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Rain continues to fall at the Coliseum, but A’s-Angels game is still on

Here’s the situation at the Coliseum … The rain is falling steadily, batting practice has been canceled on the field, but the A’s have no plans to postpone tonight’s game against the Angels. That’s what we’re hearing. The forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of rain by 7 p.m., dropping to 15 percent by 8 p.m. If the A’s haven’t canceled this thing by now, they’re willing to wait it out to see if they can squeeze it in, even if it means delaying the 7:05 first pitch.

Remember what it was like during rainy day recess in elementary school, when everyone was stuck in the classroom and all activity was indoors? That’s the scene right now in the A’s clubhouse. Everyone is milling around, grabbing a bite to eat and wondering if this game is going to be played. The busiest guy in the building right now? Head groundskeeper Clay Wood, who was walking the field earlier – in shorts, with rain pouring down – surveying what kind of condition the field was in. There are puddles on the warning track, and groundskeepers are sweeping water off the infield tarp. It’s not going to be ideal playing conditions even if the rain stops.

It’s bizarre to even consider a rainout for an A’s home game. The last home rainout was May 5, 1998 against the Detroit Tigers. How many will show up for this one? Monday night games usually draw poorly anyway, and you can take it to the bank that tonight’s crowd is below the season-low of 9,193 that showed up for a May 2 game against the Rangers.

The update from Bob Geren’s pregame media chat:

–Andrew Bailey is heading to Phoenix to throw in another extended spring training game Tuesday. “That’s what he felt he’d like to do. Ronny (pitching coach Ron Romanick) talked with him on where he’s at, what he’s comfortable doing,” Geren said. The other option was for Bailey to just go out on a rehab assignment with Single-A Stockton or Triple-A Sacramento. The advantage for the A’s in an extended spring game is it’s a “controlled” environment. The A’s can stop the action, manipulate innings to keep Bailey out there for four outs if they choose – the situation can be tailored to what he needs. But pitching in minor league games will be a better test for Bailey because it’s regular game conditions. That’s the next step after Tuesday. There’s still no indication of how many minor league games Bailey will need to pitch in before returning.

–Dallas Braden’s shoulder surgery has been rescheduled for Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. He was originally supposed to have the operation today, but his flight to New York was canceled Sunday.

–Rich Harden, on the 60-day DL with a side muscle injury, is doing strengthening exercises but still not throwing. He’s nowhere close to returning yet.

–Geren talked about Michael Wuertz’s dominant form lately out of the bullpen. The guy has given up just one hit in eight appearances since coming off the DL for a hamstring injury. You’ll notice he’s starting to be used more in late-inning situations, and Geren considers him another right-handed setup option, filling the same role as Grant Balfour when Balfour isn’t available. Until Bailey returns, Wuertz’s effectiveness is even more important for the ‘pen. I’ll have more on Wuertz in tomorrow’s paper. …

Tonight’s lineups (assuming there’s baseball)

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

Angels – Aybar SS, Abreu DH, Izturis 2B, Hunter RF, Kendrick LF, Callaspo 3B, Trumbo 1B, Wilson C, Bourjos CF; Pineiro RHP.

2

Time is right for A’s to make their move

Take a glance at the AL West standings, and you wonder where the A’s might be if they can just put a sustained hot streak together. No one in the division is playing great baseball yet. The Angels will be without Kendrys Morales for the rest of the season, and another of their best hitters, Vernon Wells, is on the DL with a groin injury. The Texas Rangers are without outfielders Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, but both could return soon. You figure Texas will be a better team in a month or so than they are right now, simply because they’ll be healthier.

Now is the time for the A’s to make a move. They haven’t put together a win streak of more than three games, and they haven’t won more than two in a row for nearly a month. They’ve got their ace going today in Trevor Cahill (6-0), who’s trying to become the first A’s starter to win his first seven decisions since Dave Stewart went 8-0 in 1988. And the A’s welcome the Angels for a two-game set starting Monday, so there’s a chance to get something going …

Today’s lineups:

A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Jackson RF, Willingham LF, Suzuki DH, LaRoche 3B, Ellis 2B, Powell C, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

White Sox – Pierre LF, Ramirez SS, Dunn 1B, Konerko DH, Quentin RF, Pierzynski C, Rios CF, Vizquel 3B, Beckham 2B; Buehrle LHP.

–Hideki Matsui is out of the lineup for the fourth time in the past six games (can’t count Wednesday’s rainout, when he did start). I think it’s safe to say no one expected Matsui to be sitting the bench this much when he signed with the A’s. Kurt Suzuki is the DH today, and A’s manager Bob Geren explained that he wanted to keep Suzuki’s bat in the lineup while getting Landon Powell a start at catcher (Suzuki is 8 for 21 against White Sox starter Mark Buehrle). Geren, looking ahead to the right-handers the A’s will face coming up, said Matsui will get back in there on a more regular basis.

