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A’s to call up four players, including Chris Carter and Vin Mazzaro

Nice debut by Bobby Cramer today as the A’s beat the Royals 3-1 to open a three-game series. …

Four new additions will be joining the big league club, an A’s source confirmed. The team will call up right-hander Vin Mazzaro, first baseman/outfielder Chris Carter, middle infielder Eric Sogard and catcher Josh Donaldson from Triple-A Sacramento. We saw all but Sogard earlier this season. Like all of you, I’m eager to see how Carter fares in his second look at major league pitching. I think it’s important he’s getting another crack. He needs a chance to wipe that previous 0-for-19 streak out of his memory as he heads into the offseason. I could see Carter getting more time in left field, with Rajai Davis shifting to right field and Jeremy Hermida continuing to play some right as well. The A’s indicated last week that Mazzaro will continue to work as a starter, and it’s unclear whether Cramer’s solid outing will affect that plan.

For those not familiar with Sogard, 24, he came over from San Diego along with Kevin Kouzmanoff last winter. He’s primarily a second baseman, but he recently played shortstop for Sacramento after Steve Tolleson was called up to Oakland and second baseman Adrian Cardenas was promoted from Double-A Midland to Sacramento. Sogard impressed during spring training and the A’s are happy with the season he had in Sacramento (.300, 5 HRs, 65 RBIs, 14 SBs). This is his first trip to the majors, and who knows? If he performs well, perhaps that will factor into the A’s decision on whether to bring back Mark Ellis next season.

–I won’t be traveling on this road trip, but you’ll still get game coverage in the Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune and San Jose Mercury News. And I’ll be updating here and through Twitter (@joestiglich) as news dictates.

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A’s go for sweep, hope for help from Yankees

A win today would not only give the A’s a three-game sweep of Boston but a 7-2 record to finish their nine-game homestand. They’ve played well enough to pick up ground on first-place Texas, but the Yankees haven’t given them any help, blowing a ninth-inning lead last night and losing to the Rangers to keep the A’s 7 1/2 games out of first place.

Today’s lineups:

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

Red Sox — Scutaro 2B, McDonald CF, Martinez C, Beltre 3B, Ortiz DH, Lowell 1B, Drew RF, Hall LF, Navarro SS; Beckett RHP.

I thought Landon Powell might get a start at catcher today given it’s a day game after a night game. Plus, Dallas Braden’s numbers are so good this season with Powell behind the plate. But A’s manager Bob Geren pointed out that Kurt Suzuki got a rest with Thursday’s off-day and wanted to keep him in there. “I use the backup catcher when I think the starting catcher needs a day off,” Geren said. “We’ve pretty much led baseball in ERA and Kurt has caught the majority of games. Both (Suzuki and Powell) have done a great job.”

–As you read in this morning’s paper, Rickey Henderson is with the A’s for this series against the Red Sox. But he’s spent much of this season bouncing around the A’s farm system as a baserunning instructor. He’s spent a lot of time working with Triple-A Sacramento utility man Corey Wimberly, who’s set a River Cats record with 56 stolen bases this season. Henderson also has been impressed with outfielder Jermaine Mitchell, 25, who is currently with Double-A Midland. “He’s lightning fast,” Henderson said.

–Josh Outman threw two 20-pitch simulated “innings” this morning. He and fellow pitcher Joey Devine will accompany the A’s to Kansas City, then head to Phoenix on Thursday to begin throwing in the fall instructional league.

That’s all for now …

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A’s pick up Bob Geren’s option for 2011

Lots of news today, and the A’s and Red Sox haven’t even taken the field! …

–The A’s exercised the 2011 option on manager Bob Geren, meaning he’ll return for a fifth season as skipper. This decision was an absolute given, as Geren has gotten 100 percent backing from the front office regarding his performance since taking over before the 2007 season. Certainly the win-loss record leaves something to be desired — the A’s are 296-329 (.474 winning percentage) under Geren and haven’t posted a winning record over his first three seasons. They’re 70-70 with 22 games left this season. Geren has come under media scrutiny for some strategical moves this season, and I get the feeling this decision won’t exactly be embraced by many A’s fans based on the lack of wins under his leadership.

But GM Billy Beane maintains the same rationale as past seasons in giving Geren a thumbs-up to this point. He maintains that Geren has been operating short-handed due to many injuries. Given that, Beane likes the direction the A’s are headed, particularly with one of the majors’ best young pitching staffs. He was asked why he decided to pick up Geren’s option now rather than wait until season’s end. “Usually if you’ve made up your mind, it makes sense to do it. And we had made up our minds,” Beane said.

