5

Brandon Inge to the DL, Adam Rosales called up from minors as A’s go for split in Texas

Unfortunately for the A’s, they’re starting to assemble a pretty impressive All-DL team: Yoenis Cespedes in center field, Coco Crisp in left, lefties Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden in the rotation, and now Brandon Inge at third base. Inge was placed on the 15-day disabled list as expected Thursday with a right groin strain. To take his spot, the A’s recalled Adam Rosales from Triple-A Sacramento. Rosales is starting at first base today in place of Daric Barton with Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison on the mound. A’s manager Bob Melvin said Rosales also will see time at third and might spell Jemile Weeks and/or Cliff Pennington on occasion. Expect to see the right-handed hitter mainly against lefties.

The lineups:
A’s – Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Reddick RF, Gomes LF, Suzuki C, Donaldson 3B, Ka’aihue DH, Rosales 1B, Cowgill CF; McCarthy RHP.

Rangers – Kinsler 2B, Andrus SS, Young DH, Beltre 3B, Murphy LF, Cruz RF, Napoli C, Moreland 1B, Gentry CF; Harrison LHP.

Rosales looked wide awake this morning, surprising considering he caught a redeye flight out of Sacramento at 12:30 a.m., connected in Houston, then took a prop plane for the short flight to Dallas that landed at 8:30 a.m. He said his body feels OK right now. “It’s always the second day that is hard.” If he homers, I don’t expect him to sprint around the bases with any less vigor.

I’m guessing some of you might like to see Rosales plugged in as the regular third baseman until Inge returns? Melvin said he talked to Josh Donaldson about last night’s defensive mistake, when he took too long to field and throw to first on Craig Gentry’s grounder that went for an RBI single. “You have to address things like that,” Melvin said. “How you do it and when you do it is up for debate. But he’s got to understand the situation and take care of it going forward.”

The truth is, Rosales isn’t a perfect answer at third either. The A’s have very little depth at that position, which is why Inge’s impact meant so much to this team.

–Melvin said the A’s should have a better read on the status of outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Coco Crisp – both on the DL – when they join the team in San Francisco tomorrow. “We’ll know whether (Crisp) is close to maybe playing a rehab game or two.”

0

Adrian Beltre strikes again vs. the A’s

Every time the A’s come to Rangers Ballpark and stumble, Adrian Beltre’s performance manages to add a little sting to the process, doesn’t it? The A’s have lost 13 of their past 15 to the Rangers — including eight of their last nine in Arlington — and Beltre always seems to be front and center in doing damage. He went the opposite way with a two-run homer off Tommy Milone in the fourth inning of Wednesday’s 4-1 Rangers win. Since the start of the 2006 season, Beltre has homered 20 times against the A’s, most in the majors. He entered the night with 69 RBIs against Oakland, tied for fifth among active players against the A’s.

I’d imagine it’s hard for A’s fans to watch Beltre and not think of him spurning the A’s after the 2009 and 2010 seasons, when they made a hard push to sign the free agent. He opted for a one-year deal with Boston for 2010, then landed a six-year $96 million contract from division-rival Texas before the 2011 campaign.

And Beltre didn’t just hurt the A’s with his bat Wednesday, either. He made a terrific back-handed play in the eighth, grabbing Anthony Recker’s grounder along the third-base line and making a difficult throw to second that nearly resulted in a double play. He’s a special player, and one who always manages to haunt the A’s.

–The silver lining from the A’s loss? I thought Tommy Milone handled things pretty well in his first start against the Rangers. He went seven innings and gave up four runs, but all the damage came in the fourth, and if Josh Donaldson makes that play to get Craig Gentry at first, it could have been a different ballgame. Milone struck out Josh Hamilton on a curve in the first, and Hamilton’s two hits off Milone were an infield job in the fourth and a harmless single in the fifth.

“Stay low and away,” Milone said of his strategy against Hamilton. “That’s why I tried using the curve ball a little more. Keep it awayfrom where he can hit it.”

Milone prepared for the Rangers by watching video of the Royals’ Bruce Chen and Detroit reliever Duane Below, two lefties who pitched well against Texas earlier this season (Below pitched an extended outing from the bullpen). Milone thinks both pitchers are similar in style to him.

