Brandon Hicks called up, Collin Cowgill placed on disabled list

The A’s made a couple transactions today — one expected and one unexpected …

Bartolo Colon was placed on the 15-day disabled list and Tyson Ross was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento to start today against the Giants. No surprise there … But the A’s also called up infielder Brandon Hicks and placed Collin Cowgill on the DL with a sprained left ankle. Hicks, 26, is in the lineup at shortstop. He was claimed off waivers from the Atlanta Braves in March, and he’s hit .272 with 13 homers and 48 RBI in 65 games with Sacramento. The right-handed hitting Hicks homered in four straight games earlier this week, so the A’s are promoting him while he’s hot. A’s manager Bob Melvin said Hicks would see time at shortstop against lefties. Starter Cliff Pennington, a switch hitter, is batting just .160 against left-handers. Hicks also played second base with the River Cats and Melvin said he could be used as a backup at first base.

Melvin said he thinks Cowgill could be ready to return sometime around the period his DL stint ends. But Cowgill was on crutches in the clubhouse before batting practice, so we’ll watch how he progresses …

–Keep an eye on how Melvin uses his bullpen in the late innings today. He said he would try to stay away from Ryan Cook since Cook has thrown each of the past two games. Grant Balfour threw 1 1/3 innings last night but Melvin was expecting him to be available. So Balfour figures to get the ball in a save situation. Brian Fuentes has been battling an ankle issue, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him in a late-inning situation despite his shakiness of late.

The lineups:
A’s — Crisp CF, Weeks 2B, Reddick RF, Cespedes DH, Gomes LF, Inge 3B, Norris C, Moss 1B, Hicks SS; Ross RHP.

Giants — Blanco CF, Theriot 2B, Cabrera LF, Posey C, Pagan DH, Sandoval 3B, Belt 1B, Schierholtz RF, Crawford SS; Bumgarner LHP.


Is Brandon McCarthy’s start Sunday in jeopardy?

Checking in before Game 2 of the Bay Bridge Series. …

I have a feeling we’ll get some news on Brandon McCarthy after the game, and I’m not expecting it to be positive for A’s fans. McCarthy only stayed on the field a short time during BP before having a chat with manager Bob Melvin and going inside. The indications I’m getting are that he might be scratched from Sunday’s start. The A’s haven’t announced anything, but we know that McCarthy’s nagging shoulder issues are something he’ll deal with all season. And it’s unlikely he’s going to pitch on a normal five-day cycle. It’s really too bad for the guy, because he’s been so dialed in when he’s healthy enough to take the mound. We’ll get more after the game on him. … Follow me at twitter.com/joestiglich for all the updates …

–Before any of this surfaced, I talked to McCarthy in the clubhouse about the pine tar controversy involving Rays reliever Joel Peralta, who was ejected from a game recently when umpires found pine tar on his glove. In the aftermath, Indians closer Chris Perez said that one or two pitchers on every team could be busted for having some sort of foreign substance on their gloves.

“I would say the assessment of that is probably right on,” McCarthy said. He added that he has never used pine tar himself and doesn’t have much knowledge about its effects. But he said pitchers look to use substances such as pine tar out of necessity to get a better grip on the ball. All baseballs used in major league games get rubbed up with a mud-like substance beforehand, which is meant to improve their grip. But McCarthy said baseballs end up feeling like “a cue ball covered in flour.”

Asked in general about pitchers using substances on the ball, McCarthy said: “If most people went out and felt major league baseballs after they’re rubbed up, they’re close to unthrowable. They’re dusty and slippery. I think there’s a level of acceptability before it gets to, ‘Now you’re trying to do something different. You’re not doing this to get a feel of the ball any more, you’re doing this to (get an advantage).’ It’s a slippery slope and one that you really can’t define.”


Examining the wreckage of A’s 5-4 loss to the Giants

There’s no need to rehash all the details of the A’s 5-4 loss to the Giants tonight. Here’s some quotes, notes and observations after one of Oakland’s more painful defeats of 2012 …

–Who would have thought just a while back that a game started by Tim Lincecum offered — on paper — the A’s best shot at a victory in the Bay Bridge Series? But that was the case with Lincecum entering Friday’s game with a 6.19 ERA. And he was extremely vulnerable in the first inning. But the A’s couldn’t apply the knockout punch after getting to him for three runs and loading the bases with no outs. Now, they have to rebound from a deflating loss, and they’ll do it against the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner (8-4, 2.92) and Matt Cain (9-2, 2.34). No easy task …

A’s manager Bob Melvin looked back on the missed opportunity in the first inning. “Would you take three runs in the first inning? Obviously,” he said. “But then having the bases loaded, and you end up only getting three, it deflates you a little bit.”

