Graham Godfrey sent down; reliever Pedro Figueroa joins the A’s

It’s unseasonably warm at the Coliseum today, pretty ideal conditions. They always say the ball flies better here on nights like this, so we’ll see if the A’s and Indians provide a high-scoring game. Speaking of the ball flying, Yoenis Cespedes put on an impressive BP display, even by his standards. One of his homers appeared to hit the concrete below the skyboxes, just left of dead center. “Zoinks!!!”, as Shaggy might have said.

–The pregame news: Graham Godfrey was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento and lefty reliever Pedro Figueroa was recalled to take his place. Two reasons for this: The A’s need some left-handed bullpen reinforcements. Jordan Norberto is unavailable tonight after being used two games in a row, Jerry Blevins threw two innings last night, and Brian Fuentes has thrown two of the past three games. Plus, newly acquired righty Rich Thompson hasn’t pitched in well over a week, and Bob Melvin said he preferred to get Thompson a bullpen session under his belt before thrusting him in a game. Thompson is officially available tonight, but if the A’s would like to stay away from him, that theoretically puts them another man down.

There’s no doubt Godfrey has struggled with his command, particularly Friday night. “I’m looking at this as an opportunity to iron some things out,” he said. “The last couple outings, things just aren’t going my way.” The question is who starts in his place Wednesday against the White Sox? “We have someone targeted,” Melvin said. “We’ll see how things go between here and there.”

Assuming the A’s promote someone from Sacramento, I’d think Jarrod Parker is a definite possibility. He’s due to pitch tonight, which would put him on three days’ rest for Wednesday. If Parker is pulled early tonight, then it’s an indication he might be the guy. Other options? Brad Peacock has a 1.42 ERA through three starts, but he’s due to pitch Monday. It seems like it’d be tough to prep him for Wednesday without radically altering his schedule. Travis Banwart threw Friday and would be on turn, but he has a 6.75 ERA. Fabio Castro has pitched well in three starts, and he could conceivably go on five days’ rest. But we know that Parker is a guy the A’s potentially had pegged for the season-opening rotation. They’ve gotta be curious to see how he does in a big league regular season game. That’s how I’m seeing it anyway …

–Coco Crisp is doing better but not starting tonight. He was scheduled for full pregame activity, however, and Melvin said he might be available off the bench …

Here’s the lineups … Eric Sogard draws another start at third base, and Melvin said he’s looking to give Sogard a string of starts in a row. It makes sense with Josh Donaldson struggling and the A’s facing a streak of right-handed starters in upcoming games.

A’s: Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Smith DH, Gomes LF, Barton 1B, Suzuki C, Sogard 3B; McCarthy RHP.

Indians: Brantley CF, Kipnis 2B, Choo RF, Santana C, Hafner DH, Duncan LF, Kotchman 1B, Hannahan 3B, Donald SS; Gomez RHP.


Cespedes working hard to grasp English, Crisp improved but still out, Melvin recalls the ’72 A’s

In for Joe Stiglich tonight …

    Yoenis Cespedes has been working hard trying to figure out how to hit major league breaking pitches, but off the field, he’s also learning a thing or two about dangling participles.

    Cespedes is making a concerted to learn as much basic English as he can to better communicate with teammates and coaches. His personal “coach,” former A’s pitcher and fellow Cuban Ariel Prieto, has been his primary instructor on all things regarding American culture – including the language – but Cespedes wanted more.

    In recent days, he has also enlisted second baseman Jemile Weeks to help him with English, and he received a clubhouse lesson Friday from the young second baseman. His goal for the day? He wanted to learn how to say “how do you feel?” so he could ask the ailingCocoCrisp the question. Crisp has been battling from a flu bug the past few days.

    Cespedes sat intently with Weeks at a table before the game and school was definitely in session. The outfielder would write a sentence in Spanish and Weeks would translate in English. Cespedes also wrote out the alphabet and spoke the letters in English pronunciation.

     So why Weeks?

    “He just asked me if I would help him,” Weeks said. “I happen to know a little bit of Spanish to help, so I want to lend a helping hand. Since I spent a lot of time inSouth Florida, so I’ve been around a lot of Latin Americans.”

