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A’s ship Marc Rzepczynski to Nationals for minor leaguer

The A's traded lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski to the Nationals Thursday for a minor league infielder, Max Schrock.

The A’s traded lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski to the Nationals Thursday for a minor league infielder, Max Schrock.

The A’s dealt left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski to the Washington Nationals Thursday morning, getting a minor league infielder, Max Schrock, in return.

The A’s also sent $500,000 to the Nationals to complete the trade.

Oakland, which flies to St. Louis Thursday to begin a three-game series against the Cardinals starting on Friday, will have to make a roster move to fill in with Rzepczynski’s departure.

Rzepczynski began the season as the A’s lefty-on-lefty reliever out of the bullpen and had pitched in 56 of the A’s 127 game with a 1-0 record and 3.00 ERA. His ground-ball rate has been the second-best in the majors behind Orioles’ closer Zach Britton.

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Kendall Graveman moves in as ace of A’s rotation

Kendall Graveman served up a 5-1 win over the Indians Wednesday.

Kendall Graveman served up a 5-1 win over the Indians Wednesday.

How does a pitcher who began the season with a 1-6 record and 5.48 ERA morph into becoming the ace of his team’s rotation?

The answer, if you are Kendall Graveman, is to rediscover the best qualities of his sinker while pitching for an A’s team that lost one starter, Rich Hill, to a trade while seeing another ace, Sonny Gray, on and off the disabled list in the midst of his worst big league season.

Graveman stretched his record to 10-8 Wednesday with his ninth win in his last 11 decisions. He threw a shutout his last time out against the White Sox and had Cleveland, the team with the American League’s best record, blanked for 6.2 innings of a 5-1 Oakland win.

He is, in fact, the A’s ace.

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Doolittle likely to be A’s first returnee from the DL

Sean Doolittle will get to throw one inning Friday in Nashville on injury rehab assignment and could be back with A's soon thereafter.

Sean Doolittle will get to throw one inning Friday in Nashville on injury rehab assignment and could be back with A’s soon thereafter.

The A’s are looking increasingly like they will get reliever Sean Doolittle off the disabled list next week but won’t have starter Jesse Hahn or catcher Josh Phegley back until after the rosters expand from 25 players to 40 on Sept. 1.

Down the line in September the club still has hopes of seeing both Henderson Alvarez and Sonny Gray on the mound.

Doolittle, currently in the middle of an injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Nashville with his left shoulder strain under control, is scheduled to throw one inning Friday for the Sounds. If he comes through it feeling good, he could be activated this weekend in St. Louis or next week in Houston.

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Billy Butler apologies to teammates for his role in fight

Billy Butler and Danny Valencia may be in the process of putting their fight behind them.

Billy Butler and Danny Valencia may be in the process of putting their fight behind them.

A’s designated hitter Billy Butler, on the seven-day concussion disabled list, addressed the media Wednesday morning to apologize for his role in the fight with teammate Danny Valencia Friday in Chicago that led to the concussion.

Butler, who said he’d never been on the disabled list in his decade in the big leagues, said he talked individually with his teammates Tuesday to apologize and planned on sitting with Valencia Wednesday to do the same.

“I want to say just to my teammates, I would like to apologize to them for putting them through this,’’ Butler said with what seemed to be genuine contrition. “They did not deserve this. It was an issue between me and Danny. And to be fair to them, they didn’t deserve this.

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For the A’s Jake Smolinski, the fun starts in center field

Jake Smolinski has been putting on a defensive show in center since getting the chance from the A's.

Jake Smolinski has been putting on a defensive show in center since getting the chance from the A’s.

Jake Smolinski can’t fly, but as he showed Tuesday night in the Coliseum, he can put on a good impression.

He did it in the eighth inning Tuesday, racing into the right center field gap to chase down a rocket off the bat of pinch-hitter Lonnie Chisenhall.

It was, to say the least, jaw-dropping.

“That was a fun game out there tonight,” Smolinski said. “Everybody played a big part in this one. Those are fun games to play.”

There have been entirely too few of those for Oakland this year. But the A’s got terrific starting pitching from Sean Manaea, the bullpen turned the Indians away, and the offense scored nine times, just the sixth time Oakland has scored as many as nine runs in a game.

