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A’s, Mariners lineups and pregame notes

Tonight’s lineups as the A’s try to rebound against the Mariners:

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

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

–Yoenis Cespedes makes his debut in the cleanup spot. “He’s a power bat, and he continues to swing it well,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.

–Daric Barton’s DL stint is retroactive to March 24, meaning he is eligible to be activated for Monday’s game against Kansas City. Will he join the A’s then? Melvin said there’s still an issue of whether Barton’s surgically repaired right shoulder can handle the rigors of playing every day, but he wouldn’t speculate on when, or if, Barton might return. Barton’s status still leaves the first base position in limbo, as the A’s seem to be entertaining the idea of plugging him in as the starter once they feel he’s healthy enough. Brandon Allen draws the start tonight, after Kila Ka’aihue got the nod Friday night …

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Postgame thoughts following A’s 7-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners

My full game story w/quotes is on our websites for you to check out …

Disappointment was the general theme in the A’s clubhouse, as you would expect after their 7-3 loss to the Mariners in their home opener Friday. I couldn’t help but think how much this game reminded me of last year’s season-opening loss to Seattle at the Coliseum. That game was much uglier — the A’s committed five errors in a 6-2 defeat — but it was similar in that there was a jacked-up sellout crowd that saw the home team lay an egg. The A’s have to hope Friday’s game isn’t an omen of things to come.

–The one bright spot for the A’s, obviously, was Yoenis Cespedes. His fourth-inning homer was something to watch — you don’t see many balls reach the area where that ball hit. But something also struck me about his two strikeouts — they both came on fastballs. Cespedes swung through a 95 mph offering from right-hander Steve Delabar in the sixth and then watched a 93 mph fastball on the inside corner from right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen in the eighth. For all the breaking balls that Cespedes is likely to see — especially when he’s willing to chase them out of the strike zone — a well-spotted fastball on the black will be tough for him to combat if he’s looking for off-speed stuff.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said during the spring that Cespedes wasn’t really being tested defensively during Cactus League games. He had plenty of action in Friday’s game alone — Michael Saunders’ double hit directly over his head in the fourth (I didn’t see how good of a jump Cespedes got on the ball or whether he had a chance to catch it); and Ichiro Suzuki’s sacrifice fly in the sixth, when Cespedes almost nailed Brendan Ryan at the plate.

But Cespedes said he has something more basic to work on — tracking ground balls as they scoot through the Coliseum’s outfield grass. One ball kicked away from him Friday, though it didn’t allow anyone to advance. “I have to try to find a way to catch the ball when it’s running on the grass because the ball goes like a snake,” Cespedes said.

That’s all for now …

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Josh Reddick gets a shot as the A’s No. 3 hitter

Checking in from the Coliseum for the A’s home opener. Technically, their home opener took place at the Tokyo Dome, but this feels more like the authentic deal. And we should have a good atmosphere for it, with a sellout crowd expected. (Tomorrow night will be a different story. Expect half the turnout of what they get tonight). …

The A’s lineup took many different shapes during spring training and in the Tokyo series, and tonight brings another twist. Coco Crisp bats second with Cliff Pennington dropping down to the ninth spot. Josh Reddick is hitting third, followed by DH Jonny Gomes and Yoenis Cespedes in the fifth spot. The complete lineups:

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

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

“I want to see what Reddick can do in the ‘3’ spot,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s shown he can hit lefties … He’s swinging the bat consistently, and you want the most consistent guy hitting third for you.”

It’s definitely a more conventional look – with Crisp, a speedy switch hitter, batting second rather than third – and to me it offers the most promise. It gives the A’s two switch-hitting table-setters atop the lineup in Weeks and Crisp, and in Reddick, they have a No. 3 hitter with a little more pop in his bat. Batting Pennington ninth also makes the bottom of the order stronger, and as Melvin pointed out, he still has a speedy trio batting back-to-back-to-back in Pennington, Weeks and Crisp. Now, it can all change quickly, as it did during the spring. But I would expect to see this batting order, or one very similar to it, often in the first couple weeks of the season.