–Ryan Cook hasn’t had to conduct many postgame interviews after a loss this season. The rookie was pretty down after Friday’s game and not in much mood to chat, though he fielded all questions from reporters. “Tonight was one of those nights,” Cook said. “I didn’t have anything.”

He has been so dominant this season that it’s been easy to overlook all the walks Cook has issued. He had 18 of them coming in, second most among AL relievers. They came back to bite him tonight. But closers are going to give up leads. You don’t expect an unproven rookie to be perfect in the ninth inning. Now we’ll see how Cook bounces back. And after saying he didn’t “have anything,” surely Melvin wants to see Cook come back with crisper stuff in his next outing.

–I saw Collin Cowgill catching some grief on Twitter for his diving attempt at Brandon Belt’s game-tying double. It rolled all the way to the fence and two runs scored. Sorry, I don’t have a problem with his decision to dive. His only attempt at reaching the ball was if he dove for it. And I don’t think he would have kept the ball in front of him no matter what. At any rate, Cowgill rolled an ankle on the play and left the game later in the ninth inning. Melvin said he would have an update on him Saturday.

That’s all for now. Remember, first pitch is at 4:15 Saturday to accommodate a Fox telecast …


A’s try to keep good times rolling against the Giants

You’ve gotta admit this is an interesting week for the A’s. With the Dodgers and Giants visiting back to back, that’s two opponents who bring the fans out. But for the second straight series, figure that about half of those fans will be cheering for the opposing team. Players these days seem to downplay the Bay Bridge rivalry, but I’ve gotta think that hearing half the house rooting for the other team lights a fire under you if you’re wearing an A’s uniform. Speaking of uniforms, the A’s are in the gold unis again tonight. Why not with the way they’re playing right now? They enter tonight having won eight of nine.

–The A’s outstanding pitching work over the past several games didn’t seem to create a whole lot of buzz until the stat came out yesterday about them allowing just 22 hits over the past six games, the team’s best hit rate over a six-game stretch since at least 1918. I think it snuck up on everybody a bit just because the A’s hitting has been better over the past few weeks. There’s not as much of a disparity between bad hitting and great pitching, so maybe the pitching gets overlooked just a bit. But it’s been a pretty amazing run for Oakland’s staff. Jarrod Parker gets his chance to continue that tonight …

–The A’s haven’t announced Bartolo Colon’s DL stint yet. That may not come until tomorrow, when Tyson Ross is officially added to the roster to start Saturday’s game. But Melvin said he is optimistic that Colon could possibly return before the All-Star break. The right-hander played catch yesterday to test his strained right oblique.

–Yoenis Cespedes gets his third straight start at DH. Expect him to return to the outfield soon, but Melvin said he’ll entertain the idea of giving Cespedes the occasional game at DH just to rest him a bit.

–Here’s the lineups, with Kurt Suzuki back at catcher. Melvin said Derek Norris will be behind the plate catching Ross on Saturday:

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

Giants: Blanco CF, Theriot 2B, Cabrera LF, Posey DH, Sandoval 3B, Belt 1B, Schierholtz RF, Sanchez C, Crawford SS; Lincecum RHP.


Catcher Derek Norris to start sharing playing time with Kurt Suzuki

The A’s called up catching prospect Derek Norris from Triple-A Sacramento, and the plan is for him to share playing time with longtime starter Kurt Suzuki. Norris, a 23-year-old who was one of the four players Oakland obtained from Washington in the Gio Gonzalez trade, is starting Thursday against the Dodgers in his major league debut. He is highly thought of within the A’s organization, and it raises speculation of what this move means for Suzuki’s long-term status with the team.

Suzuki’s name has been mentioned in trade rumors going back to the offseason. This situation is reminiscent of when Suzuki was brought up in June 2007 to learn from Jason Kendall. Kendall was dealt a month later to the Chicago Cubs. A’s manager Bob Melvin said this situation is different.

“Kendall left shortly after, and that’s not something we’re looking to do,” Melvin said of potentially trading Suzuki. “This is more about both of them co-existing — the guy who’s your catcher of present and the guy that potentially is your catcher of the future.” But Melvin also said of Norris: “Make no mistake, with (Norris) here, he’s gonna play some. They’re both going to play. It’s also going to give me an opportunity to rest Kurt a little bit more.”

