1

Pondering Jemile Weeks’ odd start, and will Coco Crisp become a trade target?

There’s been lots of mixing and matching with the A’s daily lineups, but Bob Melvin trots out the same look tonight as in Friday’s series opener:

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

Mariners: Figgins CF, Ackley 2B, Ichiro RF, Smoak 1B, Montero C, Liddi 3B, Olivo DH, Wells LF, Ryan SS; Noesi RHP.

“I think the printing presses were on the fritz, so we had to go with the same lineup today,” Melvin joked. … I wouldn’t say the A’s knocked the cover off the ball last night, but I can understand not messing with a winning combination.

–What do we make of Jemile Weeks’ hitting so far? The leadoff man is batting .206 with just seven hits, but two of them are homers. Melvin certainly won’t argue when anyone on his team clears the fences, but I’d say this team is at its best when Weeks is getting on base more often and starting rallies so others can drive him in. Watch how his offense progresses for the rest of this road trip …

–With Jacoby Ellsbury likely to miss extended time with a partially dislocated right shoulder, the Red Sox could be in the market for center field help. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweeted that Coco Crisp could be a potential target down the road. … Makes sense to me. I could see Crisp generating interest from other teams too if he’s having a productive season and the A’s fall out of contention early. But that contract – two years at $14 million through 2013 – might scare some buyers away. At any rate, Crisp is another player to watch as the season unfolds. He enters tonight’s game hitting just .200 (6 for 30) with two RBIs in eight games.

–In the “Who Woulda Thunk It?” department, former Athletic Josh Willingham is leading the American League with a .444 average (12 for 27). Not far behind him is another ex-A’s outfielder, Ryan Sweeney, hitting an even .400. Perhaps most surprising about Willingham – a strikeout machine in green and gold last season – he’s whiffed just five times in his first eight games. I don’t think many A’s fans would trade Yoenis Cespedes for Willingham as their cleanup man right now. But it will be interesting to track how Willingham does this season compared to the power numbers that the A’s produce with their current cast, given their lack of effort to re-sign Willingham last winter.

That’s all for now …

0

Emerald City rematch for Bartolo Colon and Felix Hernandez

Greetings from the press box at Safeco Field, the only location in the majors where it’s cold enough to hang meat …

So the A’s and Mariners engage in yet another “opening night.” First there was the regular-season opener in Tokyo, then the A’s home opener last week, and now the Mariners’ home opener to begin this three-game series. Word is that a sellout crowd is expected tonight, as Bartolo Colon and Felix Hernandez square off for the second time in less than a week. This is the third start of the season for each pitcher, and they’ve faced the same opponent every time. That is N-U-T-T-Y, any way you slice it.

Josh Reddick and Cliff Pennington are back in the A’s lineup after leaving Wednesday’s game with minor injuries, so it’s a pretty standard Oakland starting nine …

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

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

A’s manager Bob Melvin is still mum on his starting pitcher for Tuesday, the first day the A’s need a fifth starter. Things point toward Tyson Ross getting the call though. He had a pretty good outing Thursday for Triple-A Sacramento, going five innings and allowing three runs on five hits. Most importantly, he didn’t walk anybody, and commanding the strike zone is the biggest key for Ross as far as the A’s brass is concerned. He would be on turn to pitch Tuesday, and that’s a big key here. Jarrod Parker also has been solid in two starts for the River Cats (3.00 ERA, 10 Ks, 2 BB in 12 IP), but Melvin’s comments suggest Ross is the guy. “I think over the course of the season all of those guys are still in play,” Melvin said, presumably lumping Brad Peacock into the mix as well. “I think scheduling, for this turn, may factor into it.”

–I’m being dramatic, it’s not really that cold here at Safeco. I’m sure writers in Minnesota have it much worse this time of year. But they lull you into a false sense of security here, leaving the windows closed and then throwing them open shortly before the game starts. The roof is open tonight, and it’s windy. Time to channel my inner Candlestick toughness. …

1

Some links to get you ready for A’s vs. Mariners (once again)

Here’s a few late-night links as the A’s prepare for a three-game series at Seattle beginning Friday night:

–This story on the question marks in the A’s bullpen will run in Friday’s paper.

