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Mazzaro looks to restore order on mound for A’s

Checking in before Game 2 of A’s-Yankees, with Oakland trying to bounce back after allowing double-digit runs last night for the first time since May 30 … Local boy Vin Mazzaro takes the mound looking to get things back on track, and the New Jersey native is sure to have a big cheering section on hand. Pregame stat of the day: Mazzaro has lowered his ERA in each month that’s he’s been in the big leagues this season — 5.40 in May, 3.90 in June, 3.78 in July and 2.56 through five starts in August (though he’s 0-3 for the month). Pregame stat of the day, Part II: Mazzaro is allowing a .315 opponents’ batting average through his first 45 pitches in a game, and .213 after that.

–The A’s are staying tight-lipped about who they might call up when rosters expand to 40 starting tomorrow. I’m not expecting too many reinforcements early in the month. Triple-A Sacramento looks like it’s headed to the postseason yet again, and the A’s usually don’t like stripping the River Cats roster too much. Adding a reliever or two seems logical. And as I wrote last week, until the A’s feel they’re completely out of contention, they’ll be promoting guys with an eye toward helping the major league team, rather than promoting young players just to give them a look (that means don’t expect Michael Taylor anytime real soon). Dallas McPherson, perhaps? His power could be useful for the A’s. He’d have to be added to the 40-man roster, but there’s a spot open …

–Identical lineups as last night for both the A’s and Yankees. Here ya go …

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

Yankees — Gardner LF, Jeter SS, Teixeira 1B, Cano 2B, Swisher RF, Posada C, Thames DH, Granderson CF, Pena 3B; Hughes RHP.

3

A’s draw big interest in Big Apple

Everything seems magnified whenever the A’s play a series at Yankee Stadium. The ballpark is huge, the crowds are usually big, and the media turnout is like nothing we see in the Bay Area. Bob Geren had a wide circle of reporters around him for his pregame media address, and the questions covered a lot of areas — Trevor Cahill’s emergence as an All-Star, Henry Rodriguez’s potential as a future closer (Geren definitely sees it), Jack Cust’s major league career, Vin Mazzaro’s development, etc. … The A’s have lots of players with East Coast connections, so there are lots of angles to be covered when the A’s come to town.

–No Alex Rodriguez in the Yankees lineup, but first baseman Mark Teixeira is back from a bruised thumb. It’s still a pretty imposing bunch of hitters even with A-Rod on the DL. And who’s that hitting fifth? Former Athletic Nick Swisher, batting .294 with 24 homers and 75 RBIs. He’s hitting .359 with runners on base this season, third-best in the American League.

Cahill will have his work cut out, but I don’t expect him to get too rattled in his first start at Yankee Stadium. For being just 22, the kid’s as even-keeled as they come.

–Speaking of 22-year-olds, Brett Anderson (hyper-extended right knee) got through his side session fine and he’s set for Wednesday’s start.

The lineups … on a comfortable, low-humidity night in the Bronx

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

Yankees — Gardner LF, Jeter SS, Teixeira 1B, Cano 2B, Swisher RF, Posada C, Thames DH, Granderson CF, Pena 3B; Moseley RHP.

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Jeff Larish gets first look in outfield as A’s go for series victory in Texas

These 2:05 p.m. starts here in Texas are a little wacky, but that’s what the Rangers typically do for Sunday home games. They drew 47,411 last night, and I’d expect another good-sized crowd today. It’s very hot, however, and more humid than the past two days. A’s starter Gio Gonzalez could benefit from some quick innings …

–Jeff Larish is playing left field today with Jack Cust returning to DH. This marks Larish’s first major league start in the outfield. He’s typically a corner infield guy. I saw him getting instruction from outfield coach Todd Steverson yesterday as he shagged flies during batting practice. “We had to give Larish a few days to work out there,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “He hasn’t been out there since spring training. He played there in spring training quite a few times.” Larish is 3-for-11 with a homer and two RBIs in three starts (two at DH, one at third base) since he was brought back from the minors, and Geren is making an effort to get his left-handed bat in there against right-handers.