Melvin was asked if he envisioned Suzuki and Norris in a 50-50 playing time split.

“Could be,” he said. “Kurt will catch tomorrow.”

Suzuki, 28, — in the third year of a four-year $16.25 million contract — was very complimentary of Norris and said he will help the young prospect any way he can. Suzuki was asked if this situation reminded him of when he was promoted in 2007 and how it affected Kendall.

“A little bit,” he said. “Obviously Kendall was a lot older when I came up. I feel like I’m one of the better catchers in the game.”

The A’s sent down Josh Donaldson to make room for Norris. They also reinstated reliever Jordan Norberto from the disabled list and optioned Pedro Figueroa.

Today’s lineups:

A’s — Crisp CF, Weeks 2B, Cespedes DH, Gomes LF, Inge 3B, Moss 1B, Norris C, Cowgill RF, Pennington SS; Blackley LHP.

Dodgers — Gordon SS, Herrera LF, Ethier RF, Rivera 1B, Hairston Jr., 2B, De Jesus DH, Uribe 3B, Gwynn Jr., CF, Treanor C; Kershaw LHP.


Cespedes returns, Milone shines as A’s down Dodgers

Jimmy Durkin, in for Joe Stiglich, who returns tomorrow

The buzz before the game was Yoenis Cespedes’ return to the A’s lineup. And while the rookie from Cuba looked great at the plate, rookie left-handed pitcher Tommy Milone stole the show.

He went the distance, surrendering a run on three hits to move to 7-5. He only struck out two, but walked just one and finished it off in 112 pitches on a night in which closer Ryan Cook was unavailable. He threw all four of his pitches for strikes and took advantage of the open spaces of O.co Coliseum by inducing 12 fly outs to the outfield.

“It’s definitely a lot easier to pitch here,” Milone said. “You can leave a ball over the plate and they hit a good fly ball like they hit tonight. There’s a bunch of room and our guys are just tracking it down. The defense played really well tonight.”

Milone’s complete game was the first of his career and the first by an A’s pitcher this season. The rookie improved to 5-1 with a 0.99 ERA in six home starts. He’s just 2-4 with a 7.42 ERA in eight road starts. He hasn’t quite figured out why the numbers are so different when he’s on the Coliseum mound.

“I feel just as comfortable when I’m out on the road,” Milone said. “For some reason, it just doesn’t work out. I’m still trying to figure it out and hopefully on this next road trip, I think I’m going to get two games on the road in Seattle and Texas, and hopefully I come out on top.”

While Milone stole some spotlight, there was still plenty to talk about in terms of Cespedes. He was in the lineup for the first time since June 13 at Colorado. He left that game after his first inning at bat after aggravating his left hamstring strain. That game was his first since June 7. (He originally went on the DL on May 12 and returned June 1).

Cespedes said he felt like he was about 80 percent and that’s why he served as a DH for the first time in his big league career. He also said he never served as a DH during his eight years playing in Cuba.

Cespedes lined out to center field on a curve ball in the first inning. He ripped a double down the left-field line in the fourth inning and eventually scored the A’s first run. Cespedes blooped an RBI single in the fifth and then crushed a ball in the eighth that was caught at the wall. He thought he had enough for a home run before watching it come up short.

“I feel so good coming back to play,” Cespedes said through interpreter Ariel Prieto. “Really happy because we won again.”

— Josh Reddick continued to struggle at the plate. A night after striking out four times, he went 0 for 4 with a strikeout and a double play. The double play came with the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth inning. It produced the go-ahead run (no RBI awarded), but cost the A’s a chance to put together a bigger rally. A’s manager Bob Melvin said before the game that Reddick could be due for a day off in the near future. With the A’s facing reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, a tough lefty, tomorrow, you’d have to think they’d consider giving him a day.

— Brandon Moss homered in the eighth inning and now has seven home runs in 13 games with the A’s. Of his 12 hits, 10 are for extra bases. He also has three doubles.

— Seth Smith was 1 for 3 with an RBI double. He’s hitting .417 with 11 RBI in his last 12 games, which has coincided with him seeing more time in the outfield with Cespedes out. He’s hitting .340 (35 for 103) with seven homers and 18 RBIs in 34 games in the outfield compared with .178 (13 for 73) with no homers and six RBIs in 23 games as DH.


Cespedes returns to A’s lineup (UPDATED)

Jimmy Durkin, in for Joe Stiglich today.

