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Brandon Inge makes his A’s debut at third base

The A’s welcomed in a new face and got reacquainted with a very familiar one before tonight’s series opener at Fenway Park …

Brandon Inge is starting at third base today and hitting eighth after finalizing a one-year contract earlier this afternoon. And you’ll see him there plenty, as all indications are he’ll be the everyday man at third. “It’s not a knock on anybody (who has played) there,” manager Bob Melvin said, “but we finally feel like we have a third baseman we can plug in there every day.” Inge came across as a very chatty and good-natured guy in dealing with reporters. And he’s got the intangibles Melvin likes. “He’s a gamer. You just watch the way he plays the game, and I think it’ll be good for our younger players to watch that as well. He’ll dive into the stands, he’ll lay out (for a ball) all day long. He’s the type of player we think can be conducive to moving forward and showing this group of young guys how we expect you to play the game.”

But I know the question you really want answered: Can the guy still hit at all? He’s never been a high-average guy (.234 mark over a 12-year career) and he’s logged four seasons of 134 strikeouts or more. Inge has power, but his last really good power year came in 2009, when he slugged 27 homers. He was no longer in the Tigers’ plans after Miguel Cabrera switched from first to third base to make room for Prince Fielder. Despite getting just 20 at-bats before Detroit released him, Inge thinks he was swinging the bat well. He pointed to the homer he hit to deep center field at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium. “I’m excited about the strength and power that’s there, so now when I get the at-bats, I’m really going to be able to see what it’s going to (amount) to,” Inge said.

And though Inge grew up in Virginia, he surprisingly liked the A’s growing up. One of the first games he attended was an A’s-Royals game in Kansas City. “I remember watching Mark McGwire and Rickey Henderson taking batting practice out there,” he said. “ I was a huge fan of this team, so it’s kind of funny that now I get to be a part of an organization that’s had such a rich history.”

–I’m guessing many of you are surprised by the season Ryan Sweeney is having with Boston, no? He’s not in the lineup tonight against lefty Tommy Milone, but Sweeney has been quite a story. Who knew he would be the one having the immediate impact for the Red Sox instead of Andrew Bailey? Sweeney entered Monday hitting .373 and was leading the American League with 11 doubles. He says he hasn’t changed much in his approach, but he’s definitely warming up to Fenway Park as his baseball home. “When you have that confidence at the plate and you know you can hit a ball out to center or right, or hit one off the Monster, it gives you that presence that you feel better when you’re up there.” He also said getting to watch left-handed hitters David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez every day has made him a better hitter.

Sweeney chatted with Daric Barton, Kurt Suzuki and Jerry Blevins among others before the game.

The lineups:

A’s – Weeks 2B, Crisp LF, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Smith DH, Suzuki C, Barton 1B, Inge 3B, Pennington SS; Milone LHP.

Red Sox – Aviles SS, Pedroia 2B, Gonzalez 1B, Ross RF, Ortiz DH, Shoppach C, McDonald LF, Byrd CF, Punto 3B; Buchholz RHP.

Kevin Youkilis was a late scratch for the Sox.

3

Jemile Weeks rests, the trade rumors begin, and the A’s try to take series against Orioles

The A’s and Orioles will wrap their three-game series under blue skies at Camden Yards this afternoon. Oakland can take the series with a victory, and that would be a good way to head into Fenway Park to play three against the Red Sox. Boston happens to be rolling right now after a poor start.

As expected, Jemile Weeks is getting his first day off. It comes at a good time, with Weeks hitting just .187 with a .253 on-base percentage. A’s manager Bob Melvin said Weeks is working to hit the ball on the ground more, and obviously that’s a key for the speedy switch hitter to get on base and get the offense rolling. “It’s been a little bit of a prolonged struggle for him,” Melvin said. “But we’re confident he’ll work his way out of it.”

The lineups:
A’s – Crisp DH, Pennington SS, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Ka’aihue 1B, Smith LF, Suzuki C, Sogard 2B, Hughes 3B; Colon RHP.

Orioles – Reimold LF, Hardy SS, Markakis RF, Jones CF, Wieters C, Davis DH, Betemit 3B, Reynolds 1B, Andino 2B; Hunter RHP.

According to A’s P.R. man Bob Rose, it’s the first time the A’s will lead off with a DH since Crisp did it Aug. 16, 2010.

