By Joe Stiglich
Monday, July 4th, 2011 at 12:57 pm in 2011 regular season.
Here’s the lineups for the opener of the A’s three-game series against the Mariners:
Oak – Weeks 2B, Sizemore 3B, Crisp CF, Matsui DH, Carter 1B, DeJesus RF, Jackson LF, Suzuki C, Pennington SS; McCarthy RHP.
Sea – Ichiro RF, Ryan SS, Kennedy 3B, Smoak 1B, Ackley 2B, Cust DH, Halman CF, Peguero LF, Bard C; Pineda RHP.
–Lost in the hoopla of Gio Gonzalez’s All-Star selection Sunday: The A’s are beginning a block of 11 straight games against the rest of the AL West – three against Seattle, four at Texas, and four against the Angels coming out of the All-Star break. If they’re going to jump back in the division race, the opportunity presents itself over this stretch. And it’s safe to say these 11 games will largely dictate how the A’s operate regarding the trade deadline. If they’re in second or third place and 4-5 games out of first, maybe they keep their team intact. If they lose ground from where they’re at right now (6 games out), I’d expect to see some veterans shipped out.
Typically, we would say the Mariners offer the softest test of the three division opponents. But Seattle has played better than people expected, and the A’s don’t catch a break, facing a 1-2 pitching combo of Michael Pineda and Felix Hernandez in the first two games. Can the A’s, who swung the bats so well Sunday, find a way to break through against these guys?
–Left fielder Josh Willingham (strained Achilles) had a “good day” yesterday, according to manager Bob Melvin. Still no word on when Willingham might come off the DL, but when he does come back, Melvin said he plans to alternate Willingham and Hideki Matsui at the left field/DH spots. It makes sense to limit Willingham’s activity early on, and Matsui has proven a very capable outfielder.
–Reliever Grant Balfour (strained right oblique) is confident he’ll be ready to return from the DL on Thursday when he’s eligible. He threw 38 pitches off the mound Sunday and he’s slated to throw one inning for Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday at Fresno. “I’m ready to go,” Balfour said. “I hate being out and I tried to get ready as quick as I could.”
Melvin said he’s eager to get Balfour back in his eighth-inning role. He likes Joey Devine and Brian Fuentes for the seventh, and Balfour in the eighth setting up for Andrew Bailey.
–I saw Gio Gonzalez trying on his All-Star hat – basically the A’s hat (gold bill) with the All-Star emblem on it. He’ll start Friday against Texas and then would be available on three days’ rest for the July 12 All-Star Game. “I think an inning would be all right on three days’ rest,” Melvin said.