What are your thoughts on this lineup, 1 through 9? …

–Reddick provided the quote of the afternoon, and it had nothing to do with batting third. The right fielder was asked about the challenge of the language barrier between him and center fielder Cespedes. “As long as he knows how to say ‘I got it,’ we’re going to be all right,” Reddick said. “I don’t want that brick wall running into me.”

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Ross sent to Triple-A for now, 25-man roster set for Friday

In for Joe Stiglich one more day …

Not much of a surprise after the last two days, but the A’s elected to keep Graham Godfrey on the roster as their No. 4 starter and send Tyson Ross to Triple-A Sacramento to get down to the 25-man roster limit. Ross could be back on April 17 when the A’s need a fifth starter, but it’s not a sure thing. The former Bishop O’Dowd High and Cal standout started the spring very strongly but got knocked around pretty good in an exhibition in Japan, and was shaky Tuesday night against the Giants. Godfrey, meanwhile, had his best two performances of the spring in the final two, which manager Bob Melvin said was the deciding factor.

Ross was disappointed, but understands he needs to sharpen his secondary pitches. The challenge for him will be staying at No. 5 and holding off Brad Peacock and Jarrod Parker, who were also in the mix for the No. 4 and No. 5 spots throughout spring. Ross knows he’s not guaranteed anything, but he does have the inside track on coming back as long as he doesn’t flame out with Sacto. Don’t be surprised if the A’s do a lot of  juggling with the No. 4 and 5 spots this year. Godfrey will have to pitch well to keep his job, too, but right now he’s the clear No. 4 behind Brandon McCarthy, Bartolo Colon and Tommy Milone.

It was a quiet day for the A’s compared to the Giants, who had to make 9 roster moves to Oakland’s 1.

Shortstop Cliff Pennington will probably take the full day off to rest his tight groin. He told me he could play if it was a regular season game and that he’s pretty close to 100 percent, but doesn’t need the at-bats and wants to be fully healthy for the home opener Friday night.

No word yet on RHP Joey Devine’s MRI to determine what’s causing his chronic flexor tendinitis.

The Giants consented to allow the A’s to use the DH today even though they’re playing in a National League park. Kurt Suzuki gets the nod with Anthony Recker behind the plate.

Yoenis Cespedes has settled into a pattern of mashing at least one ball per game. I’m going on record: This guy’s going to hit 30-plus HRs (hey, only 29 to go) as long as he stays healthy. He’s already established that you can’t miss one of his at-bats.

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Braden shut down for 3 weeks, Barton to DL, Devine has MRI and more news, not all of it medical

The A’s probably won’t have the services of Dallas Braden for awhile, but at least there is still hope that he can help them at some point in the first half of the season. After being examined in New York Monday for a left shoulder setback, Braden received a platelet rich plasma injection and will be shut down completely for three weeks. But there doesn’t appear to be any structural issues, which is always good news when you’re talking about a shoulder. It remains to be seen how big of a step Braden will have to take once he begins throwing again, but manager Bob Melvin said he shouldn’t have to make up as much ground as he did following the surgery.

So where does that put him date-wise as far as a return, provided there are no setbacks? Good question. He won’t be able to throw again until late April, and he’ll probably need another three weeks to build back up to where he was. He’ll probably require some rehab starts once he is ready to pitch in a game. So maybe early to mid-June? That’s nothing more than an estimate, but we’re in a real grey area with Braden until he actually gets back on a mound throwing to live hitters. It could be longer. Thankfully, it doesn’t sound like his setback is career-threatening at this point.