–Nobody said the trade rumors have to wait until July to start circulating … Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the Angels have inquired about A’s closer Grant Balfour. A scout told me on the A’s last homestand that he thinks Balfour might command lots of attention from teams as the season unfolds, more so as a setup-type guy than a closer. So expect to read lots about the right-hander as the July trade deadline gets closer.

That’s all for now …

2

A’s, Orioles hope to get game in before rain hits

There’s a definite threat of rain for tonight’s game in Baltimore, but it’s dry at the moment.

Here’s the lineups:

A’s — Weeks 2B, Crisp LF, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Gomes DH, Suzuki C, Ka’aihue 1B, Hughes 3B, Pennington SS; Ross RHP.

Orioles — Reimold LF, Hardy SS, Markakis DH, Jones CF, Betemit 3B, Davis 1B, Paulino C, Flaherty RF, Andino 2B; Chen LHP.

–Luke Hughes, who has been ill, was feeling better and took early batting practice today. He’s back at third base despite Eric Sogard’s two-run homer last night. A’s manager Bob Melvin said he wanted the right-handed hitting Hughes in there against Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen. Kila Ka’aihue draws another start at first base, probably because he’s 6 for 14 against lefties this season.

I’ll keep you posted if we have any weather delays. Even if there’s no rain, it’s going to be a very chilly night …

0

Orioles legend Frank Robinson honored at Camden Yards

It’s about two hours before game time, and the Orioles are holding an unveiling ceremony for a Frank Robinson statue that was built beyond the left-center field wall here at Camden Yards. A’s manager Bob Melvin, who played under Robinson in Baltimore, is attending. Melvin has immense respect for Robinson and says he had a huge impact on him.

“I often say he really made me grow up as a player in this game,” Melvin said. “He challenged me and at times had me challenge him. It seems to be that over the course of your career, there are a couple guys who really have an impact on where you go, and he was one for me.”

Melvin said Robinson had incredible knowledge of the game — an outfielder who knew something about pitching as well as every position on the field. And he taught Melvin an important lesson. Melvin had enjoyed a great game with the Orioles, but saw that his name wasn’t in the lineup the next day. Steamed, he walked past Robinson’s office once, then twice, and then three times without working up the nerve to go in.

“He just kind of looked at me and he said, ‘Hey, do you wanna talk to me?” Melvin recalled. “I told him I should be in the lineup, and he pulled out another lineup card and said, ‘You are in the lineup.’

“He wanted me to fight for myself.”

It’s quite a lineup on hand to honor Robinson, who attended McClymonds High School in Oakland. Hank Aaron, Eddie Murray and Jim Palmer are among those in attendance.

2

Brandon Inge definitely on A’s radar; Michael Taylor is with team, probably won’t join roster

Checking in from Camden Yards, as the A’s begin a three-game series with the Orioles, who find themselves tied atop the American League East.

–I’m hearing that there’s substance to speculation that the A’s might sign third baseman Brandon Inge, who was released by Detroit on Thursday. Inge can’t sign with a team until he clears release waivers, and that won’t likely happen until after the weekend. But teams are allowed to have dialogue with him before that time. The Orioles and Twins have also been linked to Inge, but the A’s need help at third base as much as anybody, and I’m told they have legitimate interest. That’s no guarantee they will sign him, and lots can happen over the next few days. General manager Billy Beane would not comment on Inge specifically.

“Until we get satisfactory production, we will always be looking to upgrade at third base, as well as all other positions,” Beane said via e-mail.

There’s a chance a team could claim Inge on waivers (meaning they assume his $5.5 million salary for this season). But if he clears waivers, he becomes a free agent and can sign with any team. At that point, the signing team is only responsible for the pro-rated portion of the major league minimum salary, so there’s motivation for teams to wait until he clears waivers.

–Outfielder Michael Taylor is here with the A’s, but it’s looking like that was a precautionary move. Coco Crisp, who has missed seven of the past eight games with an inner ear infection, is feeling better and is slated to start in left field. A’s manager Bob Melvin said if Crisp comes out of this game fine, Taylor will head back to Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday. So there’s been no roster move involving Taylor to this point. He participated in pregame activity, but he can’t be in the dugout during the game unless he’s added to the roster. The A’s have been impressed with Taylor’s play at Sacramento, where he’s hit .366 with two homers, 17 RBIs and 11 doubles in 19 games. The fact that Taylor accompanied the team to Baltimore “shows how we feel about him right now,” Melvin said.