–Geoff Baker writes about the Mariners finally going home after two months on the road.

–Larry Larue says Seattle’s .500 record isn’t all that bad right now, though the Mariners have some issues.

2

A’s bats get washed away in 3-0 loss to Royals

Because of tonight’s late finish, many of you won’t get my game story in your morning paper, so here’s a version of it below …

By Joe Stiglich
jstiglich@bayareanewsgroup.com

The A’s and Kansas City Royals managed to squeeze in seven innings between rain showers Tuesday.
Oakland’s hitters? They might as well have stayed warm and dry in the clubhouse during a 3-0 loss that was called with two outs in the top of the eighth.

The A’s managed just one hit, giving them a total of eight hits and one run through the first 16 2/3 innings of this three-game series.

Royals left-hander Danny Duffy, who was 4-8 with a 5.64 ERA as a rookie last season, struck out eight over six innings. The only hit he allowed came on Cliff Pennington’s third-inning double to the right-center gap, though he issued four walks.

Duffy — a native of Lompoc, in Santa Barbara County – had a big following on hand. And surely he was able to hear their cheers from the mound. The paid attendance was announced at 10,670, but it appeared that no more than about 2,000 showed up to a game that was delayed 43 minutes at the start. Every wisecrack echoed throughout the Oakland Coliseum, combining with the weather for a dreary atmosphere that seemed to suck the A’s right in. But A’s manager Bob Melvin wasn’t using that as an excuse.

“We’ve played before small crowds before, we’ve played in inclimate weather,” he said. “That doesn’t affect it.”

They didn’t advance anyone past second base, and the base runners they did muster didn’t fare well.
Collin Cowgill was doubled off first in the second inning when Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain made a running catch on the warning track to rob Daric Barton. Cowgill had rounded second base at the time Cain caught the ball and couldn’t make it back in time.

After Pennington doubled with one out in the third, Duffy promptly picked him off.
A’s right-hander Graham Godfrey fared well in his first start of the season, going six innings and allowing two runs on six hits with one walk and one strikeout.

The Royals scored the only runs they needed in the fourth. With runners on the corners, Mike Moustakas drove a ball to center. Yoenis Cespedes tracked the ball down but couldn’t make the running over-the-shoulder catch, with the ball bouncing off his glove and then his body. Billy Butler scored, and Jeff Francoeur would come home on Humberto Quintero’s sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead. Jerry Blevins relieved Godfrey in the top of the seventh and allowed Mitch Maier’s homer to right on his second pitch for a 3-0 Royals advantage.

–A’s reliever Joey Devine will miss the entire season after undergoing his second reconstructive elbow surgery Tuesday, performed by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla.

It’s a devastating blow for the right-hander, who had the same procedure in April 2009 and missed two full seasons while recovering. He made 26 appearances for the A’s last season and was viewed as a potential closer candidate entering this season.

“The frustration level and sadness he’s going through right now … to have to go back and do that again, I really feel bad for him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.

Devine, 28, appeared in just three spring training games, as his elbow began giving him trouble early in camp. He visited Andrews – who performed his 2009 surgery – on Monday. Devine’s ulnar collateral ligament had re-torn and needed to be replaced – the process known as “Tommy John” surgery. Andrews also repaired the ulnar nerve and cleaned out Devine’s flexor tendon.

Recovery from Tommy John surgery typically takes 12-18 months. Requiring the surgery twice is rare, although A’s head trainer Nick Paparesta points out that Los Angeles Angels closer Jason Isringhausen has come back from three Tommy John procedures.

“Obviously (having it twice) within a three-year period, it’s a little unusual,” Paparesta said.

Kansas City Royals closer Joakim Soria underwent his second Tommy John procedure April 3, but Royals head trainer Nick Kenney estimated that fewer than 20 major league pitchers have had the surgery multiple times.

