2

Melvin: No plan to switch Yoenis Cespedes from left field

It’s another hot one at Rangers Ballpark today, and it feels a little more humid than the past two days. With first pitch roughly an hour earlier, the heat becomes more of a factor during the game too. …

–Not surprisingly, much of Bob Melvin’s pregame media chat revolved around Yoenis Cespedes and his misplay of last night’s 3-run triple by Craig Gentry. For those wondering, the A’s had Cespedes playing a little shallower than usual with the bases loaded because they didn’t want a single scoring two and giving Texas the lead (it was 2-1 at the time). Melvin said he watched video of the play. “His first instinct was to come in,” Melvin said. “… I agree with the fact that maybe he doesn’t get it (even if he reads the ball right).”

Make your own judgement on that one. But Melvin said there is no thought right now of switching Cespedes back to center field. He also said he has no plan to use a defensive replacement in the late innings for Cespedes.

“We do know there’s going to be a learning curve with him in left field,” Melvin said. “It’s not that easy to go from center field and go out to left field and just feel comfortable. There’s gonna be some plays that may be tougher reads. But we feel like all things considered, he’s got a chance to be a nice weapon for us (in left), cutting runs off at the plate, keeping guys from going first to third and second to home.”

Cespedes is at DH tonight. Melvin says he’ll continue giving him occasional days at DH through the All-Star break to make sure his hamstring is OK. “After the break, we’ll probably feel more comfortable running him out there every day.”

–Bartolo Colon’s bullpen session went well, and though the A’s will wait to see how he feels Sunday, he looks on track to come off the DL and start Tuesday.

–If you watch tonight’s Fox broadcast, Brandon Moss will be miked up. According to Josh Reddick, Moss doesn’t cuss so editing him shouldn’t pose much of a challenge.

–Tonight’s lineups:
A’s — Crisp CF, Weeks 2B, Reddick RF, Cespedes DH, Gomes LF, Carter 1B, Inge 3B, Hicks SS, Suzuki C; Milone LHP.

Rangers — Kinsler 2B, Andrus SS, Hamilton LF, Beltre 3B, Young DH, Cruz RF, Napoli 1B, Torrealba C, Gentry CF; Perez LHP.

4

Chris Carter back with A’s; Tyson Ross sent to minors

Catching you up on the A’s pregame news, and there was a significant portion of it today.

Chris Carter is back with the big league club, having been called up before the game. He’s starting at first base and hitting seventh. To make room for him, right-hander Tyson Ross — Thursday’s starter — was sent down to Triple-A.

Manager Bob Melvin says Carter is here to play against left-handers, and the A’s face several of them coming up. So it’s a platoon situation right now, with Brandon Moss still slated to play against right-handers. Moss is 3 for 24 with no homers and 11 strikeouts over his past seven games, so I don’t think it hurts to give someone else a look. Carter’s numbers at Triple-A: .279, 12 homers, 53 RBIs in 72 games. Those aren’t dominant stats, but he was hitting .386 over his last 12 games.

What should we expect from Carter? At age 25, he’s not considered an elite prospect any more. In four prior stints with Oakland over the past two years, he’s hit .167 with three homers and seven RBI in 39 games. Melvin was asked if there’s urgency for Carter to produce this time, given his prior big league stints. “Like anybody, you make your own opportunities at the big league level,” Melvin said. “If you come in and knock the door down, you force us to put you in the lineup. I think that’s what everybody aspires to in the big leagues. It just hasn’t happened for him up to this point.”

Carter has made a slight mechanical adjustment — he’s trying to use his lower body more instead of just being a hands-hitter. Have his prior big league stints taught him anything to better prepare him to succeed? “I know what to expect now,” he said. “I can’t have any excuses.”

Melvin said similar things about Ross that he’s said in the past. The right-hander needs to find a secondary pitch that creates more of a velocity gap with his fastball. He’s thrown a more effective slider lately, but the A’s want him to be able to change speeds more effectively. I was initially surprised by this move, just because it didn’t seem somebody else was ready to step in. But Melvin said Bartolo Colon — who is eligible to come off the DL on Tuesday, which is when Ross’ turn comes up — might be ready by then. Melvin had indicated as recently as Thursday that he didn’t know if Colon would be ready before the All-Star break. Colon throws his second bullpen session tomorrow, and that will largely determine whether he’s a go for Tuesday.