It’s hardly a surprise Daric Barton was placed on the 15-day disabled list to start the season. He was sounding pretty unsure he was ready in a chat I had with him Monday night. He just hasn’t played enough, particularly in consecutive games, and as he said, he hasn’t had to cut loose with a really hard throw yet. He’ll probably get some more extended spring work to build up his stamina. Melvin said his D assignment is back-dated into March, so he’ll be able to come off April 9. It remains to be seen if he’ll be ready even then. Hence, for now, the A’s will go with Brandon Allen and Kila Ka’aihue at first base.

 

RHP Joey Devine had an MRI on his surgically repaired elbow to determine why he has had recurring issues with flexor tendinitis ever since he had Tommy John surgery in 2009. Devine is hoping it doesn’t have to involve surgery, but wants to get to the bottom of the issue after trying all manner of treatment with no real success. Results of the MRI should come back Wednesday or Thursday.

Shortstop Cliff Pennington, nursing some slight groin tightness, took the night off against the Giants and may not play Wednesday at AT&T Park. Melvin doesn’t want to take any unnecessary risks with his starting shortstop, and believes Pennington has had enough ABs anyway to be ready to pick things up Friday in the home opener against Seattle.

The A’s have just one roster move to make to get down to 25. It’ll almost certainly be either Graham Godfrey or Tyson Ross heading to Sacramento to start the season since the A’s won’t need a fifth starter until mid-April. The A’s will likely make the announcement Wednesday instead of after tonight’s game.

Yoenis Cespedes is definitely worth watching during batting practice. Tuesday night, he nearly hit one to the lower luxury box windows in left field, a poke that would have made Jose Canseco sit up and take notice. This guy really might hit 30 homers for the A’s if he can make consistent contact, because when he connects, the ball goes. His double at AT&T Park Monday night was a laser shot.

 

 

 

 

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Barton isn’t sure he’s ready; Braden has exam, Devine may get one; other pre-Bay Bridge notes

In for Joe Stiglich all three days of the Bay Bridge Series as he continues to recover from Japan jetlag

We’re on the calm side of things here at AT&T Park for the first game of three. The Matt Cain signing dominated the news here, but the A’s weren’t without a few noteworthy ditties.

For starters, infielder Adam Rosales was optioned to Triple-A, meaning Eric Sogard has made the team as the roving middle infielder. Rosales might have been the preference initially, but was set back by a shoulder problem early in spring and never really got it going once he got on the field. Manager Bob Melvin said Rosales needs at-bats, and he’ll get them in Triple-A.

The A’s still have two more roster trims to make. One of them could wind up being whoever the fifth starter turns out to me, since with a slew of early-season off days, they won’t need a fifth starter until mid-April. The other trim will likely take place among the three first basemen — Daric Barton, Kila Ka’aihue and Brandon Allen. It almost seems like a no-brainer. I talked to Barton before the game and he admitted he’s not completely sure he’s fully ready for everyday play. Among other things, he said he hasn’t cut loose with a hard throw to second base yet, and he only played back-to-back games in extended spring training this past weekend. Yet Melvin hasn’t ruled him out of the Oakland Opening Day mix.

Another factor: Brandon Allen and Ka’aihue are out of options and Barton isn’t. What’s more, the two former players had solid springs. Allen hit .303 with a couple of homers, Ka’aihue hit just .242 but led the club in home runs with three.

Elsewhere, Dallas Braden flew East and was scheduled to have his left shoulder examined by Dr. David Altcheck, the Mets medical director who performed surgery to repair Braden’s torn anterior capsule last May. Results of the exam should be known later tonight or Tuesday.

Another pitching shutdown was announced Monday — right-handed reliever Joey Devine, who had already been optioned to the minors. Devine’s elbow is acting up again. He’s experiencing soreness, and will be examined in the next day or so.

Catcher Kurt Suzuki said he’s feeling fine after getting hit in the arm with a pitch against Sacramento pitcher Jarrod Parker Saturday night.

Yoenis Cespedes is batting cleanup tonight against the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner. That could be fun. Even if it isn’t, great to have baseball back in the Bay. Now all we need are some games that really count.