But Geren also was asked if he envisioned Matsui drawing any outfield starts when the A’s play interleague games in National League parks. “We’ll see how the next few games go, but more than likely not,” Geren said. Perhaps Geren was only referring to next weekend’s Giants series. The A’s won’t play in NL stadiums again until a six-game stretch from June 21-26, and if Matsui starts hitting, I’d expect him to get some outfield time then. But bottom line is, right now it’s no given that Matsui will be in the A’s lineup on any given day, and that’s not something we would have thought back in spring training …

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A’s-Rangers makeup date set; Sweeney starts again, Matsui sits

It’s a gloomy afternoon at the Coliseum, as the A’s try to even the series with a White Sox team that’s suddenly playing very good ball. On to the news …

–The A’s and Texas Rangers will make up Wednesday’s rainout on July 7 in Arlington. That was scheduled to be an off-day leading into an Oakland-Texas series, but now the teams will just play a four-game series.

–Ryan Sweeney is swinging a hot bat, and it’s earning him some playing time. He’s back in left field for the A’s for a second straight day, hitting third. Josh Willingham is serving as DH, which pushes Hideki Matsui to the bench. It’s an encouraging sign for the A’s that Sweeney is forcing his way into the lineup, and it reflects well on the outfield depth that Bob Geren talked up during spring training. But it’s also a statement on Matsui’s struggles. He’s started just three of the A’s past six games and is hitting .236. Today is just the third time he hasn’t started against a right-handed pitcher. “It’s just kind of a thing where I wanted to get Sweeney in there because he’s swinging so well,” Geren said. “We’ll look at what happens today, but more than likely, (Matsui) will be back in there tomorrow.”

–Andrew Bailey threw 18 pitches in an extended spring game in Arizona. Geren said he recorded four outs and allowed one bloop hit. More importantly, Bailey was in the 92-94 mph range with his fastball and used all of his pitches. He’ll be re-evaluated in Oakland on Sunday, and if all goes well, he might begin a true rehab assignment.

The lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Sweeney LF, Willingham DH, DeJesus RF, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennignton SS; Ross RHP.

White Sox – Pierre LF, Ramirez SS, Dunn DH, Konerko 1B, Quentin RF, Rios CF, Castro C, Beckham 2B, Morel 3B; Floyd RHP.

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Intriguing matchup vs. Chisox, Willingham drops suspension appeal and sits

In for Joe Stiglich tonight …

Interesting pitching matchup tonight. Brandon McCarthy goes for the A’s against the White Sox, the team that originally drafted him in 2002 and with whom he made his major-league debut in 2005. He’s only pitched once against them, picking up a win in 2009 while with the Texas Rangers, throwing five innings and allowing one run.

Then there’s the interesting case of Chicago starter Phil Humber. The A’s claimed him off waivers from the Kansas City Royals on Dec. 17, 2010, but when they subsequently acquired Guillermo Moscoso from the Texas Rangers on Jan. 8, 2011, they needed a spot for Moscoso on the 40-man roster and put Humber back on waivers themselves. The White Sox, who one Chicago writer told me  were hot on Humber before the A’s stepped in first, claimed him from Oakland on Jan. 15.

Long story short, Humber made the White Sox rotation and has pitched well. He’s 2-3 with a 2.97 ERA, and in the start before last, he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Yankees. He also pitched seven innings in his last start against Baltimore, allowing just three hits, but took the loss in a 2-1 outcome. Moscoso, meanwhile, is pitching for Triple-A Sacramento and doing decently: he’s 3-2 with a 3.13 ERA in seven appearances, six starts.

A’s news: Josh Willingham dropped the appeal of his one-game suspension, paid an undisclosed fine and is sitting out Friday night. Willingham said he just wanted to be done with it even though he still contends he was innocent of the claim that he bumped umpire Jim Miller in Kansas City last Saturday after being ejected for throwing his helmet after a called third strike. Ryan Sweeney starts in left tonight in Willingham’s place.

Andrew Bailey is scheduled to pitch in an extended spring training game tomorrow in Arizona. If it goes well, he could make a subsequent rehab appearance in Stockton or Sacramento.

Tonight’s lineups:

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

CWS: LF Pierre, SS Ramirez, DH Dunn, 1B Konerko, RF Quentin, C Pierzynski, CF Rios, 3B Vizquel, 2B Beckham. P Humber

1

Rain delay couldn’t come soon enough for A’s

We’re in our second rain delay in as many days in Arlington. The A’s will welcome this one. They’re down 7-0 in the bottom of the fourth, after Gio Gonzalez was tagged for seven earned runs in a nightmarish third inning. He walked four in the inning, including one with the bases loaded, and served up Mitch Moreland’s first career grand slam.