–Time to close the book on one long day. My early-morning flight out of Anaheim got canceled, so I had to scramble to find another flight and spent three hours wedged in a middle seat, trying to sleep and having little success doing so. … This is a quick trip to Texas — two games in less than a 24-hour span. Forget the traveling nightmare, the biggest tragedy of this trip is I won’t get to eat at my favorite Arlington restaurant — Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen. It’s a regional chain, but a very good one. I strongly recommend …

1

Brandon Inge remains out as A’s get their first look at Texas Rangers

After some travel “inconveniences” that I’ll spare you the details of, I finally made it to Rangers Ballpark. It’s warm here — it always is in Arlington — but not as hot as it will be a month from now.

Here’s a pregame rundown from A’s land …

–Third baseman Brandon Inge’s sore groin has him out of the lineup for the fourth straight game, which is no big shock. Manager Bob Melvin said he was eyeing Inge’s return more for Thursday than today. So Josh Donaldson gets another start at third.

–The A’s made a bullpen transaction, sending reliever Andrew Carignan to Triple-A Sacramento to make room for newcomer Travis Blackley. It’s pretty unheard of for a major league bullpen to carry five lefties, but that’s where the A’s are right now. It’s hardly ideal, but part of the reason the A’s were comfortable doing this is because they’re confident in their lefties’ ability to get right-handed hitters out. Having said that, I don’t expect them to stick with this makeup for very long. “At some point in time, you just use your best pitchers you feel you have at the time,” Melvin told reporters during his pregame media address. “There’s always going to be some trial and error, and that’s just where we are right now.”

The lineups:
A’s — Weeks 2B, Cowgill CF, Reddick RF, Smith LF, Ka’aihue DH, Donaldson 3B, Barton 1B, Recker C, Sogard SS; Milone LHP.

Rangers — Andrus SS, Gonzalez 2B, Hamilton LF, Beltre 3B, Cruz RF, Napoli DH, Torrealba C, Snyder 1B, Gentry CF; Darvish RHP.

1

Postgame thoughts as the A’s split two in Anaheim

Wrapping things up here at Angel Stadium, where it’s tough to keep track of the days with these wacky two-game series. The A’s don’t typically finish a series on a Tuesday, and it’s even more rare for them to play a Tuesday game with a crazy start time (4:05 first pitch today). Blame it on the MLB scheduling. Every year, teams get a week where they play back-to-back two-game sets. The A’s have lucked out the past couple years because they’ve been at home for these series. It’s a different story on the road. Just when a team starts to settle in at a ballpark, bags are being packed and they’re off again …

–How should we judge Bartolo Colon’s start this afternoon? The box score says he got roughed up — 12 hits and four runs in 6 2/3 innings. But it certainly didn’t seem like Colon was hit very hard most of the day. He was hitting 92 mph with his fastball, and that’s a good sign because Colon’s velocity had been down over his past couple of starts.

“I thought he threw the ball well,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “His velocity was back. It’s not like he was struggling.”

But facts are facts. Colon just isn’t pitching with the same efficiency he was through most of April. He’s at his best when he’s painting that fastball on the inside and outside corners, but lately opponents are getting good wood on it. The A’s need this guy to get back to form. Of all the A’s starters, Colon is the guy who’s easiest to take for granted. He goes about his work in such a matter-of-fact manner that you assume he’ll chalk up a quality start each time he takes the mound. Watch him over his next several starts, though. The main concern when the A’s signed him was that Colon might wilt in the second half of the season, like he did in 2011. The A’s don’t need him showing cracks in the armor before they even hit the All-Star break.

–It’s no secret a team needs to bring the sticks to Rangers Ballpark whenever they play there. Texas leads the AL in runs with 212. They feature the game’s most dangerous hitter at the moment in Josh Hamilton. A team has to score runs if they want to keep up with the Rangers in their stadium. But check out the pitching stats, too. The Rangers sport the AL’s best team ERA at 3.24. A’s manager Bob Melvin was asked if he considers the upcoming two-game series a measuring stick for his club.

“We’re not at full strength, so when you say measuring stick, I think a measuring stick is more when you’re at full strength,” Melvin said. “It’s a tough task playing in their park. They usually score a lot of runs, so our pitching has to be good. And offensively, we have to be better. We feel our pitching has a chance to hold them down.”

