1

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 …

3

Bartolo Colon suspended for 50 games

Ben Enos filling in for Joe Stiglich

Just when you thought the A’s gave people all the news they could handle yesterday, things got even crazier today. Major League Baseball announced that starting pitcher Bartolo Colon has been suspended for 50 games for testing positive for testosterone.

For all the details and reaction from general manager Billy Beane, manager Bob Melvin and pitcher Grant Balfour, check out the ever-updating story.

As the news broke, several players found out by watching the crawl on clubhouse televisions. As you might expect, it caught pretty much everyone off guard. General manager Billy Beane held a closed-door team meeting before the team went out to stretch, then he and manager Bob Melvin addressed the media.

Beane said he found out this morning, and the immediate concern was to figure out what the team would do with Colon’s scheduled start tomorrow. After saying they were still trying to make that decision, Beane eventually said that it will be Tyson Ross who gets the ball tomorrow in Tampa Bay.

From a big picture standpoint, the loss of Colon hurts in a big way. He was 10-9 on the season and was a veteran presence on a very young staff. Perhaps softening the blow a little is the return of Brett Anderson, who pitched extremely well in his first game back on Tuesday. But, there’s no question that losing Colon is a blow to a team full of youngsters.

Moving forward, Ross gets the ball tomorrow but it’s probably a safe bet that Dan Straily makes his way back when eligible. Beane said it’s more likely the A’s will turn to their organizational depth to fill the void than make a move.

Alright, now that you’re caught up on the news of the day, there’s still a game to be played. Tommy Milone takes the hill against Liam Hendriks, and the A’s try to win the series before heading to Tampa Bay tonight.

Lineups:
A’s: Crisp CF, Drew SS, Reddick RF, Cespedes LF, Carter 1B, Smith DH, Donaldson 3B, Kottaras C, Pennington 2B. Milone P.
Twins: Revere CF, Casilla 2B, Mauer 1B, Willingham LF, Doumit DH, Carson RF, Plouffe 3B, Butera C, Florimon SS. Hendriks P.

3

Will Stephen Drew factor into A’s plans beyond 2012?

Stephen Drew played his first game in an A’s uniform Tuesday night, though there wasn’t much to glean from his debut in the A’s 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins. He went 0 for 4 and had just a few routine balls go his way at shortstop, which he handled. The A’s expect Drew to provide a boost over the final six weeks of this season. But it’s interesting to ponder what the A’s will do at shortstop beyond 2012. Drew has a $10 million mutual option for next season — meaning he and the A’s must both decide to exercise it. If they don’t, the A’s pay him a $1.35 million buyout. Would they consider bringing him back? “Let’s see how the next six weeks go,” A’s assistant general manager David Forst said Monday night.

There’s a decent chance the A’s won’t bring Drew back next season at that price tag unless he really catches fire down the stretch. So who are the options to play short in 2013? Perhaps Cliff Pennington gets another crack at it, but for now he’ll be concentrating on second base along with Adam Rosales (another shortstop candidate). Might Grant Green, the 2009 first-round pick who has bounced all around the diamond, get a look at short in spring training? How quickly can Addison Russell, the A’s first-round pick this year who is just out of high school, develop and move up the ranks? He just got promoted to low Single-A Burlington. And don’t forget about Eric Sogard and Brandon Hicks.

Perhaps the A’s will look to sign a shortstop. It will be interesting to watch unfold. Just remember that because the A’s made a move to shore up the position this season doesn’t mean things are any more settled for next year. …

3

Oakland A’s trade for Stephen Drew — some postgame thoughts

With so much A’s news breaking so late Monday night, it was tough cramming all the essential details into the game story. Here’s a rundown on the Stephen Drew trade, weaving in some details that made my story and some that didn’t:

We knew this trade might happen between the A’s and the Diamondbacks, it just happened a lot later than we expected. Trades are tougher to complete after the July 31 deadline, but as we saw from the Kurt Suzuki deal, they do happen. The A’s claimed Drew on waivers from Arizona on Saturday, meaning the teams had a 48-hour window to either work out a trade or the Diamondbacks could have pulled him back off waivers. How did the A’s acquire an everyday-caliber shortstop while only giving up a low Single-A infielder in Sean Jamieson? The timing of the deal is part of it. There’s only six weeks left in the regular season, making Drew a very short-term rental potentially. Plus, Arizona G.M. Kevin Towers told reporters that the chances were slim the Diamondbacks would retain Drew past this season. He has a $10 million mutual option for 2013, or else his team must pay a $1.35 million buyout and he becomes a free agent. The A’s are reportedly paying all of the remainder of Drew’s 2012 salary (about $1.93 million) and are also responsible for his buyout. Add it all together, and the A’s weren’t going to have to give up much for this guy.

