0

A’s rediscover the win column with 7-5 victory over White Sox

Since I didn’t get a chance to blog before the game, here’s a link to the A’s notebook that will appear in Saturday’s paper. The pregame update will return Saturday …

It was a lively A’s clubhouse after a four-run rally in the ninth provided a 7-5 victory over the White Sox that snapped a 10-game losing streak.

A few snippets of what was said:

From new manager Bob Melvin, who got his first win with Oakland:
“Did you see everybody up on the railing (in the ninth)? They did that on their own. At the beginning of the inning, everybody that was on the back of the bench came up on the top rail because everybody had a good feeling about the way we were playing tonight.”

From Scott Sizemore, the hero with a three-run double in the ninth:
“These guys have been through a rough stretch, and I’ve only been here five days now. To get a win, it’s just a great feeling.”

From closer Andrew Bailey, who notched his first save of the season:
“It’s a bit of a relief. Bob Melvin said the past is the past and we’re going to play for today. But somewhere in the back of your head, you know we’ve lost 10 straight. It’s nice to get off that skid and hopefully start a 10-game winning streak.”

15

A’s to promote RHP Graham Godfrey for Friday start

A rapid-fire rundown of the pregame news, as the A’s try to avoid a sweep …

–Right-hander Graham Godfrey will be called up from Triple-A to take Friday’s start in place of Brett Anderson. That will mark the big league debut for Godfrey, 26. He wasn’t a regular invitee to big league spring training, so Godfrey is a bit of an unknown quantity if you haven’t been following the A’s farm system carefully. But I’m told he’s got a decent fastball that used to be around 91 miles per hour but has increased a tick in velocity this season. He also has a nice changeup. Keith Lieppman, the A’s director of player development, compares him a bit to Guillermo Moscoso in his approach. The A’s will have to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Godfrey, but they don’t have to do that until Friday.

–A’s manager Bob Geren said that Hideki Matsui could (emphasis on “could”) be in line for a regular block of playing time soon in an effort to jumpstart his bat. Geren didn’t give a time frame for when that might happen. You’ve noticed that Matsui has essentially become a platoon DH against right-handers. He’s out of the lineup tonight against Orioles lefty Zach Britton. I know there’s a lot of speculation right now about whether the A’s might cut ties with Matsui at some point considering how much he’s struggled. But, based on what Geren is saying, it looks as if Matsui might get a chance to hit his way out of that slump. What exactly that will consist of – a string of consecutive starts against righties and lefties? – I don’t know. Stay tuned on that front …

–Geren also said he’s toyed with the idea of hitting Cliff Pennington second and sliding Daric Barton back down to the sixth spot. It makes sense. Pennington has been one of the A’s best hitters lately, and Barton seemed very comfortable hitting lower in the order. Again, no indication from Geren when such a move might happen. And he only said he was considering it …

–Coco Crisp has another new hairstyle. He’s shaved each side of his head, sort of giving him a Mohawk look. Or a “Mo-Fro,” as I heard someone near the batting cage tell him.

Tonight’s lineups:

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

Orioles – Andino 2B, Markakis RF, Jones CF, Guerrero DH, Lee 1B, Wieters C, Hardy SS, Reynolds 3B, Reimold LF; Britton LHP.

7

Jemile Weeks called up, he’s leading off and playing second base; Mark Ellis, Brett Anderson join DL

We’ve got more roster shuffling for the A’s today, though unlike Monday, none of it comes as much of a surprise. Mark Ellis was placed on the 15-day DL and highly touted prospect Jemile Weeks was called up. The speedy switch hitter is starting at second and batting leadoff tonight in his big league debut. Talk about getting your feet wet in a hurry. Also, left-hander Brett Anderson was placed on the 15-day DL and lefty Bobby Cramer was called up. Cramer is an obvious candidate to start Friday when Anderson’s turn comes up, but manager Bob Geren says only that Cramer is a candidate. He considers Cramer a relief option over the next couple of days (Guillermo Moscoso déjà vu!!!). If it’s not Cramer on Friday, the A’s will have to call somebody up, and no one who’s a realistic candidate at Triple-A Sacramento is on the 40-man roster. That situation will work itself out.

Anderson is scheduled to see a doctor this evening, and Geren had nothing specific to offer about his condition, other than saying it appeared Anderson wouldn’t be able to make his next couple of starts. That’s why he was placed on the DL.

–There’s precious little for A’s fans to get excited about right now, but Weeks’ debut is something to take notice of. He was Oakland’s first-round pick in 2008 (12th overall), but he immediately suffered a hip injury that really sidetracked him for an extended period. He’s been healthy this season and has shown what he’s capable of in his first taste of Triple-A action. Weeks hit .321 with three homers, 22 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 45 games.