Tommy Milone gets the first crack to do that Wednesday in his first career appearance against Texas …

0

Manny Ramirez to join Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday; Ka’aihue returns; A’s add a reliever

As I mentioned last night, it’s not often we get 4 p.m. games on the West Coast. But the Angels agreed to do this as a favor to the A’s, who have a long flight to Texas tonight for a series starting tomorrow against the Rangers. I find myself in “in-between” mode. It doesn’t really feel like a day game or a night game.

–The big news earlier today was the A’s announcement that Manny Ramirez is joining Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday to begin his 10-game minor league assignment. Josh Reddick, for one, said he is looking forward to Ramirez’s arrival. He got to know Ramirez pretty well during spring training, and said he was surprised at how friendly and outgoing Ramirez was. I had to ask: “Seriously? You expected Manny Ramirez to be a wallflower?”

“I thought he’d be a quiet veteran,” Reddick said. “But he came over to my locker every day and said good morning.”

Obviously the bigger question is what kind of impact Ramirez can make in the batter’s box. That remains to be seen, but perhaps his 10-game assignment with Sacramento will help provide a glimpse.

–Today’s lineups:

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

Angels: Trout CF, Callaspo 3B, Pujols 1B, Morales DH, Trumbo RF, Kendrick 2B, Wells LF, Aybar SS, Wilson C; Santana RHP.

–Kila Ka’aihue said his injured hamstring started feeling a lot better yesterday, so he’s back in the lineup today. A’s manager Bob Melvin said Brandon Inge is doing better with his groin injury. He expects to have Inge back at third base by Thursday, the second game of the Texas series, but he didn’t rule out Inge playing tomorrow.

–The other pregame news of the day: The A’s claimed left-hadned reliever Travis Blackley off waivers from the Giants. He has yet to join the team, but he will serve in a long relief role once here. The A’s haven’t made a 25-man roster move yet, but they made room on the 40-man roster by transferring Joey Devine to the 60-day DL. Did this bullpen really need another lefty to join the four already here? No, but if the A’s have Blackley pegged for long relief, lefty-vs.-righty really doesn’t matter as much. And there’s no guarantee how long he’ll stick with the big club. With a long stretch of games with no days off, the A’s might shuttle relieves to and from the minors to keep arms fresh.

Blackley’s addition makes it four Australians in the organization – he joins relievers Grant Balfour and Rich Thompson and third baseman Luke Hughes (those latter two are with Sacramento). Melvin noted that Major League Baseball is considering holding an Opening Day in Australia.

“I think we’re posturing,” he joked.

5

A’s and Angels — two teams going opposite directions

What a contrast in moods around the A’s and Angels right now. The A’s, expected to struggle this season after trading away so many key players over the winter, played relaxed and loose Monday night. Their 5-0 victory over the Angels was one of their best overall games this season. They’re 19-17 and in second place in the AL West, four games behind the Texas Rangers. The Angels? Considered World Series contenders when the season began, they’re mired in the AL West cellar at 15-21. Albert Pujols is hitting .197, and the boo birds are making themselves heard at Angel Stadium.

Who knows how the rest of this season plays out? The smart money still says the Angels will finish above the A’s in the standings. But it’s really something to watch right now, as the A’s are the team carrying the air of confidence when these clubs take the field.

–Tyson Ross was understandably pleased with his outing — six shutout innings with just five hits allowed. And he’s benefiting from a mechanical adjustment he made. In his windup, Ross said he’s swinging his left leg back more and rotating his body away from the plate more before delivering the ball. “It makes me a tick slower to the plate,” Ross said. “My stuff is a little better, and it’s going to make me a better pitcher overall.” He’s allowed just two runs and one walk in two starts at Angel Stadium this season (12 innings).

–A’s manager Bob Melvin said after the game that he wasn’t sure about the status of Brandon Inge and Kila Ka’aihue for tomorrow’s series finale. He wants to see how both injured players respond in batting practice.

–We’ll have one of the nuttier start times of the season tomorrow with a 4:05 p.m. first pitch. That’s very unusual for a West Coast game. It’s being televised on Comcast SportsNet California as usual …

0

Jemile Weeks, Kurt Suzuki return to lineup as A’s begin one strange road trip

There’s pretty good news on the injury front for the A’s, and really, all talk regarding this team right now has to begin with health, right? After seeing a wave of guys lost to injury on the last homestand – some more serious than others – the A’s have a couple back tonight. Jemile Weeks’ sprained left ankle is doing better and he’s in the leadoff spot at second base. Kurt Suzuki said his left hand feels a little better – he’s behind the plate to catch Tyson Ross. A’s manager Bob Melvin said Suzuki’s thumb is actually what he’s more concerned with right now. Suzuki has taken a couple foul tips off the thumb, but apparently it’s feeling well enough for him to play.