–The lineups, with the A’s showing an all right-handed hitting look against Texas lefty Matt Harrison:

A’s — Crisp CF, Weeks 2B, Cespedes LF, Gomes RF, Inge 3B, Norris DH, Carter 1B, HIcks SS, Suzuki C; Griffin RHP.

Rangers — Kinsler 2B, Andrus SS, Hamilton LF, Beltre 3B, Young 1B, Cruz RF, Murphy DH, Napoli C, Martin CF; Harrison LHP.

3

Postgame thoughts on A’s 7-6 loss to Rangers — should Tyson Ross’ night have ended so soon?

You could stage a pretty healthy debate regarding the fifth inning of the A’s 7-6 defeat Thursday. That’s when the Rangers took control by scoring four runs that turned a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead. Looking back, A’s starter Tyson Ross did not have his best stuff, and he deserves blame for putting the first three runners on that inning to begin Texas’ rally. But A’s manager Bob Melvin also showed a pretty quick hook in pulling Ross at that point and going with Jim Miller. Hindsight is 20/20, right? It’s easy to look back and second-guess the decision after watching Miller walk two guys to force in a run and then surrender a two-run go-ahead single to David Murphy. But it’s also true that the wheels weren’t coming off for Ross at that point. He allowed a walk and two singles to begin the inning, but the second hit was an infield job by Elvis Andrus. “I just felt at that time that we needed someone else in the game,” Melvin said. “It just didn’t look like his stuff was getting better, it was going downhill a little bit.”

That’s fair analysis. If anything, Melvin’s pitching change at that point showed that Ross hasn’t quite earned the full confidence of his manager. Melvin acknowledges the progress Ross has made. His slider is becoming more of a weapon. He struck out Murphy with a slider in the fourth, showing that he knows how to get lefties out, which has been a weakness for him. But Ross also needs to get more consistent, period. He has to avoid putting so many runners on base, and show that he can avoid the threat of a big inning that prompts his manager to consider giving him the hook. At any rate, with the injuries in the A’s rotation, Ross should get at least a couple more opportunities to show he’s making strides in the right direction. …

A.J. Griffin draws a tough assignment Friday in his second big league start, as he tries to tame the Rangers’ lineup and give the A’s a chance to even the series as they go up against Texas lefty Matt Harrison (10-3, 3.24).

That’s all for now …

1

Brian Fuentes’ name pops up in trade speculation

It is sweltering here at Rangers Ballpark, as we expected. The forecast called for the temperature to hit triple digits, though at first pitch tonight, it was 97 degrees. Toss in some humidity and, well, I’m happy to be watching the game from an enclosed press box. …

The lineups:

A’s — Crisp CF, Weeks 2B, Reddick RF, Cespedes DH, Smith LF, Inge 3B, Moss 1B, Norris C, Pennington SS; Ross RHP.

Rangers — Kinsler 2B, Andrus SS, Hamilton LF, Beltre 3B, Young 1B, Cruz DH, Murphy RF, Torrealba C, Martin CF; Feldman RHP.

–Yoenis Cespedes is serving as DH for the second straight day, even though manager Bob Melvin said yesterday Cespedes would be in the outfield. I think sometimes Melvin regrets trying to be up front and honest with us, because then when he changes his mind, he’s got to explain himself. “I think we’ll rotate guys around,” Melvin said of his outfield group. He noted that with Texas pitching a lefty in Matt Harrison on Friday, Cespedes would play the outfield that day. I take that to mean Cespedes will play left field Friday, with left-handed hitting Seth Smith probably out of the lineup and Jonny Gomes at DH. Cespedes said after yesterday’s game that his hamstring felt good and that he’s OK playing the outfield, so I don’t think it’s a physical issue with him.