What are the A’s getting with Drew? That’s the big question. He missed 137 games from July 2011 through June of this season with a fractured right ankle, and he hasn’t really gotten going offensively since then. Drew, 29, is four seasons removed from his best year as a major leaguer. In 2008, he hit .291 with 44 doubles, 11 triples, 21 home runs and 67 RBIs. If he can resemble even a shade of that player over the next six weeks, he will give the A’s more offense at shortstop than they’ve gotten this season from Cliff Pennington/Eric Sogard/Adam Rosales and so on …

A few of us grabbed Pennington for a few minutes after the game, and it was a bit of an awkward exchange as you would expect. A’s manager Bob Melvin hasn’t talked to Pennington yet, and surely that’s why Melvin declined to talk about Drew in length during his postgame news conference. He wants to talk with the current players on the roster who are affected by this move. “If they tell me something, I’ll let you know,” Pennington said. The A’s have to make moves to free up spots on the 25-man and 40-man rosters for Drew. Surely Pennington is a candidate to be designated for assignment, but there’s no guarantee that will happen. His speed could be valuable off the bench, and he’s a switch hitter. But we also don’t know much about him as a third baseman, so you wonder if he could serve as the primary backup infielder over Adam Rosales.

A’s starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy said after Monday’s game it was a bit of an uneasy feeling knowing that someone’s job status was in limbo because of the trade. He didn’t want to talk much about it. “That’s why you hope someone comes in and plays well right away to smooth that transition,” McCarthy said. Trades happen all the time in baseball, and players lose their jobs because of it. But any potential change is something to think about with this team. It’s a tight-knit bunch that has developed excellent chemistry during this surprising season. Any potential change will provide a jolt and require an adjustment period, and the A’s have to hope the chemistry isn’t affected for the worse. But second baseman Jemile Weeks spoke frankly: “The middle infield, in general, we’ve struggled offensively. Obviously a change was going to come.”

Assistant general manager David Forst acknowledged that Melvin’s familiarity with Drew played a part in the deal. Melvin managed Arizona from 2005 to 2009, so he managed Drew in his first three-plus years as a major leaguer. “I do know Stephen, he’s a good player,” Melvin said. “He’ll be a good fit here.”

More to come Tuesday afternoon …

0

Jonny Gomes and the A’s celebrate Petaluma Little League victory in typical fashion

The A’s erupted in celebration and Brandon Inge stuffed a whipped cream pie in Jonny Gomes’ face. It was yet another walkoff celebration for Oakland, but this one came before the A’s even took the field Monday. Players were glued to the T.V. watching the Petaluma National All-Stars play New Jersey in an elimination game of the Little League World Series. When Danny Marzo hit an extra-inning homer to win the game for Petaluma, bedlam broke out in the A’s clubhouse. Gomes, a Petaluma native, has an emotional investment in his hometown team, and his teammates are catching the fever too.

Gomes watched on T.V. while wearing a Petaluma hat and shirt — the team colors just happen to be green and gold. After Marzo’s homer, Gomes jumped on a couch in the A’s clubhouse. Inge immediately shoved a whipped cream pie in his face, the signature celebration that has marked the A’s major league-best 13 walk-off victories. “It’s just like we do after a game,” Inge said. “The kids deserve it.”

Gomes said he didn’t expect to be nailed by a pie. “It’s probably the first pregame pie in the history of the game,” he joked.

Gomes gathered cleats, batting gloves and sunglasses he wanted to send to the Petaluma players before the World Series. Then he found out Little League already is contracted to provide such equipment to teams. So Gomes has those gifts waiting for Petaluma’s players when they get home. The supplies were boxed up and sitting by his locker Sunday morning. Gomes also said he’s pleased that his teammates are taking a rooting interest in the team.

“You’ve got major leaguers up here watching 12-year-olds get after it,” he said with pride.

