A’s back home to pad for brutal September stretch, Griffin and Inge set to return, Petaluma LL team visits and others notes

In for Joe Stiglich, recovering from a sunny four-game stretch in Cleveland  …

Wow, lots happening at the Coliseum. The A’s are back home riding a six-game winning streak, one short of their season high. They can match their season win total of a year ago tonight before they even rip the calendar to September. They’ve won 12 of 13 and are a season-high 16 games over .500.

Guess what? They need every bit of that, and they also need to keep cracking the whip. September is not going to be fun for them. After this six-game homestand against Boston and the Angels, we reach the stretch of the season that will determine Oakland’s chances for the playoffs — 17 out of 20 on the road and the three home games against Baltimore, the club battling the A’s for one of the two wild card spots. None of those 17 road games will be as easy as the ones on this just completed trip. Oakland plays at Seattle for three (Mariners are playing pretty well), at the Angels for four, then after the Orioles at home for three, the road test continues with three in Detroit, three in New York and four in Texas. Ouch. So they better build some cushion for that stretch right now.

The good news: They’re getting reinforcements. A.J. Griffin comes off the disabled list tomorrow and will start against the Red Sox. Griffin has had two rehab starts and is ready to roll. So is Brandon Inge, who could be activated as well and thinks he will be. With Griffin starting Saturday, Brett Anderson will get an extra day’s rest. Melvin says that’s a precautionary step after Anderson pitched so deep into games in his first two starts back.

The A’s will also be able to make September call-ups starting Saturday. Manager Bob Melvin was sheepish about who may join the big club, but probably safe to say reliever Jim Miller will be back fairly quickly after being optioned to Class A Stockton. Once the Ports season ends, Miller will be eligible to come back. If he’d gone to Sacramento, which is headed for the Triple-A playoffs, he’d have to wait longer.

It remains to be seen if Jemile Weeks will be one of the Sept. call-ups. He’s done well since being optioned to Sacramento. He’s hitting .419 with a .500 on-base percentage and nine RBIs in seven games. But the A’s seem pretty set up the middle right now with Cliff Pennington at second and Stephen Drew at short.  It’s unlikely Oakland will go crazy with the call-ups. For one, the RiverCats are in the Pacific Coast League playoffs, so that roster will have to remain reasonably stocked. For two — and this is a bit of a crazy reason — the A’s just don’t have a ton of room in their clubhouse. Bottom line, they don’t want to mess with the chemistry.

Reliever Jordan Norberto is scheduled to come off the DL Sunday, but Melvin said it might take a bit longer. Norberto is on the DL for a second time with left shoulder tendinitis, and the A’s don’t want to rush him considering this is his second time. Besides, he’ll be much more important for that 17 of 20 road stretch than this homestand.

Coco Crisp has 29 steals, and with one more, will have three straight seasons of 30-plus.

In town with the Red Sox: Former A’s relievers Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow. Bailey has pitched in just seven games for the Red Sox after missing the entire first half with a thumb injury. He’s logged 5 1/3 innings, but has a 1.69 ERA and has recorded one save. Breslow, who was actually in Arizona earlier year, was acquired by the Red Sox at the trade deadline and has pitched well — 12 outings, 10 unscored upon.

Also in town: Former Giant Cody Ross, who has made a nice adjustment with the Red Sox: 19 homers, 67 RBIs and a .277 average. Chatted briefly with Ross beforehand. He said he still follows the Giants closely and predicts that despite the haul the Dodgers got from Boston, still thinks the Giants will win the NL West.

The Petaluma Little League team was at the Coliseum Friday night, shagging fly balls in the outfield with the A’s and generally getting the royal treatment.