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Ryan Dull trying to rediscover his focus in grueling season

Ryan Dull, here paired with catcher Stepohen Vogt, is trying to fight his way out of an August skid.

Ryan Dull, here paired with catcher Stephen Vogt, is trying to fight his way out of an August skid.

When reliever Ryan Dull began the season by not allowing any of the first 36 base runners he inherited to score, the A’s right-hander knew that kind of unprecedented success wasn’t going to last forever.

Six of the last 10 inherited runners he’s faced have scored. And the season overall is starting to catch up with Dull, whose ERA has gone from 1.98 to 2.34 in his last eight games, losing twice and suffering a blown save during that time.

The second of the losses came Monday night when he grooved a pitch that Carlos Santana hit out in the eighth inning for the only run in Oakland’s 1-0 loss to Cleveland. It was a pitch Dull “wanted back” after he said “I pulled it right over the middle of the plate.”

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Journeyman Andrew Triggs pitching his way into A’s rotation even if club can’t score for him

Andrew Triggs has caught the eye of his catcher, Stephen Vogt, these last two starts.

Andrew Triggs has caught the eye of his catcher, Stephen Vogt, these last two starts.

The A’s have all but gone out begging for quality starting pitching this year. When they’ve gotten it, they haven’t always supported it.

While Andrew Triggs threw six scoreless innings Monday, the A’s offense was busy being shut down by Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco, and Oakland came up on the short end of a 1-0 game when the Indians’ Carlos Santana delivered a one-out homer in the eighth off reliever Ryan Dull.

The loss was the A’s third in a row, eighth in the last nine games and 17th in the last 23 as 55-72 Oakland has fallen a season-high 19 games under .500 and 20 games out of first place in the American League West for the first time.

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Sonny Gray unlikely to start for A’s again this season

It's increasingly unlikely Sonny Gray will be able to start again this year for the A's.

It’s increasingly unlikely Sonny Gray will be able to start again this year for the A’s.

It’s becoming increasingly likely that A’s ace Sonny Gray won’t be starting again this season for Oakland.

Gray, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 7, the day after feeling a right forearm strain while facing the Chicago Cubs, said Monday he wanted to get word from the training staff when he might be able to start throwing again.

That being said, Gray knows it won’t be any time soon. And given that the minor league season ends Sept. 5 and with it any chance to go out on an injury rehabilitation assignment, Gray’s hopes for getting another start are flickering.

“I’m hoping; I’d like to get out there again,’’ Gray said before Monday’s series opener with the Indians. “But I’m not ready to throw now. I know that even if they cleared me to throw when I go in there to talk to them, I’d be forcing it by going out there today.

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Butler, Valencia fined; Butler headed to 7-day concussion disabled list after weekend clubhouse fight in Chicago

Billy Butler and Danny Valencia have both been fined and Butler is headed to DL after a weekend fight.

Billy Butler and Danny Valencia have both been fined and Butler is headed to DL after a weekend fight.

DH Billy Butler and first baseman/outfielder Danny Valencia were both handed fines by the A’s Monday after a Friday fight in Chicago between the two raised questions as to whether or not the two men could peacefully coexist in the Oakland clubhouse.

“He’s my teammate,’’ Valencia said when asked about his relationship with Butler. “I have respect for him I think he has respect for me.’’

Before Monday, the lockers occupied by Butler and Valencia were both in the northeast corner of the Oakland clubhouse. Butler’s locker has been moved to the far south side, as far away as could be located from Valencia’s.

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Coco Crisp finds diminished playing time suspicious

Coco Crisp is finding too many days off on his schedule.

Coco Crisp is finding too many days off on his schedule.

Coco Crisp was back in the A’s lineup Tuesday in Arlington, Texas, starting in center field after sitting out Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Rangers.

That’s 94 games this season for the A’s outfielder, which puts him on a pace to play in 127 games by season’s end. And that’s sort of an important number for Crisp, because it means his A’s career may be over come October.

Crisp is concerned that the pattern of his days off is deliberately designed to keep him from reaching 130 games. That’s the number stipulated in his contract that will trigger an automatic $13 million contract with Oakland for 2017. By playing in 129 or fewer games, he would become a free agent.

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