    Weeks isn’t fluent in Spanish but took two years of it in high school and retained much of it since he was able to put it to practice on baseball fields as a teenager.

     “InMiami, I had a lot of Cuban and Latin American teammates,” he said. “They would say some funny words now and then and we’d correct them. We’d be trying to learn Spanish, they’d be trying to learn English. So helping comes natural for me. Plus, I know some good Spanish lingo.”

    Weeks said he’s had two or three sessions with Cespedes and he already can see distinct progress.

     “He’s been coming along with it and working hard,’’ he said. “He knows a lot of words, and the more he understands, it gets easier to teach him. As time goes by, it’ll get even better.”

     Manager Bob Melvin said Cespedes has already dropped a couple of English words and phrases on him and he’s impressed.

     “Every day he it seems he has another word or two,” Melvin said. “I know he’s got more English in his repertoire than I have Spanish, so he’s passed me. He probably passed me in spring training.”

    Cespedes smiled when a reporter asked him, “How do you feel?”

     “Very good,”:he said.

     Many Latin players play their entire careers and never attempt to learn English. Cespedes does not appear to be one of those players.

      “He’s doing a good job putting the effort in,” Weeks said. “He knows a few words and phrases and I don’t think you can ask for much more. It’s a process. I think he has a sense of which guys he can lean on when he really needs to ask a specific question, because there are a few Latin guys who can help him out. But the down side is that he’s in a new country away from family and friends, and these are new friends that he’s meeting. I think he wants to be able to communicate with everybody.”

     Weeks was asked if Cespedes, whom the A’s signed in February for $36 million over four years, knows how to say “show me the money.”

     “I think he knows that one already,” he said.

Coco Crisp said he was feeling significantly better in his battle with a flu bug but that his head still felt a bit cloudy. He wasn’t in the lineup and said he wasn’t sure he could contribute off the bench but said Saturday or Sunday was a possibility.

    Several members of the 1972 world championship A’s team were on hand Friday night to sign autograph and chat with the media. They’ll be honored in a 40th anniversary ceremony Saturday. In attendance were Joe Rudi, Ken Holtzman, Bert Campaneris, Gene Tenace, Mike Hegan, Dick Green, Tim Cullen, Ted Kubiak, Vida Blue, Joel Horlen, Darold Knowles, Rollie Fingers along with former coach Irv Noren and broadcaster Monte Moore.

Current manager Bob Melvin remembers that team well, even though he was only 10 years old in 1972. He was big fan growing up in the Bay Area and he actually attended a couple of the ’72 World Series games. He wears No. 6 now in honor of his favorite player at the time, Sal Bando.

“I’ve often said, it was a lot easier to be an A’s fan than a Giants fan at that point in time,” Melvin said. “I remember sitting between home plate and the dugout maybe 15-16 rows back for the first World Series..At that point in time, it was the highlight of my baseball life at that time. I was kind of young, but I just remember feeling the atmosphere and that was such an entertaining team to watch.

 “Not only were they good, they beat you any number of ways. You look at their offensive numbers and think they they were an offensive team but that wasn’t always the case. At times they were challenged to score runs, but they played great defense, they great starting and relief pitching and they had guys who came up big in big situations.”

The A’s optioned RHP Neil Wagner to Triple-A Sacramento to make room for RHP pitcher Rich Thompson, who was claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels earlier in the day.

 Thompson, 27, appeared in two games for the Angels this year, allowing four runs on five hits and a walk in 2 1/3 innings for a 15.4 ERA. A native of Australia, Thompson was originally signed by the Angels in 2002 as a 17-year-old, and he made his major-league debut in 2007. Last season, he made 44 appearances for the Angels and posted a 3.00 ERA. He is 3-4 lifetime with a 4.24 ERA in 81 games, walking 37 and striking out 105 in 104 1/3 innings.

Wagner was recalled Tuesday but did not appear in a game with Oakland.


Tonight’s A’s lineup: Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Smith LF, Gomes DH, Ka’aihue 1B, Recker C, Sogard 3B. Godfrey (0-2) P.