“The thing that’s going to come out eventually is how long these (surgeries) last,” Kenney said. “We don’t know that yet. The reason that’s going to start coming up is you have younger kids who are 15, 16 years old having this procedure.”

–The A’s avoided their first home rainout since May 5, 1998. With Josh Reddick getting the night off, Cowgill drew the start in right field and Cespedes batted third. Anthony Recker also made his first start, spelling Kurt Suzuki behind the plate.

–A’s lefty Brett Anderson, almost nine months removed from his Tommy John surgery, continues to recover well. He threw 45 pitches Tuesday, his first time throwing all of his pitches – fastball, curve, slider and change-up — at full distance.

“Feeling good is the No. 1 factor,” Anderson said. “But I’m at a point now where my stuff is getting better and my competitive side is coming out. I’d rather focus on that than how my arm’s feeling.”

Anderson will fly to Phoenix on Wednesday to continue rehabbing in warmer weather. If all goes well, he will begin throwing live batting practice and possibly simulated games “in a week or two,” he said.

–Cespedes, who defected from Cuba last summer, declined comment on Ozzie Guillen’s recent inflammatory comments, in which Guillen voiced support for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Former A’s pitcher Ariel Prieto – another Cuban defector now acting as Cespedes’ interpreter – also politely declined to discuss the topic.

0

Joey Devine undergoes second Tommy John surgery — he’ll miss entire season

Here’s the item I wrote on Joey Devine for tomorrow’s newspaper …

By Joe Stiglich
jstiglich@bayareanewsgroup.com
A’s reliever Joey Devine will miss the entire season after undergoing a second reconstructive elbow surgery Tuesday, performed by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla.
It’s a devastating blow for the right-hander, who had the same procedure in April 2009 and missed two full seasons while recovering. He made 26 appearances for the A’s last season and was viewed as a potential closer candidate entering this season.
“The frustration level and sadness he’s going through right now, working as diligiently as he did … to have to go back and do that again, I really feel bad for him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.
Devine, 28, appeared in just three spring training games, as his elbow began giving him trouble early in camp. He went to visit Andrews – who performed his 2009 surgery – because he had pain in the ulnar nerve in his elbow.
An arthroscopic exam showed that Devine’s ulnar collateral ligament had re-torn and needed to be replaced – the process known as “Tommy John” surgery. Andrews also repaired the ulnar nerve and cleaned out Devine’s flexor tendon.
Recovery from Tommy John surgery typically takes 12-18 months, so Devine is likely to be sidelined well into the 2013 season.
Requiring the surgery twice is rare, although A’s head trainer Nick Paparesta points out that Los Angeles Angels closer Jason Isringhausen has come back from three Tommy John procedures.
“I think as we start to see these Tommy John guys come back and pitch longer and longer, we’re starting to see more of them have it done (a second time),” Paparesta said. “Obviously (requiring it within) a three-year period, it’s a little unusual.”
Kansas City Royals closer Joakim Soria underwent his second Tommy John procedure April 3; his first one took place in 2003 while he was in the Dodgers’ system.
Royals head trainer Nick Kenney estimated that fewer than 20 major league pitchers have undergone the surgery multiple times.
“The thing that’s going to come out here eventually is how long these (surgeries) last,” Kenney said. “We don’t know that yet. The reason that’s going to start coming up is you have younger kids who are 15, 16 years old having this procedure.”
One player who sympathizes with Devine – A’s left-hander Brett Anderson, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery himself. The two had talked often in recent days before Devine left for Florida.
“You could tell in the back of his mind he felt something wasn’t right,” Anderson said. “You’ve just got to put in the work and get in the frame of mind that you’re going to be healthy.”