–As for whether the rest of the coaching staff returns in 2011, Beane said those decisions will be made after the season. Ditto on whether to pick up the 2011 options on third baseman Eric Chavez, second baseman Mark Ellis and center fielder Coco Crisp. As we all assume, the A’s will likely buy out Chavez’s contract at $3 million rather than bring back the oft-injured veteran at $12.5 million.

Tonight’s lineups:

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

Red Sox – Scutaro SS, McDonald RF, Martinez DH, Beltre 3B, Lowell 1B, Lowrie 2B, SAltalamacchia C, Hall LF, Kalish CF, Lackey RHP.

1

More on KTRB; who’s better than Cahill; Coco’s big night

Carl Steward, filling in for Joe Stiglich tonight …

Since Joe gave the early report on KTRB, here’s an update. Talked to A’s VP Ken Pries as well as KTRB sports director Ken Dito and I filed a report in the A’s notebook basically stating that nothing much will change with A’s broadcasts through the end of the season, and that includes pre- and post-game shows. The financially troubled station was placed in receivership Friday, but Comerica Bank, which is now in control the station, plans to keep things up and running for now, even though there were some personnel casualties. Dito, however, has been retained.

It could be the toughest ballot among postseason award voters: the AL Cy Young. CC Sabathia has to be the favorite at this point with 19 wins, but he only has three more wins than Cahill playing for the best team in the league, while Cahill is 10 games over .500 for a team that’s 70-70. Opposing hitters are batting just .200 against him, which is the lowest among qualifying starters in the AL. And let’s not forget, Cahill didn’t make his first start until April 30. Imagine if he’d pitched the first month. He still has four more starts. He could actually get 20 wins, which would be quite a feat for a 22-year-old guy in just his second season. He moved past Clay Buchholz Friday night. But the votes are going to be all over the place. Tampa Bay’s David Price will get some. Jon Lester, too.

Cahill has a chance if you look at last year. Zack Greinke won it a 16-8 record and 2.16 ERA. Cahill’s not far off what Greinke did.

Coco Crisp’s first-inning catch to rob Boston’s Ryan Kalish of a home run is the best outfield catch I’ve seen in a long time. He not only went up above but over the wall to catch the ball, and his arm was extended at least two feet above the top of the fence and behind it a bit. Coco said afterward that to make a catch like that, it’s best not to get to close to the wall before the leap because you can’t get as high. Great night for Coco all around, reaching base four times with three steals. Rickey Henderson was on the bench Friday night, and Coco admitted he might have been putting on a bit of a show for his idol. Crisp has 19 steals in a row without being caught, the most since Rickey had 17 straight in 1998. Don Baylor, of all people, holds the club record with 25 straight in 1976. I know, because I was there the night he got No. 25 covering the game.

Yeah, I’m an old-timer. That’s why I’m turning it back to Joe post-haste. I gotta go take a nap.

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A’s promote left-hander Bobby Cramer, plus a note on 860-AM

Quick news update for you … The A’s have promoted left-hander Bobby Cramer from Triple-A Sacramento, and all signs point to Cramer sliding into Vin Mazzaro’s rotation spot. Unless the A’s change their plans, Cramer would start Monday’s road trip opener at Kansas City. Manager Bob Geren said Wednesday night — following Gio Gonzalez’s 117-pitch outing against Seattle — that he wanted to give Gonzalez an extra day’s rest and pitch him Tuesday. That would mean Cramer would be needed Monday. It’s been quite a road for Cramer, who will make his major league debut at age 30. Check out all the stops along his career. I bet he and reliever Justin James could swap some stories. James made his big league debut at Yankee Stadium last week, just 12 days shy of his 29th birthday.

I figured Clayton Mortensen was a strong bet to get promoted from Sacramento and fill Mazzaro’s shoes. But Mortensen got roughed up in three innings Wednesday against Tacoma. Surely that didn’t help his chances. To make room for Cramer on the 40-man roster, infielder Adam Rosales was transferred to the 60-day DL.

Another quick note: It’s my understanding that there was a shakeup over at KTRB 860-AM, the A’s flagship station, with some of the station’s high-level personnel being let go. I’ve been told this won’t affect A’s broadcasts for the rest of this season, and that none of the station’s current sports programming will be changed. Can’t say how this might affect A’s broadcasts beyond this season, if at all …

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Crisp back at CF for A’s; Rosales officially out for season

We’ve got overcast skies above the Coliseum for the second straight day. Definitely feels like fall, which is weird because it was uncharacteristically hot for Monday’s game …

–Coco Crisp is back in the leadoff spot and playing center field for the A’s. A lot of you may have seen the replay of Crisp running gingerly last night on his sore left knee after pinch-hitting in the ninth inning. I didn’t get a chance to speak w/him before the game, but obviously he’s feeling well enough to give it a go.

