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Does getaway day success bode well for A’s?

The A’s are 9-4 in day games and 8-2 in the last game of a series. So are good things in store for Oakland in this afternoon’s series finale against the Royals? They need to rebound after last night’s deflating loss. Tyson Ross takes the hill coming off strong starts in his previous two outings. … It’s a warm afternoon in Kansas City, but there’s a pretty strong breeze blowing, so I’d think the heat shouldn’t be too much of a factor.

–Hideki Matsui is sitting against Royals lefty Jeff Francis, and reading through the lines during Bob Geren’s pregame media session, Matsui could sit Monday as well. Geren said he’d stack his lineup with right-handed hitters against Texas lefty C.J. Wilson. Matsui is hitting .275 against right-handers, .171 vs. lefties. Last night, his two doubles were one of the few offensive bright spots for the A’s. But they both came with the bases empty.

–Kevin Kouzmanoff is starting at third for the second straight day. He’s 9 for 20 w/two homers against Francis. “When you’re trying to get somebody going, there’s nothing better than doing it with a guy he’s had success against in the past,” Geren said.

–Conor Jackson is back in the lineup at left field, with Josh Willingham the DH. I didn’t mention it in this morning’s stories, but Jackson’s left shoulder apparently was bothering him more than he let on after his collision at first base Friday night. Geren said after that game that he was planning to give Jackson a day off Saturday anyway, but it sounds as if Jackson needed a day to recover. “We’re very fortunate it wasn’t anything more serious,” Geren said.

–You’ll see lots of A’s players swinging pink bats today to raise awareness for breast cancer on Mother’s Day. And pitcher Brandon McCarthy will be wearing pink cleats. McCarthy is the only Athletic who wears Under Armour cleats, the official cleat of Major League Baseball. According to A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich, only players contracted with Under Armour can wear the pink cleats. Too bad McCarthy isn’t pitching today. It’s an interesting look …

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

Royals – Getz 2B, Cabrera DH, Gordon LF, Francoeur RF, Hosmer 1B, Betemit 3B, Maier CF, Pena C, Escobar SS; Francis LHP.

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Dallas Braden to get 2nd, 3rd opinions on shoulder; Andrew Bailey has another good day

The lowdown from Kauffman Stadium, as Tommy Lasorda is in the house (or on the field) as the A’s take batting practice. …

–Andrew Bailey threw a 30-pitch batting practice session and, for the first time, threw all of his pitches – fastball, curve, cutter, changeup. Manager Bob Geren said he looked good, as did Kevin Kouzmanoff, one of the hitters facing him. And Bailey said he felt good. His road back to the 25-man roster continues gradually. Next up will be a simulated game, which is different from throwing live BP – no protective screen in front of the mound, a count will be kept. It’s more of game situation. Bailey estimates he’ll throw “1 or 2” more times before heading off on a rehab assignment, but consider everything written in pencil.

–Dallas Braden will get a second and third opinion on his shoulder in the next few days. He’ll be examined by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., on Monday. Then he’ll see Dr. David Altchek, the Mets team doctor, in New York on Tuesday.

Tonight’s lineups on a perfect night for baseball in Kansas City:

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

Royals – Getz 2B, Cabrera CF, Gordon LF, Butler DH, Francoeur RF, Hosmer 1B, Aviles 3B, Treanor C, Escobar SS; Hochevar RHP.

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Conor Jackson gets another start at first base for A’s; Kevin Kouzmanoff back at third

It’s early May, and the Royals are 17-14 and in second place in the AL Central. That has people talking in Kansas City after this franchise has struggled for so long. But the real buzz as the A’s begin a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium is the major league debut of Royals top prospect Eric Hosmer. The left-handed hitting first baseman wasn’t supposed to reach the bigs until later this season. But he mashed at Triple-A and the Royals believe he’s ready. Hosmer, 21, was the third overall pick in the 2008 draft. He’s the crown jewel from Kansas City’s loaded farm system, and it should be entertaining to watch him take his hacks against lefty Gio Gonzalez.

The A’s could use some exciting new blood in their batting order. For now, Oakland fans will have to settle for tonight’s intriguing lineup. Conor Jackson draws his second start in three games at first base in place of Daric Barton. Ryan Sweeney’s five-hit game Thursday buys him a start in left field, with Josh Willingham sitting. Andy LaRoche spells Cliff Pennington at shortstop and Kevin Kouzmanoff returns to third base after riding the bench for five games. A’s manager Bob Geren says no one is out of the lineup for health reasons. “Everybody’s healthy. That’s why I’m continuing to mix guys in to keep everybody healthy and everybody fresh,” Geren said.

I don’t read too much into Willingham sitting, but it’s interesting to see Jackson getting another start at first base, particularly against a right-hander. Geren is looking for ways to keep Jackson’s bat in the lineup, and Barton is hitting .204 with six RBIs in 31 games. If Jackson keeps hitting, might he get more time at first? Right now, I like him in the No. 3 spot with David DeJesus batting second.

–A team spokesman said there was no more news on Dallas Braden, so we can assume he has yet to get that second opinion on his injured shoulder.

