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Josh Willingham, Grant Balfour return from DL; Guillermo Moscoso optioned to minors; Coco Crisp batting second vs. Rangers

There was lots of pregame activity for the A’s today. Let’s get to it …

–Josh Willingham and Grant Balfour were both activated from the DL, with pitchers Guillermo Moscoso and Graham Godfrey being optioned to Triple-A Sacramento. Yes, it’s awkward timing for Moscoso to go down given the gem he threw Wednesday. But there’s a plan behind this: The A’s want all the bullpen reinforcements they can have for this four-game series in homer-happy Rangers Ballpark. Moscoso would have been unavailable all weekend. “They need fresh arms,” Moscoso said. He also said he’s been told that he’ll pitch July 14 for Triple-A Sacramento, and that – tentatively – the plan is for him to return to the major league rotation July 19 and start at Detroit. Moscoso knows nothing is set in stone. A’s manager Bob Melvin confirmed the A’s are eyeing July 19 for Moscoso’s return to the rotation. That’s no guarantee, but Melvin acknowledged Moscoso is the front runner. “You guys have seen him pitch, he deserves to be a front runner,” Melvin said. That seems to indicate the A’s might be eyeing Tyson Ross as a reliever when he gets healthy, assuming Ross rejoins the major league roster when he comes off the DL.

The A’s want Godfrey to stretch back out again and be ready if he’s needed as a starter or long reliever.

–The lineups:

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

Rangers: Kinsler 2B, Andrus SS, Hamilton LF, Beltre 3B, Young DH, Cruz RF, Moreland 1B, Napoli C, Chavez CF; Holland LHP.

–Melvin dropped the hot-hitting Scott Sizemore from second to fifth, keeps Weeks as his leadoff man and slots Crisp right behind Weeks, giving the A’s a speedy combo atop the lineup. “Coco can hit anywhere in lineup, and a I appreciate what he did in the ‘3’ hole when he was there,” Melvin said. “I want him to be able to swing. I don’t want him to go up there and have to take all the time, and in the first spot you gotta be a little more selective. He’s a smart hitter, and when a hole is open between first and second he’s able to pull the ball and get his hands over. He’s got a pretty good awareness of what he needs to do every at-bat and I want him to be able to go up there  and swing.”

–Melvin said he plans to give Matsui a day off Friday, and thinks some of Matsui’s struggles might be because he’s a little worn down. (Willingham will DH on Friday). You’ll also notice Chris Carter remains in the lineup at first base against the lefty Derek Holland. “With our lack of production here recently, he’s a guy we look to produce for us. You gotta stick with some guys,” Melvin said.

Joe Stiglich