It’s a rather awkward situation for Taylor to be in, as he took batting practice but likely won’t join the team. But he was happy to make the cross-country trip regardless. “They could have told me to (take a) train out here, and I’d have taken Amtrak,” he said. “Anytime there’s an inkling of an opportunity, I’m excited.”

–Luke Hughes was scratched at third base about an hour before batting practice and replaced by Eric Sogard. Hughes still has a slight fever and is taking medication to stay hydrated. He said he still feels “a little spaced out.”

–Reliever Rich Thompson cleared waivers and was sent to Sacramento.

Tonight’s lineups:
A’s – Weeks 2B, Crisp LF, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Ka’aihue 1B, Smith DH, Suzuki C, Sogard 3B, Pennington SS; McCarthy RHP.

Orioles – Reimold LF, Hardy SS, Markakis RF, Jones CF, Wieters C, Davis 1B, Reynolds DH, Flaherty 3B, Andino 2B; Arrieta RHP.

1

Parker’s A’s debut should be interesting; Crisp, Hughes out

In for Joe Stiglich today …

Normally, I’d say g’day, but it isn’t such a good day for the team’s Australian connections.

For starters, as if the A’s haven’t enough problems at third base, new Aussie acquisition Luke Hughes reported in with a 102-degree temperature Wednesday and wasn’t available to play. He’s 0-for-6 with three errors in 2 games since joining the A’s, so if there’s a good time to get sick, now may be it.

Speaking of illness, Coco Crisp is out again with flu/inner ear issues. Bob Melvin hopes he’ll be ready when the A’s begin their road trip in Baltimore Friday.

The A’s optioned reliever Fautino de los Santos to Sacramento and designated one of the other Aussies, RHP Rich Thompson for assignment to make room for Jarrod Parker and RHP Jim Miller. The A’s want de los Santos to work on his mechanics and get things straightened out in Triple-A.

As for Thompson, who only made one appearance with Oakland, he was the victim of a numbers game. He was out of options andM elvin is hoping he stays with the organization. He liked what he saw in the one outing he made. Miller was preferable because he can pitch more innings out of the bullpen and serve as a long man. Miller had also pitched well in Sac, limiting the opposition to a .188 batting average. He was 0-1 with two saves and a 3.00 ERA in 8 outings with the RiverCats.

Unless Thompson returns, though, the A’s run with a record three Australian players on their 25-man roster was brief — two days.

Hopefully Jarrod Parker will be better than the last two times I saw him during spring. Supposedly, he’s worked out some issues with his control. He was 1-0 with a 2.18 ERA in four starts with Sacto.

The lineup: Weeks 2B, Sogard 3B, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Gomes LF, Suzuki C, Ka’aihue DH, Pennington SS, Barton 1B

4

Postgame follow-up on Milone, Recker and others after A’s 2-0 win over White Sox

Here’s some quick tidbits from the A’s 2-0 victory over the White Sox. That two-run rally seemed like an avalanche of offense by the A’s standards, didn’t it?

–Tommy Milone continued to impress with eight shutout innings. He’s yet to give up a run in two home starts, and lefties are 0 for 12 against him on the season (four starts). His changeup is his bread-and-butter pitch, but catcher Anthony Recker said Milone’s fastball is important in his repertoire. “I think what’s underrated is his fastball,” Recker said. “It sets up a lot of changeups.”

–Speaking of Recker, he got a lot of love in the clubhouse after the game. A’s manager Bob Melvin said he called a great game, and so did Kurt Suzuki. Recker also came up big in the top of the eighth by throwing out Brent Morel, who tried to steal second. That ended the inning and kept it a scoreless game, setting the stage for the A’s winning rally. For his part, Recker said he was just happy Milone walked off with a victory. “A guy pitches like that, you’re dying to get a him a win,” Recker said.

–Jemile Weeks is hitting .203, and if you want to gauge how he does breaking out of this early-season slump, track how often he hits the ball in the air. He had two fly outs in four plate appearances Tuesday. A guy with his speed absolutely MUST hit the ball on the ground more. And the A’s are trying to instill that in him.

