a tough lefty in Cliff Lee.

The lineups
A’s
Kennedy 3B
Cabrera SS
Holliday LF
Giambi 1B
Suzuki C
Cust DH
Sweeney CF
Buck RF
Ellis 2B

Mazzaro RHP

Indians
A. Cabrera SS
Sizemore CF
Martinez C
Choo RF
Hafner DH
Peralta 3B
Garko 1B
Valbuena 2B
Francisco LF

Pavano RHP

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Friday update from Cleveland

Major leaguers find no shortage of ways to kill time leading up to batting practice. And the visitors’ clubhouse here at Progressive Field in Cleveland has an arcade-like vibe going on with the selection of video games. Several A’s players were taking full advantage this afternoon. It sounded like Chuck E. Cheese when I walked in …

On to today’s news … The A’s starting rotation has been tweaked for the upcoming games. Gio Gonzalez and Brett Anderson have been flip-flopped, with Gonzalez pitching Sunday against the Indians and Brett Anderson going Monday against the Red Sox. The A’s liked what they saw with Anderson in terms of his velocity in his last start, when he had two extra days’ rest because of arm fatigue. Bob Geren said Anderson is feeling fine physically right now, and that the A’s simply wanted to give him a little extra rest again. Because the A’s were off Thursday, Gonzalez still gets to go on four days’ rest. “Brett responded well last time with the extra days, so we’re going to give him one more day,” Geren said.

The plan is for Gonzalez to pitch out of the bullpen against Tampa Bay next weekend leading into the All-Star break, so Sunday will be his last start of the first half. With another day off this Thursday, the A’s had some flexibility in the rotation. This lines up the other four starters — Trevor Cahill, Vin Mazzaro, Anderson and Dallas Braden — to make two more starts before the break, while Gio gets one.

–Geren made a late change in tonight’s lineup, putting Nomar Garciaparra at first base and Jason Giambi at DH. They originally were flip-flopped. Geren wanted to see how Garciaparra felt taking infield practice before making the switch. This marks Garciaparra’s first defensive start since coming off the DL.

–The babies keep arriving for A’s players. SEcond baseman Mark Ellis’ wife, Sarah, gave birth to a girl yesterday. Ellis is flying to Cleveland as I write this, so Adam Kennedy moves back to second base for a day, and Bobby Crosby gets the start at third.

Your lineups:

A’s
Kennedy 2B
Cabrera SS
Holliday LF
Giambi DH
Suzuki C
Garciaparra 1B
Cust RF
Sweeney CF
Crosby 3B

Cahill RHP

Indians
A. Cabrera SS
Sizemore CF
Martinez C
Choo RF
Hafner DH
Peralta 3B
Garko 1B
Valbuena 2B
Francisco LF

Huff LHP