–The rumor mill is officially off and flying with the A’s, as Jon Heyman of cbssports.com is reporting that Oakland is looking to deal reliever Brian Fuentes. Fuentes has been viewed as a logical trade candidate most of the season, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the A’s try and deal him. The tough part will be finding a taker because not only has Fuentes struggled to a 6.85 ERA this season, he’s making $5 million. That’s obviously a very steep price tag for a situational reliever who isn’t getting outs. He also has a $6.5 million club option for 2013, though that can be bought out for $500,000. Expect the A’s to have to eat a healthy portion of his salary in any deal involving Fuentes.

The veteran lefty has fallen down the A’s bullpen totem pole, with Melvin going to lefties Jerry Blevins and Sean Doolittle before him in several situations. Melvin said he’d like to work Fuentes into more low-pressure scenarios so he can have some success and get back on track. “I’d like to get him a soft landing,” the manager said.

At any rate, he’s not the only veteran who will surface in trade rumors in the coming weeks. Fellow reliever Grant Balfour, center fielder Coco Crisp, starting pitcher Bartolo Colon and catcher Kurt Suzuki are all potential trade targets. Stay tuned …

–One last note: Colon threw a bullpen session today and came out of it well. He’s on tap for another one, but Melvin said he’s unsure if the right-hander will come off the DL before the All-Star break.

0

Bartolo Colon, Brett Anderson making strides; what’s the A’s plan for prospect Grant Green?

It’s a picture-perfect afternoon at Safeco Field. Warm, sunny … the complete opposite of yesterday. I guess the sunshine is getting us ready for four games in Texas, although it will be quite a bit toastier there. One writer who was recently at Rangers Ballpark told me it was 94 degrees when a game ended at 10 p.m. Yikes …

–A couple of A’s pitchers on the mend seem to be doing well. Bartolo Colon (strained right oblique) is throwing a bullpen session Thursday. He’s eligible to come off the DL on July 3, and while the A’s haven’t set a date for his return, manager Bob Melvin expressed optimism last week that Colon might return by the All-Star break.

Brett Anderson threw his second bullpen session since having a minor setback in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. It went well – 30 pitches, fastballs and changeups. “Pretty uneventful,” Anderson said, and he likes it that way right now. There’s no timeframe for him to pitch in a minor league game. Figure he’s still at least a month away from returning to the big league club. … Dallas Braden is throwing but still hasn’t pitched off the mound yet. There’s no timetable for his return yet …

The lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, Pennington SS, Reddick RF, Cespedes DH, Smith LF, Inge 3B, Moss 1B, Hicks 2B, Suzuki C; Parker RHP.

M’s – Ichiro RF, Gutierrez CF, Seager 3B, Montero DH, Saunders LF, Jaso C, Smoak 1B, Ackley 2B, Ryan SS; Millwood RHP.

–I figure there has to be curiosity among fans concerning Grant Green, the 2009 first-round pick who was switched from shortstop to center field last summer, and now is once again seeing time in the infield as well as left field. Grady Fuson, an A’s special assistant to the GM, spends much of his time evaluating the farm system, and he said he thinks Green is close to major league-ready with the bat. But the A’s are trying to increase his versatility defensively. “He’s spent time in center field, and the majority of all of his games have been in the middle of the diamond,” Fuson said. “We’ll see what he looks like at third. He could even see time at second base. But versatility alone could be good for his first arrival.”

Green is hitting .292 with eight homers and 40 RBI for Triple-A Sacramento. He also has 12 doubles and five triples in 68 games. Green has always been good taking the ball to the opposite field, but the A’s have worked to increase his power, and Fuson is encouraged that all of his homers this season have been pulled to left field. “If you live by hitting the ball the other way, even in the minor leagues, that’s a good skill,” Fuson said, “but it’s easier to pitch you. And when you get to (the majors) it’s easier to play you.”

How close is Green to joining Oakland? I would think a September call-up isn’t out of the question. But it’s tough to tell what the A’s long-term projection is for this guy based on how he’s bouncing around the diamond. It does make sense to try him at third base, considering the A’s lack some organizational depth there. They just drafted Daniel Robertson and plan to convert him from shortstop to third base, but he’s just out of high school, so he’s several years away. Stephen Parker has moved up the ranks and is playing third at Sacramento right now, but it’s unclear if the A’s see him as a potential answer at the position. I asked Fuson if Green’s switch back to the infield was a result of him struggling in the outfield or more the A’s needs on the left side of the infield.