0

Brett Anderson to make season debut for A’s on Tuesday; Dan Straily optioned to minors

The A’s starting rotation is about to welcome a major late-season addition, as left-hander Brett Anderson was activated from the 60-day disabled list earlier today. He’ll make his season debut Tuesday night against the Twins. To make room for Anderson, the A’s optioned Dan Straily to Triple-A Sacramento. It would have been Straily’s turn to pitch Tuesday. Rather than experiment with a six-man rotation, a realistic option given the A’s pitching depth, it’s obvious the A’s have chosen the five starters they think are best and they want to ride them out as this pennant race heats up. So the current rotation goes Brandon McCarthy (tonight’s starter), Anderson, Tommy Milone, Bartolo Colon and Jarrod Parker.

Anderson last pitched in the majors on June 5, 2011. He had reconstructive elbow surgery on July 14, 2011. So his big league return comes 13 months and one week after surgery. That’s a pretty quick timeline given that the standard estimation for a player to be sidelined is 12-18 months. Anderson had a very hassle-free recovery. Aside from some forearm soreness that slowed him for a short time, he had no setbacks. After six rehab starts — one with Single-A Stockton and five with Triple-A Sacremento — he’s ready for the big stage.

“It will be fun to pitch against another big league team rather than (in front of) 350 people in 100 % humidity in New Orleans,” Anderson quipped.

Anderson is also excited about rejoining the A’s in the middle of their push for the postseason. He said he doesn’t take anything for granted as far as his spot in the rotation. “These aren’t meaningless innings,” Anderson said. “You wanna go out there and pitch well because we’re in a tight race. … I wanna go out there and pitch well because we need to win ballgames. So it’s going to be that much more pressure-filled, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

You’ll notice a trimmer Anderson on the mound. He estimated his weight between 225 and 230 pounds right now, and said he got as heavy as 248 right before hurting his elbow. What impact does he think it will make? “Hopefully it means I can feel just as strong from pitch 1 to the last pitch of the game,” he said. “I feel strong, feel healthy. And hopefully it translates to good things. If it doesn’t, maybe I’ll go eat cheeseburgers and try to get fatter again.”

Classic …

As for Straily, A’s manager Bob Melvin talked highly of him. “He did a nice job for us, and it shows the depth we have in the organization,” Melvin said. “He’s 1-0 and we won all three of his starts. And I don’t think we’ve seen his best game. He was getting more and more comfortable each and every time. But we really felt like at this point in time it was time for Brett.”

–In other news, right-hander A.J. Griffin will make his first rehab start for Triple-A Sacramento on WEdnesday. He’ll go about 65 pitches. Melvin said Griffin (strained right shoulder) will make another start after that. At that point, rosters will have expanded to 40 and the A’s can utilize Griffin however they wish.

–Outfielder Seth Smith (strained left hamstring) is playing a rehab game for Sacramento tonight, and Melvin said he could return as soon as Tuesday.

The lineups:
A’s — Crisp CF, Gomes DH, Reddick RF, Cespedes LF, CArter 1B, Donaldson 3B, Norris C, Rosales SS, Weeks 2B; McCArthy RHP.

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

3

Coco Crisp’s value to the A’s is shining through

The numbers certainly don’t jump out at you — a .252 batting average, seven homers and 35 RBIs — but Sunday’s performance reminded us that Coco Crisp’s value to the A’s goes beyond what his season stats would suggest. The switch hitter went 3 for 5 with five RBIs in Sunday’s 7-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians, but that’s just a snapshot of what Crisp has meant to the A’s during their revival this season. The A’s have gone an American League-best 43-25 since June 2, when they began their rise into postseason contention. Crisp took over as the regular leadoff hitter June 14. He has played in 49 of the A’s 68 games since then, hitting .306 with six homers, 24 RBIs, 32 runs scored and 17 stolen bases.

“He’s a guy you rely on, not only to set the table and create havoc at the top, but he gets big hits for us,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “With (Jemile Weeks) in the ’9′ spot, it makes a lot of sense to get a guy on second base for (Crisp) because he comes up so big for us. He’s just a really good hitter and comes up big in big situations.”

I’ve written before about the huge difference in the A’s win-loss record when Yoenis Cespedes is in the lineup as opposed to when he is not. I continue to believe Cespedes is the single most important position player for the A’s down the stretch — whether he can stay healthy and whether he keeps producing in the cleanup spot. But Crisp’s health and continued production is also very key. The A’s have had a bit of a revolving door in the No. 2 spot in the order, but Crisp’s performance as the leadoff hitter has helped mask that. And though the A’s have been a much, much better power-hitting team this season, they still need that running-game element and the ability to manufacture runs, and Crisp contributes to that better than anyone on the team.