–It’s a big night for DeJesus, who returns to Kansas City for the first time after spending the previous seven-plus seasons with the Royals. He held a pregame press conference but then had no idea how to find his way from the interview room to the visitor’s dugout. He never spent much time on the visitor’s side of this stadium until tonight …

The lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, DeJesus RF, Jackson 1B, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Sweeney LF, LaRoche SS, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B; Gonzalez LHP.

Royals – Aviles 2B, Cabrera CF, Gordon LF, Butler DH, Francoeur RF, Hosmer 1B, Betemit 3B, Treanor C, Escobar SS; O’Sullivan RHP.

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No word on Dallas Braden yet; a little bullpen discussion

I tried posting this about an hour ago, but I guess it didn’t take … So here’s your pregame update, a little later than I hoped …

It’s an unusually warm night at the Coliseum. If it stays that way, might the ball be flying out of the park? A’s starter Trevor Cahill has allowed just one homer in six starts. Indians starter Josh Tomlin has allowed five homers over five starts. Both are 4-0, so we’ve got a good pitching matchup …

–The A’s haven’t released any information yet on Dallas Braden’s appointment with Dr. Lewis Yocum. We might get word after the game. But the A’s have to at least be encouraged by what they’ve seen from Tyson Ross in three starts subbing for Braden.

–Closer Andrew Bailey threw live batting practice for the first time since going on the disabled list and looked sharp, according to Geren. He’s still throwing only fastballs off the mound, and Geren said Bailey would probably throw live BP again before deciding his next step.

As the games tick away, it’s becoming clear how crucial a healthy return from Bailey is to the A’s chances this season. This bullpen has depth – better depth than many relief corps in the majors – but Oakland is vulnerable in the late innings, as Brian Fuentes’ struggles Tuesday night indicated. Fuentes was pitching in his fourth game in five days, and he admitted that he was a bit fatigued on the mound. Geren’s use of his bullpen is a hot topic among A’s fans, and for good reason. I didn’t have a problem with Geren calling on Fuentes last night. To me, the issue goes back to Sunday, when Fuentes was brought in during the ninth with two runners on and the A’s leading by five runs. That was a game where it wasn’t necessary to go to him, and therefore Fuentes had nothing in the tank Tuesday when called upon for the third day in a row.

–Conor Jackson draws the start at first base, with Daric Barton getting a day off. Good call … You gotta keep Jackson’s bat in there right now, and Barton is hitting .127 over his past 16 games. For those wondering if Jackson is an option at third base, he takes grounders there pretty regularly. But he’s got virtually no experience at the position as a professional, and Geren says he wouldn’t consider giving Jackson a start there right now.

The lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, DeJesus RF, Jackson 1B, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Powell C, Ellis 2B, LaRoche 3B, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Indians – Sizemore CF, A. Cabrera SS, Choo RF, Santana C, Hafner DH, O. Cabrera 2B, Brantley LF, LaPorta 1B, Hannahan 3B; Tomlin RHP.

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Uh-oh, Braden headed for more shoulder tests

  In for Joe Stiglich tonight …
Not good news for pitcher Dallas Braden, who will make a return visit to Los Angeles orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum Wednesday for more extensive tests on his troubled left shoulder.

Braden, who has on the disabled list since April 18 after being removed from a game two days earlier with shoulder issues, was examined by Yocum on April 20 and told he simply had inflammation and no structural damage.

With that diagnosis, it was thought that rest would alleviate the issues. But when Braden’s throwing session to test the shoulder Monday did not go well, the A’s determined he should be examined again.

“I’m not positive what tests they’re going to do,” said manager Bob Geren “But to get re-examined, I’m sure they’ll look further into secondary things.”

Braden was not at the park Tuesday night to comment on his situation. Suffice it to say he’s probably very worried.

——

Closer Andrew Bailey, out since spring training with right forearm strain, will face live hitters for the first time prior to tonight’s game.

“He’ll probably throw just fastballs,” Geren said. “He’s been throwing his offspeed pitches on flat ground, but as far as I know he hasn’t taken that onto the mound yet. He’s close to full velocity pretty much.”

Asked if he thought Bailey might make it back in May if he didn’t have any setbacks, the manager said, “It’s possible. It depends on how everything goes and when he actually gets into a (rehab) game. Once he gets into a game, we’ll have a better idea of when he’ll be back.”

——-

Utility man Andy LaRoche made his fourth consecutive start, his third straight at third base. But Geren stopped short saying LaRoche was the starter at third base for the time being in place of Kevin Kouzmanoff, who’s hitting just .208 after a strong spring.

“I’m just playing (LaRoche) right now because he’s swinging the bat really well,” Geren said. “I’m giving Kouz time to keep working. He’ll get back in there, too. Everybody will get their opportunities.”

LaRoche entered the game with the best average of any A’s hitter at .341 (14-for-41) with three straight games in which he collected a pair of hits.

Coco Crisp is also back in the lineup tonight, while Mike Sweeney spells Josh Willingham, whom the A’s don’t want playing too many games in a row after a recent minor back issue.