Tonight’s lineups:

A’s: CF Crisp, SS Drew, RF Reddick, LF Cespedes, 1B Moss, DH Gomes, 3B Donaldson, C Kottaras, 2B Pennington. P McCarthy

Red Sox: LF Podsednik, 2B Pedroia, CF Ellbury, RF Ross, 1B Loney, 1B Loney, C Saltalamacchia, DH Aviles, 3B Circiaco, SS Iglesias. P Cook












Rise and shine … it’s time for A’s vs. Indians

It’s a rare noon start (ET) for the A’s as they finish this four-game series in Cleveland. That means many of you on the West Coast will have baseball to pay attention to as you arrive to work, which should do wonders for office productivity … But anyway, here’s your lineups from Progressive Field as the A’s go for a sweep:

Oak — Crisp CF, Drew SS, Reddick RF, Cespedes DH, Smith LF, Moss 1B, Donaldson 3B, Kottaras C, Pennington 2B; Parker RHP.

Clev — Kipnis 2B, Cabrera SS, Choo RF, Brantley CF, Santana DH, Kotchman 1B, Carrera LF, Hannahan 3B, Marson C; Masterson RHP.

–Reddick returns to the third spot, but A’s manager Bob Melvin says it doesn’t mean he’s back there permanently. I’d expect him to still bounce around a bit. The A’s have gotten good production in the 3-4-5 spots with Reddick batting sixth, and you’ve got to think that easing the pressure off Reddick’s shoulders has contributed some to his recent improvement at the plate (he is 6 for 14 this series, with two starts in the sixth spot and one in the second spot). Melvin likes alternation right-left-right-left as much as he can through the middle spots, although today’s lineup is stacked with left-handed hitters against the righty Justin Masterson …

Regardless of today’s result, the A’s are guaranteed no worse than a 5-2 record on this road trip. That ain’t bad, but obviously they’re looking to polish off a sweep before returning home for a three-game series against the Red Sox.

That’s all for now. Enjoy your morning baseball …


Coco Crisp returns to the A’s lineup

Coco Crisp is back in center field and hitting leadoff for the A’s tonight, so his right foot is obviously feeling better. We’ll hit you with the lineups right away …

A’s — Crisp CF, Drew SS, Cespedes LF, Smith DH, Carter 1B, Reddick RF, Donaldson 3B, Norris C, Pennington 2B; Blackley LHP.

Clev — Kipnis DH, Cabrera SS, Choo RF, Santana C, Brantley CF, Lillibridge 3B, LaPorta 1B, Donald 2B, Carrera LF; Kluber RHP.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said third baseman Brandon Inge likely wouldn’t be activated from the disabled list before the team returns home Friday. And that means that Inge isn’t likely to return until Saturday, since rosters expand to 40 that day and it would keep the A’s from having to option someone to clear a roster space.

–The A’s announced their prospects who will play in the Arizona Fall League — infielders Grant Green and Miles Head, catcher Max Stassi and pitchers Gary Daley, Shawn Haviland, Brett Hunter and James Simmons. This will mark the third straight year that Green — the A’s 2009 first-round pick — will play in the AFL. It’s no wonder with all the position switches the guy has made. From what I’m told, Green will concentrate on second base in the AFL. The more immediate question is whether he gets a September call-up to Oakland. He’s had a nice offensive season for Triple-A Sacramento and his bat could come in handy for the A’s. Is he ready to play second base in the majors right now? That’s the big question considering he took up the position fairly recently. He’s also played shortstop, third base and left field recently.

Stassi, another high-profile pick in the 2009 draft, is a name you probably recognize. He’s spent this season at Single-A Stockton. Simmons, the team’s top pick in 2007, had his career sidetracked in a big way by shoulder problems. But he’s healthy again and is pitching out of the bullpen. He began this season with Double-A Midland and is now with Sacramento …

That’s all for now …


Brandon Moss and Chris Carter: The A’s unlikely power combo

Count the number of first basemen the A’s had gone through in recent seasons just looking to get some production from the position. Dan Johnson, Jason Giambi, Nomar Garciaparra, Daric Barton, Conor Jackson, Brandon Allen, just to name a few …

It was looking equally hopeless early this season, although Kila Ka’aihue showed brief spurts of production before being designated for assignment June 6. But who would have thought Chris Carter and Brandon Moss would get promoted from Triple-A Sacramento in June and form a power-hitting platoon that put up numbers suitable for what a major league team should expect at first base? OK, so it hasn’t been much of a platoon lately. Carter, who has 12 home runs in 46 games, is getting the majority of starts at first right now. Moss played left field in Tuesday’s 7-0 victory over the Indians, and it was just his second start in the past eight games. But both players are producing. Together, they’ve combined for 26 homers and 59 RBIs despite spending the first two-plus months of the season in the minors.

