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First pitch tentatively set for 3:30 (East Coast time)

First pitch was just announced for 3:30 p.m. (East Coast time) here in Detroit. Of course, it started raining hard as soon as we heard that. It’s 3 p.m. right now, so we’ll see if they start playing ball in 30 minutes … An A’s player ran out on the field a few minutes ago, circled the bases (with the tarp still on) and dove into home plate. I couldn’t see his uniform number, and he had a beanie on, but it looked a lot like Dallas Braden. …. Shocker.

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Weather delays A’s-Tigers start

First pitch has been delayed here at Comerica Park because of a thunderstorm that supposedly is on the way. We don’t have an announced start time yet. As I look around the stadium, it appears people are in “fan limbo.” Some have taken cover up in the concourse, others are camped out in their seats. It’s not raining at this time, from what I can tell from my perch in the press box.

Weather.com says there’s an 80 percent chance of rain through 3 p.m. local time. First pitch was supposed to be 1:05. Who knows when the game will start? Who knows whether I’m destined to miss my flight to Boston? I’m guessing you care more about that first question than the second :)

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Verlander provides another challenge for A’s hitters

There are threats of rain throughout the afternoon here in Detroit, where Trevor Cahill and Justin Verlander take the mound in the series finale. Mark Ellis gets the day off today, with Adam Rosales playing second base for the A’s. … After Max Scherzer took it to Oakland yesterday, you wouldn’t expect a much easier challenge with Verlander, last year’s American League strikeout king.

We’ll cut to the chase with the lineups:

A’s: Davis CF, Barton 1B, Sweeney RF, Suzuki C, Cust DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Gross LF, Rosales 2B, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Tigers: Kelly CF, Damon DH, Ordonez RF, Cabrera 1B, Boesch LF, Guillen 2B, Inge 3B, Avila C, Santiago SS; Verlander RHP.

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Day off for Kurt Suzuki; thoughts on Vin Mazzaro

You can tell the A’s are playing well just by the general mood around the team. It’s lighter, guys are joking … This is a pretty easy-going bunch of players in general, so it’s not like they get real salty with the media during a losing streak. But it’s obvious things are going good …

No big shockers w/today’s lineup (why mess with a good thing?) … Kurt Suzuki gets a day off, no surprise in a day game after a night game. With the A’s playing a 20-game stretch with no off-days, manager Bob Geren is looking for spots to give his regulars some rest.

I mentioned Vin Mazzaro’s long stretch of inactivity in yesterday’s blog. Geren said today that Mazzaro is in a long relief role, and that there haven’t been many scenarios lately where a long man has been needed. Plus, Geren pointed out that Mazzaro threw five innings of relief in his last outing May 20, so he wasn’t available for a few days after that. True, but it’s been eight games since Mazzaro was used. If a pitcher (particularly a young guy) goes that long without throwing, it’s tough to have confidence calling on him in any situation.

The lineups …

A’s: Davis CF, Barton 1B, Sweeney RF, Kouzmanoff 3B, Cust DH, Ellis 2B, Gross LF, Powell C, Pennington SS; Braden LHP.

Tigers: Jackson CF, Damon DH, Ordonez RF, Cabrera 1B, Raburn LF, Guillen 2B, Inge 3B, Laird C, Santiago SS; Scherzer RHP.

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Tonight’s lineups and other A’s notes

The A’s try to make it four wins in a row tonight, with Brett Anderson making his return to the mound after missing five weeks with a strained forearm. We won’t see Anderson out there for long. He threw 57 pitches in a Triple-A rehab start Monday, and manager Bob Geren said Anderson’s pitch count would increase slightly over that. I wouldn’t expect him to go past 80 pitches. The question is how many innings that’s good for.

Lefty reliever Cedrick Bowers was sent down to make room for Anderson, leaving the A’s with a more conventional seven-man bullpen. … I’m wondering if there could actually be a Vin Mazzaro sighting in tonight’s game. Mazzaro was my guess to be optioned out today, simply because he hasn’t been used in the past nine days. But perhaps the A’s want to keep him around as insurance in case Anderson has a setback. In any case, with the news that Justin Duchscherer is definitely gone for the season, the A’s go into tonight’s game encouraged about Anderson’s return.

Cliff Pennington is back at shortstop, but I’m surprised Adam Rosales isn’t somewhere in tonight’s lineup. Gabe Gross gets the call in left field against Detroit right-hander Rick Porcello.

The lineups …
A’s: Davis CF, Barton 1B, Sweeney RF, Suzuki C, Cust DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Gross LF, Ellis 2B, Pennington SS; Anderson LHP.

Tigers: Jackson CF, Damon DH, Ordonez RF, Cabrera 1B, Raburn LF, Guillen 2B, Inge 3B, Laird C, Everett SS; Porcello RHP.