–Brett Anderson played catch and ran this morning, reporting that his right knee continues to make progress. Unless there’s a setback in his side session tomorrow, mark him down for Wednesday’s start against New York.

Win or lose today, the A’s face long odds to catch the Rangers in the standings. But taking two of three from the AL West leaders would be a nice way to head into a four-game series at Yankee Stadium …

The lineups …

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

Rangers — Blanco SS, Young 3B, Hamilton LF, Guerrero DH, Cantu 1B, Murphy RF, Molina C, Cora 2B, Borbon CF; Lewis RHP.

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Chris Carter goes on Triple-A DL with sprained left thumb

Quick update folks … First baseman/outfielder Chris Carter, the A’s top prospect, was placed on Triple-A Sacramento’s 15-day disabled list today with a sprained left thumb. He suffered the injury while diving for a ball in left field Friday against Fresno. A’s assistant GM David Forst said X-rays showed no fracture, but there’s no timetable for his return. It seems this would greatly hinder Carter’s chances of getting a September call-up to Oakland. Major league rosters can expand to 40 on Wednesday.

More in tomorrow’s paper …

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Brett Anderson cautiously optimistic about right knee

Here’s the A’s news leading into Game 2 against the Rangers. It’s 96 degrees as the shadows start taking over the field in Arlington …

–Brett Anderson’s right knee is feeling better, and he said there’s not much swelling or bruising. He’s still encouraged he’ll be ready for his next start Wednesday at New York, but said he’ll have a better indication tomorrow after throwing long toss. “Tomorrow will be a big test when I play catch,” he said. “But if things go as they did from last night to today, I should be good to go.”

–Kurt Suzuki gets a start at DH to give him a partial day off, with Landon Powell behind the plate.

–Looking back on last night’s game, it’s pretty easy to point to Anderson’s inefficient outing and quick exit that put Oakland in a hole. But the fact is, the rotation was due for a stinker at some point, and there’s bound to be a few more of those sprinkled in before the season’s done. The burden still falls on the offense to keep the team in the game when they fall behind early. A’s hitters didn’t have much success doing that against Tommy Hunter last night. We’ll see if they fare any better against Rich Harden tonight.

The lineups …

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

Rangers – Andrus SS, Young 3B, Hamilton LF, Guerrero DH, Cantu 1B, Moreland RF, Treanor C, Cora 2B, Borbon CF; Harden RHP.

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A’s pregame update from Texas: Jack Cust back in left field; Ben Sheets pays visit

There wasn’t a lot of pregame news coming out of the A’s clubhouse before the start of this important series with Texas. Jack Cust is getting another start in left field with Jeff Larish serving as DH again (Bob Geren likes having Larish’s bat in there). A couple changes from last night: Kevin Kouzmanoff is back in the fifth spot after showing some life with the bat in the Cleveland series, and Rajai Davis is playing right field in place of Gabe Gross …

A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Suzuki C, Cust LF, Kouzmanoff 3B, Larish DH, Ellis 2B, Davis RF, Pennington SS; Anderson LHP.

Rangers – Andrus SS, Young 3B, Hamilton LF, Guerrero DH, Cantu 1B, Murphy RF, Treanor C, Blanco 2B, Borbon CF; Hunter RHP.

–Ben Sheets has joined the team for the rest of the road trip, bringing the wackiness (and volume) to the clubhouse like only he can. He’s about 2½ weeks removed from having triple-surgery on his right elbow (ligament replacement, flexor tendon repair, pronator tendon repair). He just had his splint removed today and now he’s wearing a black contraption on his arm that looks like some sort of space-age cast.

Sheets’ stance on his future hasn’t changed: He’ll try pitching again if his arm completely heals, but he’s going to make sure it feels better than it did after his first surgery that sidelined him in 2009. Some highlights from his chat w/reporters:

–He first knew something was seriously wrong with his elbow during a June 2 start at Fenway Park, and he specifically remembers laboring during an at-bat that ended with a David Ortiz two-run homer. “That whole at-bat, I remember it being a grind. I didn’t want to throw any breaking balls. I just wanted to throw fastballs.”