It’s read-between-the-lines time. … If the A’s continue to tailspin and Weeks shows promise, you have to think he’ll get an extended look at second base as the season unfolds, even if it comes at the expense of Ellis, who’s been a bedrock of dependability and class for the A’s organization for the past decade. I should note that Geren did not even hint that this scenario was a possibility when he was asked about the topic. But when the going gets tough in the standings, the A’s front office starts thinking young. And Weeks is seen as a dynamic leadoff type whose defensive skills are improving. We’ll see how he looks in this mini-audition …

–Interesting scene during batting practice: A fan with a camera standing near the A’s dugout asked Weeks to stay and pose for a picture. Weeks obliged, freezing for several seconds so the fan could get a shot. Let’s just say Weeks turns into a superstar. Pretty cool story for someone to say they snapped an up-close shot of that player a couple of hours before his big league debut. I wonder if the guy’s friends will believe him?

–I’ll give you the lineups, but first I’ll point out that Ed Harris is throwing out the first pitch here at Camden Yards. Very underrated actor, in my opinion. “Just Cause” is my favorite work of his. Check it out if you haven’t …

A’s – Weeks 2B, Barton 1B, DeJesus RF, Willingham LF, Sweeney CF, Suzuki C, Matsui DH, Sizemore 3B, Pennington SS; Moscoso RHP.

O’s – Hardy SS, Markakis RF, Jones CF, Guerrero DH, Lee 1B, Wieters C, Scott LF, Reynolds 3B, Adams 2B; Jakubauskas RHP.

1

A’s draft Vanderbilt right-hander Sonny Gray

The A’s drafted Vanderbilt right-hander Sonny Gray with their first selection (18th overall) in the amateur draft. It’s the first time the A’s have selected a pitcher with their top pick since 2007, when they went with UC Riverside right-hander James Simmons.

Baseball America’s take on Gray — he’s on the smallish side (5-foot-11) but his fastball can reach 97 mph, usually sitting in the 90-95 mph range. His best pitch is a power curve ball that’s got 12-6 action on it, and he’s got a changeup that’s improved over time. …

3

Kevin Kouzmanoff optioned to Triple-A; Adam Rosales back and starting at third base

There’s been no shortage of A’s news today, and their game against Baltimore hasn’t even started. I’ve been unable to get on Twitter all day, so check here for your updates tonight … Here’s the lowdown on what’s happened …

The A’s shook up their roster Monday afternoon, optioning starting third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff to Triple-A Sacramento along with reliever Fautino De Los Santos.

To take their spots, infielder Adam Rosales was activated from the disabled list and infielder Scott Sizemore was recalled from Sacramento. Rosales is starting at third base in Monday nights’ series opener against the Baltimore Orioles, and A’s manager Bob Geren said Sizemore will also get time there.

The timing of the Kouzmanoff move is somewhat curious because Andy LaRoche, the only other player getting regular time at third base, was designated for assignment Sunday. Kouzmanoff then went out and homered that day against the Red Sox.

“I’m surprised, I didn’t see it coming,” Kouzmanoff said. “But we’ve got Rosales coming up. He’s healthy. That’s just the way it is.”
Kouzmanoff, viewed as a long-term answer at the position when he was obtained from San Diego in January 2010, is hitting just .221 with four homers and 17 RBIs. He’s also committed nine errors, tied for second most among major league third baseman. LaRoche was hitting .247 with no homers and five RBIs.

“The production from that spot has not been there offensively and defensively,” Geren said. “Now we’re going to give someone else a chance to produce in that spot.”

Rosales, who hit .271 with seven homers and 31 RBIs in 80 games last season, has missed all of this season with a fractured right foot. He saw time at all four infield spots last year.

Sizemore was obtained in a trade from Detroit last week for reliever David Purcey. He also has been playing third base at Sacramento.

Kouzmanoff said it was a challenge coming to the park not knowing if he’d be in the lineup every day.

“I feel like you play better walking into that clubhouse every day knowing that you’re going to be in the lineup,” he said.

But he added: “I’m a better baseball player than (what he’s showed). I know it’s in there. It’s a blessing for me to go down, get my work in and find it again.”

The news follows up word earlier Monday that left-hander Brett Anderson is going back to the Bay Area to get his left elbow checked.

Geren declined comment on whether Anderson would miss his next scheduled start Friday against the White Sox, saying only that Anderson was being checked by team doctors.

Geren also announced that Guillermo Moscoso will start Tuesday against the Orioles, with Josh Outman staying on regular rest and pitching Wednesday. Moscoso was needed in relief both Friday and Saturday, giving him just two days’ rest before Tuesday’s start.

