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Sweeney out for the year: knee tendinitis surgery

Carl Steward, filling in for Joe Stiglich. Here’s a brief story I filed on Ryan Sweeney for the website. More details forthcoming.

In yet another injury setback for the hard-luck A’s, right fielder Ryan Sweeney was placed on the disabled list and will be lost for the season after electing to have surgery on his right knee to alleviate patella tendinitis.
The 25-year-old Sweeney, who was hitting .294 with one home run and 37 RBIs, has been the A’s No. 3 hitter for much of the year. He has been bothered by the knee tendinitis since last season but received occasional injections to curb the pain. After the pain worsened, Sweeney had an MRI last week and made a mutual decision with the club that the surgery was necessary.
A date has not been scheduled for the surgery but Sweeney said it will be very soon. He hopes to be back 100 percent for spring training in 2011.
Noted Vail, Colo., orthopedic surgeon J. Richard Steadman, who has performed knee surgeries on numerous professional athletes including John Elway, Joe Montana and Bruce Smith as well as U.S. Olympic skiers Phil Mahre, Picabo Street and Bode Miller, will conduct the surgery on Sweeney.

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A day off for some A’s regulars, and other pregame tidbits

Good morning from Kansas City, where I’m hoping thunderstorms hold off until tonight so I can catch my flight back to the Bay Area …

It’s no surprise to see a couple A’s regulars getting a rest today considering the heat and the fact it’s a day game after a night game. … First baseman Daric Barton, who has started all but one game this season, is out of the lineup. Last night’s game drained Barton pretty good. And he had a great night at the plate, so he was on base a lot and expending a ton of energy. “He got pretty good cramping last night,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “It’s the right thing to do to recover. He’s still available to pinch hit.” Adam Rosales, Saturday’s late-game hero, starts at first.

Landon Powell gets a start behind the plate to give Kurt Suzuki a day off, and right fielder Ryan Sweeney misses his third straight game with knee soreness. Geren was asked about the possibility of Sweeney joining the DL. “We’ll probably re-evaluate him when we get home. He’s not available today.”

–You might have noticed Andrew Bailey hitting 99 mph on the radar gun last night as he blew a fastball by Jason Kendall to end the game. That raised my eyebrows, being that Bailey usually sits in the 95-96 mph range with his fastball. What did he think of that velocity? “The gun was probably juiced a little bit,” Bailey said with a smile. “I’ve never thrown that hard. But I’ll take it and take the outs.”

–Dallas Braden was scheduled to throw his side session this morning, but not early enough to get a report on it. “Unless there’s a setback, he’s pitching Tuesday,” Geren said.

Here’s your lineups:

A’s — Crisp CF, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Cust DH, Rosales 1B, Gross RF, Powell C, Davis LF, Pennington SS; Mazzaro RHP.

Royals — Podsednik LF, Kendall C, DeJesus CF, Butler 1B, Guillen DH, Callaspo 3B, Maier RF, Betancourt SS, Getz 2B; Bannister RHP.

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The heat is on in Kansas City

How do the Royals play in this weather on a regular basis? The temperature at 5:20 p.m. local time in Kansas City is 92 degrees, but it “feels like” 106 degrees with the heat index, according to weather.com. … I can believe it.

The A’s did their pregame stretching and then retreated to the dugout to escape the sun as the Royals finished up batting practice. It’s pretty brutal out there, and I imagine it will be even worse for tomorrow’s 1:10 p.m. local time start. …

As for the A’s news …

–Dallas Braden’s side session will actually take place tomorrow, not today. He’s just playing catch today. So after tomorrow, we should have a clear idea of whether he’ll start Tuesday against Boston. But all signs indicate he will.

–I talked to Royals manager Ned Yost briefly during batting practice about last night’s first-inning reversal of Coco Crisp’s foul ball, which was ruled a double after the umpires got together and discussed it. Not surprisingly, Yost wasn’t crazy about the decision. I’ll have more on this in tomorrow’s notebook, but Yost’s basic point was that umpire mistakes are part of the game, and it sets a bad precedent if umps start huddling too often and changing calls after they’re made. Sounds similar to the argument that opponents of instant replay make …

–First baseman Daric Barton is the only left-handed hitter in the A’s lineup tonight against Royals lefty Bruce Chen. Barton jammed his left hand last night coming off the bag to make a nice tag after an off-target throw from Kevin Kouzmanoff, but Barton said he’s OK … Ryan Sweeney is out of the lineup again because of his sore knees, but he probably wouldn’t have played anyway because Bob Geren wanted a righty-dominated batting order. Neither Sweeney nor Geren gave any indication of when the right fielder might return.

