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Crisp to avoid the DL; A’s set for series with Rangers

Ben Enos filling in for Joe Stiglich

Greetings from the Oakland Coliseum, where the sun is out and the weather is much more pleasant than the fog-filled morning that blanketed the Bay Area.

Texas is in town, and the A’s kick off their homestand with Bartolo Colon toeing the slab against Roy Oswalt. Before getting to the actual game though, there was plenty going on with injured A’s before the game.

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A’s go for sweep in Minnesota; Coco Crisp to get shoulder examined Monday

It’s a muggy afternoon in Minneapolis. The forecast calls for it to get up to 95 degrees, which feels hotter with the humidity. I’ve only been to this city between April and August, and I try picturing what it’s like in the dead of winter with snow everywhere. We’re experiencing the opposite extreme right now …

–Coco Crisp remains out of the A’s lineup, and he’s scheduled to see a doctor Monday to get his left shoulder examined. Something to keep in mind: Crisp had surgery on that shoulder in summer of 2009 (he also had the right one operated on around the same time), so there’s an injury history there. Josh Reddick gets another start in center field today, with Seth Smith in right and Jonny Gomes in left. Yoenis Cespedes would normally be filling in at center, but he remains at DH as he recovers from a sprained left thumb. A’s manager Bob Melvin said Cespedes’ readiness for the outfield will be determined after Monday’s day off. As I wrote yesterday, Collin Cowgill could also be an option in center when he’s ready to come off the DL, though there is no guarantee he’ll even join the big league roster when he’s activated.

–Gomes is batting second today, quite an unusual spot in the order for him. But the way the A’s are rolling right now, it sure seems like things have fallen into place no matter who is slotted where. Melvin pointed out that Twins lefty Brian Duensing has not allowed a stolen base all season, so having Gomes — not a huge base-stealer — hit high in the order isn’t a big issue to him. “Maybe it’s not a big running day for us,” Melvin said. “Maybe it’s a swing-the-bat day for us.”

Duensing has a 1-5 record but he’s holding lefties to a .182 average. No surprise, then, that Reddick and Smith are the only left-handed hitters in Oakland’s starting nine …

The lineups:

A’s — Weeks 2B, Gomes LF, Reddick CF, Cespedes DH, Carter 1B, Inge 3B, Norris C, Smith RF, Hicks SS; Parker RHP.

Twins — Revere CF, Mastroianni RF, Mauer 1B, Willingham LF, Morneau DH, Plouffe 3B, Doumit C, Dozier SS, Casilla 2B; Duensing LHP.

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Coco Crisp out with a sore left shoulder, Josh Reddick playing center field for A’s

Back for Game 2 of A’s-Twins at Target Field …

Coco Crisp is hurting with a sore left shoulder, suffered in his first at-bat last night, and we should have known something was bothering him from some of those swings he took against Francisco Liriano. So Crisp is out of the A’s lineup. He’s day-to-day, and manager Bob Melvin said he will likely rest Crisp tomorrow as well. With Monday’s day off, it would give Crisp three days of rest and he would be re-evaluated after that. Oakland is short on center fielders right now. Yoenis Cespedes is at DH again because he’s having trouble catching the ball with his sore left thumb. So Josh Reddick is manning center tonight. He’s started four games there this year and also played there with Boston. But right field is his best spot, so keep an eye on how he fares there. Brandon Moss is playing right field and Chris Carter is at first — the rare instance when Moss and Carter will be in the lineup together. Carter is piecing together some nice at-bats, so I’m not surprised Melvin feels OK playing him against a right-hander in Cole De Vries.

Collin Cowgill, on the DL with a sprained ankle, played nine innings with Triple-A Sacramento last night and he’ll play again Sunday and Monday. If Crisp misses extended time, Cowgill becomes a pretty important factor for this team, I would think.

Tonight’s lineups:

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

Twins — Span CF, Revere RF, Mauer C, Willingham LF, Morneau 1B, Plouffe 3B, Doumit DH, Dozier SS, Carroll 2B; De Vries RHP.

–Melvin was asked about how he’ll handle hot-hitting Twins cleanup man Josh Willingham, who is terrorizing the A’s this season. It sounds as if the A’s might pitch around him when possible tonight. “You always try to be aware and careful with guys that are hot,” Melvin said. “He is surrounded by a couple left-handed hitters, and with a lefty on the mound, we’ll see how we play it. But you’re always cognizant of who’s hurting you at the time.”

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And the A’s second half begins … with a rain delay

It’s ugly here at Target Field right now. The heavy rain we had earlier has stopped, and the hope is that it’s gone for good tonight. But dark clouds remain. They recently turned the stadium lights on, but before that, it was bizarre how dark and empty this ballpark was. Fans are trickling in now, but I can’t think we’ll get a big turnout.

… Just as I finished writing that, it was announced that we will be delayed, with the new start time at 7:20 p.m. (CT). The second half is underway with a bang!!!

What an odd scene we had earlier. The A’s were unaware the tarp was on the field, and they had planned to get early work in to shake off rust from the All-Star break. All the players emerged from the dugout and just sort of stared at the tarp. For about 20 minutes, they congregated by the dugout, unsure what to do with themselves. Brandon Inge and Cliff Pennington finally started pitching to each other, just messing around. They looked like kids that were cooped up too long the past four days.