Postgame notes as A’s close out a winning series in Anaheim

Three wins in three days, and the A’s are returning home after a 4-3 road trip that lifted them to .500 for the season. Here’s a few items that didn’t make it into my story for tomorrow’s paper …

–Keep Albert Pujols out of RBI situations and you’ve got a much better chance of beating the Angels. Their marquee offseason addition went 6 for 13 in the series and had three doubles Thursday, but he had zero RBIs over the four games. That’s largely because Pujols batted with nobody on base in 13 of his 17 plate appearances in the series. The slugger is still looking for his first homer of 2012.

–What will the A’s do about their third base situation? Josh Donaldson is struggling big-time. He’s in a 2 for 29 slump and has 13 strikeouts in 32 at-bats this season. He also made a throwing error for the second straight game. The A’s are slated to face five right-handers in a row starting Friday, so I’d expect to see lots of Eric Sogard over the next few days. But longer term? That’s a bigger question.

“It’s performance-based in the big leagues,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “At some point in time, you’ve gotta swing the bat.”

–The A’s received a tremendous effort from their bullpen Thursday, especially from Jordan Norberto, who inherited a no-out situation with runners on the corners and didn’t allow a run. Melvin noted how the back end of the bullpen — Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes and Ryan Cook — are set, but the middle relievers are still sorting themselves out. So Melvin was very encouraged by Norberto’s outing.

It wasn’t quite so smooth for Fautino De Los Santos, who fired two pitches to the backstop over the two batters he faced.

–The A’s will try to keep it going during a three-game series at home against the Cleveland Indians starting Friday.

That’s all for now …


Coco Crisp still sick, out of lineup again as A’s try to take series vs. Angels

Here’s the lineups for tonight’s series finale in Anaheim. A win would give the A’s a winning road trip and pull them to .500 overall for the season …

A’s: Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Gomes LF, Smith DH, Suzuki C, Ka’aihue 1B, Donaldson 3B; Milone LHP.

Angels: Izturis 3B, Kendrick 2B, Pujols 1B, Hunter RF, Wells LF, Trumbo DH, Iannetta C, Aybar SS, Bourjos CF; Wilson LHP.

–Coco Crisp is still under the weather, so he’s out of the lineup for the second straight night. Kurt Suzuki is also sick, but he’s well enough to play …


A’s are not a healthy bunch right now

There’s some form of bug going through the A’s clubhouse right now. Coco Crisp isn’t playing tonight because he’s sick, and Josh Reddick was just switched from right field to DH with the same “flu-like symptoms.” Grant Balfour said he’s under the weather and bench coach Chip Hale says he’s not feeling great either.

From the baseball perspective, it’s a tough break having to scratch Crisp tonight after he broke through with a big hit last night. I’m sure Bob Melvin wanted to see if his left fielder could build a little confidence at the plate. But Melvin added: “Watching him go through (the illness) yesterday, with not eating and so forth, it’s probably not a good idea for him to play today.”

–Eric Sogard is starting at third base for the third time in four games, which leads one to believe that Josh Donaldson does not have such a firm lock on the starting spot anymore. Donaldson is in a 2 for 26 slump and hitting .103. Who would have thought Donaldson’s offense would be a bigger issue at this point than his developing defensive abilities at third? “I think certain days off can do him some good, and he’s not grinding so hard,” Melvin said. “I know the feeling of having to look up at the scoreboard and see what your average is. We’ll pick our spots with him, continue to play him but also continue to keep Sogard current.” With the Angels throwing lefty C.J. Wilson on Thursday, Melvin said the right-handed hitting Donaldson will return to the lineup tomorrow.

–If you haven’t seen this ESPN story on Sogard, check it out. Very entertaining piece on him being one of the few big leaguers who wears eyeglasses.

–More interesting reading here from ESPN analyst Jim Bowden, who thinks the A’s have reason for concern regarding Yoenis Cespedes’ high strikeout total.

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

Angels – Abreu LF, Kendrick 2B, Pujols 1B, Morales DH, Hunter RF, Wells CF, Izturis SS, Callaspo 3B, Wilson C; Santana RHP.