Yoenis Cespedes returns to the lineup for the A’s for the first time in a week. He had one at bat against Colorado on June 13 before aggravating his strained left hamstring injury. He had a good workout on the field before yesterday’s game and it was expected he might be able to go today. He’ll serve as the DH and bat fourth. Here’s the full A’s lineup tonight against the Dodgers and RHP Nathan Eovaldi.

CF Crisp
2B Weeks
RF Reddick
DH Cespedes
LF Smith
1B Moss
SS Pennington
C Suzuki
3B Sogard
LHP Milone (6-5, 4.48 ERA)


Some more news and notes for you. LHP Jordan Norberto, on the disabled list since June 4 (retroactive to May 31) with a left shoulder strain, is close to returning. He pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts for Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday and was in the clubhouse Wednesday. It’s possible he could be activated Thursday, manager Bob Melvin said.

RHP Tyson Ross will be recalled from Triple-A in time to start Saturday’s game against the Giants. Ross went sent to Sacramento on Sunday, a day after allowing one hit in six innings in a no-decision against San Diego. He’ll be the player to be called up as the corresponding move when Bartolo Colon goes on the disabled list, which is an inevitability. Ross would normally need to wait 10 days after being sent down before he could be called up, but the exception comes if he replaces a player going on the DL.

That leads to Colon. He hasn’t been placed on the DL with his oblique injury, but it’s a near certainty. There’s no reason to make the move yet, because a corresponding move isn’t needed. But expect it to happen by Saturday when Ross will need to be recalled.

More on Cespedes. He declined to speak to reporters before the game, but Melvin is happy with where he’s at. He ran well during a rigorous workout yesterday, clocking times of 4 seconds to first base and running well going first to third. He’ll have to focus on staying loose in between at bats, likely riding an exercise bike in the clubhouse. It’s his first career start as a designated hitter. Melvin said the team will go day-to-day with Cespedes in the DH role.

Here’s the Dodgers lineup:

SS Gordon
RF Herrera
DH Ethier
1B Rivera
2B Hairston Jr
LF Abreu
3B Uribe
CF Gwynn Jr.
C Ellis
RHP Eovaldi (0-2, 1.82 ERA)


Go-Go Coco provides a spark for A’s

Coco Crisp has been a forgotten man in the A’s lineup for most of the season. In Tuesday’s 3-0 victory over the Dodgers, he showed what kind of impact he can still have on a game. Crisp hit a blooper that fell in shallow right field to lead off the first. He was sprinting from the get-go and legged out a double to jump-start Oakland’s three-run rally.

OK, so Crisp’s 2 for 3 night only pushed his average up to .208. But we’re seeing glimpses of the effect the speedy switch hitter can have. He walked in the second, then walked in the fourth and stole second and third. After his sixth-inning single, he stole second again. I’ll disregard that liner that clanked off his glove for an error in the ninth. He catches that ball 9 1/2 times out of 10.

“Certainly he’s starting to swing it like we envisioned,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “This is the guy we expect him to be and he’s playing very well right now.”

Why is Crisp so important to the A’s? One, he has taken over the leadoff spot with Jemile Weeks struggling badly of late and hurting from sore legs. It’s easier to mask Weeks’ recent slump when he’s in the No. 2 spot because if Crisp gets on base, the A’s can have Weeks bunt. He can contribute without having to get on base, but that only works if Crisp is getting on himself from the top spot. Two, if Crisp can continue creating havoc on the bases it increases his trade value (not what you really want to read here on June 19, right??) I’ve had two scouts tell me they think Crisp will be an attractive trade chip if the A’s are willing to swallow some of that two-year $14 million contract he signed in the offseason.

–Numbers worth considering:

*Over his past three starts, Brandon McCarthy has allowed just three earned runs in 20 innings. He is 6-0 with a 1.96 ERA over his last seven starts.

*Third baseman Brandon Inge is hitless in his past 14 at-bats and is now 1 for 20 over his past five games. Before that, Inge was 13 for 32 with 12 RBI over his previous nine games.

*Seth Smith is batting .340 (34 for 100) with 17 of his 23 RBI when he’s playing the outfield. He’s hitting just .178 (13 for 73) as the designated hitter. As I tweeted earlier, that’s one reason why it would benefit the A’s to bring Yoenis Cespedes back and give him a bit of time at DH to rest his hamstring. No doubt Smith would like to squeeze in a few more innings in left field.

–Depending on what edition of our paper you receive, you might not have gotten much of what I wrote on Daniel Robertson and Matt Olson, the two “sandwich” picks that the A’s signed Tuesday. They were in uniform and took batting practice and had some fun holding court with the media.

