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Jemile Weeks staying as A’s starting second baseman; Mark Ellis to be utility man

We’re in a rain delay at Citi Field. The announcement just came as rain started falling right around the time first pitch was scheduled for. No word yet on when we’ll start. Until then, here’s the pregame update …

The expected news came down that rookie Jemile Weeks will remain the A’s starting second baseman and Mark Ellis will slide into a utility infielder role. Ellis will be an option at first and third base as well as second, manager Bob Melvin said, and he could start at first as soon as Thursday.

Ellis is handling the news extremely well and saying all the right things, which isn’t surprising considering what a class act he is. “I wasn’t bracing myself,” Ellis said. “I’ve been in (Weeks’) position before. I’ve been that guy before. So I wasn’t bracing myself. But watching him play, I’m proud of him. He’s done a great job, and he’s my teammate.”

At the same time, reading between the lines, I get the feeling Ellis would welcome a trade if it meant going somewhere to be a starting second baseman. “I still see myself as playing second base every day,” Ellis said. “We’ll see what happens there as far as wherever.” Ellis said he has a no-trade clause that allows him to veto a trade to six teams, but didn’t say who they are. I’ve been told by another trustworthy source that the Giants are not one of the six teams. Even with Daric Barton going down to the minors and Conor Jackson being the regular first baseman, the A’s still have two right-handed hitting utility infielders in Ellis and Adam Rosales (Melvin said Rosales will serve as the backup shortstop and not Ellis).

Melvin commended Ellis for how well he took the news, and that Ellis took all the tension out of the conversation when the two talked.

–In other news, left fielder Josh Willingham was scheduled to test his sore Achilles’ tendon by running. That’s the main hurdle for Willingham to clear before he returns to the lineup. He’s OK hitting, he said. If Willingham can’t play Thursday, Melvin said Jackson likely would go to left field and Ellis might play first.

–As things currently stand, Melvin said he envisions Hideki Matsui getting two starts in left field against Philadelphia this weekend, though that depends a lot on Willingham’s availability.

–One man who’s still the odd man out of playing time — David DeJesus. With Jackson playing first, that relieves a bit of the outfield logjam. But you saw how Ryan Sweeney played last night — four hits and a sliding catch in right-center. It’s hard to take that guy out of the lineup right now. DeJesus, like Ellis, is taking his situation very well. “To hang my head and be miserable, the season is way too long to be like that every day,” DeJesus said.

The lineups:
A’s — Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Crisp CF, Matsui LF, Jackson 1B, Sweeney RF, Suzuki C, Sizemore 3B, Gonzalez LHP.

Mets — Reyes SS, Turner 3B, Beltran RF, Bay LF, Hairston CF, Paulino C, Duda 1B, Tejada 2B, Dickey RHP.

7

Gold jerseys make the trip east as A’s open series with Mets

Checking in from Citi Field, where the A’s provided a surprise by taking the field in their gold jerseys. They won five in a row in them at home, but because the golds are considered “alternate home” jerseys, no one expected to see them on the road. They weren’t hanging in the lockers before the game, and a team official told me they could be shipped in but had yet to arrive. Perhaps they arrived last-minute, like a player flying in from Triple-A Sacramento. Green hats, gold jerseys, gray pants … interesting to say the least. …

–Manager Bob Melvin wouldn’t say what role Mark Ellis would play when he’s activated from the disabled list Wednesday. But he was asked if he considers Jemile Weeks his starting second baseman even after Ellis returns. “Sure. If Jemile is here, he’s going to play some. He’s played well to this point.” So that’s the most definitive statement we’ve gotten on the future of the second base position.

Unless Josh Willingham is put on the DL with his Achilles’ tendon injury – and considering Melvin hopes to have him back Thursday, that seems unlikely – someone has to go to the minors to make room for Ellis. Adam Rosales? Daric Barton? Those are the two most likely candidates in my mind. Melvin pointed out that Rosales can play every infield position, but that other players on the roster can also fill the backup infielder role, including Scott Sizemore. Does that point to Rosales going down? Tough to say. Barton is not starting today, and he’s obviously fallen down the totem pole in terms of playing time. And the A’s have other potential first basemen in Conor Jackson and Rosales. Lots of intrigue surrounding this decision …

The lineups:

A’s – Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Crisp CF, Matsui LF, Jackson 1B, Sweeney RF, Suzuki C, Sizemore 3B, Outman LHP.

Mets – Reyes SS, Turner 3B, Beltran RF, Murphy 1B, Pagan CF, Bay LF, Paulino C, Tejada 2B, Gee RHP.

4

A’s to get creative during Willingham’s absence

It’s Dan Brown tonight filling in for Joe Stiglich. The last time I covered an A’s game, Jimmy Haynes was pitching. Have I missed anything? Anyway, here are a few pre-game notes as well as tonight’s starting lineup.

