3

Aftermath of the Conor Jackson trade

Here’s a quick take on the Conor Jackson trade …

It was no shocker to see him dealt. The emergence of Brandon Allen had pushed Jackson into a minor role. But the bigger impact is the playing time this might open up for September call-ups. There’s one less player now vying for playing time at first base/outfield. As I’ve written before, the rest of this season should be about evaluating young players who might be part of the future moving forward. Not just Allen and Jemile Weeks, but also a guy like Michael Taylor. I realize Taylor hasn’t destroyed Triple-A pitching, but I’m surprised he hasn’t gotten a look yet with the big club. There’s a better opportunity to get him up here with Jackson out of the picture. Chris Carter? It’s going to be trickier to find him playing time in the majors given how impressive Allen has been at first. Carter could get DH at-bats, but if the A’s are entertaining any thoughts of re-signing Hideki Matsui (I’ve gotten no indication one way or another), they probably wouldn’t want to take the veteran out of the lineup.

Bottom line, it’s still unclear whether Taylor, 25, and Carter, 24, are factors for this team in 2012, and that’s a problem. At this point, you need to give these guys extended playing time in the big leagues or assume they’re not part of the plans moving forward.

–One last thought on the Jackson trade. It’s tough to see him go from a beat writer’s standpoint. He was definitely one of the team’s best quotes, a guy who would give an intelligent take on whatever question you threw at him. The Red Sox press corps is in for a pleasant surprise …

4

Conor Jackson draws start in left field; Hideki Matsui gets rare rest

Here’s your pregame lowdown as the Toronto Blue Jays arrive for a four-game series at the Coliseum …

–Conor Jackson returns to the A’s lineup and he’s playing left field, with Josh Willingham serving as DH and Hideki Matsui getting a day off. So that’s one way for A’s manager Bob Melvin to work Jackson back into the lineup without removing Allen. Beyond today, we’ll see what happens, but I’d expect to see Jackson coming off the bench for the near future, at least until Allen cools off. And I think that makes the A’s an overall stronger team because Jackson’s versatility is valuable off the bench. At this point in the season, it’s all about evaluating young players to see what you have for next season, so Allen needs to stay in there.

As for Jackson’s neck soreness, he said he “feels good enough to play,” an indication that he’s still not back to 100 percent yet.

–It’s just a regular day off for Matsui, who has started 30 of the first 31 games after the All-Star break.

–The A’s placed reliever Trystan Magnuson on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation and recalled lefty Jordan Norberto. The late-inning bullpen situation is something to watch tonight, as Melvin said he was unsure of the availability of Grant Balfour, Andrew Bailey and Brian Fuentes. Bailey has pitched two days in a row and Balfour and Fuentes have been used a lot lately too.

–Check out this story on former A’s third baseman Jack Hannahan and the birth of his son. Pretty good stuff. … Hannahan is now with the Cleveland Indians.

Tonight’s lineups:
A’s — Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Crisp CF, Willingham DH, Allen 1B, Jackson LF, Suzuki C, DeJesus RF, Sizemore 3B; Cahill RHP.

Jays – Escobar SS, Thames LF, Bautista RF, Lind 1B, Encarnacion DH, Rasmus CF, Lawrie 3B, Hill 2B, Arencibia C; Romero LHP.

7

Should A’s play the vets or the youngsters?

Some breaking news we just received: Conor Jackson was scratched from the A’s lineup with neck tightness, so Brandon Allen draws another start at first base. Manager Bob Melvin talked before the game about his first base situation, and the decision between playing Jackson and Allen. Jackson is hitting .313 since the All-Star break, and Melvin thinks that warrants him remaining in the lineup on a somewhat regular basis. So this isn’t a platoon situation at this point. But it does bring up an issue the A’s will face — how do they balance the playing time between veterans and young players who are brought up in the remaining weeks? You figure Michael Taylor and probably Chris Carter will be up in September, and with the A’s entire starting outfield heading for free agency, it stands to reason the younger players should be getting their share of at-bats.

Thoughts? Are you ready for young players like Allen to start getting the majority of starts, or would you stick with veterans who might give the A’s a chance to finish with a better record?

–Coco Crisp is back in the lineup after missing six games with a strained right calf. The A’s will take any lift they can get as they try to stop a seven-game losing streak to the Texas Rangers. Melvin said beating the Rangers is “a hurdle” the A’s need to clear, much like beating the Yankees, learning to win on the road, etc.

–Melvin said he’s confident Brandon McCarthy (right knee contusion) will make his next start Wednesday against Baltimore. But the real test comes tomorrow, when McCarthy is scheduled to throw his regular side session. That will be the big indicator of whether he’s ready.