Both were thrilled to meet Rickey Henderson. Olson, a first baseman from Parkview High in Lilburn, Ga., also was pumped to meet Josh Reddick. “I was surprised when I saw him,” Olson said. “Not that he doesn’t look like a ballplayer, but he looks different than he does on TV.” Robertson, a shortstop from Upland High who is likely to switch to third, added: “I heard Jonny Gomes was a clown so I wanted to talk to him.”

Gomes had some advice before batting practice: “You guys better hit a couple out.”


Bartolo Colon likely headed to DL; Yoenis Cespedes continues getting closer to return

Some series bring more buzz with them than others. This A’s-Dodgers matchup feels like one. Or at least it did down on the field during batting practice watching all these former teammates from both sides schmooze with each other. Rickey Henderson was catching up with Rick Honeycutt and Davey Lopes, who are both on the Dodgers coaching staff. Mark Ellis, who was doing so well as the Dodgers’ second baseman before landing on the DL with a scary leg injury, was talking to lots of A’s players and clubhouse personnel. Pretty cool being close to all of that …

–A’s right-hander Bartolo Colon is “pretty certain” to join the DL with his strained right oblique. It’s just a matter of when. Team officials likely are contemplating who might fill his rotation spot, and since Colon’s turn doesn’t come up until Saturday, they’ve got some time. Colon had an MRI on Monday and was scheduled to see a doctor again this evening. He told me his oblique felt “the same” as it did Sunday when the injury happened (Colon is usually a man of few words).

Look for Yoenis Cespedes to potentially rejoin the lineup Wednesday. Melvin said he had a great day of running Tuesday, so the only question is whether he returns in left field or at DH. Melvin believes there are plusses and minuses to each — if he’s DH, that will save his injured hamstring some hard activity, but there’s also the chance his leg can get stiff on the bench when the A’s are in the field. I still think we’ll see Cespedes at DH to begin. the added bonus for the A’s is that Seth Smith could continue playing in the outfield, and we know how much better Smith hits when he’s playing the outfield.

–The A’s also signed both of their sandwich picks between the first and second rounds — shortstop/third baseman Daniel Robertson and first baseman Matt Olson. I’ll have a bit more on them in my notebook for tomorrow …

The lineups:

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

Dodgers — Gordon SS, Herrera LF, Ethier RF, Abreu DH, Loney 1B, Ellis C, Kennedy 2B, Uribe 3B, Gwynn Jr., CF; Harang RHP.


Tyson Ross sent down, Pedro Figueroa called up, and Josh Reddick sports a surprising look in BP

It got a little nutty here this morning on Father’s Day. Josh Reddick took the field wearing a No. 4 Coco Crisp jersey and a giant Afro wig similar to what Crisp sported last year on occasion. It’s Coco Crisp Chia Pet Day at the Coliseum, so that was the inspiration. Pretty classic … On a more serious note, Jonny Gomes wore combat boots during batting practice in honor of all the fathers serving in the military. Classy move …

–A day after giving up just one hit in six innings, Tyson Ross was sent down and lefty reliever Pedro Figueroa was promoted from Triple-A. That’s a tough one for Ross, who took a no-hitter into the sixth inning yesterday, but it isn’t all that surprising. Brandon McCarthy is still on track to come back from a shoulder injury and start Tuesday, and the A’s like what Travis Blackley has done. Plus, I think the A’s would like to see Ross hone his command a bit. He walked four yesterday and hit a batter. But A’s manager Bob Melvin was impressed.

“He did a lot of things we wanted him to work on,” Melvin said. “Maybe the ball/strike ratio wasn’t his best, but certainly the performance ended up being great. Too bad he didn’t get a win yesterday. Certainly he gave us all we expected and more.”

–Yoenis Cespedes (strained left hamstring) has been doing well in his recovery. He was scheduled to run heavy again today and the A’s will see where he’s at after Monday’s day off, “whether he’s ready to play or DH or whatever,” Melvin said.

Here’s the lineups, as the A’s try to complete their second straight sweep:

A’s — Crisp CF, Weeks 2B, Reddick RF, Gomes DH, INge 3B, Cowgill LF, Moss 1B, Suzuki C, Pennington SS; Colon RHP.

SD — Venable RF, Denorfia LF, Headley 3B, Quentin DH, Alonso 1B, Maybin CF, Hundley C, Cabrera SS, Amarista 2B, Richard LHP.