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

Twins — Span CF, Revere RF, Mauer DH, Willingham LF, Morneau 1B, Plouffe 3B, Dozier SS, Butera C, Carroll 2B; Liriano LHP.

–Yoenis Cespedes is having a bit of trouble squeezing his glove with his sprained left thumb, but it’s not so much an issue swinging the bat, so he’s at DH. A’s manager Bob Melvin said Cespedes will probably return to the outfield Saturday.

–Lefty reliever Pedro Figueroa was promoted from Triple-A to replace Jim Miller, who was placed on the paternity list. Melvin said Figueroa could see action in lefty matchup situations or perhaps pitch as long as two innings. As for Miller, his wife gave birth to a boy, Ethan James, who weighed in at 8 pounds, 10 ounces.

–The A’s added some bullpen depth by signing veteran Chris Ray and assigning him to Triple-A Sacramento.

–No more Mohawk for Jonny Gomes. He shaved his head over the break. “Mohawks are tough,” he explained. “When it’s time for a new Mohawk, you trade it in and you start fresh.”

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A’s have their best All-Star break record since 2008

As the A’s disperse all over the country for the All-Star break, here’s a bit of fodder to consider:

At 43-43, they have their best record at the All-Star break since 2008, when they sat at 51-44. They were in second place at the time, six games off the pace in the division. But they quickly crashed after the break, losing 17 of their first 19.

The A’s are in third place right now. Getting off to a good start out of the break is obviously a key for them to A) maintain any hope of staying in contention, both in the A.L. West and in the wild card race, and B) convince the front office not to become sellers at the July 31 trade deadline. The A’s come out of this year’s break with a three-game series at Minnesota, the current A.L. Central cellar dwellers. The rest of July presents a challenge with series against the Rangers, Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles and Rays.

“We’ve been playing pretty good,” A’s shortstop Cliff Pennington said. “Most of the time you don’t want a break when you’ve been playing good. But going into the break at .500, it gives us a chance in the second half to make some noise.”

Here’s a look at where the A’s have stood at the All-Star break in recent seasons and how they finished up:

2011: 39-53, 4th place (finished 74-88)
2010: 43-46, 3rd (finished 81-81)
2009: 37-49, 4th (finished 75-87)
2008: 51-44, 2nd (finished 75-86)
2007: 44-44, 3rd (finished 76-86)

–I’m looking forward to covering this team in the second half based on how they finished up the first.

That’s all for now …

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A’s turn back the clock to 1955

It’s Turn Back The Clock day at the Coliseum, and when you see the A’s 1955 Oakland Oaks uniforms, you’ll like them. It’s a classy look … Cream-colored jerseys and pants, blue lettering with red trim and navy blue hats. The two-tone blue and white socks are good too. “I think it’s a cool look,” reliever Jim Miller said. “I just wish we had the cleats to go with it.”

The pants are short, so all of the A’s will be sporting the high-sock look. That’s something that Miller said he’ll get into the spirit of today, but he’s not one of the guys that goes retro very often. “I just don’t think I’m athletic enough to go pants up,” Miller said. “You’ll see. It’s probably not a good look.”

At any rate, I’m a fan of throwback uniforms. And I think players get into it, even if they’re not students of the history of baseball.

–This is a big game for the A’s. A win puts them at .500 going into the All-Star break, and though it would only be a one-game difference, a 43-43 record sure looks better in the standings than 42-44, wouldn’t you say? They face Felix Hernandez today, and you’ll remember that King Felix made his first three starts of the season against Oakland thanks to the crazy scheduling brought on by the Tokyo trip. He’s 1-1 in those starts, and he pitched very well in two of them. The A’s did get to him for six runs in his April 7 start at the Coliseum. Strangely, that’s the game where he got his ‘W’ against them.

–Brett Anderson threw a bullpen session today and it went well. The upcoming plan has him going to Phoenix to throw simulated games Wednesday and next Monday. If those go well, Anderson hopes he’ll be ready for a minor league rehab assignment after that. That seems to make an August return a real possibility for the lefty.

Brandon McCarthy will see a Dallas-area doctor over the All-Star break. He’s played catch a couple of times, but he had no update on when he’ll get back on the mound. I don’t think he wants to look too far down the road after all he’s been through …

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

M’s — Ackley 2B, Ichiro RF, Saunders CF, Jaso DH, Seager 3B, Wells LF, Smoak 1B, Olivo C, Ryan SS; Hernandez RHP.

