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All-AL West road trip provides an early test

It’s only April, but any road trip made up solely of AL West foes is important for the A’s. They begin a four-game series against the Mariners tonight, and then play three against the Los Angeles Angels, who found themselves alone in first place beginning play today. “It’s an early run through the division, but you want to fare well,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “It seems year to year that whoever does best in the division ends up winning.”

Not that you would care much about this, but Safeco Field might have the coldest press box in the American League. It’s just big and spacious and there’s not a lot of warmth, so you have to game-plan with what you wear in here. I brought a heavy jacket, but I try to hold off on wearing it until the later innings. Once you put your jacket on, it’s your last line of defense. When you start freezing in your jacket, forget about it. So I try to tough it out as long as I can. Grrrr ….

The A’s draw a hard assignment tonight against Felix Hernandez, who is 5-2 with a 2.26 ERA at home against the A’s in eight career starts (62 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings). He also threw a five-hitter to beat them opening night at the Coliseum. But the A’s counter with Brandon McCarthy, who has been a real pleasant surprise for Oakland at the back of the rotation. It’s a quality pitching matchup to start this road trip …

Hideki Matsui is out of the lineup, with Josh Willingham serving as DH and Conor Jackson getting a start in left field. Matsui is a .207 career hitter against Hernandez with one homer in 29 at-bats. Jackson is hitless in three at-bats against King Felix.

Michael Wuertz will pitch again for Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday. Wuertz gave up three runs on three hits with two walks in one inning against Reno on Wednesday. “Hopefully he’ll pitch more efficiently,” Geren said. “He hasn’t been sharp yet.” So the five lefties remain in the A’s bullpen …

The lineups, with Daric Barton just announced as a late scratch (no reason given).

A’s – Crisp CF, DeJesus RF, Jackson 1B, Willingham DH, Sweeney LF, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; McCarthy RHP.

Mariners – Ichiro RF, Figgins 3B, Kennedy 1B, Cust DH, Saunders CF, Olivo C, Peguero LF, Ryan SS, Wilson 2B; Hernandez RHP.

Joe Stiglich