A’s will have decision to make at third base when Brandon Inge returns

Checking in from Tropicana Field, where the A’s begin an odd three-game series that runs Thursday-Saturday. The Republican National Convention will be held in Tampa starting Monday, and there’s a pre-convention function at the Trop on Sunday. So it’s a rare weekend off-day for the A’s …

Tonight’s lineups:

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

Rays — Fuld LF, Upton Cf, Joyce RF, Longoria 3B, Zobrist SS, Keppinger 1B, Scott DH, Roberts 2B, Molina C; Cobb RHP.

–The third base situation is starting to get interesting for the A’s. Brandon Inge, on the DL with a sprained right shoulder, begins a rehab assignment tonight for Triple-A Sacramento. Though Inge has been one of the team’s better run producers all season, there’s no guarantee he’ll slide right back into the starting lineup with Josh Donaldson hitting so well. Donaldson went 12 for 25 with five RBIs on the last homestand and is hitting .429 (15 for 35) since being recalled from the minors after Inge got hurt Aug. 11 in Chicago.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said Inge is likely to play at least three games with Sacramento. He was asked whether Inge will be plugged back into the lineup upon his return. Inge is eligible to be activated from the D.L. for Monday’s series opener at Cleveland. “I think based on what we’ve done all year, we’re going to wait and see and make sure he’s healthy and see what our best options are,” Melvin said. He added that he wants to make sure Inge’s shoulder is healthy and that he can make throws from all angles. A couple factors to keep in mind: Donaldson has to show he can continue producing at (or close to) his current pace. It’s still a pretty small sample size. Also, you can bet the A’s are aware of how valuable Inge has been — with his defense as well as his clutch hitting and leadership. That will factor into the decision …

–A.J. Griffin was shaky in his first rehab start for Sacramento, giving up three runs and three walks over 2 1/3 innings (60 pitches) Wednesday. The plan all along was for Griffin to make at least two starts as he works back from a strain in his throwing shoulder. “It’s his first (start), you’ll give him a pass on that and see where we are,” Melvin said. “He is a guy that we think doesn’t need a whole lot of work” to be ready to return. He bases that on Griffin being a “command” guy as opposed to a high-velocity pitcher who must build up maximum arm strength. When Griffin does return, he’ll be another option to work into the mix to fill in for Bartolo Colon. Tyson Ross and Dan Straily are also options, and Ross gets to make his case to stay in the rotation with tonight’s start.

It’s a big series at the Trop, obviously. The Rays and A’s hold the American League’s two wild card spots currently, with Oakland 1 1/2 games back of Tampa Bay. It’ll be an intense three games, even if the Coliseum-size crowds here at the Trop won’t reflect that intensity …

Joe Stiglich

  • crister

    Play the hot hand. Inge even with his burst of grand slam antics, is still only hitting at the Mendoza line. The guy did get dfa’d for a reason.