Pre-game notes

With injured left fielder Josh Willingham out a few days, Hideki Matsui will spend more time with his glove than expected.

Manager Bob Melvin said Saturday that Matsui could play “multiple games” in left field if Willingham remains sidelined during the A’s upcoming road games against the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies.
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5

Rickey Henderson’s take on Jemile Weeks, and A’s injury updates

There’s a good turnout for batting practice before tonight’s Bay Bridge Series opener, so I’d expect to see a packed house by first pitch. …

–Rickey Henderson is in town to work with some of the A’s top base runners. “I think now that we really wanna run a little more, I’ll come up and see what I can do for them,” said Henderson, who has worked extensively with the A’s minor league teams since the start of last season. Henderson worked with Jemile Weeks plenty at the Double-A level and thinks a young player with Weeks’ ability provides a spark for an entire team. “I think he’s exciting,” Henderson said. “Usually you get a guy like that just coming up to the big leagues, he’s got a little fire in him. He’s a little hyper out there. It seems like the team picks something up.”

Manager Bob Melvin likes the idea of former A’s greats coming around the team more often. I’m not surprised to hear that, knowing Melvin is a big Bay Area sports fan going back to his childhood. It’s interesting to hear Melvin sound off on that topic. He also has a strong position on the Oakland Coliseum itself, saying he wants his players to embrace the venue and think of it as a true home field advantage. It certainly runs counter to the prevailing thought (inside and outside the organization) that the Coliseum is a severe handicap for the franchise.

–Updates on some wounded Athletics: Second baseman Mark Ellis is scheduled to play three rehab games for Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. He’s eligible to come off the DL on Wednesday, though Melvin still is not tipping his hand on how he’ll handle second base once that happens. One direction the A’s could go is to option struggling first baseman Daric Barton to the minors, allowing the team to keep Weeks and Ellis on the big league roster. Conor Jackson and Adam Rosales could split first base, Rosales could still serve as a utility infielder and perhaps even Ellis could back up at different infield spots, assuming the A’s wanted to keep Weeks playing every day.

Rich Harden will pitch for Sacramento on Monday in his first rehab outing. Brandon McCarthy will face hitters for the first time in batting practice Saturday. Tyson Ross threw off the mound Friday.

Here’s your lineups:

A’s: Crisp CF, Pennington SS, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, Jackson 1B, DeJesus RF, Suzuki C, Sizemore 3B, Weeks 2B; Godfrey RHP.

Giants: Torres CF, Hall 2B, Sandoval 1B, Huff DH, Ross LF, Schierholtz RF, Tejada 3B, Crawford SS, Stewart C; Lincecum RHP.

1

Willinghams to hold silent auction Friday for tornado relief

Just a heads-up that A’s left fielder Josh Willingham and his wife, Ginger, are holding a silent auction of “player gift baskets” during Friday night’s game against the Giants, with proceeds going to relief efforts for those affected by the recent tornadoes that ripped through the South. Basket items include gift certificates, signed items and other memorabilia. The auction will be held behind section 121 from the time gates open until the fifth inning.

1

Hideki Matsui will see time in right field against Mets, Phillies

****It’s a picturesque day at the Coliseum, where the A’s just finished taking infield before the series finale against the Royals.

–The big news of the morning: Hideki Matsui will get some outfield time – in right field – during the upcoming interleague series against the Mets and Phillies, when no DH will be available in National League parks. It’s no big shock that Matsui will dust off his glove – he’s been hitting better and A’s manager Bob Melvin wants to keep his bat in the lineup as much as possible. But everyone assumed Matsui would play left field, where he’s seen most of his defensive innings in the major leagues. According to baseball-reference.com, Matsui has played just seven games in right field in the bigs, with his last start there coming in April 2008. But you figure Melvin probably doesn’t want to uproot Josh Willingham, his cleanup hitter who’s played left field all season. At any rate, Matsui has been getting outfield work during batting practice. Melvin talked to Matsui about his plan for him during interleague play, and he said Matsui is on board. “His routine is as a DH, and if it was just (one) three-game series, I might keep him like that,” Melvin said. “But I’m open to give him (an outfield) start in each series.” The A’s play a three-game road set against the Mets starting Tuesday, followed by three against the Phillies in Philadelphia.

–Are you wondering where Adam Rosales fits in the third base mix right now? Scott Sizemore has been the regular guy there, and Rosales said Melvin has told him he views Rosales more in a utility role right now. Melvin did say that Rosales would start at third Saturday against Giants lefty Jonathan Sanchez, and he realizes Rosales is the odd man out and wants to find playing time for him whenever possible.

Today’s lineups:

A’s – Crisp CF, Pennington SS, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, Jackson RF, Sizemore 3B, Suzuki C, Barton 1B, Weeks 2B; Gonzalez LHP.