“Our outfield at the beginning of the year was crowded,” Fuson said. “At the same time, now we’ve had about a year to see him in center. We know what he can do out there, what he’s not good at doing. At third, we lost (Scott) Sizemore (to a season-ending knee injury) … His versatility may be key to him getting some playing time early in his career.”

1

Yoenis Cespedes back in outfield; Travis Blackley tries to continue his unlikely story

The A’s try to make it two in a row at Safeco Field, where much to my amazement the roof is once again being opened for tonight’s game. It rained much of the afternoon in Seattle, and the roof was closed through batting practice. But apparently the forecast calls for it to be dry the rest of the night. … Dry and chilly …

–Yoenis Cespedes makes his return to the outfield, and he’s playing center with Coco Crisp getting a night off. Bob Melvin says it will be a daily call with how much Cespedes plays the outfield in the aftermath of his hamstring injury. I think a couple things come into play with that decision: 1) The A’s don’t want Cespedes pushing his hamstring with too much running on defense. And 2) They’ve got another quality outfield option in Seth Smith, and Smith’s offensive numbers are much better when he plays the outfield as opposed to DH’ing. So expect Smith and Jonny Gomes to split up DH duties, but don’t be surprised to see Cespedes still get the occasional start there.

–Travis Blackley takes the mound for the A’s. How big (and unexpected) has this guy’s performance been so far? You can bet that one secret to his success has been that Blackley doesn’t get too uptight on days he pitches. Some pitchers crawl into their own little world and don’t want a word spoken to them on days they pitch. Blackley is the opposite. He’s looking for people to chat with in the clubhouse beforehand. It’s actually pretty refreshing to see.

Derek Norris catches him tonight. For the time being, look for Kurt Suzuki to catch Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone, and Norris to catch Blackley, Tyson Ross and A.J. Griffin. Melvin likes pairing Norris with pitchers he’s familiar with from Triple-A, and Suzuki has been a guiding hand for Parker and Milone since spring training. That rotation isn’t locked in forever, Melvin said, but that’s the criteria he’s using to budget out playing time right now …

Tonight’s lineups:
A’s — Weeks 2B, Hicks 1B, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Inge 3B, Smith LF, Gomes DH, Norris C, Pennington SS; Blackley LHP.

Mariners — Ichiro DH, Gutierrez CF, Seager 3B, Montero C, Smoak 1B, Saunders LF, Wells RF, Ackley 2B, Ryan SS; Vargas LHP.

0

Kurt Suzuki is still the guiding hand for A’s young pitchers

A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki had reporters surrounding him after Monday’s 1-0 victory over Seattle. It wasn’t to talk about him vying for playing time with Derek Norris. It wasn’t to pepper him with questions about what his future might be with the team. The scribes wanted to talk about A’s lefty Tommy Milone, and how the rookie pitcher worked with Suzuki to pull off the A’s eighth shutout of the season. That is what Suzuki does best, after all — study the opponent, know how to attack hitters and call a smart game for his young pitchers. That will not change, no matter how much playing time Norris might take from him.

“Zuk did a great job with (Milone) reading swings,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “(They pitched) away when they were looking in, and in when they were looking away.” Added Milone: “There’s not many times where I shake off Suzuki. He’s been around a lot longer than I have.”

This has got to be a challenging time for Suzuki, whose status as the A’s everyday catcher was set in stone until Norris was called up last week. And the kid has made quite a splash, calling good games on his own and hitting a walkoff homer Sunday afternoon. Watching Suzuki on a daily basis, however, you wouldn’t know it. He’s personable and chatty with reporters and still the same guy with his teammates. He’s handling this challenge to his job security like a pro, which is no surprise to those who know him.

–A couple postgame updates:

*Melvin said Brandon Hicks would start at first base Tuesday, giving Brandon Moss his first day off. Moss looks like he could use it. He’s on a 1 for 14 streak.