A’s put together a long-awaited rally, return to win column

The A’s came through with a much-needed victory tonight, using a four-run rally in the eighth to beat the Angels 5-3 and halt a three-game losing streak. A few things for A’s fans to be encouraged about …

–This team finally came through with a timely hit – a few of them actually – with men on base. It started with Coco Crisp, the No. 2 hitter who was struggling as much as anyone in the lineup. He delivered the game-tying single in the eighth that really got the ball rolling. “He is a guy we count on late in games, a guy we feel really good about,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.

You have to wonder what Crisp’s state of mind is like right now after being switched from center to left field to accommodate Yoenis Cespedes. You’d think that getting a crucial hit to help key a victory would be a big boost for the veteran.

–Josh Reddick had a heck of a game, going 3 for 4 and driving in the go-ahead run with a double. That’s the kind of impact the A’s need from their No. 3 hitter. Reddick had been one of the few players hitting the ball hard in recent games, though he didn’t have much to show for it. Maybe more hits will start dropping for him. And he’s really starting to show his value defensively, throwing a runner out on the bases for the second straight night. He nailed Albert Pujols on Tuesday, as Pujols tried to go from first to third on Kendrys Morales’ single to right. “I can’t express how valuable it is as a pitcher to have that behind you,” A’s starter Tyson Ross said.

–Cespedes had gone six games without an RBI before singling in two insurance runs in the eighth. I still think this guy is going to throw his back out with every mighty cut he takes, but when Angels reliever David Carpenter left a pitch over the plate in the eighth, Cespedes made him pay for it.

–Ross got 12 of 16 outs on ground balls and didn’t walk a batter – the kind of outing he needs to be successful. He didn’t show any fear facing Pujols for the first time, limiting the slugger to an infield single in three at-bats against him. “That’s the best I’ve seen him throw,” Melvin said. “We really needed to win a game, and for him to give us that, against that lineup, is terrific.”


Tyson Ross tries to give A’s a boost on mound

I remember Tyson Ross making his first major league start at Angels Stadium. That was May 2010, and Ross was a rookie who had impressed out of the bullpen. He was pulled after 3 2/3 innings that night, gave up three runs and took the loss, though that was a 12-3 blowout that couldn’t be pinned solely on him. … Now Ross will take the ball again for tonight’s start at Angel Stadium. He’s had substantial big league experience since that starting debut, but he’s still trying to prove he deserves to stick in the big league rotation.

The A’s could sure use a strong effort from him. And giving Ross some early run support could be a huge lift for the right-hander. Manager Bob Melvin is sticking with a pretty standard lineup in trying to accomplish that …

A’s: Weeks 2B, Crisp LF, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Smith DH, Suzuki C, Barton 1B, Donaldson 3B, Pennington SS; Ross RHP.

Angels: Aybar SS, Kendrick 2B, Pujols 1B, Morales DH, Hunter RF, Wells LF, Callaspo 3B, Iannetta C, Bourjos CF; Haren RHP.

–Melvin said Neil Wagner, called up to replace Andrew Carignan in the bullpen, will serve primarily as a long reliever. I asked Melvin about how little Fautino De Los Santos has been used so far. He’s appeared in just two of the first 11 games. Melvin said Carignan had moved ahead of him on the bullpen totem pole. With Carignan sent down, De Los Santos might take on a little more prominent role. But I’d still rank it as a mild surprise that De Los Santos has been used so sparingly, though his wildness in spring training probably has contributed to that. At any rate, De Los Santos looked good in his two appearances so far. So maybe we’ll see him a little bit more in close games.

First and foremost, the A’s have to start hitting better, or it won’t matter who is coming in from the bullpen late in games …


Postgame notes and quotes from A’s 6-0 loss to Angels

There wasn’t much for the A’s — or their fans — to be excited about after Monday’s 6-0 drubbing by the Angels. A bit of news — reliever Andrew Carignan will be sent to the minors and another reliever will be called up Tuesday, manager Bob Melvin said. Here’s some postgame reaction from the clubhouse:

–“We’ll keep grinding through it,” Melvin said of his offense. “It’s my belief that one big hit leads to another big hit and it gets contagious. But right now it’s a bit of a struggle for us.”