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

1

Back to basics for Kurt Suzuki; Coco Crisp sits with bruised heel

Covering the A’s feels a little like spring training to me right now. With manager Bob Melvin still new on the job, everything he says or does seems newsworthy simply because it’s fresh. … The drills taking place on the infield before batting practice today were certainly unique. Kurt Suzuki was out at second base, taking throws from first baseman Conor Jackson with his catcher’s mitt and appearing to work on popping out of a crouch and getting ready to throw. Infield coach Mike Gallego was throwing soft toss to Landon Powell, who was swinging away at home plate and hitting sharp grounders to Jackson. It all looked like one coordinated multi-tasking drill. Suzuki was getting some catcher’s work in (Melvin and Joel Skinner, another ex-catcher, were working with him); Jackson was fielding grounders and making throws to second; and Powell was getting some hacks in. …

–More on Suzuki: With the starting pitching struggles and inconsistent hitting, it’s easy to lose sight that Suzuki is really struggling. He’s hitting just .184 over his last 23 games and he’s thrown out just four of his last 34 base stealers. He’s out of the lineup for the second time in three games, and Melvin said the pre-game work was geared toward throwing fundamentals and footwork behind the plate. “It’s footwork stuff, keeping himself closed. … I think at times he tries to be too quick. Sometimes you can get a little out of sync. We wanted to get back to basics, keeping his shoulder closed.”

–Rich Harden threw the equivalent of two innings in a simulated game. He faced Ryan Sweeney, Mark Ellis, Landon Powell and Adam Rosales and gave up (by the unofficial press box count) one single with three strikeouts. I haven’t talked to Harden yet, but Melvin said he looked good. Melvin wasn’t sure if another simulated game or a rehab assignment would be next.

–Coco Crisp is sitting tonight with a bruised heel, but Melvin didn’t believe it to be serious.

The lineups:
A’s – DeJesus RF, Pennington SS, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, Sweeney CF, Sizemore 3B, Barton 1B, Powell C, Weeks 2B; Outman LHP.

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

1

Melvin gives O.co Coliseum much-needed love, pitcher injury updates, Matsui

 In for Joe Stiglich tonight …

Bob Melvin conducted his first home introductory press conference Tuesday night by promptly pouring some praise on the oft-bashed Coliseum. Obviously, owner Lew Wolff didn’t brief him on what to say.

 Melvin said he did his daily run around the ballpark and memories started flashing back, like the time he was 15 years old and took in a Day On The Green.

“The Who and The Dead,” he recalled. “The Who never encored and they encored that day — Johnny B. Goode. When they left, I them remember standing up in the right-field bleachers looking down at the crowd. That was one of the things that popped into my head today.”

Melvin said he attended many events at the Coliseum, both in the stadium and the arena, while he was growing up in Palo Alto. Most people agree it was a fine place then, but now?

“I still think it is,” he said. “The field’s terrific. I like this place. Maybe I’m biased because I grew up here, but I like older ballparks, I like ballparks with history. Got a few World Series in this ballpark as well that I’ve been to. People talk about this not being a great ballpark, but I’m biased. I kind of like it.”

And he wants his players to like it, too. He doesn’t want them thinking about an escape to a new yard.

“As far as the ballpark goes, until there’s a decision on that, I’m fine with playing here,” Melvin said. “I know there are a lot of people have different outlooks on that, but in my position, you play the cards that are dealt and that’s playing in this ballpark right now. I don’t want myself thinking, `We have to get in another ballpark.’ I want this club thinking this ballpark’s an advantage to them.”

Even Lew Wolff?

“Well, I haven’t talked to Lew,” he admitted. “I think he would understand my rhetoric, because we play here, and I want my team to feel good about playing here. If we have that conversation, I probably won’t let you know how it goes, to tell you the truth.”

————————

Brandon McCarthy and Tyson Ross both threw bullpen sessions Tuesday. McCarthy threw 45 pitches and said he felt great. Ross threw 30 pitches and said he’s totally pain-free from the oblique injury that landed him on the DL. And dare you get excited about Rich Harden? Melvin said Harden’s ahead of both Ross and McCarthy. He’ll pitch a simulated game Wednesday, and if he comes out of that well, will likely get a rehab assignment in Stockton or Sacramento.

“I feel the last few times I’ve been on the mound, I could have done more,” Harden said. “So I’m pretty excited.”

——————-

Hideki Matsui said he’s working hard in the outfield and is essentially ready to go when the A’s play interleague games in NL parks. Melvin said he’s still undecided on whether he’ll make that move, but is dead set on Matsui remaining in the No. 3 hole.

