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Crisp back in lineup atop batting order

– Lead-off hitter Coco Crisp returned to the starting lineup Friday after he was limited to pinch-hit appearances the past two games because of wrist and hamstring injuries.

 

– The recently completed nine-game road trip did nothing to change manager Bob Melvin’s opinion about his team, he said.

He watched his troops win seven of nine games, surge into first place and show that they are every bit as focused as last year’s team.

“A team that’s not afraid to play on the road, is not afraid to play in close games and, as far as our offense goes, it seems like our at-bats get better and better as the game goes along and they are fierce, competitive at-bats,” Melvin said. “And we’ve got a deep pitching staff. So, really, nothing has surprised me to this point.”

 

– Even though the A’s signed Doolittle to a long-term contract extension Friday, that doesn’t change Melvin’s approach to how he uses his bullpen.

Melvin said things are “status quo” for now, which means that Doolittle or Luke Gregerson is going to be summoned for save situations, with erstwhile closer Jim Johnson the “wild card” in the equation.

“Right now, we’re fine with this, but there’s the potential for anything,” Melvin said.

 

– There isn’t much new to report about the recovery by top prospect Addison Russell from his most recent right hamstring injury.

“It was probably a little more significant this time, a little higher up,” Melvin said. “It may take him a little bit longer than when he came back during spring training.”

Russell first hurt his hamstring in early March. He damaged the same hamstring in early April while playing in a game for Double-A Midland. He is expected to be sidelined at least until May.

 

– The A’s get familiar with most of their American League West counterparts during spring training in Arizona. However, the Astros prepare for the season in Florida, which means the A’s got their first look at the 2014 Astros on Friday.

The teams will have had their fill of each other before long, though. Friday marked the first of a three-game series and the first of seven meetings within a 10-game span.

 

– Here’s the A’s batting order for Friday night’s game against the Astros, the first of a three-game set at the Coliseum:

CF Coco Crisp

SS Jed Lowrie

3B Josh Donaldson

1B Brandon Moss

LF Yoenis Cespedes

DH Alberto Callaspo

C John Jaso

RF Josh Reddick

2B Eric Sogard

P Sonny Gray

Steve Corkran