The lineups:
A’s – Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Reddick RF, Gomes DH, Smith LF, Donaldson 3B, Barton 1B, Suzuki C, Cowgill CF; Ross RHP.

Angels – Trout CF, Izturis 2B, Pujols 1B, Morales DH, Trumbo RF, Callaspo 3B, Wells LF, Aybar SS, Wilson C; Haren RHP.

Third baseman Brandon Inge (groin injury) and first baseman Kila Ka’aihue (right hamstring) remain out. Melvin says Ka’aihue could probably play tonight, but they want to give him an extra day as a precaution. The A’s will be extra cautious with Inge. He spent time on the DL with Detroit earlier this season with a groin injury, but he told me that problem was more on the left side. This one is on the right. At any rate, Melvin said Inge’s all-out style of play makes him susceptible to aggravating it. “He’s max effort all the time, that’s what I worry about,” Melvin said. “That groin, if he tweaks that thing again, now we’re looking at the DL.”

This is an odd seven-game road trip – two against the Angels, two at Texas, and then three just across the Bay Bridge against the Giants. It’s an important stretch though, as the A’s see the division-leading Rangers for the first time. Coming away with a split in these first four against the Angels and Rangers would be a success going into the Giants series. As I write that, Josh Reddick just homered off Dan Haren in the top of the first.

Time for me to get a move on. Enjoy the game …

3

Injury bug bites Inge; A’s face Verlander shorthanded

Ben Enos filling in for Joe Stiglich from the Oakland Coliseum

Just when the A’s start to get something good going, the injury bug rears its ugly head yet again. The latest casualty is uber-hot third baseman Brandon Inge, who will miss today’s game with a slight groin injury. A’s manager Bob Melvin said Inge argued to play, but with what’s gone on lately around these parts when it comes to injuries, the right move was to sit Inge.

So, even though there’ll be bodies on the A’s bench today, the actual list of available subs is pretty much non-existent. Jemile Weeks (ankle) and Kila Ka’aihue (hamstring) are both unavailable today. Kurt Suzuki (hand/thumb) sits today as well, but Melvin said that the catcher is the emergency backup today. Melvin said he would really prefer not to use his starting catcher.

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1

A’s make switch at closer — Fuentes in, Balfour out

The news continued coming after the A’s 3-1 win over the Tigers, when manager Bob Melvin announced he has switched from Grant Balfour to Brian Fuentes as his closer. Fuentes pitched the ninth for his second save of the season. Balfour has carried an 11.81 ERA with two blown saves over his past seven games.

“We’ll give Balfour a bit of a break,” Melvin said, “and it gives me another right-handed arm to use earlier in the game.”

Looking at this switch, I’m not sure it does much to improve or damage the A’s chances in the ninth. Neither Balfour nor Fuentes is a great fit for the ninth in my opinion. Both are more setup men at this point in their careers. The closer situation is definitely the weakest part of what has been, overall, a very good bullpen this season. I still expect we’ll see Ryan Cook get a crack in the ninth before long. Cook threw another scoreless eighth tonight and has yet to allow a run through 16 2/3 innings this season, the most among AL relievers.

How does Melvin’s decision grab you?

–Jemile Weeks said his sprained left ankle isn’t bad. He thinks he might even be available to play tomorrow, but Melvin listed him as doubtful. Kila Ka’aihue also is doubtful with his right hamstring injury. As I wrote earlier today, the DL is not a consideration right now for Ka’aihue.

That’s all for now …

0

Yoenis Cespedes placed on 15-day DL

IMPORTANT UPDATE: The A’s made a switch and decided to recall infielder Josh Donaldson from Triple-A Sacramento rather than outfielder Michael Taylor. Basically, had they brought back Taylor, they would have only been able to backdate Yoenis Cespedes’ DL stint to Friday rather than Monday. By opting for Donaldson over Taylor, Cespedes is eligible to come off the DL earlier.
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The latest …

The A’s placed Yoenis Cespedes on the 15-day disabled list and recalled Michael Taylor to take his roster spot. Cespedes is eligible to be reinstated May 22.  Here’s a story on it …