0

A’s in first place for the moment, but how long will it last?

In for Joe Stiglich tonight, and thankfully, there isn’t a cloud in the sky …

The A’s added to a key total today — days in first place since the last time they actually finished first in 2006. Their grand total is now 66 after being stuck on 65 for nearly a year. The question is how long they can stay there, because since 2006, they haven’t spent a single day in first place after June 3.

 So it’s a key time for Oakland right now. They’ve had these kinds of optimistic starts before, notably in 2008 when they spent 23 days in first place and last year (34 days), but faded once the weather started to warm up. Of course, 22-20 isn’t exactly storming the standings. The A’s have benefitted from Texas’ various maladies and pitching issues, and the Angels have fallen back to Earth after a big April.

A  good place to start would be against the 13-27 Twins, who are looking pretty much like a Triple-A team right now. I mean, who are these guys? I recognize Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer. But the rest of the cast is pretty faceless. Ben Revere? Drew Butera? Trevor Plouffe? Danny Valencia? Goodness. And no Joe Mauer. The Twins’ starting lineup Wednesday night has a grand total of 14 home runs as a group. Not often an oppnent has fewer than the A’s, who have 22 bombs in their starting nine. But that tells you a lot about where Minnesota is right now. And perhaps even more alarming, the pitching staff has a 4.96 ERA while their opponents are checking in at 2.72. The A’s should blow through these guys and have a little momentum going into the Giants series at AT&T Park this weekend.

Maybe, just maybe, they can add to their first place total in the process.

————

You probably get as tired reading Andrew Bailey/Adam Rosales/Rich Harden updates as I do writing them. But at least for two of those guys, there’s real news today. Bailey will make an official mound appearance this Friday for Triple-A Sacramento, his first stint in a bona fide game since spring training (sorry, I don’t count those extended spring things). He’ll go an inning. He’ll probably have a handful of outings there and be evaluated after each one, but if all goes well, he could be back with Oakland sometime in mid-June, perhaps sooner.

Rosales, meanwhile, has been cleared to play extended spring games after missing the past eight months with a bizarre foot fracture. His return will probably take longer, and after not playing since midseason last year, he’ll be eased into it — a few innings at a time, DH-ing part of the time, then slowly working his way to full effectiveness. The A’s have been pretty fortunate they haven’t needed Rosales — Mark Ellis has been healthy all year even if his bat hasn’t been. He’s played in 41 of the team’s 42 games, and Adam LaRoche has been an adequate fill-in. But Rosales would probably provide a little more protection for Cliff Pennington at short, where the A’s are precariously thin. LaRoche can play there, but it’s not something you’d want to see every day. Steve Tolleson is available at Triple-A, but that’s it. Grant Green isn’t ready at Double-A, and beyond that, you’re moving in someone from another position.

—————

Coco Crisp is out of the lineup tonight and not at the ballpark. He’s attending to a personal family matter. Manager Bob Geren said he was unsure if Crisp would be back for Thursday’s afternoon game against the Twins, but added that he’s hopeful.

—————-

General manager Billy Beane underwent partial shoulder replacement surgery Wednesday in an effort to relieve a long-standing issue with arthritis in the joint. No, he didn’t have the same surgeon as Dallas Braden, according to A’s PR man Bob Rose.

————–

Tonight’s lineups

A:s RF DeJesus, 1B Barton, LF Willingham, DH Matsui, C Suzuki, CF Sweeney, 2B Ellis, 3B Kouzmanoff, SS Pennington. P McCarthy

Minny: CF Span, SS Plouffe, DH Kubel, 1B Morneau, RF Cuddyer, 3B Valencia, LF Revere, C Butera, 2B Casilla. P Pavano

Carl Steward