Kevin Kouzmanoff’s MRI didn’t show anything seriously wrong with his lower back, according to manager Bob Geren. But Kouzmanoff remains out of the lineup for a third straight game. “He’s getting better,” Geren said. “There were no new findings (on the MRI).” Steve Tolleson draws his third straight start at third. This guy has produced pretty well wherever the A’s have plugged him in. He had a career-high three hits last night and is 9-for-27 since he was recalled from the minors Aug. 13.

–Geren officially declared utility man Adam Rosales out for the season with the stress fracture in his right ankle. It appeared the injury could be season-ending when Rosales went on the DL Aug. 13, but he was hopeful at the time of possibly coming back. Probably a smart move that he doesn’t try to push it. One note on Rosales: On the first homestand after his injury, he made a habit of coming out to watch batting practice, standing behind the cage wearing a protective boot on his foot. You don’t see many injured players do that, but I get the feeling Rosales couldn’t stand to be away from the team. Or perhaps he felt guilty that he couldn’t be out there helping. Either way, the gesture reflects well on him. …

–Joey Devine was feeling upbeat about the 20-pitch simulated game he threw. The plan is for him and Josh Outman to head to instructional league later this month in Phoenix and get some innings in before breaking for the offseason.

Tonight’s lineups:

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

Mariners — Ichiro RF, Figgins 2B, Branyan DH, Lopez 3B, Moore C, Kotchman 1B, Tuiasosopo LF, Saunders CF, Wilson SS; French LHP.

1

Jeremy Hermida gets called up, starting in right field vs. Mariners

There’s a new bat in the A’s lineup tonight. Jeremy Hermida was called up from Triple-A Sacramento and he’s starting in right field. I’m curious to see what this guy can do. Hermida is just 26 and he was a 2002 first-round pick of the Florida Marlins. This team obviously could use some outfield pop, and if he shows anything at the plate I could see the left-handed hitting Hermida staying in the lineup, either in left field or right field.

He spent five seasons with the Marlins — his best year came in 2007, when he hit .296 with 18 homers with 63 RBIs — then was traded to Boston this past offseason. Hermida hit .203 with five homers and 27 RBIs in 52 games and missed time with a fractured rib. Boston released him Aug. 31 and the A’s signed him.

–Aside from Hermida’s addition, it’s a different looking A’s outfield. Coco Crisp gets a day off (Geren says Crisp is battling a sore left knee but that it’s nothing serious). So Rajai Davis is leading off and playing center. With Kevin Kouzmanoff still out, Steve Tolleson plays third and Jeff Larish is in left.

–With Thursday’s off-day, Geren said the A’s will skip the rotation spot left vacant by Vin Mazzaro. That sets up Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden to pitch in this weekend’s series against Boston. Cahill will get an extra day’s rest, but Anderson and Braden will pitch on regular rest. Mazzaro’s turn will come up either Monday or Tuesday in Kansas City — Geren said it depends on whether he wants to give Gio Gonzalez an extra day off. And the manager confirmed Boof Bonser is still a candidate to fill Mazzaro’s spot. Clayton Mortensen, who starts Sacramento’s playoff opener against Tacoma on Wednesday — could also conveniently slide into that slot without having his schedule thrown off. I keep mentioning Mortensen as a candidate because he’s had a good season and the A’s are familiar with what he can do at the big league level.

– Are you getting your hopes up yet, A’s fans? Oakland is 7 games out with 25 to play. That’s a difficult hill to climb, but it’s all about being within reasonable striking distance when the Rangers visit for a four-game series Sept. 23-26.

Tonight’s lineups:

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

Mariners — Ichiro RF, Figgins 2B, Branyan DH, Gutierrez CF, Lopez 3B, Kotchman 1B, Moore C, Tuiasosopo LF, Wilson SS; Fister RHP.

1

A’s send Vin Mazzaro to Triple-A Sacramento

The A’s dropped a bit of a shocker before today’s game against Seattle, demoting right-hander Vin Mazzaro to Triple-A Sacramento in light of his recent struggles. The move definitely caught me by surprise because, A) Rarely do we see a player sent down after rosters expand. Usually players are being added, not subtracted. And B) With the A’s seemingly out of the hunt in the AL West, it seems these final weeks should be all about evaluating young players such as Mazzaro at the major league level. Just had a phone conversation with A’s assistant GM David Forst, and he stressed this move isn’t about sending any kind of message or wake-up call to Mazzaro. He also said Mazzaro remains very much in the team’s future plans. “He’s just been inconsistent,” Forst said. “He’s had very good games where his stuff has been good and he’s pitched from ahead (in the count). Of late, he’s let the offense dictate how he pitches. We know he has talent and ability.”

