Food for thought from A’s 3-2 loss to Cubs

Just a quick post here after the A’s 3-2 loss against the Cubs, a heartbreaker from Oakland’s perspective. An interesting point from the Cubs’ ninth-inning rally: The A’s had the entire infield playing in with the bases loaded and one out, and Kosuke Fukudome’s game-winning single snuck just past diving second baseman Mark Ellis. One option was for the A’s to play the middle infielders at regular depth to possibly get a second-to-first double play. But you can see the logic in playing the whole infield in. Sometimes a team wants to be safe and make sure it can cut off the runner at home, and possibly still get a home-to-first double play.

Ellis told me after the game the A’s have played both alignments with the bases loaded in that situation — sometimes the middle infielders stay back, sometimes everyone plays in. I asked if he thought it was possible the A’s could have turned a 4-6-3 double play were he playing at normal depth to field the ball. He said he wasn’t sure, but that it was possible (he also added that Fukudome runs pretty well, so he would have been tough to double up).

Anyway, just thought that was something interesting that you might have been wondering about too.

I’ll check in tomorrow from St. Louis …


Day baseball at Wrigley; Rajai Davis back at leadoff for A’s; Conor Jackson batting second

We get a day game here for the finale of the A’s-Cubs series, and with baseball taking place under the sun, it feels like the true Wrigley Field experience. I wandered down the right field line during BP just so I could get to the outfield fence and touch the ivy. … Had to do it. …

You probably know about the rooftop bleacher sections that have been installed on buildings across the street from the ballpark. Most of them have banners displaying the Web sites where you can go to purchase tickets … www.wrigleyrooftops.com, www.skyboxonsheffield.com, www.beyondtheivy.com … It’s a sign of the times, of course. You gotta advertise. But Wrigley’s such a classic jewel, and seeing Web sites splashed across the front of these sections takes away from the old-school feel …

–Today’s A’s lineup has more of a conventional look that I can see Bob Geren using more. Rajai Davis is back at leadoff, with Conor Jackson hitting second and Daric Barton third. When Jackson was acquired Tuesday, Geren said he might experiment with this sequence in the 1-2-3 spots, with Ryan Sweeney possibly dropping to fifth. But Sweeney isn’t in the lineup (those knees require periodic rest), so that part is irrelevant today.

–Davis didn’t hide his disappointment that he didn’t start yesterday after having a big game Tuesday. He also said if he hits well, there won’t be any way Geren can keep him out of the lineup. (Rajai, in general, is one of the more soft-spoken and humble players you’ll encounter. But let’s just say he’s not lacking confidence in the stance he’s taking on his playing time). Anyway, Geren said this morning he doesn’t have a problem with Davis’ line of thinking. “I like guys that are confident,” the manager said. “I like guys that want to play.”

Enough rambling, here’s the lineups:

A’s: Davis CF, Jackson LF, Barton 1B, Suzuki C, Kouzmanoff 3B, Cust RF, Ellis 2B, Pennington SS, Braden LHP.

Cubs: Theriot 2B, Baker 3B, Byrd CF, Lee 1B, Nady RF, Soriano LF, Soto C, Castro SS, Wells RHP.


Conor Jackson makes first A’s start in leadoff spot

Tonight’s A’s lineup features a couple of surprises. Conor Jackson starts in left field (as expected) and he’s batting leadoff (unexpected). Ryan Sweeney is playing center and Jack Cust is in right. That’s a tough break for Rajai Davis, who had three hits last night and lands on the bench tonight. This is the first time we’ve seen Sweeney in center this season, though he played there plenty in 2008 and 2009. Just yesterday, A’s manager Bob Geren said Jackson could hit anywhere from 1-7, but that he didn’t envision him as a leadoff man for Oakland. Before tonight’s game, Geren said: “I don’t see him as a leadoff hitter now, but he could be occasionally. Because I elected to go with Jack over Raj, I elected to hit (Jackson) first today.”

If the A’s outfield seems crowded now, there will be a bigger numbers crunch when Coco Crisp comes off the DL. But it’s looking like that won’t happen during this road trip. Crisp played his first rehab game w/Triple-A Sacramento last night, and Geren said the team has a 10-day program mapped out for Crisp as he returns from his rib cage injury. That 10-day period is fluid — depending on how Crisp feels, he could come back sooner or later.
But Geren made it clear the A’s want to be convinced Crisp is 100 percent ready when he does get activated.

A good game last night couldn’t keep Davis in tonight’s lineup, and his playing time stands to be further reduced once Crisp returns. “He’s always in the mix,” Geren said of Davis. “He’s a good player. We’re going to have a situation where we have a lot of good players playing the same position. It’s something we look forward to.”

Let’s throw this question out there: Would you like to see Davis playing regularly even after Crisp returns? We’re talking after interleague play, when the DH is available …

Tonight’s lineups, even though the game is now underway …

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

Cubs: Theriot 2B, Baker 3B, Byrd CF, Lee 1B, Nady RF, Soriano LF, Soto C, Castro SS, Dempster RHP.


