Punto placed on DL, Freiman recalled

As expected, the A’s placed infielder Nick Punto on the 15-day disabled list Sunday. He suffered a strained right hamstring Saturday while rounding third base in the fifth inning of an 8-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

The A’s recalled first baseman Nate Freiman from Triple-A Sacramento to take Punto’s place on the active roster. He was batting .284 for the River Cats, with 15 home runs and 74 RBI.


O’Flaherty added to roster, Francis designated for assignment

The A’s reinstated left-handed pitcher Eric O’Flaherty to the active roster Thursday after a lengthy stint on the disabled list.

O’Flaherty was signed this offseason, while he was in the midst of recovering from surgery on his left elbow. To that end, the A’s placed him on the 60-day disabled list at the end of spring training.

He last pitched in a game May 17, 2013, as a member of the Atlanta Braves. He said he is eager to make his A’s debut.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” O’Flaherty said before Thursday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. “It’s a big day. It feels like opening day.”

The A’s designated left-handed reliever Jeff Francis for assignment to make room for O’Flaherty on the roster. Francis had a 6.08 ERA in nine games for Oakland this season. He posted an 0-1 record and pitched 13 1/3 innings overall.

O’Flaherty, 29, is expected to replace Francis as a late-inning reliever and set-up man for closer Sean Doolittle. He is in his ninth season in the majors but first with the A’s.

For now, though, manager Bob Melvin said he intends to ease O’Flaherty back into the flow of things after such a long layoff.

“I’d like to get him in some games before we get him pitching in the seventh or eighth inning with two on,” Melvin said. “Having said that, you never know how the game’s going to play out. He’s ready for just about anything.”

O’Flaherty enjoyed sustained success for the Braves the past five seasons, and he gained a reputation as a pitcher that could get out right-handed and left-handed hitters on a consistent basis.

Adding a pitcher of O’Flaherty’s caliber to the bullpen midseason gives the A’s a nice little jolt, Melvin said. O’Flaherty said he’s just looking to carve out a niche.

“It’s cool to join a team this good and a bullpen this deep, where there’s not going to be too much pressure on me to really shoulder too much of a load,” O’Flaherty said. “I can just kind of get in where I fit in and help any way I can.”




– Melvin said third Josh Donaldson is out of the starting lineup for a second straight day because of back stiffness.

Donaldson’s availability off the bench depends upon how well he feels after taking batting practice, Melvin said.


– Yoenis Cespedes (hamstring) is back in left field tonight after being the designated hitter Wednesday.


– Right fielder Josh Reddick (right knee) was scheduled to get in some cardio work Thursday for the first time since he was placed on the disabled list, Melvin said. Reddick still hasn’t been cleared for baseball-specific drills.


– The A’s are in the midst of a daunting stretch in which they play teams leading their respective divisions.

They just finished playing the Detroit Tigers, who lead the American League Central. Tonight begins a four-game series against the Blue Jays, who sit atop the AL East. Next up are the Giants, who entered play Thursday in first in the National League West.


Donaldson’s walk-off home run gives A’s playoff-like victory over Tigers




By Steve Corkran


OAKLAND – Close your eyes, allow your mind to wander and revel in the thought as the A’s and Detroit Tigers do their part to foster ideas of an October playoffs matchup once again.

Sure, it’s not even June but it’s never too early to get excited about the prospect of the two American League powers squaring off in a win-or-go-home series.

Lest anyone forget what that feels like, the Tigers and A’s treated 15,590 fans to another sneak peek Wednesday in a game that had all the makings of a postseason classic, with the A’s prevailing on a Josh Donaldson three-run, walk-off home run in a 3-1 victory.

“For a fan, that was a fun game to watch right there,” A’s starter Scott Kazmir said. “Throughout the whole game, Anibal and I, it just seemed like we were just battling it out, out for out.”

Kazmir and counterpart Anibal Sanchez went toe to toe for almost the entire game, with neither pitcher giving the other team much reason to believe.

It’s the kind of game that’s almost expected when the A’s and Tigers meet and they play their best.

A’s closer Sean Doolittle said the past two games reminded him of playoff games.

“The last two games of this series definitely had that playoff energy, that electricity, that feel,” Doolittle said. “The fans were into it. … When you’re going up against a team like that, it’s fun. This could be a big character-building win for us moving forward.”

This game also showed why the A’s and Tigers lead their respective divisions and why many expect them to meet again in the fall.

Stellar starting pitching, great defense and both teams waiting for the other to blink, fully aware that the first opportunity that presents itself just might be the only one that game.

For the Tigers, that meant a fastball that Kazmir left over the plate in the fourth inning. And Torii Hunter was ready to pounce on it, which he did for a home run that broke up the scoreless game.

One run isn’t much, of course. But when the Tigers have Sanchez on the mound, sometimes that’s plenty.

That almost was the case Wednesday, as Sanchez confounded the A’s for 8 1/3 innings. He didn’t allow a base runner until the third. He didn’t give up a hit until the fourth. No A’s runner made it past first base until Eric Sogard doubled in the sixth.

The A’s finally got Sanchez out of the game after he allowed a one-out double to Coco Crisp on his 111th pitch.

Doolittle, Melvin and others said they sensed that something good was about to happen after a night of hoping against hope.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus summoned closer Joe Nathan at that point. John Jaso followed with a line drive that hit off third baseman Nick Castellanos’ glove and continued into left field. Crisp advanced to third on the play.

Donaldson promptly deposited Nathan’s first pitch well over the left-field wall. It was just a matter of if the ball was fair. It turned out to be plenty fair, which set off a wild celebration on and off the field.

“He just kind of missed in that area where I could hit it,” Donaldson said of Nathan’s slider. “Thankfully, I didn’t miss it.”

No, he didn’t. The ball had plenty of distance and sailed to the right side of the foul pole with room to spare.

Donaldson’s second career walk-off home run gave Kazmir his sixth victory in eight decisions. Kazmir pitched a complete game for the first time since July 3, 2006.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said this was just another in a long line of well-pitched games by Kazmir. What set it apart is that Kazmir didn’t have much room for error.

“When you’re pitching against a guy who is throwing the ball that well and you’re not scoring any runs, you know you have to be pitching perfect,” Melvin said. “He was close to that.”

Kazmir said he fed off the intensity of the game and how well Sanchez pitched.

“You have to pitch like it’s 1-0,” Kazmir said. “You say that whenever you have the lead but that was the case (Wednesday) night. So, every pitch was crucial. You had to focus every pitch, every inning.”

Much as you might expect in a playoff game.