–Doctors took a portion of his left hamstring tendon and used it to replace the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow (the “Tommy John” part of the procedure). Generally, a tendon near the wrist is used, but that tendon was too small, Sheets said. As it is, doctors told him the key to any possible return to pitching hinges on how well his flexor tendon heals. It’s very likely Sheets will miss all of the 2011 season, as he had said prior to surgery.

–Sheets is very excited about how well the A’s young starting pitchers are performing, and he believes Trevor Cahill should earn strong consideration for the AL Cy Young Award. “I’m like y’all, I just like watching it,” he said. “They’re getting deep into games and (Geren) is letting them pitch. For me, that’s fun to watch. Their stuff’s so good.”

That’s all for now …

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Jack Cust gets start in left field; other pregame notes before A’s-Indians finale

Hey folks, sorry for no blog post yesterday. There was a problem with our blog site, but it’s all cleared up now …

Checking in before the A’s-Indians series finale here at Progressive Field, where it’s dog day. All fans were invited to bring their pooches to the park, and there’s a spot in the right field bleacher area reserved for them. They just finished a dog parade around the field, and Dallas Braden and Daric Barton came out to the visitors’ dugout to get a closer look. Perhaps some howling canines will add some life to this stadium tonight. It’s been pretty quiet for the first two games of this series, with neither game drawing as much as 12,000. With no tarps covering the upper deck, this place feels more empty and cavernous than the Coliseum usually does …

–Jack Cust draws a start in left field tonight, which may have made you spit out your beverage if you’re drinking one as you read this. Cust has made 12 appearances in the outfield this season, but it’s been quite some time, and I don’t have to tell you it can be adventuresome when the big guy grabs a glove. Manager Bob Geren, who has always defended Cust as an outfielder, said he wanted to stack his lineup with lefty hitters against right-hander Justin Masterson. Jeff Larish gets a start at DH, and though he’s been working in the outfield lately, Geren said he feels more comfortable with Cust out there right now.

Cust is a bit surprised himself that he’s playing the outfield, though he said Geren gave him a heads-up Wednesday that it might happen. He hasn’t been doing a lot of pregame defensive work because he’s primarily been DH, and the A’s haven’t been lacking for outfielders. “I haven’t played much out there, so I can’t say I’ll be too comfortable. We’ll see,” he said. “When I don’t play the outfield for a couple weeks, my legs … I feel them later in the game.” That said, Cust is happy his name is in the lineup somewhere because he’s feeling pretty good at the plate right now. He’s 4-for-8 with a homer and three RBIs in this series. “I felt a little something in my last at-bat Tuesday (when he homered),” Cust said. “I felt something in my stance. I just moved my feet around, trying to get a base.”

–The A’s recorded their final eight outs via strikeout Wednesday night (two by Trevor Cahill, three each by Craig Breslow and Henry Rodriguez). That’s the first time in Oakland history that A’s pitchers have gotten eight straight outs by way of the strikeout. “It’s one of those records you don’t realize is happening until somebody tells you after the game,” Geren said. “Obviously I was happy with Henry. Breslow, after getting hit in the forearm (last week), had good hop on his fastball.”

Tonight’s lineups …

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

Indians — Brantley CF, Cabrera SS, Choo RF, Hafner DH, Nix 3B, Crowe LF, LaPorta 1B, Valbuena 2B, Marson C; Masterson RHP.

6

Travis Buck sent down, Matt Carson brought up as A’s open long road trip in Cleveland

A blanket of gray clouds are starting to break up here in Cleveland. The forecast calls for just a 10 percent chance of rain so this series opener between the A’s and Indians shouldn’t be interrupted.