 ”I was a little uncomfortable with rotating that third spot,” Melvin said. “I think it’s a significant position and it’s a psychological position. If you’re rotating guys in and out of the three-spot who aren’t playing every day, what are you saying about your lineup?”

Melvin said he’s intent on letting role players and bullpen guys what’s expected of them well ahead of a day they might be expected to play.

“I can tell from my experience as a player and a guy who didn’t play every day, it worked a lot better for me when I knew when I was going to play,” he said. “It worked a lot better for me when I knew I had something to prepare for and had a chance to go in there and be successful. It’s easy for the every-day players, they know when they’re going to play, all you have to do is tell them when they’re not going to play. It’s the role players and the bench players who need the communication the most, and to an extent, the guys in the bullpen knowing what their roles are.”

Tonight’s lineup:

A’s: CF Crisp, SS Pennington, DH Matsui, LF Willingham, RF Jackson, 3B Sizemore, C Suzuki, 1B Barton, 2B Weeks. P Cahill

KC: LF Gordon, CF Cabrera, 1B Hosmer, RF Francoeur, DH Butler, 3B Moustakas, C Treanor, 2B Getz, SS Escobar. P Duffy  

 

6

A long and eventful road trip draws to a close

The A’s will fly back to Oakland tonight after wrapping up a 10-game road trip. Think back to how different things will be from the last time they took the field at the Coliseum. A new manager in the dugout … Cliff Pennington batting second … Hideki Matsui batting third (though not today). It’s been an interesting trip to say the least …

–We just took in a pretty rare sight at U.S. Cellular Field. The A’s took a full infield practice, which is common before spring training games but unusual for major league teams during the regular season. Manager Bob Melvin said he’d like to have the team take infield on days there’s no batting practice on the field. “I’ve always been a proponent of infield, especially on days you hit in the cage,” Melvin said. “I don’t want the first ball of the day that you see being the first hit ball (in a game). You work all spring long on team defense, work as a unit on team defense, every day. It’s a priority. Then you get into season and you never do it.”

–A day after saying Matsui will be his regular No. 3 hitter, Melvin is batting Matsui fourth. That’s because Josh Willingham’s left Achilles tendon is acting up again, so the regular cleanup man is out of the lineup. Melvin expects to go back to the 3-4 combo of Matsui and Willingham for Tuesday’s homestand opener against Kansas City.

–The starting rotation is being tweaked with Monday’s day off. Trevor Cahill, Josh Outman and Gio Gonzalez will pitch Tuesday-Thursday in the Royals series, which keeps Cahill and Gonzalez on their regular rest. Graham Godfrey is being skipped, but Melvin said he’ll slot in somewhere in the next series against the Giants. Guillermo Moscoso, today’s starter, would set up to pitch Friday’s Bay Bridge series opener if he stays on his regular turn.

The lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, Pennington SS, Sweeney LF, Matsui DH, DeJesus RF, Barton 1B, Sizemore 3B, Powell C, Weeks 2B; Moscoso RHP.

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

1

Hideki Matsui will get crack as No. 3 hitter

Another day, another sign of Bob Melvin putting his stamp on the A’s. Here’s the lineups …

A’s – Crisp CF, Pennington SS, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, Jackson RF, Sizemore 3B, Suzuki C, Barton 1B, Weeks 2B; Gonzalez LHP.

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

Melvin said he’s using this four-game series against Chicago to experiment with personnel, and he told players that by the start of the homestand, they’ll have a pretty good understanding of where they fit in the playing rotation. One thing that’s already determined: Melvin wants Hideki Matsui batting third and plans to keep him there for a while.

“If you keep running guys in and out of (the third spot), or even guys that aren’t playing everyday, I think psychologically it might play into, ‘Well, maybe we’re not as good offensively as we think we are,’ Melvin said. “I’d like to have a little more of a set lineup, especially in the middle, and rely on those guys and have confidence in those guys.”

And what is it about Matsui (and his .222 batting average) that Melvin likes in the third spot? “He’s a veteran, you know, a guy we need to lean on, and he’s had two very good games,” Melvin said. “It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen every day, but I feel good with a guy like him hitting in that spot.”

It’s early to draw conclusions, but Matsui does seem energized since Melvin took over from Bob Geren. And it’s clear that Melvin is a believer that instilling confidence in a player has a direct effect on performance. He said he plans to work backup catcher Landon Powell into the mix more, in order to keep Kurt Suzuki fresh but also to utilize Powell’s talents. “I want everyone to be a part of it,” Melvin said. “This is certainly a 25-man roster and everybody feeling good and being a part of it is much more powerful than 17 guys, or whatever it may be.”

–David DeJesus is sitting for the second straight day. Melvin said DeJesus will start Sunday but added that the right field spot will be the toughest to divide up playing time between DeJesus, Conor Jackson and Ryan Sweeney.