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Slow day is good day at the Coliseum

It’s late August, the A’s are a half-game back of first place in the American League West and yet there really isn’t a ton to report before tonight’s second game of a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners. That’s probably not a bad thing. The A’s seem to be a relaxed and confident team with the September stretch drive around the corner.

Of course, after the game the A’s hope to be talking about another strong Sonny Gray start and a return to first place.

There were a couple small notes from manager Bob Melvin’s pregame session:

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A rough ending

Just when you thought all the pitching woes were reserved for the big club, a rough night at Triple-A Sacramento. The River Cats allowed three runs in the ninth in a 7-6 loss to Round Rock. J.R. Towles hit a three-run home run off Jerry Blevins. Not sure what Blevins’ deal is, but he’s gone from being very promising to very nauseating. His combined ERA this season between the A’s and Sacramento: 7.79.

BTW, Sean Gallagher got what he deserved after his pathetic outing.

The rest of the rundown:

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

— Righty Vin Mazzaro earned pitcher of the week honors in the Pacific Coast League after allowing just a run in 13 2/3 innings. Question for the readers: Do you want to see Mazzaro called up.

— Lefty Dana Eveland still stinks.

Interesting promotion by the River Cats.

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

— The Rockhounds’ pitching staff had just as brutal an outing Monday. Chad Tracy’s two-run double highlighted a three-run sixth after another Chris Carter RBI made it 6-2. that tied it after Midland reliever James Heuser walked a pair while loading the bases. In the 10th, Sam Demel allowed three straight hits without getting an out to cap a 7-6 loss.

— How did outfielder Matt Spencer adjust to his promotion from Single-A Stockton? On the third pitch of his debut, he smacked a two-run single in a 9-1 win over Frisco. Here are Spencer’s numbers since his promotion.

Travis Banwart is a guy to track. He was 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his first seven starts.

SINGLE-A STOCKTON

— Another tough loss for Craig Italiano, who has pitched better than his numbers. The Ports are showing signs of life.

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Monday’s minor-league rundown

News from the farm:

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

One pleasant thing to report: Vin Mazzaro, the talented 21-year-old pitching prospect, has an 0.75 ERA in his past two starts. Something not-so-pleasant: Daric Barton, who is fast turning into Kelvin Moore and other memorable busts, is in a 3-for-27 (.111) slump.

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

Tommy Everidge, last year’s Texas League RBI champ, drove in two runs to give the Rockhounds a quick lead, shortstop Adrian Cardenas erased a deficit with a two-run double, and pitcher Arnold Leon struck out Mark Ori to end an uprising in the ninth in a 7-4 win against Corpus Christi.

SINGLE-A STOCKTON

The Ports (4-14) will take their first two-game winning streak of the season into a three-game series against Visalia. One interesting item: Shane Keough, son of Matt, is hitting .209 in 17 games.

SINGLE-A KANE COUNTY

The Cougars hit three more homers Monday, pushing their Midwest League-leading total to 16, as Petey Paramore (solo), Grant Desme (two-run) and David Thomas (two-run) all went deep in a 10-6 win over Beloit. Kane County rallied from 5-1 down to win their sixth straight home game and capture its fifth straight series to start the season, a team record.

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The “Swingin’” A’s

Just watched Melky Cabrera hit his walk-off homer to beat the A’s 9-7 in 14 innings and cap a 1-4 road trip, and one of our co-workers muttered disgustedly about how the A’s have only four homers as a team trough the season’s first 14 games. Which incidentally leads to our favorite phrase — “on pace for” — and in this case, the A’s are on pace to hit 46 home runs (maybe they should give their old buddy Jose Canseco a call).

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First impressions

At last! After seven weeks of hearing through-the-grapevine stories, it was great to see Trevor Cahill on the hill last night (albeit not in person). I was mostly impressed, although I do think he has a touch of Bob Welch disease. Welch, for those who don’t remember, had a bad habit when he first arrived in Oakland in 1988, of responding to difficulties by trying to throw the ball harder and harder. As a result, his pitches would get straighter and straighter. It wasn’t until Welch learned to back off a bit during difficult situations that he became a Cy Young winnerWelch’s 1990 campaign is another reason why I pay hardly zero attention to what happens with veterans in the spring.

Not saying the ceiling is necessarily that high for Cahill, but he will be better than he was last night once he learns how to do the same thing. Cahill gave up single runs in the first two innings Tuesday, and even though there were other mitigating factors — home plate umpire Larry Vanover’s strike zone got real tight for one — but I noticed that Cahill seemed to pumping up his effort when he was in trouble. Successful major-league pitchers will tell you that the effort needs to be the same whether the bases are loaded or the bases are empty.

That said, I see why the A’s are so excited about this kid. Can’t wait to see Brett Anderson next.

Other impressions from the first two games:

— Jack Cust cannot play the outfield. He dropped one again last night. No more evidence needed.

— Ryan Sweeney doesn’t seem to cover much ground in center field. Not sure his loping strides are going to be that effective out there. Plus, he needs to take charge more. He seems to be better suited for the corner spots.

— Physically, Jason Giambi looks like he never left.

— As I predicted, Brad Ziegler gave up a run in his first outing. Nobody should be surprised. The man went 39 innings before allowing his first run last year. So naturally, he allowed one in his first try this year.

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“Are we there yet?”

Don’t you feel like that 6-year-old in the back of the car. Spring training has been painfully long this year. I mean, the World Baseball Classic was fantastic viewing, but do we really need to add an extra week-and-a-half to the spring to accomodate it? I mean, the A’s wound up playing 35 exhibition games in Arizona alone. THAT’S ALMOST A QUARTER OF A SEASON!!!

I can only imagine how I’d feel if I were there. I haven’t seen one iota of spring training — you may have heard the newspaper industry is in flux, and it’s led to a reassignment for me — but you don’t have to be down there to get a complete sense of what you’re about to see. And what I see for the A’s is this:

“AAAUUUUGGGGHHHH!”

Yep, the regular season is lurking like Lucy Van Pelt, calling out for the A’s to come kick this football. Only, the sense I get is that the A’s are about to land square on their back. Now, granted, a couple of times viewing Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill may put my mind at ease, but for now, not so.

From 800 miles away, here’s what I see.

— A rotation that has Dallas Braden — the same Dallas Braden who a year ago at this time was being sent down, having failed to make the bullpen — at the top of it. Enough said.

— A lot of leads blown late. Look, I think the Brad Ziegler story is as great as they come, but when I look at him, I don’t see “closer.” In fact, the way baseball works, he’ll give up a run in his first outing this season.

— Injuries, injuries and more injuries. Think the inability to get a new stadium and more revenue has anything to do with this?

— A lot of 8-6 losses. At least these A’s will be fun to watch. At least when they fall behind 3-0 in the first inning, we’ll have reason to keep watching. But the bottom line is that you have to get outs.

In other words, a whole lot is going to ride on the competency of Anderson and Cahill.

No pressure.