Conor Jackson will play left field, could hit second; other A’s notes

We have a rain delay here at Wrigley Field. It’s not coming down hard right now, but there’s no announced start time yet.


You’re probably well aware that the A’s swung a trade today, acquiring outfielder Conor Jackson from the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league reliever Sam Demel. Here’s a story on the trade itself. …

–Jackson is expected to arrive at Wrigley Field around game time, and manager Bob Geren said the newest Athletic will be available off the bench. “I plan on him being my left fielder,” Geren said, when asked how Jackson fits into the plans. But with no DH available for the next six games, Geren said Jack Cust will see time in left field too. Ryan Sweeney might need a day off in right at some point, so Cust could play out there also.

Interestingly, Geren compares Jackson to Daric Barton — a patient hitter who will draw walks and drive balls to the gaps. And we could see those two batting next to each other. Geren said he’s considering hitting Jackson second, moving Barton to the third spot and batting Sweeney fifth. But he noted that Jackson could hit lower depending on pitching matchups.

And what happens to Rajai Davis once center fielder Coco Crisp returns? Geren dusted off the trusty “That Will Be a Good Problem to Have” philosophy. The A’s have had so many injuries, he isn’t fretting about having too many healthy players for too few spots.

–I’d been to Wrigley Field for one game previously, but this is my first time working a game here, and I’m pretty excited for it. The press box is very high (great view of the Chicago skyline). The visitors’ clubhouse is extremely tiny and cramped, even more so than Fenway Park’s, which I didn’t think was possible. And the route that leads you from the clubhouse to the field is an absolute maze. There are a couple of hand-written signs posted along the hallways — one reads “Almost There” and another one says “You’re Finally Here.”

–Before the first game of a series on the road, A’s outfielders usually make sure to field balls off the outfield wall, just to get used to the caroms. I’d say that was especially important today with Wrigley’s ivy-covered fences …

Here’s the lineups:
A’s: Davis CF, Barton 1B, Sweeney RF, Suzuki C, Kouzmanoff 3B, Cust LF, Ellis 2B, Pennington SS, Cahill RHP.

Cubs: Theriot 2B, Castro SS, Byrd CF, Lee 1B, Colvin RF, Soriano LF, Tracy 3B, Hill C, Zambrano RHP.


Chavez needs more time; Ellis sits

Eric Chavez will not start tomorrow for Sacramento, as Bob Geren said Chavez “doesn’t feel he’s ready, and is taking a couple of days off for his body.” Chavez, who was not seen in the visitors clubhouse this morning, will be reevaluated early this week. Geren wouldn’t say if Chavez is again having neck problems, but regardless, this doesn’t exactly qualify as good news for the A’s.

It remains to be seen when Coco Crisp will play again, but it’ll probably be in the next day or two. Geren said Crisp’s rib cage feels good, but that he’s come down with a small case of the flu. Geren said when Crisp is feeling better, he’ll play in Sacramento. Earlier, the plan for Crisp was to play a simulated game in Arizona.  

Mark Ellis is not in the lineup today, as Geren said it was because it was a day game after a night game. The A’s play two day games after night games on the upcoming trip, so we’ll see if the same holds true for those dates. Adam Rosales starts at second, with Cliff Pennington at short.

Geren confirmed this morning that the A’s will start Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden, in that order, for the Cubs series, and Dallas Braden and Ben Sheets for the first two games of the Cardinals series — giving Dallas and Ben a bit more time to rest. Geren said Brett Anderson will begin throwing this Friday, which is two weeks from the time he saw a doctor and was diagnosed with tendonitis in his left elbow. Anderson, as of now, will not join the A’s on their trip.

The lineups:

A’s — Davis CF, Barton 1B, Sweeney RF, Kouzmanoff 3B, Cust LF, Rosales 2B, Powell C, Pennington SS, Mazzaro P.

Giants — Torres CF, Sandoval 3B, Huff RF, Uribe SS, Burrell LF, Posey 1B, Molina C, Downs 2B, Cain P.


Rajai Davis back at leadoff for A’s

Quick pregame update for you on another very pleasant evening here at AT&T Park. …

–Rajai Davis returns to the A’s lineup tonight, hitting leadoff. An interesting wrinkle: Mark Ellis hits third, as Ryan Sweeney’s aching right knee required a day off. An occasional rest seems to do Sweeney’s body some good, but it’s still a bit worrisome that someone so young is having regular knee trouble, even if it is mild.

As for the A’s upcoming rotation, manager Bob Geren said he’s considering giving both Dallas Braden and Ben Sheets some extra rest. He wanted to see how Sheets fared in tonight’s start. But with Monday’s day off, I see Trevor Cahill going Tuesday against the Cubs, followed by Gio Gonzalez and Braden. Sheets could either pitch Friday or Saturday, getting one or two extra days off.

On to tonight’s lineups:

A’s: Davis CF, Barton 1B, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Cust LF, Fox C, Carson RF, Pennington SS, Sheets P.

Giants: Torres CF, Sanchez 2B, Huff RF, Uribe SS, Burrell LF, Posey 1B, Sandoval 3B, Molina C, Zito P.