–From right fielder Josh Reddick: “It’s still early. There’s no need to push the panic button right now. We (just) can’t get that hit with runners on. Someone’s got to get hot and carry this team on their back.”

–Losing pitcher Brandon McCarthy was pretty upset with himself for what he called poor command all night. And he didn’t sugarcoat things when asked about pitching when his team is scoring so few runs. “It makes it kind of feel like we’re getting our (butts) kicked,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like we’re putting up a fight. You feel like you’re not doing your part individually.”

–If there was a silver lining for the A’s, you can point to some nice defensive plays by their outfield. Coco Crisp, spelling Yoenis Cespedes in center, made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Kendrys Morales, and Reddick threw out Morales trying to stretch a single into a double.

Were some of you wondering if Cespedes would have made that catch on Morales’ drive? Crisp certainly makes plays look easier in center, but there’s a drawback too. He doesn’t have nearly the arm Cespedes has, and opponents are more likely to run on him.

Melvin said Cespedes would return to center on Tuesday after getting a night off.


Yoenis Cespedes sits as A’s begin four-gamer against Angels

Coming at ya from Angels Stadium, where it’s just a bit balmier than it was in Seattle … These are the conditions that baseball was meant to be played in. It’s a beautiful night …

The A’s catch an Angels team that is 3-6 and coming off a cross-country flight after getting spanked by the New York Yankees on national television last night. Good or bad for the A’s? They could be playing this team at the right time, or perhaps they’ll encounter one angry bunch looking to take out some frustrations. Maybe the point is moot. The A’s need to find a way to score some runs in this four-game series, and they’ll have to do it, in order, against Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and C.J. Wilson – one of the toughest starting pitching foursomes in the majors.

The lineups:

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

Angels – Aybar SS, Kendrick 2B, Pujols 1B, Morales DH, Hunter RF, Wells LF, Izturis 3B, Iannetta C, Bourjos CF; Weaver RHP.

–Yoenis Cespedes gets his first day off, with Coco Crisp returning to center field for a day. A’s manager Bob Melvin said it was just time to rest Cespedes since the other starting outfielders have gotten a day off already. But it seems the timing is right for Cespedes based on how he’s been going at the plate lately. He was 1 for 11 in the Seattle series, and maybe watching a game from the dugout will serve him well. Not that he was ready for it himself. “It feels a little weird because in Cuba it never was like that. I never had a day off,” Cespedes said through interpreter Ariel Prieto. “It’s gonna feel a little boring today.” I did see Cespedes getting some instruction in center from outfield coach Tye Waller during batting practice, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him pinch-hit tonight.

–Seth Smith gets his first defensive start, so it’s worth watching how he looks in left field.


Will getaway day bring the A’s a getaway victory?

It’s only the 10th game out of 162, but A’s manager Bob Melvin considers today’s contest a big one. I can see why. A win gives the A’s a series victory, which would be good considering Seattle took three of four to begin this season. It would pull the A’s to .500 and give them some momentum going into a four-game series against the Angels. “I’m not gonna lie to you, it would be nice to win a series,” Melvin said. “Today is an important game.”

In an effort to shake up the offense, Melvin dropped Josh Reddick to the fifth spot and is batting Seth Smith third. Kurt Suzuki gets the day off – that’s more because Melvin likes pairing starting pitcher Graham Godfrey with Anthony Recker – and Josh Donaldson also is out of the lineup, with Eric Sogard at third. Donaldson is struggling with the bat, but you had to like a couple of the plays he made defensively last night. Pretty good hands …

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

Mariners – Figgins LF, Ackley 2B, Ichiro RF, Smoak 1B, Montero DH, Seager 3B, Saunders CF, Olivo C, Ryan SS; Beavan RHP.

–Here’s your unsolicited restaurant recommendation for Seattle: Anthony’s Pier 66, located right on the waterfront. It’s a great location, and on a sunny day, grab a seat out on the deck. I’m a big fan of the seafood marinara …