—–

The A’s have named Mike Henriques as interim strength and conditioning coach replacing Bob Alejo, who accepted a strength and conditioning position at North Carolina State.

Henriques was hired in November as the A’s minor league strength and conditioning coordinator after five years in the San Diego Padres organization.

——

Why are the Indians the best team in baseball at the moment at 19-8? A few reasons. They’re hitting .272 to their opponents’ .239. They’ve clubbed 34 homers, opponents just 18. Over the last 25 games, Indians starters are 13-3 with a 2.92 ERA. The lineup is hitting .319 with runners in scoring position.

Suffice it to say this will be a telltale trip for Cleveland, which in recent years hasn’t fared well on the West Coast. In fact, they’ve lost nine of their last 10 series in Oakland and are 8-23 here dating back to 2003.

The lineups:

OAK–CF Crisp, 1B Barton, RF DeJesus, DH Matsui, C Suzuki, LF Sweeney, 2B Ellis, 3B LaRoche, SS Pennington. P Ross

CLE–CF Sizemore, SS A. Cabrera, RF Choo, C Santana, DH Duncan, 1B LaPorta, LF Brantley, 3B Hannahan, 2B Everett. P Carmona.  

 

 

 

 

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Coco Crisp out of the lineup again, A’s say it’s precautionary

It’s a perfect afternoon for baseball at the Coliseum. I have no idea what kind of crowd will show up today, a rare non-holiday Monday afternoon game. But it’s a potentially big game for the A’s no matter how many people witness it. Taking a four-game series from Texas, the AL West favorites, would provide a healthy dose of momentum. And that could be helpful considering the surprising Cleveland Indians – with a majors-best 19-8 record – roll into town Tuesday for a three-game series.

–After a big game yesterday, Coco Crisp is back out of the lineup. A’s manager Bob Geren said the team is treating Crisp’s sore quadriceps carefully. “We’re just being cautious with him,” Geren said. “We’re monitoring how the game goes. He had high exertion yesterday with a lot of running, and we have to be cautious.” With a night game tomorrow following today’s day game, Geren said the thinking was that Crisp could get a bit of extra rest and be ready for Tuesday’s series opener with Cleveland. Crisp played down the situation. “I’m perfectly fine,” he told me. “It’s just a day off. I’m not quite 100 percent.” Geren added that Crisp was available off the bench if needed.

Does it concern you that Crisp is sitting again? Judging by how he played yesterday, the leg can’t be bothering him too much. If occasional rest now is going to help him be ready to play regularly for the long haul, it’s probably a smart idea.

–David DeJesus is playing center field in place of Crisp, with Conor Jackson getting another start in right. I asked Geren if he considered playing Ryan Sweeney in center since DeJesus has struggled a bit hitting. Geren said Sweeney would get some playing time soon with the A’s facing a string of right-handed starters coming up.

–Other injury updates: Andrew Bailey will pitch to hitters for the first time Wednesday, and Dallas Braden played catch this morning, but we didn’t get a report on him yet.

The lineups:
A’s – Ellis 2B, Barton 1B, Jackson RF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, DeJesus CF, LaRoche 3B, Pennington SS; McCarthy RHP.

Rangers – Andrus SS, Moreland 1B, Young 2B, Beltre DH, Cruz RF, Murphy LF, Davis 3B, Teagarden C, Borbon CF; Holland LHP.

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Andrew Bailey’s return is still down the road; Coco Crisp back in A’s lineup

Here’s the pregame lowdown from the Coliseum, as the A’s try to rebound from Saturday’s shellacking …

–As you’ve noticed, the news has been vague on closer Andrew Bailey ever since he’s been on the disabled list. It remains that way, though we got a little more detail today. Bailey threw another bullpen session this morning, and if he comes out of it OK, he’ll throw a batting practice session in a few days, possibly Wednesday. Manager Bob Geren said Bailey likely would throw a simulated game after that, and then the A’s would decide when he begins a minor league rehab assignment. How many outings would he need to be ready to join the major league club? “I don’t really know how many appearances I’ll need before pitching in the big leagues, but I’d say a few since I really didn’t have a spring training,” Bailey said. It’s easy to forget that Bailey pitched in just two exhibitions before suffering his forearm strain.

Long story short, it’s going to be at least two weeks before Bailey rejoins the A’s bullpen. So it’s up to Brian Fuentes and the other relievers to hold down the fort until then. Going hand in hand with that, the A’s would really benefit from their starters continuing to pitch deep in games. Entering today, Oakland’s starters were tied for fourth in the majors in innings pitched (172 2/3).

–Coco Crisp returns to the leadoff spot after missing three games with tightness in his left quadriceps. David DeJesus is sitting against left-hander Matt Harrison and DH Hideki Matsui was dropped to the sixth spot. Andy LaRoche, despite a shaky day defensively Saturday at second base, gets a start at third in place of Kevin Kouzmanoff.

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

Rangers – Kinsler 2B, Andrus SS, Young DH, Beltre 3B, Cruz LF, Napoli 1B, Murphy CF, Torrealba C, Moreland RF; Harrison LHP.