Here’s a look at Mazzaro’s outing-by-outing results this season.
Manager Bob Geren said the team would consider all options to fill Mazzaro’s spot in the rotation. He mentioned Boof Bonser as one option from the current roster, but added the team could promote a starter from the minors or skip Mazzaro’s next turn because of Thursday’s day off. Forst indicated that the team would definitely consider promoting a pitcher from Sacramento even though the River Cats will be starting the playoffs soon. Clayton Mortensen has pitched solidly for Sacramento all season and he’s got some big league starts under his belt. Consider him one option …

Still a shocker to me, even though Geren has been frank in his disappointment with Mazzaro’s past two starts. Until recently, Mazzaro’s development had been a major bright spot for the A’s.

Mazzaro declined to address reporters as he was leaving the Coliseum today. He was 6-8 with a 4.29 ERA in 21 games (18 starts) with Oakland.

Today’s lineups:

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

Mariners — Ichiro RF, Figgins 2B, Gutierrez CF, Branyan DH, Lopez 3B, Kotchman 1B, Moore C, Saunders LF, Wilson SS; Vargas LHP.

1

Braden gets some perfect game bling

Had a couple days off, so we’ll get the blog back cranking again, though there wasn’t a lot to report in A’s land this morning … There was a brief, informal ceremony in the clubhouse as A’s co-owner Lew Wolff presented Dallas Braden with a diamond ring commemorating his perfect game (Braden also received a diamond pendant to give to his grandmother). “Keep it up,” Wolff said. “Can you do two in one year?” Braden’s response afterward: “I told him I don’t have that club in my bag.”

–Joey Devine played catch and said his elbow felt really good a day after he threw a 20-pitch simulated game. It’s pretty easy to forget about Devine, isn’t it? The guy’s been such a big storyline over the past two springs, but injuries have basically robbed him of two seasons. But I have a feeling you’ll be reading about him again when February rolls around. How good would it have been to have a healthy Devine in the ‘pen when Michael Wuertz was struggling early in the season and then when Andrew Bailey went down? That’s a big “if,” I realize, but it’s something to ponder …

Today’s lineups:
A’s — Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Cust DH, Ellis 2B, Larish LF, Davis RF, Powell C, Pennington SS; Mazzaro RHP.
Angels — Callaspo 3B, Kendrick 2B, Abreu LF, Hunter RF, Matsui DH, Napoli 1B, Aybar SS, Mathis C, Willits CF; Santana RHP.

14

How do you judge the A’s season to this point?

Final day of a long 10-game road trip … The A’s began it 4-2, but they need a win today to finish 5-5. When they left Oakland, they were 8 games out of first place, so regardless of today’s outcome, they’ll have lost ground on this trip …

I just did a “5 questions” session about the A’s for the Orange County Register, in advance of this weekend’s series w/the Angels. I believe it will be posted tomorrow at ocregister.com, or perhaps it’s already up. Anyway, one of the questions had to do with fan interest over the battle for second place between the A’s and Angels (neither team is eliminated from the AL West race yet, obviously). So as the season hits the final month, I ask you this:

If the season were to end today, would you be satisfied with the A’s second-place finish? Or, you can take a broader look and answer this: Do you consider this season a success or failure to this point?

Take everything into consideration: The development of the young starting pitching; the fact that this would mark the A’s best finish in the division since 2006; the disappointing performance of the offense, which has failed to support the pitching; the continuing problem with injuries …

Interested to read the opinions on this …

–As for the morning news … The A’s have eight right-handed hitters in the lineup against Yankees lefty CC Sabathia. Daric Barton is sitting and Rajai Davis is batting second. Jeff Larish (the only lefty bat) is playing first base with Matt Carson in right field. …

–Conor Jackson’s sports hernia surgery went well, manager Bob Geren said. His timetable for recovery is three weeks, and the A’s still aren’t officially declaring him out for the season. I can’t see any way Jackson plays again in 2010. There’s really no point … If he returned right at the three-week mark, there would be just a little more than one week left of games. This guy needs to heal up and get ready for next season, although I’m not sure how he fits into next season’s outfield puzzle. One of many issues the A’s have to consider over the winter …

The lineups:

A’s — Crisp CF, Davis LF, Kurt Suzuki DH, Kouzmanoff 3B, Ellis 2B, Carson RF, Larish 1B, Powell C, Pennington SS; Braden LHP.

Yankees — Jeter SS, Swisher RF, Teixeira 1B, CAno 2B, Thames DH, Posada C, Kearns LF, Nunez 3B, Gardner CF; Sabathia LHP.