–The Kansas City A’s will be honored tonight at Kauffman Stadium. The A’s called Kansas City home from 1955-67, after which they moved to Oakland. Hmmm, if Los Angeles gets another NFL team, does this mean the Raiders will be honored when they play there?

Tonight’s lineups:

A’s — Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Suzuki C, Kouzmanoff 3B, Rosales 2B, Ellis DH, Carson RF, Davis LF, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Royals — Podsednik LF, Kendall C, DeJesus CF, Butler 1B, Guillen DH, Callaspo 3B, Maier RF, Aviles 2B, Betancourt SS; Chen LHP.

2

Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson making progress as A’s begin second half

When I arrived at Kauffman Stadium this afternoon, the sun was out and it looked like a typically hot, muggy Midwestern summer day … Since then, dark clouds have moved in and we’ve actually gotten a bit of rain as first pitch approaches. There are storm warnings in the area, but let’s hope the truly bad weather avoids us. Nobody needs to start the second half with a rain delay …

–Dallas Braden popped into the A’s clubhouse before batting practice, having tested his left elbow in a rehab game last night for Single-A Stockton. He headed straight for the trainer’s room and didn’t have time to chat, but we’re supposed to get him after the game. Manager Bob Geren said Braden came out of his four-inning start fine, but the A’s are waiting until after he throws a side session tomorrow to declare him ready to come off the DL and start Tuesday against the Red Sox.

All went well with Brett Anderson’s rehab start last night in the Arizona Rookie League. He went four innings and gave up one run on seven hits. He threw 63 pitches, mixing in his slider, curve ball and changeup. Seems like a good sign that his elbow is coming along well enough to allow him to throw all his pitches. Figure he’ll need at least two more starts before being activated.

The progress of those two pitchers is obviously crucial as the A’s try to hang in the AL West picture. On that topic, check out the schedule the A’s have coming out of the break: After this series in Kansas City, they host the Red Sox and White Sox for six games, then hit the road to play six against the Rangers and White Sox. I’d say this stretch will hold the key to the A’s season.

–Ryan Sweeney is not in the lineup after getting plasma injections in both knees and a cortisone injection in his right knee over the All-Star break. Geren listed Sweeney as day-to-day, and considering Geren plans to start a righty-dominated lineup Saturday against Royals lefty Bruce Chen, Sweeney won’t be playing tomorrow either. He didn’t have much to say on how bad his knees have felt lately, but I guarantee you this guy’s been playing through considerable pain all season. He hopes the shots alleviate some of that, but judging from conversations we’ve had in the past, it sounds like Sweeney is going to be dealing with knee issues his entire career. It’s just not severe enough to keep him out for a prolonged period.

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

Royals — Podsednik LF, Kendall C, DeJesus RF, Butler 1B, Guillen DH, Callaspo 3B, Aviles 2B, Bloomquist CF, Betancourt SS; Greinke RHP.

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Andrew Bailey to take Trevor Cahill’s place on AL All-Star roster

A’s closer Andrew Bailey was added to the American League All-Star team today as a replacement for teammate Trevor Cahill. Cahill was chosen for the AL squad but he’s ineligible for the active roster for Tuesday’s All-Star Game since he’s starting today against the Angels.

It’s the second All-Star selection for Bailey, 26, who is in just his second major league season. You’ll find a story posted on www.contracostatimes.com very shortly. …

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Sunday pregame update: Cahill looks to rebound, A’s look to gain more ground

So let’s say the A’s win today and Texas drops its fourth straight. That would leave Oakland 7 1/2 games back heading into the All-Star break — still lots of ground to make up, but enticing enough to make you wonder if they can make a move over the second half, wouldn’t you say?