2

Andy LaRoche designated for assignment; Geren dealing with a thin bench

Here’s the rundown on A’s news from Fenway this morning …

With reliever Grant Balfour coming off the paternity list, infielder Andy LaRoche was designated for assignment, meaning the A’s have 10 days to trade him, release him or send him to the minors if he clears waivers. Other teams have a shot to pluck him off waivers and just assume his salary.

The move is a reflection of how much the A’s need bullpen depth right now after Saturday’s 14-inning game. Oakland has eight relievers, choosing not to ship a pitcher out to make a roster spot for Balfour. It’s also a sign that infielder Adam Rosales is very close to being activated from the DL. LaRoche even mentioned that he knows Rosales is close to returning, so even without LaRoche, the A’s shouldn’t be without an extra infielder for long. For now, manager Bob Geren said Kevin Kouzmanoff would be his choice to play shortstop if something happened to Cliff Pennington.

–Along with a fatigued bullpen, Geren has a very light bench today. Left fielder Josh Willingham is out of the lineup after injuring his left Achilles tendon on Saturday. Geren lists him as day to day, but he’d like to avoid having to use Willingham. That leaves catcher Landon Powell and Hideki Matsui as the only healthy position players on the bench. It’s no surprise that Geren said he’d be OK using Matsui for outfield duty if it came to that. Geren was asked light-heartedly if he was hoping to avoid extra innings today. “Win in nine,” he said of his preferred plan.

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

Red Sox – Ellsbury CF, Pedroia 2B, Gonzalez 1B, Youkilis 3B, Ortiz DH, Lowrie SS, Crawford LF, Cameron RF, Saltalamacchia C; Lackey RHP.

3

Ryan Sweeney gets a look as No. 2 hitter

All is quiet on the A’s front leading into Game 2 of this three-game set against the Red Sox. Coco Crisp and Kurt Suzuki both have the day off, so David DeJesus leads off and Ryan Sweeney hits second, with Daric Barton in the No. 6 spot again. A’s manager Bob Geren was asked how long he envisions Barton batting lower in the order. “I don’t know,” he said. “I actually like the lineup better when he’s hitting second – when he’s going good. We’ll go day to day. I like the way he swung the bat last night.”

Geren also said he expects Guillermo Moscoso to be fine to start Tuesday after his extended relief stint Friday night. Moscoso threw 40 pitches, which still leaves him an option to go on three days’ rest Tuesday against Baltimore. If Moscoso wasn’t ready for Tuesday, the A’s would probably have to call someone up from the minors, because I don’t see Geren going with Josh Outman on short rest after Outman struggled Friday in his 67-pitch stint.

The lineups:

A’s: DeJesus RF, Sweeney CF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Ellis 2B, Barton 1B, Powell C, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Red Sox: Ellsbury CF, Pedroia 2B, Gonzalez 1B, Youkilis 3B, Ortiz DH, Crawford LF, Lowrie SS, Drew RF, Varitek C; Beckett RHP.

1

Daric Barton returns — hitting sixth

Checking in from Fenway Park, where the A’s begin a 10-game road trip with three against the Red Sox. It’s not an ideal place to play for a team licking its wounds after being swept by the Yankees. However, the A’s are 26-23 against Boston since 2006, the best record vs. the Sox of any team in the American League. Most of that success has come at home, as the A’s are just 4-12 at Fenway over their past 16 games. But they’ve come up with some surprise performances in this park. Josh Outman takes the ball in the opener, and he’s never faced the Red Sox before. Only three hitters in Boston’s lineup have faced him – Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Jarrod Saltlamacchia, so we’ll see if the element of the unknown works in his favor.

–The lineups:

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

Sox: Ellsbury CF, Pedroia 2B, Gonzalez 1B, Youkilis 3B, Ortiz DH, Lowrie SS, Crawford LF, Cameron RF, Saltalamacchia C; Buchholz RHP.

–After sitting for two games, Daric Barton makes his first return to the lineup hitting sixth. It’s his first time hitting anywhere besides the No. 2 spot this season. I’d expect to see him hitting lower for an extended period. David DeJesus is swinging the bat pretty well, and he’s a natural for the second spot. It doesn’t hurt to get Willingham more at-bats right now either, so it makes sense to try him at No. 3. It’s clear from hearing Barton and manager Bob Geren talk that Barton’s slump has largely been mental.

“It’s the same game, just a different spot in the order,” Barton said of the switch. “Maybe it’s a chance to have some more guys on base, hopefully take the thought out of everythying and just go out and play.”