–The news of the day so far: Travis Buck was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento and fellow outfielder Matt Carson was called up. It was a pretty short return to the majors for Buck, who was recalled Aug. 16 and spent just seven games with the big club. He didn’t do a whole lot to make an impression while he was up, going 0 for 10 with four strikeouts in three starts. But he didn’t get a very long look either. When Buck came up, I thought it might be a good chance to evaluate him for an extended period (Conor Jackson’s return to the DL seemed to open up even more opportunity). It’s still tough to decipher what caliber of player the A’s have in Buck. He hasn’t stayed healthy for any length of time, and the A’s aren’t sold on him as an everyday player when he is healthy. “Travis needs to go work on his swing a bit, and we could use a right-handed bat,” manager Bob Geren said. “He hasn’t had a ton of at-bats this year, and he has to tighten up his swing a little bit.”

Geren said he likes Carson’s baserunning ability, as well as having a right-handed bat off the bench. And Geren indicated Gross will play regularly with the A’s expected to see a string of right-handed starting pitchers to begin this road trip. Gross, who bats left-handed as does Buck, is hitting .247 in 186 at-bats, so he’s hardly ripping the cover off the ball himself. But he had two hits Sunday, is good with the glove and has a strong arm. It’s clear the A’s see him as a better option in right field than Buck.

You have to figure a trade might be best for Buck’s career. But I don’t know what kind of interest he would draw given his injury history.

–That’s about it for the news … Kevin Kouzmanoff, 4 for 42 over his last 13 games, is sitting tonight with Jeff Larish getting a start at third base. Larish was promoted Friday for his second stint w/Oakland but has yet to get in a game since then.

–Surprise sighting: Hall of Famer and former A’s closer Dennis Eckersley is back in Cleveland to host a charity golf tournament, and he was in the dugout chatting with A’s broadcaster Ray Fosse, his former Indians teammate, before the game.

The lineups:

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

Indians — Donald 2B, Cabrera SS, Choo RF, Duncan LF, Nix DH, LaPorta 1B, Marte 3B, Crowe CF, Marson C; Carmona RHP.

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Bailey returns, Sunday lineups

Good morning/afternoon from the Oakland Coliseum. Ben Enos filling in for Joe Stiglich.

News of the day is Andrew Bailey is back from the disabled list, with Ross Wolf heading back to Sacramento to make room. The closer said he’s excited to be back, having thrown just one rehab appearance for the Rivercats earlier this week to shake the rust off a little.

It’s Fiesta Day at the Coliseum, with a Latin American theme playing heavily in the pregame PA music mix. I’m resisting the temptation to get up and dance (yeah, right).

Here are today’s lineups.
A’s — Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Ellis 2B, Cust DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Davis LF, Powell C, Gross RF, Pennington SS; Braden LHP
Rays — Upton CF, Bartlett SS, Crawford LF, Longoria 3B, Pena 1B, Zobrist RF, Aybar DH, Rodriguez 2B, Shoppach C; Garza RHP

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Saturday pregame update and lineups

Andrew Bailey is back in the A’s clubhouse after last night’s rehab appearance with Triple-A Sacramento (2/3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 K, 18 pitches). The results weren’t great, but manager Bob Geren said initial reports are Bailey came out of it feeling well. The team is waiting to see how Bailey continues to feel through the night. There’s a chance he could be activated tomorrow. If not, perhaps Tuesday for the road trip opener at Cleveland.

Tonight’s lineups …

A’s — Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Suzuki C, Kouzmanoff 3B, Ellis 2B, Davis LF, Cust DH, Tolleson SS, Buck RF; Anderson LHP.

Rays — Upton CF, Bartlett SS, Crawford LF, Longoria 3B, Pena 1B, Zobrist RF, Aybar DH, Rodriguez 2B, Shoppach C; Price LHP.

It’s a bit of a head-scratcher not to see Cliff Pennington in the lineup considering he’s played a major role in the A’s past three victories. Steve Tolleson — who can play second base, third and shortstop — has done well in his limited playing time, so it’s understandable for Geren to want to get him in and give the everyday infielders a rest. It’s August, after all. But Pennington’s got to have some confidence rolling right now, so why not stick with him?