“Now all of a sudden we’ve got a left/right matchup at first base and it’s been working really well,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Recently, Carter’s been getting the lion’s share of at-bats. But whenever we can mix Moss in there we feel great about it.”

Moss shows absolutely no resentment at spending more time on the bench lately. He and Carter have a great relationship, it seems.

“We talk about that all the time, how fun it is when we’re both in there,” Moss said. “We both have the same idea and approach. Obviously he can (homer) to a few more parts of the field than I can. But we have similar styles of hitting.”

That offers a glimpse into part of what is working so well for the A’s this season. They have several players in part-time roles, and these players are buying into their part-time roles. Melvin gets creative in finding ways to squeeze guys into the lineup to keep them engaged, and those players have a knack for producing when they do get their chances. When that’s the case, everyone feels like they’re a part of the winning formula, and it creates good chemistry, not that there’s any easy way to define “chemistry.” Some say that word is overrated in sports, but it sure seems to be serving the A’s well in 2012 …


Coco Crisp sits with foot injury, so A’s go outside the box with their lineup

Many days you see the A’s lineup card and it’s the standard nine guys. Then there are days like this … Stephen Drew leading off, Josh Reddick batting second, Brandon Moss playing left field. What brings on this madness? Coco Crisp is hobbling after fouling a ball off his right foot in his second at-bat last night. He was walking with a big ice pack on his foot last night, and he was limping some when he arrived in the clubhose this afternoon, so he’s in some pretty good pain. Crisp had X-rays, which showed no fractures in the foot, manager Bob Melvin said. The center fielder is day-to-day.

As a result, Melvin went a bit outside-the-box with his lineup, though Drew has more career starts in the leadoff spot (210) than any other place in the batting order, according to baseball-reference.com. As for Reddick, he goes from the No. 3 spot, to two games hitting well in the sixth spot, to No. 2 today as a result of Drew being bumped up. Reddick said it’s no big deal to him, and Melvin said he’d feel OK hitting Reddick second even if he hadn’t hit well the past two games.

–With Yoenis Cespedes playing center field tonight, Brandon Moss gets a rare start in left field. “I don’t care where I play. I’m just happy that I’m in that thing,” Moss said, pointing to the lineup card in the clubhouse. He hasn’t been getting much time lately as Chris Carter has become somewhat of the regular starter at first base.

–The A’s are holding a “Weekend With Bernie” promotion for Saturday’s game against the Red Sox, a nod to the “Bernie” dance that’s become all the rage with the A’s this season. As part of the festivities, actor Terry Kiser, who played the role of Bernie in the “Weekend at Bernie’s” movies, will throw out the first pitch. “Weekend at Bernie’s” is where Kiser found big-screen fame. Any “Three’s Company” fanatics out there? He also had some classic cameos on that show, and the fact that I can drop that kind of “Three’s Company” knowledge on you says all you need to know about my social life 🙂

At any rate, fans can buy $12 Plaza Level outfield seats for Saturday by going to oaklandathletics.com/bernie and using the coupon code “bernie”.

Here’s tonight’s lineups:

A’s — Drew SS, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Smith DH, Carter 1B, Moss LF, Donaldson 3B, Norris C, Rosales 2B; Milone LHP.

Indians — Kipnis 2B, Cabrera DH, Choo RF, Santana C, Brantley CF, Duncan LF, Lillibridge SS, Kotchman 1B, Donald 3B; McAllister RHP.


Josh Reddick benefits from his change in batting order, and so do A’s

What a difference three spots in the batting order makes. A’s right fielder Josh Reddick was dropped from third to sixth in the lineup, and in two games since the switch, he looks like a different hitter. After notching three hits Saturday, Reddick went 2 for 4 and snapped his 14-game homerless streak in Monday’s 3-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians. The right fielder will tell you himself that he’s more relaxed right now hitting out of the spotlight of the No. 3 spot. His 14 for 94 slump persuaded manager Bob Melvin to drop him a few notches in the lineup to take some pressure off his shoulders.