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Justin Duchscherer to have left hip surgery, out for season

An update from Detroit:

The A’s announced today that right-hander Justin Duchscherer will undergo season-ending surgery on his left hip. This doesn’t come as a surprise by any means, but Duchscherer had held out hopes of rehabbing and returning to the mound this season. He went to Phoenix to start his program, but A’s assistant GM David Forst said Duchscherer’s hip never responded well in recent days of throwing. Duchscherer threw a 20-pitch simulated game Friday and decided to have the surgery after that.

The A’s re-signed Duchscherer in the offseason to a one-year $1.75 million deal after he missed all of last season because of elbow surgery and a bout with clinical depression. “We went into this contract with Justin knowing there was a possibility injuries could be a factor,” Forst said. “You feel bad. He did such a good job coming back from the elbow. He had a procedure on his back in spring training and that was no longer an issue. You’re hoping he’d get past that stuff. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t avoid the hip.”

Duchscherer’s 2007 and 2008 seasons ended prematurely because of operations on his right hip. He has the same congenital problem in his left hip as in his right — an abnormality at the top of his femur (thigh) bone that eats away at the cartilage in his hip and causes pain when he pitches. There’s no date yet for his surgery, but it will be performed by Nashville-based Dr. Thomas Byrd, who handled the operations on his right hip. The expected recovery time is roughly six months.

Duchscherer said recently he would try to resume his career next season even if he had surgery . But I highly doubt that would be in an A’s uniform. Forst said the team hasn’t considered whether Duchscherer could fit into future plans, but it just seems like the sides will go their separate ways. Duchscherer will be a free agent and, if he fully recovers from this and wants to keep pitching, I would think another team will take a chance on inviting him to spring training. You have to pull for the guy after all the injury and other non-baseball related issues he’s dealt with recently.

In other A’s news, the team will announce a roster move later today to clear a spot for left-hander Brett Anderson, who will be reinstated from the DL and start tonight against Detroit.

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A’s pregame notes from Detroit: Brett Anderson will start Saturday, Adam Rosales gets another start at shortstop

You can’t beat the three ballparks on this A’s road trip: Camden Yards, Comerica Park in Detroit (where we are now) and Fenway Park to wrap it up. They all have their unique characteristics and charm, no doubt …

Maybe I jinxed the A’s by talking about the threat of bad weather yesterday. It rained hard after last night’s game in Baltimore ended, and the team charter was delayed leaving for Detroit. Apparently the plane touched down at about 3 a.m. this morning. Ouch …
But with tonight’s 7:05 p.m. start (Eastern time), at least all the players could sleep in …

–Brett Anderson will come off the DL and start tomorrow as expected. That means a roster spot will have to be cleared and I’d expect a pitcher to be sent down (Vin Mazzaro is a likely candidate). … Although Dallas Braden’s name didn’t come up in Bob Geren’s pregame media chat, I saw Braden throwing a side session today and he appeared fine in the clubhouse afterward. His next start is Sunday and there’s nothing to suggest he won’t go.

–Cliff Pennington gets a second straight day off, w/Adam Rosales playing shortstop again. Geren said Pennington would return to the lineup tomorrow. I don’t think it’s a bad call giving the kid a two-day break. And good things have been happening w/Rosales in the lineup.

–Kurt Suzuki serves as DH today with Landon Powell behind the plate. Interestingly, Jake Fox and Gabe Gross both draw starts in the outfield against Tigers lefty Dontrelle Willis. The A’s current roster has lots of versatile players, but it’s tough dividing up playing time for all of them. Fox, for example, is a much better hitter when he gets 3 or 4 at-bats in a game than he is as a pinch hitter. Some guys have a knack for entering the game cold off the bench and delivering a base hit. Others need a few AB’s to get their rhythm. I’d put Fox in the latter group.

Enough of my rambling, here’s your lineups:

A’s: Davis CF, Barton 1B, Suzuki DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Rosales SS, Fox LF, Ellis 2B, Gross RF, Powell C; Sheets RHP.

Tigers: Jackson CF, Damon DH, Ordonez RF, Cabrera 1B, Boesch LF, Guillen 2B, Inge 3B, Avila C, Everett SS; Willis LHP.

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Pennington gets a long overdue rest; A’s-Orioles lineups and notes

We’ll make this blog short and sweet … The A’s hope tonight’s game is short and sweet, too. Forecasts call for a storm hitting the Baltimore area sometime this evening, though it’s not supposed to last long (we’ve got clear skies above us now). It’s getaway night for the A’s. They fly to Detroit following the game and won’t get there until late anyway. A rain delay would make it even later. Perhaps Gio Gonzalez and Bay Area boy Brad Bergesen will hook up in a pitcher’s duel and get us out of here quick …

–For the first time this season, shortstop Cliff Pennington is not in the lineup. It’s about time he gets a rest. He’s in an 0-for-15 slump and by all indications could use a break. Adam Rosales gets the call at short.

–Brett Anderson threw a 30-pitch bullpen, mixing in all his pitches, and said he came out of it well. Manager Bob Geren is waiting until tomorrow to announce it, but there’s a 99.9% chance that Anderson will start Saturday at Detroit. … Dallas Braden’s sprained left ankle shouldn’t keep him from going Sunday, Geren said. So pencil him in too, but keep the eraser handy. I’m just saying that based on how Braden’s ankle affected him Tuesday. If Braden has any say, he’ll definitely take the ball Sunday against the Tigers.