–As well as the A’s starting pitchers have performed to this point, it makes Jarrod Parker’s start Wednesday afternoon even more interesting. Can Oakland’s top-rated pitching prospect do the job and cement himself in the rotation? If so, that’s a pretty good addition in the fifth starter’s spot. Parker grew up in Indiana and his favorite team was the White Sox. A key Wednesday will be whether he can calm his nerves. Remember that he got pretty rattled facing his former team, the Diamondbacks, in spring training.

That’s all for now …

1

Melvin discusses A’s offensive woes

There were lots of questions thrown at Bob Melvin in his pregame media chat, and they covered a variety of items: What was going on with the defense last night? How can the offense get going? How is Coco Crisp doing? What does he think of Jarrod Parker, who starts Wednesday afternoon?

It’s clear that Melvin is much more concerned about his team’s weak offense than the occasional defensive problems, which were apparent last night. The A’s held a hitters’ meeting before batting practice today, which is unusual for the second game of a three-game series. I’m guessing the theme was that each guy can’t go up to the plate trying to shake the team out of its slump by himself. “It’s human nature to wanna be the guy to get your team to break out of it, get that big hit, hit that big home run,” Melvin said. “At times maybe we’re trying to do a little too much.” Another interesting quote: “What are we, two games under .500?,” Melvin said. “The way we’ve been offensively, we’re probably lucky to be two games under .500. The pitching has been terrific. At times the defense has been terrific. We just haven’t hit our stride offensively.”

–Crisp is out of the lineup for the sixth time in seven games. Melvin said he started feeling dizziness from playing last night, presumably from the inner-ear infection that’s bothered him.

It’s almost game time, so here’s the lineups:

A’s — Weeks 2B, Sogard SS, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Smith DH, Gomes LF, Barton 1B, Hughes 3B, Recker C; Milone LHP.

White Sox — De Aza CF, Lillibridge 1B, Rios RF, Konerko DH, RAmirez SS, Viciedo LF, Flowers C, Morel 3B, Beckham 2B; Floyd RHP.

1

A’s roster carrying a heavy Australian flavor

We’re less than an hour away from the A’s-White Sox series opener. As you might have seen, third baseman Josh Donaldson was sent down to Triple-A Sacramento today to make room for Luke Hughes, claimed off waivers from Minnesota. Hughes is in the lineup tonight, and A’s manager Bob Melvin said he’ll split time with Eric Sogard at third. But with Sogard backing up the other infield spots too, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hughes get the majority of time at third for now. As for Donaldson, Melvin said he might see time at third base, catcher and perhaps even first base in the minors. “It’s unfortunate that Josh has to go down right now,” Melvin said. “We got to a point where I think he’s grinding real hard. He probably needs a bit of a break here.”

–Tonight’s game won’t draw a big crowd to the Coliseum, but it’s big news in Australia, with countrymen Grant Balfour, Hughes and reliever Rich Thompson all on the A’s now. Tom Nicholson, who is head of MLB International’s business operations in Australia, coincidentally is at tonight’s game. He was in town because his son attends San Joaquin Delta College. Nicholson was pretty jazzed to report that the game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Australia. First pitch will take place at noon on Tuesday afternoon local time. “It’s gonna hit all the pubs,” Nicholson beamed.

–Coco Crisp returns to the A’s lineup after missing five games with a head cold and inner ear infection. You’ll also notice that Kila Ka’aihue is getting significant time at first base. He’s hitting .370 (10 for 27) on the season. …

A’s: Weeks 2B, Crisp LF, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Ka’aihue 1B, Smith DH, Suzuki C, Hughes 3B, Pennington SS; Colon RHP.

White Sox: De Aza CF, Ramirez SS, Dunn 1B, Konerko DH, Pierzynski C, Rios RF, Viciedo LF, Morel 3B, Beckham 2B; Peavy RHP.

1

Little League Day at the Coliseum

Ben Enos filling in for Joe Stiglich today

No clouds in the sky for Little League Day here at the O.Co Coliseum as the A’s prepare to take on the Indians in the conclusion of a three-game set.

Got a bit of news today, as the A’s announced that they’ve claimed INF Luke Hughes off waivers from Minnesota. Dallas Braden was moved to the 60-day disabled list to clear room on the 40-man roster.

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