Because Reddick got off to such a great start this season, I think it’s easy to overlook the fact that this is his first full major league season. He probably shouldn’t be hitting third, but the A’s have needed him there and he produced in the first half of the season. He’d been in a prolonged slump of late, and A’s hitting coach Chili Davis has tried to get him to stop thinking “long ball” at the plate, especially with runners on base. After Reddick’s homer Monday, he and Davis had a light-hearted exchange in the dugout. “He was testing me,” Reddick said. “He said, ‘You know, you got a homer. Let’s work on getting the cycle.’ I said to him, ‘I’m just worried about hitting something hard.’ He gave me a little mini-hug and walked away. I knew what he was doing.”

After Sunday’s day off, it seems Reddick also came back refreshed mentally. He left Tampa after Saturday’s game and joined his family for the 5 1/2-hour drive back home to Guyton, Georgia. Then he caught a flight to Cleveland early Monday morning. “We got in about 11 p.m. (Saturday) night,” Reddick said. “I hung with some buddies. Then Sunday was my niece’s first birthday.”

After getting traded from Boston over the winter, playing for a team all the way across the country has probably been an adjustment. I wouldn’t be surprised if Reddick been a little homesick as the season has worn on. At any rate, things seem to be turning around for him. And that’s good news for the A’s. Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith have produced in the 3-4 spots for the past two games, and when Melvin can pencil his leading home run hitter into the sixth spot in the lineup, the A’s offense suddenly seems a little more threatening to an opposing pitcher …


Dallas Braden undergoes rotator cuff surgery; Travis Blackley to start Wednesday for A’s

Greetings from Cleveland, where the sun is out and we’re set to start on time after heavy rain hit all afternoon …

A’s lefty Dallas Braden suffered another setback. He underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, so he faces another long-term rehabilitation. Just a real bad break for the guy after all the work he put in to try and come back from last year’s shoulder capsule surgery.

–Travis Blackley got the nod for Wednesday’s start, A’s manager Bob Melvin said. What’s the plan beyond Wednesday for that rotation spot? Melvin said they’ll see how it goes and decide accordingly. Dan Straily wouldn’t have been eligible to return from the minors until Thursday. A.J. Griffin, set to throw tonight for Triple-A Sacramento, really needs this second rehab start after he went just 2 1/3 innings in his first one. “We just felt we were better off going with the guy who’s a little more stretched out at this point,” Melvin said. “Whether starting or long relieving, (Blackley) has been very good for us in a number of roles. Not only that, he probably deserves the start.”

But Melvin added: “If we feel like we benefit more with him in the bullpen after that and somebody else (starting), we’re not sure yet.” If Blackley isn’t a long-term starter, it’s interesting to ponder whether the A’s would choose Griffin or Straily to bring back and join the rotation for the remaining few weeks of the season. Who would you like to see? Straily came up with much more hoopla for his debut, but Griffin seems like a little more of a known quantity as far as what the A’s got from him before he got injured. That’s an interesting one to ponder …

–No Brandon Inge yet. He was eligible to return from the D.L. today, but Melvin said he wants to make sure Inge (sprained right shoulder) can make all the throws and is fully recovered while playing rehab games with Sacramento. But Melvin acknowledged that the fact that Josh Donaldson is hitting well while playing third in Inge’s place makes it easier to be cautious with Inge. …

–Eric Sogard suffered a high ankle sprain while nearing the end of his rehab stint for a back injury, so he’ll be out a while longer. Too bad for him and the A’s, because Sogard would have been an option at second base.

The lineups:

A’s — Crisp CF, Drew SS, Cespedes LF, Smith DH, Carter 1B, Reddick RF, Donaldson 3B, Norris C, Pennington 2B; Anderson LHP.

Indians — Kipnis 2B, Donald 3B, Choo RF, Santana DH, Brantley Cf, Duncan LF, Lillibridge SS, LaPorta 1B, Marson C; Hernandez RHP.


Will Oakland A’s-Tampa Bay Rays game be interrupted by protesters?