There’s been a lot of debate about whether Cespedes’ struggles in left field suggest he should be switched back to center. I’m a believer in keeping Crisp in center and Cespedes in left. Yes, I know Crisp’s throwing arm is a liability in center. And I realize that Cespedes is a better defender in center than he is in left. But I watch Crisp’s range — going left to right, and going straight back and charging in — and I see him make lots of plays in center that I don’t think Cespedes would make at this point. That’s based on some of the mistakes we saw Cespedes make in center before he even switched to left. Right now, I think Crisp’s range, experience and sure-handedness is a bigger asset in center than Cespedes would be. As for their throwing ability, runners would still be taking extra bases on Crisp in left. And Cespedes’ strong arm — utilized in left — can still deter runners from trying to advance. Cespedes has terrific defensive tools — speed and throwing arm, especially — but he’s got lots of developing to do. The A’s are better off right now having him do that developing in left.

I gather there are some strong opinions on this topic. Let’s hear ‘em …

3

A’s expected to have Brett Anderson news after Sunday’s game

Greetings from the Coliseum, where the clouds are gone and the sun has emerged to make it an ideal Sunday for baseball … Bob Melvin’s pregame media chat was all about injury updates this morning … A.J. Griffin threw his second bullpen session since joining the D.L. If his shoulder comes out of it well, he’ll likely head out on a rehab assignment in five days or so, Melvin said.

Outfielder Seth Smith and infielder Eric Sogard — both on the D.L. — ran the bases this morning. Melvin mentioned that Smith could begin a rehab assignment as soon as Monday.

–The news everyone will be waiting for, however, involves Brett Anderson. Melvin said he will have some sort of announcement regarding Anderson’s status after the game. It’s decision time on the lefty, as his minor league rehab assignment expires Monday. He either has to be added to the big league roster or optioned to the minors. You can bet he’s joining the big league staff, but at whose expense? Perhaps Jarrod Parker is pitching to keep himself in the rotation today. Or maybe Tommy Milone or Dan Straily get bumped. I have to think the A’s will consider going to a six-man rotation for the time being. It makes sense. Everyone in the rotation could use a little extra rest right now, and if you’ve got six capable arms, you might as well take advantage of them.

More on that after the game. Here’s the lineups:

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

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

0

Celebrating 20 wins, current A’s just hoping for three straight, plus Anderson and Reddick updates

In for Joe Stiglich …

They have a red carpet rolled out in center field for the members of the 2002 A’s team that won an AL record 20 in a row. Roy Steele is in the house the make the introductions, and he won’t be taxing his voice — just six players are on hand (Jim Mecir, Jeff Tam, Micah Bowie, Terrence Long, Scott Hatteberg and Chad Bradford) and four members of the staff (manager Art Howe, plus coaches Ken Macha, Thad Bosley and Mike Quade).

There’s a big turnout anyway, with a Hatteberg bobblehead enticement plus a postgame showing of Moneyball on the videoboards. Don’t think Howe will be sticking around for that.

The current A’s will be out for their third straight with Bartolo Colon on the mound. The lineup looks a lot better with Josh Reddick back hitting third. After his third dental procedure in five days Friday, Reddick said he was feeling much better Saturday. He was chipper enough to engage Brandon Inge in a little hockey shootout in a Coliseum hallway about 3 1/2 hours before gametime.

Reddick’s biggest issue with the tooth has been a post-extraction infection. He had the tooth removed Monday, but the infection was nasty.

“It was infected pretty bad,” he said. “They showed me the pictures of it, it was pretty ugly. The dentist said it was probably one of the worst one he’s seen over the years.”

Reddick is still on antibiotics, but he said it was therapeutic to get on the field Friday night and deliver a pinch-hit single in the winning eighth inning rally. It finally took his mind off what’s been going on inside his mouth.

“The only time I really took my mind off it was in the box,” he said. “Battling in a big situation was obviously something I hadn’t done in awhile. That all felt good to contribute in a big game in a big situation.”

On another front, Brett Anderson looks and sounds like he’s ready to make his return to a major league mound. All that’s really standing in the way is a spot for him. He threw a 40-pitch bullpen session and impressed manager Bob Melvin.