–Trevor Cahill takes the mound looking to bounce back after A-Rod took him deep twice in his last start. Oddball stat working in Cahill’s favor: He’s 3-1 with a 1.95 ERA in five starts during day games this season, as opposed to 5-2 with a 3.88 ERA in nine starts at night. His day ERA is third lowest in the AL. Once he throws his first pitch, he becomes ineligible for Tuesday’s All-Star Game, and we’ll find out later today who gets chosen to replace him on the AL’s active roster. Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow are the A’s candidates …

–Rajai Davis is back in the lineup after last night’s 5-RBI game, and there’s a chance he’ll get more time in left field after the All-Star break. Conor Jackson is heading to Arizona tomorrow to continue rehabbing his right hamstring. There’s no timetable for Jackson to play in minor league games, so it’s looking doubtful he’d be activated from the disabled list Friday when the A’s resume play after the All-Star break in Kansas City.

–A’s manager Bob Geren is still hopeful Dallas Braden can throw in a rehab game Thursday, which would put him in line to start July 20 — the fifth slot as the A’s roll out their post-break rotation. I talked to Braden this morning, and he’s taking a cautious attitude as he comes back from his tender left elbow. “My arm is going to tell me when I’m ready and when I feel good,” he said. He was scheduled to play catch today and spin off a couple breaking balls. He’s only thrown fastballs and changeups so far. … The earliest Brett Anderson would return is the second cycle through the rotation — probably once the A’s leave for a six-game road trip against Texas and the Chicago White Sox. That trip begins July 27.

–Oakland’s rotation coming out of the break: Gio Gonzalez, Cahill, Vin Mazzaro, Ben Sheets, Braden (tentative).

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

Angels — Aybar SS, Kendrick 2B, Abreu RF, Hunter CF, Matsui DH, Napoli 1B, Aldridge LF, Frandsen 3B, Mathis C; Weaver RHP.

5

Postgame thoughts from A’s 6-5 loss to Angels

Was anyone surprised to see both Ryan Sweeney and Jack Cust get pinch-hit for in the 10th inning of tonight’s 6-5 loss to the Angels? Sweeney had doubled in his previous at-bat to set a game-tying rally into motion. Cust had broken a long homerless drought earlier in the game (although he struck out in his previous at-bat before the 10th). Bob Geren pointed to the .115 average lefties had against Angels left-hander Brian Fuentes, and that’s a very valid point. Still, pinch-hitting for Sweeney raised my eyebrows a bit. The guy was coming off a great at-bat, and I would have liked to see him get a chance to start something there.

Regardless of whether you agree with those decisions, they point to a bigger problem: When your No. 3 and No. 5 hitters are being pinch-hit for in the bottom of the 10th and you trail by just a run, your offense is in trouble. The A’s simply lack a middle-of-the-lineup presence (as if you haven’t known that over the past three-plus seasons, right?)

Any overall thoughts on the game, A’s fans? Had to be a tough one to digest …

1

Cliff Lee trade leaves Angels, A’s with even tougher mission

Well, the A’s face a steep task to jump back into contention in the AL West. And Texas’ acquisition of left-hander Cliff Lee today certainly didn’t make that mission any easier. That’s the storyline as the A’s and Los Angeles Angels — the teams giving chase to the first-place Rangers — begin a three-game series tonight at the Coliseum. A’s manager Bob Geren was asked if he still felt the Rangers were catchable, and if Oakland could be the team that catches them. The Rangers hold a 5 1/2 game lead over the Angels, while the A’s trail by 9 1/2. Geren, always one to take the optimistic view on things, said he considers his team very much in the hunt. “I think we’re going to get some (injured) players back that are going to help us, and we play those teams ahead of us in the second half as well.”

Some of those players he was referring to are pitchers Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden and outfielder Conor Jackson. Jackson (strained right hamstring) could begin a rehab assignment Monday, and if all goes well he could rejoin Oakland for the three-game series at Kansas City coming out of the break. Anderson (left elbow inflammation) is making his first rehab assignment tonight in the Arizona Rookie League. The A’s are hoping he returns by the end of the month. Braden (left elbow stiffness) will throw a flat-ground side session (basically pitching without being on a mound) tomorrow, and that will give a barometer to when he returns. If all goes well, it’s possible Braden could slide in at the back of the rotation coming out of the break.

