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Random thoughts and updates as A’s go for sweep

It’s one of the more unusual A’s lineups of the season today, with Daric Barton, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Mark Ellis all getting a day off. Barton left last night’s game after bruising his left thigh while sliding into home. “Not playing today is best for his body,” manager Bob Geren said. “Hopefully he can come back and play out the string.” Kouzmanoff, who played last night for the first time in two weeks, still has some soreness in his back. Geren said he plans to play his third baseman every other day for now, an idea that Kouzmanoff said was probably for the best. He told me his back bothers him a bit as he gets up and down in his defensive position. Ellis is generally banged up and getting a regular day off, meaning Eric Sogard draws a start at second base.

It’s that time of year when guys are feeling the wear and tear of a long season, and you figure Geren wants his front-line guys ready for this weekend’s series with Texas, so I’m not surprised to see some players getting the day off.

The lineups:
A’s — Davis CF, Pennington SS, Suzuki C, Cust DH, Gross RF, Iwamura 3B, Carter LF, Larish 1B, Sogard 2B; Anderson LHP.

White Sox – Pierre LF, Ramirez SS, Rios CF, Konerko 1B, Ramirez DH, Quentin RF, Flowers C, Morel 3B, Lillibridge 2B; Jackson RHP.

–Looking for some inside keys to how the A’s might fare against the Rangers? Keep an eye on the bullpen, folks. Not only is closer Andrew Bailey out indefinitely, but Geren revealed that left-hander Jerry Blevins is battling a sore shoulder and hasn’t thrown the past couple days. He’s unavailable, and Craig Breslow — who’s thrown four of the past five days — won’t be used today, Geren said. That means the A’s are without a lefty in the bullpen.

Breslow should be available for tomorrow’s series opener against Texas, but Bailey’s absence could definitely be felt over that crucial four-game series. You have to like the way Breslow’s handled ninth-inning duties with Bailey out. But it’s too bad Geren had to call on him last night (or at least felt like he had to) when Henry Rodriguez found mild trouble in the ninth. Breslow has been carrying quite a load.

–What’s it like to be Gabe Gross right now? He goes 24 games without a start, and today he finds himself batting fifth and playing right field. As a beat writer, I’m always eager to walk in the clubhouse to start the day and see who’s in the lineup. I get the feeling the players themselves are just as curious as me.

Speaking of Gross, check out the unique facial hair he’s sporting right now. He’s got a full beard going, but he’s shaved a bare patch around his chin. It’s, uh, interesting … Gross, who replaced Chris Carter in left field last night in the seventh inning, said he planned to shave his beard. But … “I hit one off the wall last night, so what are you gonna do?” He said Steve Tolleson gave his new look the thumbs-up. Gross’ wife, Kelly, has yet to see it.

That’s all for now …

Joe Stiglich