It’s no ordinary day at the ballpark at Tropicana Field. Extra security is on hand and alert for a possible in-game protest, in response to the Republican National Convention being held in Tampa starting Monday. A convention welcome party will be held at the Trop on Sunday, and the ballpark will be cleared shortly after the game as the Secret Service conducts a security sweep. The Tampa Bay Times has reported a possible plan of 30 to 40 protesters storming the field during the game as a demonstration, and both teams reportedly have been briefed on a possible “flash mob”-style protest. A’s manager Bob Melvin said before the game nobody had talked to him, and A’s player rep Jerry Blevins said the team had not been briefed on anything. But he did say he’s heard the reports of potential protesters. “It’s fun to talk about, but once the game starts, we can’t worry about that,” Blevins said.

Rays manager Joe Maddon told the Tampa Bay Times that a Secret Service official met with him a couple days ago. “They’ve discussed the potential with us – the protestors,” Maddon said. ” … I’m not concerned. According to the people that we’ve spoken with, everything is being prepared for and they are ready for any kind of potential demonstration.” Maddon said Rays players have been instructed to return to the dugout if a large group takes the field. If it was just a single protester, Maddon said the Secret Service would just “send out their best defensive back and tackle them.”

–With all the political discussion, not to mention severe weather from Hurricane Isaac expected to hit the Tampa/St. Petersburg area by Sunday night, there’s a lot of non-baseball news dominating the scene. But there was also significant on-field news for the A’s. Slumping right fielder Josh Reddick was dropped from the third to sixth spot in the lineup today, the first time Reddick has started anywhere other than the third spot since April 15, when he batted fifth. Reddick admitted he’s been pressing of late. “I’ve got no problem with (being dropped) when I’m not producing,” he said. “It’s something that’s expected. Maybe it’s just a little wake-up call to get going and get started again. Maybe get pitched a bit differently and build some confidence back up, hit some balls hard and get right back in the 3 hole.”

Melvin said he just wants to give Reddick “a change of scenery.” “A guy goes through some struggles, you want to change it up a little bit. We expect him to be back in the 3 spot before long, whether it’s a couple days or whatever. This isn’t uncommon over the course of a 162-game season. I can’t remember a season where we’ve had somebody hit in the same spot the whole year.”

–The A’s still haven’t made a decision on Wednesday’s starter. Travis Blackley remains a strong candidate, but Melvin also said he could bump Jarrod Parker up one day to start Wednesday. He would still be on regular four days’ rest with Sunday’s day off. (A couple days ago, I mentioned Brandon McCarthy as a candidate to be moved up to pitch Wednesday. I had Parker and McCarthy flip-flopped in my mind as far as the days they pitch this weekend. Parker was always the option to be pushed up). A third option is to bring back A.J. Griffin from the disabled list that day. Right now, Griffin is scheduled for another rehab start Monday with Sacramento. The A’s would probably prefer not to rush Griffin back, but if Blackley were needed in relief duty before then, it might be more of an option. But I still think Parker coming back Wednesday is more likely than seeing Griffin.

And finally, today’s lineups:

A’s — Crisp CF, Drew SS, Cespedes LF, Smith DH, Carter 1B, Reddick RF, Donaldson 3B, Kottaras C, Pennington 2B; McCarthy RHP.

Rays — Jennings LF, Fuld CF, Joyce RF, Longoria 3B, Zobrist SS, Scott DH, Pena 1B, Roberts 2B, Lobaton C; Hellickson RHP.


Josh Reddick gets a day off, and Travis Blackley looks like the favorite for Wednesday’s start

It was a heckuva lot more humid in St. Petersburg today than Thursday, not that it matters in climate-controlled Tropicana Field, where the A’s and Rays play game 2 of this three-game series. The lineups …

A’s — Crisp CF, Drew SS, Cespedes LF, Carter 1B, Gomes DH, Donaldson 3B, Norris C, Moss RF, Rosales 2B; Parker RHP.

TB — Jennings LF, Upton CF, Joyce RF, Longoria DH, Zobrist SS, Keppinger 3B, Pena 1B, Roberts 2B, Molina C; Moore LHP.