“It looked like he stepped on it a little harder than the bullpens he’s thrown here in the past,” the manager said. “He really had good stuff. So we’ll probably have a decision at some point here soon, and we will find a way to get him in there at some point. He is that good. We just have to find the right time for it.”

Melvin was vague as to how Anderson might be worked in, but indicated performance and matchups by the current rotation will probably dictate it. With such a short bench, particularly when Seth Smith returns from the D.L.,  he doesn’t foresee a six-man rotation being utilized until rosters expand in September … if that happens at all.

Anderson is trying to be as patient as possible, but maintains he’s ready to rock.

“I’m sure my (velocity) is not where it was in parts of 2009 and 2010,  but that’s going to come the more I build up my arm strength,” he said. “I like where my other pitches are. My slider was good in my last start and my pitch count went pretty high. But there are only so many spots in the rotation, so we’ll see what happens.”

Anderson has already made five rehab appearances in the minor leagues, so there’s not much more to accomplish there. He threw 96 pitches in his last outing, so he’s as extended out pitch-count wise as the A’s want to take him.

“I’m very eager,” said Anderson. “Pitching in front 350 people in New Orleans after a rain delay wasn’t that much fun. There’s a little more at stake here and a little more adrenalin when you’re facing a big league team in a big league ballpark.”

Anderson has thrown as high as 94 mph, so it’s not like his velocity is wanting.

“It’s getting close,” he said. “I’m sure next year I’ll be back to normal, but I feel I can pitch with the velocity I have right now. I feel pretty confident that as long as my elbow’s healthy, I’m going to be able to get people out. I feel like I’m there.”

The way things work with the A’s, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Anderson back on the mound sometime in the next week.

Tonight’s lineups:

OAK: Crisp CF, Donaldson 3B, Reddick RF, Cespedes LF, Carter DH, Moss 1B, Kottaras C, Pennington SS, Weeks 2B. Colon P

CLE: Kipnis 2B, Cabrera SS, Choo RF, Santana C, Brantley CF, Duncan DH, Kotchman 1B, Hannahan 3B, Carrera LF. Kluber P

 

 

 

 

 

 

7

Howe and Macha in the house with a few players from the 20-game streak

In for Joe Stiglich …

The A’s are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of their American League record 20-game winning streak Saturday night, but a few of the gang from 2002 were on hand Friday, including a good portion of the coaching staff — manager Art Howe, bench coach Ken Macha, hitting coach Thad Bosley and first  base coach  Mike Quade. The players’ group was kind of skimpy. Those in town to represent the ’02 club are relievers Jim Mecir, Jeff Tam, Chad Bradford and Micah Bowie,  outfielder Terrence Long and first baseman Scott Hatteberg (who works for the A’s). Jermaine Dye was supposed to be here but was a late scratch.

There’s a partial explanation — a lot of the guys from that team are still playing, including Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, Ted Lilly, Ramon Hernandez, Mark Ellis, Eric Chavez and Aaron Harang. Then there’s Cory Lidle, who passed away in a plane crash. Olmedo Saenz is back in Panama somewhere. Not sure why Mark Mulder, Miguel Tejada, Eric Byrnes, Billy Koch and David Justice couldn’t make it, but after that, you really miss Adam Piatt, Frank Menechino and John Mabry?

Was looking over that 20-game streak and noticed some interesting facts. First, in 16 of the final 17 games of the streak — including 12 in a row — the A’s scored six runs or more. Lots of blowout wins. And they scored four in the one game they didn’t score six or more. Second, the streak ended when Minnesota’s Brad Radke shut them out 6-0 at the Metrodome, but then the club won three more in a row for 23 out of 24. Hudson and Zito both 4-0 during the streak and Koch had nine saves of his 44 saves.

Not a whole lot of news. Outfielder Josh Reddick had another dental procedure Friday and did not start. A.J. Griffin threw all of his pitches in a pre-game bullpen and will throw another Sunday. Brett Anderson will throw one Saturday at the Coliseum.

Tonight’s lineups:

A’s: Crisp CF, Weeks 2B, Cespedes LF, Carter 1B, Moss RF, Gomes DH, Donaldson 3B, Norris C, Pennington SS. Milone P

Cleveland: Kipnis 2B, Cabrera SS, Choo RF, Santana 1B, Brantley CF, Donald LF, Duncan DH, Lillibridge 3B, Marson C. McAllister P