*Melvin also confirmed after the game that Yoenis Cespedes would start somewhere in the outfield Tuesday, though he didn’t say whether that would be in center or left field.

**Travis Blackley, a former Mariner, takes the hill Tuesday. He is 1-1 with a 9.95 ERA in three career starts at Safeco Field.

0

Yoenis Cespedes to return to A’s outfield Tuesday

UPDATE: Here’s a link to a story about the A’s best All-Star candidates. I’m guessing they won’t surprise you …

**************

Despite a bit of rain earlier today, the roof is open at Safeco Field for tonight’s A’s-Mariners series opener …

–Yoenis Cespedes gets another start as the A’s designated hitter, but Bob Melvin said the slugger will return to the outfield Tuesday for the first time since re-injuring his left hamstring June 13 in Colorado.  Melvin said Cespedes will play “predominantly” left field but wouldn’t commit to what spot he’d play Tuesday. It’s possible Cespedes could play center if Coco Crisp were to get the night off.

In other lineup tidbits –

–Kurt Suzuki draws the start at catcher tonight because Melvin likes the way he’s worked with Tommy Milone this season.  Melvin is deciding which catcher to play right now mainly on how they match up with that day’s particular pitcher. Derek Norris will catch Travis Blackley on Tuesday.

–Brandon Hicks, who has impressed in two games since being recalled from Triple-A Sacramento, will start somewhere in the infield Tuesday. That may be at first base, Melvin said, because Brandon Moss is due for a day off.

–I’ll have a short item posted on our websites soon about Melvin’s thoughts on his All-Star candidates. I’ll try to post the link here a bit later …

Tonight’s lineups:

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

Mariners — Ichiro RF, Gutierrez CF, Seager 3B, Montero DH, Smoak 1B, Saunders LF, Olivo C, Ackley 2B, Ryan SS; Ramirez RHP.

 

 

 

 

1

Griffin set for MLB debut as A’s wrap series with Giants

Ben Enos filling in for Joe Stiglich

The sun is out for the finale of this weekend’s Bay Bridge Series, and the home nine looks a bit different than originally intended as Oakland tries to salvage a game against the Giants.

For starters, the rumored became official this morning as A.J. Griffin will make his major league debut for the A’s. The 24-year old is 6-foot-5, 230 pounds and played his college ball at the University of San Diego. He comes to Oakland with a 3-2 record at Triple-A Sacramento, having made seven starts at Double-A Midland to start the year before making eight with the River Cats. He takes the ball today in place of Brandon McCarthy (strained shoulder), who was placed on the disabled list, retroactive to June 20. To make room for Griffin on the 40-man roster, minor league reliever Danny Farquhar was designated for assignment.

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0

The A’s are staring at two big holes in their rotation

The A’s have made no announcement on Sunday’s starter after Brandon McCarthy was scratched, but expect right-hander A.J. Griffin to be called up to make his major league debut. Griffin was scratched from Sunday’s start for Triple-A Sacramento, the sure sign that he’ll be at the Coliseum on Sunday.

As the A’s try to rebound from Saturday’s draining 9-8 loss to the Giants, they face the big-picture reality that they must get by without their top two veteran starters for an unknown period — McCarthy and Bartolo Colon. Colon went on the D.L. on Saturday, as expected, with his strained oblique. He’ll miss a minimum of two starts, though indications are he is recovering well.

McCarthy tried playing catch before the game and shut it down. His right shoulder, which has been so problematic throughout his career and has already sent him to the D.L. once this season, is acting up yet again. “It’s been building to this over the past couple of days,” McCarthy said. “We’ve done MRIs. It’s nothing serious. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t recover like it’s supposed to. It’s not easy being honest with yourself — when (the shoulder) is OK and when it isn’t. I was hoping for a miracle, but playing catch, it just wasn’t there.” … Most frustrating for McCarthy and the A’s has to be the fact that he’s performed so well when healthy. He has won six straight decisions and carries a 2.54 ERA.

Expect McCarthy to be joining the D.L. soon. He said he hopes to return sometime around the All-Star break, so Griffin may get a chance to stick around for a bit if he impresses Sunday.

That’s all for now …