Braden has tendinitis in elbow, might have his next start pushed back

We’re about 30 minutes until game time here at AT&T Park. It’s shaping up to be a great night weather-wise, which sets the stage for an entertaining pitching battle between Gio Gonzalez and Tim Lincecum …

I’m not sure how much Gonzalez will get to swing away, but he was taking some big cuts in batting practice and hit at least one homer that I saw to left field.

–Pregame A’s news of the day: Dallas Braden had an MRI this morning that showed some tendinitis in his left elbow. With Monday’s day off, the A’s have some wiggle room with their rotation, and Braden said he would likely be pushed back two days and throw Thursday against the Cubs. That would indicate that Trevor Cahill would start Tuesday (still on his regular four days’ rest) and Gonzalez would pitch Wednesday. That hasn’t been confirmed yet by the team, so write this plan in pencil.

–With Bob Geren away from the team tonight to attend his son’s high school graduation, bench coach Tye Waller is the interim skipper. That meant he also got to conduct his first pregame media session. Waller is a perpetually upbeat guy who always has a smile on his face, and he was no different talking to reporters.

Among the newsy bits he shared:

–He expected Rajai Davis (left hamstring) might be available to play defense tonight if the situation arose in the late innings. Davis said he was going to hit, run and do all the standard pregame activity to see how his leg felt.

–Waller said he and Geren each presented a potential starting lineup for tonight, and then put their heads together to hash out the actual starting nine. Mark Ellis gets another crack in the leadoff spot.

–As expected, Kurt Suzuki was placed on the bereavement list and catcher Landon Powell was called up from Triple-A Sacramento. Suzuki is expected back for Tuesday’s road trip opener against the Cubs.

The full lineups:
A’s: Ellis 2B, Barton 1B, Sweeney RF, Kouzmanoff 3B, Gross CF, Powell C, Patterson LF, Pennington SS, Gonzalez P.

Giants: Torres RF, Sanchez 2B, Posey 1B, Uribe SS, Burrell LF, Molina C, Sandoval 3B, Rowand CF, Lincecum P.


Chavez to start rehab assignment Monday

Eric Chavez has been feeling well enough over the past few days to start a rehab assignment on Monday in Sacramento, and manager Bob Geren said Chavez will be there for a week. If things go well, it’s possible Chavez will rejoin the team when they return home on June 21 against Cincinnati.

Coco Crisp is still on schedule to play in an intrasquad game on Monday. Rajai Davis won’t play today but Geren is optimistic that he’ll be ready to go by tomorrow against the Giants. He ran yesterday in the outfield at about 70 percent and was supposed to increase the intensity today. Geren said Matt Carson is feeling OK.

Jack Cust will play some outfield during the series at AT&T Park, Geren said, depending on the matchup. If he’s not in the lineup, he’ll be a pinch hitter.

Brett Anderson is extremely bored these days. He’s not throwing yet and has no timetable yet to begin throwing.

The lineups:

A’s — Patterson LF, Barton 1B, Sweeney RF, Suzuki C, Cust DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Gross CF, Ellis 2B, Pennington SS, Cahill P.

Angels — Aybar SS, Kendrick 2B, Izturis 3B, Hunter CF, Matsui DH, Napoli 1B, Rivera RF, Ryan LF, Wilson C, Santana P.


Postgame A’s notes on Braden and others

Here’s some quick postgame notes after the A’s lost 7-1 to the Angels. Some of this made it into my stories for tomorrow’s paper, some didn’t.

–It’s easy to look at Dallas Braden and say he’s hit rough times since his May 9 perfect game. Indeed he has, but let’s remember that Braden hadn’t pitched that great leading up to that unforgettable day either. Dating back to April 28, Braden is 1-6 with a 4.50 ERA in nine starts, his only win being the perfect game.

Braden bolted after the game without talking to reporters, which is bad form and unusual for such a media-friendly dude. But he told a pool reporter over the phone that he was battling forearm tightness tonight. “I tried to get it taken care of in the trainers’ room,” Braden said. “The cold weather didn’t help. I felt like I couldn’t finish all my pitches.”

–How painful was it to watch Matt Carson’s face plant into the center field wall in the eighth inning? Ouch … His teammates got a kick out of watching the clip afterward. They all came streaming out of the video room with smiles on their faces. Believe it or not, Carson said the collision didn’t hurt all that bad immediately after. He hit the right side of his face, but he was holding an ice pack to his left jaw. “It just jostled my jaw a little bit,” he said. “I thought I had another step. Apparently I didn’t.”

–A bright spot for the A’s: Kevin Kouzmanoff continues to swing it pretty well. He had two hits tonight and drove in the A’s only run in the ninth. That gives him a career high-tying 10-game hitting streak, during which he’s hitting .395 (15-for-38). “When a guy splits the gap in right-center and is hitting homers to left field, that’s a good sign that there’s no way to pitch (him),” A’s manager Bob Geren said.

Kouzmanoff isn’t a flashy player, but he’s pretty darn steady. I think we’ll look back at his numbers at the end of the season and realize this guy had a pretty good year.

Curtis Pashelka will be covering tomorrow’s game. I’ll be back at the yard Friday …