That’s all for now. Here’s the lineups:

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

Rangers: Aybar SS, Kendrick 2B, Abreu RF, Hunter CF, Matsui DH, Rivera LF, McAnulty 1B, Frandsen 3B, Mathis C; Pineiro RHP.

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A’s send Tyson Ross down, he’ll be groomed to start

The A’s followed through with a move that seemed unavoidable — Tyson Ross was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento, where he will slide into the rotation and go back to being a starter. A’s manager Bob Geren said the team sees Ross as a starter long-term, and I know that’s certainly the role Ross prefers. Reliever Ross Wolf, acquired from Baltimore for Jake Fox, was promoted. The right-hander will fill a similar bullpen role to Ross. A spot needed to be cleared on the 40-man roster for Wolf, so Eric Chavez was transferred to the 60-day DL.

Ross hit some bumps in the road after starting the season on a strong note, but Geren said he was impressed with how Ross handled himself. Remember, this guy jumped from Double-A to the bigs. “He took it in stride and was not overwhelmed by the competition. He knows if he’s pounding the strike zone how good he can be.” That’s what the A’s will have Ross work on — commanding his fastball in order to make his secondary pitches better.

Wolf, 27, flew here from Reno, where the River Cats were playing. His wife Lynn and their 6-month-old son Eli made the trip with him. His only big league action came with 14 relief apppearances for Florida in 2007. But he’d been throwing very well recently at Triple-A. He runs his fastball up to 93 mph and generally has good movement in the 88-90 mph range.

Perhaps this bullpen could use a fresh face right now …

–Matt Watson gets the start in left field for the A’s. Tonight marks his first game in the major leagues since 2005, when he was also with Oakland. Think he’ll have a few butterflies during that first at-bat? Gotta pull for the guy …

Tonight’s lineups:

A’s — Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Sweeney RF, Suzuki C, Cust DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Ellis 2B, Watson LF, Pennington SS; Gonzalez LHP.

Yanks — Jeter SS, Swisher RF, Teixeira 1B, Rodriguez 3B, Posada DH, Thames LF, Cervelli C, Gardner CF, Pena 2B; Burnett RHP.

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Righty-dominated A’s lineup awaits CC Sabathia; Brett Anderson on track for Friday minor league start

Seven right-handed hitters found their way into the A’s lineup tonight against Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia. That includes Rajai Davis, who starts in left field and hits ninth. This will only be Davis’ third start in the past 10 games, as he’s lost time following Coco Crisp’s return from the disabled list and the trade for Conor Jackson.

Davis hasn’t hit the cover off the ball when he’s been in there — he’s 1-for-28 over his last 10 games — but I still think it’s important to get him in there a little more often. His speed is a good asset at the bottom of the lineup, particularly if a hot-hitting Cliff Pennington hits in front of him in the eighth spot, and Crisp follows him at leadoff. That’s a nice speed combo to turn the lineup over. Will Davis see more playing time with Jackson on the DL? “We’ll go day to day,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “I’ve been mixing them up. (Gabe) Gross has been playing too. We’ll (platoon) left-right. We face another lefty (Saturday). Coco is back in there, and Ryan (Sweeney) is going to play pretty much every day.”

Sweeney is not in tonight’s lineup, however, as Matt Carson gets the start in right field. Pennington is off too, with Adam Rosales playing shortstop.

–Brett Anderson (left elbow) came out of Sunday’s 21-pitch simulated game well, so he’s on track to make a minor league start Friday for the A’s Phoenix-based rookie league team, according to Geren. If he progresses as planned, Anderson will pitch every fifth day to build up his pitch count. Geren said he’s hopeful the lefty returns to Oakland’s rotation between the All-Star break and the end of the month.

Here’s tonight’s lineups:
A’s — Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Suzuki C, Kouzmanoff 3B, Ellis 2B, Cust DH, Rosales SS, Carson RF, Davis LF; Cahill RHP.

Yanks — Gardner LF, Jeter SS, Teixeira 1B, Rodriguez 3B, Cano 2B, Swisher DH, Posada C, Granderson CF, Curtis RF; Sabathia LHP.