Tonight’s lineups:

A’s: Davis CF, Barton 1B, Sweeney RF, Suzuki C, Cust DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Gross LF, Rosales SS, Ellis 2B; Gonzalez LHP.

O’s: C. Patterson LF, Lugo 2B, Wigginton 1B, Tejada 3B, Wieters C, Jones CF, Atkins DH, Montanez RF, Izturis SS; Bergesen RHP.

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Coco Crisp returns to DL; Landon Powell recalled; Brett Anderson expecting to start Saturday

Coco Crisp was placed on the DL as expected today, making it 14 DL transactions for the A’s through the first 46 games. They used the DL 17 times all of last year. In 2008, they set an Oakland record with 25 DL transactions. I’m no math whiz, but they’re on a pretty good pace to obliterate that mark at their current rate.

An MRI showed Crisp indeed has a strained right intercostal muscle in his rib cage, and it’s no guarantee that he’ll be ready to return June 7 when he’s eligible. A’s manager Bob Geren said you can’t really use Kurt Suzuki’s recent injury (also an intercostal strain) as a potential timetable for Crisp. “Every one of those muscle strains is different, and take different times to heal,” Geren said.

You can’t over-emphasize how much the lack of a steady leadoff man has hurt this offense. Rajai Davis is back in the leadoff spot tonight with lefty Brian Matusz on the mound for Baltimore. Geren acknowledged the need for an effective presence atop the order. “The leadoff spot hasn’t been real solidified since Opening Day,” he said. “Hopefully that will start to happen.” But how many other leadoff options do you see on this roster besides Davis and Cliff Pennington? I asked Geren if there was anyone else he would consider to hit leadoff. After a long pause, he mentioned Mark Ellis, but he’s not an ideal solution either.

–Catcher Landon Powell was called up to take Crisp’s roster spot and he got a warm reception from his teammates. It was sort of sarcastic, as this is Powell’s third stint with the team. How would you like to have Powell’s travel agenda so far this season? He started the year with Triple-A Sacramento. He was called up April 21 and sent back down two days later without appearing in a game. Then he was promoted again April 27 and started 12 games (catching Dallas Braden’s perfect game) before returning to Sacramento on Friday. Now he’s back five days later. His presence gives Geren flexibility on the bench. He’s DH’ing Jake Fox tonight, and now he can pinch-run for Fox and still have a backup catcher available if something happens to Suzuki.

–Brett Anderson is back with the team and threw long toss today. He’ll throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but both Anderson and Geren fully expect him to be ready to come off the DL and start Saturday in Detroit.

–Dallas Braden is getting treatment for his sprained left ankle, and Geren said he expects the lefty to be ready for his next start Sunday.

The lineups:
A’s: Davis CF, Barton 1B, Suzuki C, Kouzmanoff 3B, Sweeney RF, Rosales LF, Fox DH, Ellis 2B, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Orioles: Patterson LF, Wigginton 1B, Markakis RF, Tejada 3B, Wieters C, Jones CF, Moore 2B, Atkins DH, Izturis SS; Matusz LHP.

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Crisp a late scratch, other A’s notes

Quick update before the A’s-Orioles series opener here at Camden Yards, which just might be my favorite American League ballpark. There’s nothing fancy about the place, it’s just a classy-looking joint. …

–Coco Crisp was a late scratch in the A’s lineup. This mystery has been unfolding right up until game time. Manager Bob Geren held off on posting a lineup until after Crisp took BP. Then the team announced that Crisp was leading off and playing center, and we just heard about 15 minutes before first pitch that Crisp was scratched. Crisp says he has an intercostal (rib cage) injury, but he had trouble describing it to me, and sounded unsure about how he even hurt himself. But it happened Saturday. He said the pain is centered on his right side. From what I saw during BP, the switch-hitting Crisp only took swings from the left side of the plate. Not sure if his injury hurts him more hitting from one side or the other. He also shagged flies, but we weren’t able to talk to him after BP. There should be more information available after the game.

–Brett Anderson will join the A’s for tomorrow’s game, Geren said. The lefty will throw a bullpen session tomorrow and if that goes well, he’ll come off the DL and start Saturday in Detroit. He threw three innings last night for Triple-A Sacramento, allowing two runs and six hits in 57 pitches.

–Eric Patterson gets a rare chance to play against his brother, Corey, who’s leading off and playing left field for Baltimore.

–Here’s a reminder that you can follow me on twitter at twitter.com/joestiglich. I update it often throughout the day.

The lineups
A’s: Pennington SS, Barton 1B, Sweeney RF, Suzuki C, Cust DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Gross CF, Ellis 2B, Eric Patterson LF; Braden LHP.

O’s: Corey Patterson LF, Lugo 2B, Markakis RF, Tejada 3B, Wigginton 1B, Jones CF, Wieters C, Atkins 1B, Izturis SS; Guthrie RHP.