His final line: 2 2/3 IP, 6 hits, 7 earned runs, 5 walks, 1 strikeout. Gonzalez’s troubles finding the strike zone aren’t new — he entered the day averaging 4.12 walks per nine innings, sixth most in the AL. But no one saw this meltdown coming.

The rain is pouring down — way harder than in last night’s delay. The A’s have to be hoping this one just gets canceled. The umpires have the final say, and if the game doesn’t continue today, it will be replayed entirely at a later date. Both teams are off tomorrow, but because the A’s come back to Texas two more times, it’s very unlikely both teams would burn the day off and play tomorrow.

If the game resumes today, it’s shaping up as one extremely flat ending to the A’s six-game road trip.

Here’s a story about Dallas Braden’s upcoming shoulder surgery.

Could the the A’s news be any cheerier today???

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More morning notes — Bailey to pitch in extended spring game Saturday

Here’s some follow-up from pregame …

–Bob Geren said the bullpen move didn’t have to do with the high number of lefty relievers. “It wasn’t a righty/lefty thing, it was strictly a performance thing.” But sending down Jerry Blevins and promoting Trystan Magnuson does give the A’s a more conventional four righty/three lefty split in the relief corps.

The 6-foot-7 Magnuson throws a fastball, slider and cutter, according to Geren. He’s got good velocity and improved his slider with Triple-A Sacramento. He had three saves with the Rivercats to go with a 1.56 ERA in 12 appearances. He struck out 19 and walked nine in 17 1/3 innings, holding opponents to a .138 average. Geren said he’ll try easing Magnuson into some low-pressure situations.

The bigger question here is how long before Joey Devine gets called up. He’s been lights out for Sacramento. In eight games, he’s allowed zero earned runs or walks and struck out 13. “He just needs to keep pitching, keep performing,” Geren said. “When he’s ready, we’ll make that decision.”

More ‘pen news: Andrew Bailey will go to Phoenix and pitch in an extended spring training game Saturday. No word on what the next step would be.

And still no word on Dallas Braden. He was traveling yesterday and Geren said no one from the A’s had spoken to him yet. Geren said head trainer Nick Paparesta had spoken to at least one of the doctors who examined Braden this week, but Geren was waiting for the team to have contact with Braden before releasing any information.

Here’s hoping we get this game in. Forecasts were calling for a 50 percent chance of rain by about 3 p.m. local time …

The lineups:
A’s — Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Jackson RF, Willingham LF, Suzuki C, Matsui DH, LaRoche 3B, Ellis 2B, Pennington SS; Gonzalez LHP.

Rangers — Borbon CF, Blanco SS, Kinsler 2B, Young DH, Moreland 1B, Beltre 3B, Murphy LF, Napoli C, Gentry RF; Harrison LHP.

1

Jerry Blevins sent down, reliever Trystan Magnuson promoted

A morning update for you …

The A’s made a bullpen move, optioning lefty Jerry Blevins to Triple-A Sacramento and calling up right-hander Trystan Magnuson for his major league debut. Magnuson, 25, was acquired along with reliever Danny Farquhar from Toronto for Rajai Davis in November.

This move doesn’t come as a big surprise. Blevins walked 12 in 13 2/3 innings and carried a 4.61 ERA. The move now gives the A’s four right-handed relievers and three lefties. A bit more to come later …

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Rain delay in Texas with A’s trailing Rangers 5-1

UPDATE: The A’s and Rangers are about to resume play at 9:45 p.m. local time, with the A’s batting in the top of the sixth, trailing 5-1.

**************

We have a rain delay here at Rangers Ballpark with Texas leading the A’s 5-1 in the top of the sixth. Cliff Pennington hit a solo homer to right field against Colby Lewis, and the skies immediately opened. Players were called off the field and a huge crash of thunder could be heard just outside the stadium.

If you weren’t tuned in to the game, Brett Anderson didn’t have his best day. He walked four and was pulled after serving up a two-run homer to Adrian Beltre in the bottom of the fifth. Anderson’s totals in two starts against Texas this season: 9 2/3 IP, 15 hits, 11 earned runs, 8 walks, 4 homers.

But … perhaps this delay benefits the A’s. If Lewis ends up getting yanked because of the delay, that leaves it up to Texas’ shaky bullpen to close things out, and there’s still plenty of ballgame left …

Check back soon for an update …

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Bailey’s simulated game goes well, but he still has some discomfort

Can the A’s keep their mojo going against the Rangers? Brett Anderson takes the mound tonight. His only truly poor start of the season came against the Rangers at the Coliseum on April 30, when he allowed three homers and seven earned runs in five innings. Anderson rebounded with a terrific effort against Cleveland on Thursday, going nine innings and allowing two runs in a 12-inning A’s defeat.