0

A’s-Royals in rain delay

It’s officially a rain delay … We just got word that tonight’s game won’t start at 7:05 p.m. It’s raining right now, but not very hard. No word yet on when we’ll get underway, so hang tight. From my spot in the press box, I can see maybe 100 people in the stands right now. There’s probably more tucked up in the concourse …

0

Status of tonight’s A’s-Royals game still unknown

As I mentioned on Twitter, reliever Joey Devine will miss the rest of the season after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery today for the second time since 2009. Very unfortunate news for him and the A’s. …

We’re still on hold here for the start of the A’s-Royals game at the Coliseum. … It’s not raining at the moment, but it was coming down pretty steadily a couple hours ago. The tarp remains on the field. Every year it seems like there’s at least one threat of a rainout here, but we always get a game in. If this one does get postponed, it’s big news. There hasn’t been a rainout at the Coliseum since May 5, 1998. When I last checked weather.com, there was a 60 % chance of rain at game time. There’s been no official word on what happens in the event of a rainout, but A’s manager Bob Melvin said it’s his understanding they would try to play a doubleheader Wednesday as opposed to a makeup game Thursday.

“I would be surprised if we’re talking about Thursday because I don’t think the weather looks any better Thursday,” Melvin said. “I think you have to try to get it in as quickly as you can and go from there.”

The lineups if there is a game:

A’s: Weeks 2B, Crisp LF, Cespedes CF, Gomes DH, Donaldson 3B, Cowgill RF, Barton 1B, Recker C, Pennington SS; Godfrey RHP.

KC: Gordon LF, Escobar SS, Hosmer 1B, Butler DH, Francoeur RF, Moustakas 3B, Cain CF, Quintero C, Getz 2B; Duffy LHP.

With Josh Reddick getting a day off, Yoenis Cespedes moves up to hit third and Collin Cowgill makes his first outfield start. Anthony Recker also spells Kurt Suzuki for the first time behind the plate. “We need to get everybody involved,” Melvin said, “and (Recker and Cowgill) are the two guys that really haven’t been involved as much since the regular season started.”

2

Daric Barton gets another crack as A’s first baseman

The big pregame A’s news of the day: Daric Barton was activated from the disabled list and is starting at first base tonight against the Royals, batting seventh. To make room for him, Brandon Allen was designated for assignment, which means the A’s have 10 days to trade or release him, or send him to the minors if he clears waivers. There’s a good chance somebody grabs Allen off waivers, considering he’s still relatively young (26) and still holds power potential, so I think we might have seen the last of him in green and gold.

It looks like Barton will grow some roots in the starting lineup. “From this point on, we expect Daric to be the everyday first baseman,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.

Is it surprising to see Barton back in the big league lineup? Yes and no. You can hardly say he forced his way back to the majors. He was sent down last June after struggling mightily with the bat, and he played just a few weeks with Triple-A Sacramento before undergoing season-ending surgery Aug. 12 to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. This spring, Barton saw very limited playing time as he continued rehabbing, and he played in just four games with the River Cats before being called up Monday. He did go 7 for 19, with a grand slam on Sunday, but that’s hardly a big enough body of work to make him the obvious choice to install at first.

But it’s clear, going back for quite some time now, that the A’s brass still sees Barton as an impact player. Melvin was asked how easy of a decision it was to go with Barton at first base. “That was the plan all along,” Melvin said. “Whenever we felt like he was comfortable coming back (after surgery) and playing, he was going to be in the lineup.”

That’s a head-scratcher to me. The A’s are placing a lot of faith in a player who has posted just one truly productive major league season. That came in 2010, when Barton hit .273 with 10 homers, 57 RBI and 33 doubles. He also led the American League with 110 walks and played very good defense. But last season was a step backward offensively, and Barton also committed eight errors in 67 games.

Granted, neither Allen nor Kila Ka’aihue had shown they’re the clear-cut answer at first. But for a team that has lacked power more than anything in recent years, it would have been good to see if either of them could provide an upgrade in that department over an extended period.

Tonight’s lineups:

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

Royals: Bourgeois LF, Cain CF, Hosmer 1B, Butler DH, Francoeur RF, Betancourt 3B, Pena C, Escobar SS, Getz 2B; Mendoza RHP.