You notice there’s no Josh Reddick in the Oakland lineup. As I blogged last night, the guy has really been struggling at the plate of late, going 14 for 94 with 31 strikeouts in his last 23 games. Reddick has been so good for much of this season that it’s easy to forget this is his first full season in the majors. He’s gone from being a part-time major leaguer to an everyday No. 3 hitter in the span of one season, and that’s a lot to heap on a guy’s shoulders. It will be interesting to see if Bob Melvin considers moving him from the third spot to take some of the pressure off him, but there’s no indication of that at this point. “You know what? He’s been as consistent as anybody we’ve had, if not more so than anybody,” Melvin said. “That’s whay it stands out when go through sttretch where you struggle some. Not like anyone we have here, he’ll continue to be a force for us, continue to be a mainstay.”

–Melvin said the promotion of reliever Jim Miller from Triple-A gives him more flexibility with left-hander Travis Blackley. Translation: Blackley is very much a candidate to start Wednesday at Cleveland in Bartolo Colon’s spot. Melvin said Blackley is under consideration, but that no decision had been made. But with Dan Straily unavailable and A.J. Griffin still on the D.L., you’d be wise to put your money on Blackley.

–Melvin also shed a little more light on the decision to shift Tyson Ross to the bullpen. “This is something we’ve been thinking about for a while with Tyson,” he said. “It seems like the second or third time through the lineup is where he gets himself in a little bit of trouble. And for a guy that has such an explosive fastball, and minimal secondary pitches at times, even though last night he showed a ‘plus’ in all three of them, maybe it’s the right thing to do to let him go out there and air it out for a shorter period of time.”

That’s all for now …


The A’s encounter a team as hot as they once were

The A’s were the talk of baseball throughout July, running off a franchise-best 19-5 record for the month to vault into postseason contention. In the opposing dugout this series, they see the hottest team of August. The Tampa Bay Rays moved to 16-5 in the month, best in the majors, with Thursday’s 5-0 blanking of the A’s. The Rays are rolling right now, showing why they are leading the American League wild card race. And the bad news for the A’s is the man who shut them out Thursday, Alex Cobb, was the statistical weak link in the three starters they’ll face this series. Cobb carried a 7-8 record and 4.74 ERA into the game. On Friday, Oakland faces Matt Moore (10-7, 3.57) and on Saturday they’ll get Jeremy Hellickson (8-8, 3.28). The A’s have been shut out 15 times, most in the majors. And though A’s manager Bob Melvin said the shutout total, in and of itself, doesn’t overly concern him, the A’s are in trouble if their bats don’t wake up over the next two days.

One bad sign for the A’s is the struggles of No. 3 hitter Josh Reddick. He went 0 for 4 on Thursday and is now 14 for 94 over his last 23 games. He has 31 strikeouts over that span. It’s been easy to overlook Reddick’s numbers as the A’s have remained in the wild card chase, but they’ll be hurting if he doesn’t crank it up at some point.

One good sign for the A’s: Newly acquired shortstop Stephen Drew recorded his first hits with the A’s. Drew was 0 for 7 with Oakland — and 0 for 22 going back to before the A’s traded for him — when he singled down the left field line in the fourth inning. He doubled to right-center in his next at-bat and walked in his final plate appearance. Drew has also looked smooth at shortstop since arriving from Arizona.

–Right-hander Bartolo Colon, suspended for the rest of the season Wednesday after testing positive for testosterone, was linked in the 2007 Mitchell Report to a trainer who had strong ties to performance-enhancing drugs, as was reported in a San Francisco Chronicle story Thursday. The Mitchell Report indicated that Colon worked with the trainer, Angel “Nao” Presinal, throughout his Cy Young season of 2005 with the Angels. A lot of time has passed since then — and it’s important to note that Colon was not linked to steroids in the Mitchell Report — but it certainly raises suspicion of how far back Colon’s use of banned substances might go. A’s GM Billy Beane declined to discuss Colon’s situation or anything else performance-enhancing drug related Thursday.

–The A’s send Jarrod Parker to the mound Friday trying to even up this three-game series …