–Closer Andrew Bailey threw a simulated game this afternoon, another step in his recovery from a forearm strain that’s sidelined him since spring training. He faced Landon Powell and Kevin Kouzmanoff in a 25-pitch session and said things went well. He was especially happy with the way his offspeed pitches (cutter, curve ball) felt compared to past sessions. A’s manager Bob Geren wasn’t quite so enthusiastic about those pitches, saying Bailey’s offspeed stuff was “decent.” But Geren continued to be optimistic about Bailey’s overall progression from the injury.

So what’s the holdup, you’re probably wondering, with Bailey beginning a minor league assignment? Bailey said he’s still feeling a little discomfort in his arm when he pitches. “I do feel I’m getting there, I do see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “I’m not totally 100 percent. I don’t know how to describe it, the flexor (tendon) issue. It’s not pulling or doing anything violent. It’s just there.” He added: “I think why it’s taking longer than we originally planned is we want to make sure it’s totally gone, so we don’t have to battle this all year long.”

He said he’ll be re-evaluated after the team returns to the Bay Area after Wednesday’s game, and he said he’ll probably require one more simulated game before going on a rehab assignment. We still don’t know how many minor league games he’ll need to pitch in before being activated from the DL, or if one more simulated game will indeed have him ready for that rehab assignment. Stay tuned …

–No word on Dallas Braden’s two doctor appointments, but we could hear more after the game or tomorrow by the latest …

–The A’s continue taking a cautious approach with Coco Crisp. He’s out of the lineup tonight with Ryan Sweeney playing center and making his first appearance as the No. 3 hitter.

The lineups, with Adrian Beltre back for Texas after getting Monday off …

A’s – DeJesus RF, Barton 1B, Sweeney CF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Ellis 2B, LaRoche 3B, Pennington SS; Anderson LHP.

Rangers – Borbon CF, Andrus SS, Kinsler 2B, Young DH, Moreland 1B, Beltre 3B, Murphy LF, Napoli C, Gentry RF; Lewis RHP.

2

Josh Willingham gets one-game suspension, decides to appeal

Checking in from Arlington, where it’s warm but not nearly as hot or humid as it will get later in the summer …

A’s left fielder Josh Willingham was fined and handed a one-game suspension by Major League Baseball for “inappropriate conduct” during his argument with home plate umpire Bill Miller on Saturday that led to his ejection. Willingham has filed an appeal, and he’s eligible to play until a decision on his appeal is handed down. He’s starting in left field tonight in the series opener against the Rangers.

Willingham was unhappy about a called third strike in the eighth inning Saturday and slammed his helmet down, immediately getting the thumb from Miller. During the ensuing argument, Willingham bumped Miller, though he said after Saturday’s game that the contact was accidental, and might have occurred as Miller turned toward him during the argument. The umpire contact was cited in the MLB press release announcing the suspension. And typically, any contact with an umpire draws such a penalty. “I felt like there was contact,” Willingham said Monday. “If they would have just fined me for throwing my helmet I would have been fine. But, you know, I thought the contact wasn’t really initiated by me, so I appealed it.”

A’s manager Bob Geren declined any comment on the suspension, saying he’d let the appeal process play out, but he added that he supported Willingham’s decision to appeal.

Tonight’s lineups:

A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Jackson RF, Willingham LF, Suzuki DH, LaRoche 3B, Ellis 2B, Powell C, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Rangers – Kinsler 2B, Andrus SS, Young 1B, Napoli DH, Murphy LF, Torrealba C, Moreland RF, Davis 3B, Borbon CF; Wilson LHP.

–So the A’s have Willingham for tonight’s game, but DH Hideki Matsui is out of the lineup for the second straight day. The A’s faced a left-hander Sunday in Kansas City’s Jeff Francis and they get another lefty tonight in Texas’ C.J. Wilson. Matsui is hitting just .171 against lefties this season, and he’s 2 for 13 with five strikeouts against Wilson in his career. Geren mentioned Sunday morning that he’d stack his lineup with righties against Wilson, giving an indication that Matsui might sit for two games.

You could question the timing of sitting Matsui considering he was coming off a two-double game Saturday night. And he’s a .302 hitter with six homers and 18 RBIs in 28 career games at Rangers Ballpark. But I wouldn’t say Matsui has been ripping the cover off the ball. Honestly, I’m more surprised that Kevin Kouzmanoff didn’t get the start at third base after homering and going 2 for 4 yesterday. The guy’s been struggling big-time, and yesterday’s game was his best in a while. If you have any thoughts of this guy still being a regular contributor to this team, why not let him try and build on the confidence he must have felt after Sunday’s game? Geren pointed out that Andy LaRoche is hitting lefties really well this season (8 for 19), which is true. But given the circumstances, I would have stuck with Kouzmanoff.

Any thoughts?