–Hideki Matsui is also back in there. Would it be possible to bring the ex-Yankee back to Fenway and not play him? He’s hit .316 with nine homers and 36 RBIs in 51 games here.

–Reliever Grant Balfour went on paternity leave to be with his wife, Angie, who gave birth to the couple’s first child, daughter Raegan, late Thursday night. Balfour can be away for as many as three days, but Geren said he’s hopeful of having Balfour back by Sunday. Fautino De Los Santos was recalled to take Balfour’s roster spot. And who takes the ball in the ninth inning tonight if there’s a save on the line? “Andrew Bailey,” Geren said without hesitation. Geren says he’s ready to return to the closer’s role, but stopped short of saying Bailey can handle back-to-back outings. That depends on how many pitches Bailey would throw in the first outing, Geren said.

–Rich Harden threw off the mound for the third time today and said he continues to throw well. No timetable for Harden to throw to hitters yet, as he is still throwing strictly fastballs.

–The A’s upcoming starting rotation: Outman tonight, followed by Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez and Guillermo Moscoso (who is being skipped this weekend) on Tuesday at Baltimore.

–All you Adam Rosales fans can start getting excited. It sounds as if the infielder isn’t far away from returning. He’s scheduled to play seven innings at second base tonight for Sacramento. “Once he gets built up to nine innings, obviously that’s the key number we’re looking at,” Geren said. Expect Rosales to see time at third base when he returns … only seems to make sense.

10

Matsui sits again against a right-hander, frustrations mounting

In for Joe Stiglich today, who’s getting an early jump on Boston …

Frustations are building up for the A’s high-profile designated hitter acquisition Hideki Matsui. For starters, he hasn’t been designated the past two days to be in the lineup against his old team, the New York Yankees, even though the Yanks have sent back-to-back right-handed pitchers to the mound, Freddy Garcia on Tuesday night and A.J. Burnett Wednesday afternoon. Matsui went 0-for-3 Monday, dropping his average in May to .197, and he is hitting just .222 with 3 homers and 19 RBIs for the season.

So why isn’t he in the lineup? Bob Geren made it plain and simple: He has better options right now. David DeJesus took two players’ spots Wednesday — he was in Matsui’s DH role and he also was hitting second in Daric Barton’s spot. Barton also got a second consecutive day on the bench.

“I think he’s struggling a little bit right now and we’ve got a couple of other guys swinging the bat pretty good, so I’m just putting some other guys in,” Geren said. “I fully expect him to be fine and contribute and have a fine second half.”
Geren is keeping the faith that Matsui eventually will respond.
 
“Everybody has hot and cold spells,” he said. “I fully expect him to be fine. I’ll get him back in there and I believe he’ll to have a good year for us, I really do. But right now, I’m kind of looking at it day-to-day and we’ve got so many guys who deserve playing time and he understands that. He’s been great about it, a real professional.”
 
Matsui doesn’t argue Geren’s position, but maintained that it’s going to be challenging to work through his slump if he’s not in the lineup. Does it hurt not to be playing against his old teammates? 
“Regardless of whether it’s your former teammates or not, the desire for any player is to be able to play every day,” Matsui said through interpreter Roger Kahlon. “Obviously, realistically, I haven’t been contributing, so it’s a bit disappointing not to be out there.”

Matsui said he’s been in these kinds of slumps before. To wit, he hit under under .184 for Angels last year in May but responded to finish the season hitting .274 with 21 home runs. At this point last year, he had 7 homers along with 27 RBIs. It could be more difficult this year, however, because of the interleague situation and Oakland’s apparent decision not to play him in the outfield. Matsui only pinch-hit when the A’s played in San Francisco. The A’s still have a six-game National League road trip coming up at the end of the month.

 Matsui, who until the past two seasons was never known as a slow starter, said flatly it will be difficult to overcome his hitting troubles if he doesn’t play.

“Obviously, not being able to play is kind of a difficult situation where in order to get out of a slump, you have to play,” he said. “But if you’re not playing, then it’s hard to get out of it. It’s one of those Catch-22 situations.”

Told of Geren’s confidence he will come out of his slump, he said, “I’d like to believe so, too, but in order for the results to come you have to play.”

Matsui was asked if he thought if a continued lack of production might jeopardize his place on the roster.

“As far as the decision of staying on the team, that’s not really my decision,” he said. “But as far as results, that applies to any player, and in order to play in this league, you have to be productive.”

Here are the lineups:

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

Yankees: SS Jeter, CF Granderson, 1B Teixeira, DH Rodriguez, 2B Cano, RF Swisher, C Martin, LF Jones, 3B Nunez. P Burnett