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The A’s set their rotation plans coming out of All-Star break

Checking in on a pleasant night at the Coliseum, where Jarrod Parker tries to keep the good times rolling for the A’s. He faced the Mariners for the first time June 27 at Safeco Field and allowed just three hits over seven innings to get the ‘W’ …

–The A’s have set their rotation coming out of the All-Star break. It will be A.J. Griffin, Tommy Milone and Parker pitching the three-game series at Minnesota next weekend. Bartolo Colon pitches tomorrow’s final game before the break, so it makes sense that he’s pushed back when the A’s resume action. Travis Blackley will be looking at a stretch of more than two weeks between starts, but manager Bob Melvin said Blackley may get some work out of the bullpen to keep him sharp. “It’s just what happens a lot of times with the fifth starter,” Melvin said. “If we led off with him and didn’t use Griffin, Griffin is the guy who’s probably going to go the longest period of time (without pitching). We’re trying to keep them all fairly current to where there isn’t one guy who hasn’t pitched in 12 days, and now we’re expecting him to go start.”

Nothing else major to report … Outfielder Collin Cowgill (sprained left ankle) continues doing full baseball activity. He’ll work out Sunday, and Melvin estimated Cowgill is no more than three or four days away from going on a rehab assignment. … Brandon McCarthy (shoulder pain) has played catch each of the past two days, but no word yet on when he’ll get back on the mound.

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

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

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Carter walks off with A’s equalizing victory

Jimmy Durkin, still in for Joe Stiglich, and still waiting for Chris Carter’s home run to land
The A’s hit a somewhat significant milestone when Chris Carter’s ball soared into the Oakland night. His blast — which A’s manager Bob Melvin isn’t sure has landed yet — gave the A’s a 4-1 win over the Seattle Mariners and moved the A’s to .500 for the first time since May 22.
To Melvin and the players, it’s significant, but nothing to make a huge deal out of. No team strives to play .500 baseball. But .500 ball is sure better than the other option.
“It’s always nice to get back to .500,” Melvin said. “It’s nice to be over .500, so that’s the goal now.”
Of course the .500 record is part of the story, but Chris Carter is the big story. He absolutely obliterated his 0-1 pitch from Steve Delabar.
Truth be told, I didn’t watch it land. It was so much a no-doubter that by the time it was halfway out I was already buried in my laptop re-writing my story to send it in.
Carter, who tends to be a man of few words, was all smiles after the game.
“It’s way better than what I expected,” Carter said of his first walk-off hit. “Having all the fans just stand up cheering, clapping for you. It’s more than you could ever dream about.”
Carter is in a first-base platoon with Brandon Moss. Moss will start against right-handers, which you tend to face more of. Carter will start against lefties. He was brought in the game because lefty Oliver Perez was in. When Melvin made the move for Carter, Mariners manager Eric Wedge countered with the righty Delabar.
“I had an idea it would be Delabar,” Melvin said. “Delabar’s been getting lefties out a lot better than righties. I was going to make the move. A lot of times you just do it to have the other side make a move, but Mossy could’ve just as easily done it. I just felt like, at the time, make a move there.”
Carter’s heroics aren’t likely to change the fact that Moss will start against right-handers. But it sure was a good statement to show that he can deliver in the clutch.
The win was the A’s seventh walk-off win of the year, four more than their total from last year. They are now 5-2 in extra inning games and matched their season-high with their fifth straight win.
Tommy Milone recorded a career-high nine strikeouts. His previous best was six. His effort also marked the seventh straight game in which an A’s starting pitcher has allowed one earned run or fewer, an Oakland-era record. The last time the A’s did that for eight straight games was in 1966 when they were the Kansas City A’s.
Norberto’s win was the first of his major league career and he earned it. He struck out the side in dominating fashion in the top of the 11th, going through Seattle’s 3-4-5 hitters. Granted, the M’s heart of the order won’t strike much of a fear into opponents, but it was impressive nonetheless.

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Progressing Anderson faces live hitters

Jimmy Durkin filling in for Joe Stiglich

A’s left-hander Brett Anderson faced live batters Friday afternoon, the first time doing so since he was shut down for a few days with forearm tightness in May.
Anderson threw 25 pitches and was able to throw his whole repertoire.
“(He) threw all his pitches. Breaking balls, the whole bit,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “That’s kind of the first step. He’ll throw a bullpen here on Sunday and then I think the next step is go to Arizona and do two innings.”
Melvin is unsure when Anderson could begin a minor league rehab stint.
“You always get yourself in trouble and there’s always some hurdles,” Melvin said. “Last time he was speeding through it so quickly and he had to be shut down for a little while. It’s encouraging what we’re seeing but I think until he actually gets through these simulated games and so forth, it’s tough to put a date on it.”
Dallas Braden also threw a bullpen session of roughly 40 pitches. Melvin did not watch that session and didn’t have a report on how it went.
Collin Cowgill was among the batters to face Anderson in his simulated game and could be nearing a rehab stint.
“I think we’re getting closer with him to getting out and doing a rehab or something like that but not quite there yet,” Melvin said.
Now that you’re set on the injury front, here’s tonight’s lineups.

A’s lineup — Crisp CF, Weeks 2B, Reddick RF, Cespedes LF, Smith DH, Moss 1B, Norris C, Inge 3B, Pennington SS, Milone LHP (8-6, 3.73 ERA)

Mariners lineup — Suzuki DH, Wells LF, Saunders CF, Olivo C, Seager 3B, Smoak 1B, Peguero RF, Ackley 2B, Ryan SS, Millwood RHP (3-6, 4.00 ERA).