–The A’s are exploring every avenue for improving their defense, Melvin said. That includes watching video of the good defense they’ve played in the past — “positive reinforcement,” as Melvin puts it. Clearly, the team thinks there’s more that goes into improving things than just taking extra grounders before the game. But I’m hearing there will also be a pitcher’s fielding practice soon, perhaps Monday. That would seem in order, given how much the pitchers have hurt themselves with errors.

The lineups:
A’s — Weeks 2B, Crisp CF, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, Sizemore 3B, DeJesus RF, Suzuki C, Allen 1B, Pennington SS; Harden RHP.

Rangers — KInsler 2B, Andrus SS, Hamilton CF, Young 3B, Cruz RF, Napoli C, Moreland 1B, Torrealba DH, Murphy LF; Harrison LHP.

0

Coco a no-go again with strained calf

The A’s finish off their nine-game road trip with three against the Blue Jays here at the Rogers Center. This is the first time in Oakland history that the A’s have played in all domes on a three-city trip, according to the team’s media relations department. I put an asterisk next to that, because Safeco Field in Seattle – even when the roof is closed — has lots of open space and you can see out of it. It doesn’t feel like you’re watching baseball inside a Costco, which is the vibe I get in Tampa Bay and Toronto. But I don’t mind Tropicana Field and Rogers Center — it’s a change of pace for a series or two. I just wouldn’t want to cover a full season in either venue.

–Coco Crisp’s strained right calf is still bothering him, so he’s sitting for a second straight game. A’s manager Bob Melvin had said Sunday he thought Crisp would be able to return today (Conor Jackson’s sore back is feeling good enough that he’s starting at first base after sitting Sunday).

It doesn’t seem that the DL is being considered yet for Crisp, because Melvin holds out hope that he can either pinch-hit in this series or perhaps even start Thursday. But past experience shows us that none of Crisp’s injuries should be taken too lightly. It’s worth noting that Melvin was pleasantly surprised to see Crisp emerge from the clubhouse and stretch with his teammates today. So maybe he is doing better.

(Breaking news!!! After writing about indoor baseball here at Rogers Center, the retractable roof just began to open and a blinding sun is hitting me right in the face. That’s what I get for comparing this place to a Costco).

–There’s quite a buzz in Toronto about the home debut of hotshot rookie third baseman Brett Lawrie, who was just called up Friday. He’s from British Columbia, and he’s just the 17th Canadian to play for the Blue Jays. Tonight’s A’s starter, Rich Harden, also is from British Columbia, so that adds some intrigue to their individual matchup.

–Reliever Craig Breslow is available today after being shut down Sunday with upper back pain.

Tonight’s lineups:
A’s – Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, Jackson 1B, DeJesus RF, Suzuki C, Sweeney CF, Sizemore 3B; Harden RHP.

Jays – Escobar SS, Thames LF, Bautista RF, Lind 1B, Encarnacion DH, Rasmus CF, Hill 2B, Arencibia C, Lawrie 3B; Cecil LHP.

3

Conor Jackson sits with bad back, Adam Rosales starts at first base

We had a bit of pregame A’s news at Tropicana Field. Conor Jackson is out with a “tweak” in the right side of his back, according to manager Bob Melvin. Adam Rosales is playing first base tonight. Jackson hurt his back while taking a swing in his final at-bat Friday, but it doesn’t appear serious. He’s listed as day-to-day. Initially, Melvin said he assumed Jackson wouldn’t be available until the Toronto series, which starts Tuesday. But there’s an outside chance Jackson could play Sunday.

The lineups:
A’s – Weeks 2B, Crisp CF, Matsui LF, Willingham DH, DeJesus RF, Pennington SS, Sizemore 3B, Suzuki C, Rosales 1B; McCarthy RHP.

Rays – Jennings LF, Damon DH, Longoria 3B, Zobrist 2B, Kotchman 1B, Upton CF, Joyce RF, Chirinos C, Rodriguez SS; Cobb RHP.

10

Josh Willingham placed on DL; Chris Carter called up, but for how long?

Chris Carter showed up in the A’s clubhouse this morning, bleary-eyed from a redeye flight from Phoenix but back for a surprise stint with the big club. The A’s placed Josh Willingham on the DL, retroactive to June 18, and called up Carter to take his roster spot. Don’t get too used to seeing him in green and gold. Manager Bob Melvin didn’t say much specifically about Carter, but he hinted that Carter may just be up for the short-term until Willingham returns. Willingham is eligible to come off the DL on July 3, and he said he’s confident he’ll be ready by then.

How much playing time will there be for Carter, the A’s No. 2 prospect according to Baseball America? He’s played strictly first base for Triple-A Sacramento since coming off the DL on June 13 for a thumb injury, and Carter said he definitely feels more comfortable there than left field. “There’s nothing to press about” when playing first, he said this morning. But Conor Jackson has been swinging the bat well, and Melvin has him tapped as the regular first baseman for now (Mark Ellis is starting at first today with Jackson playing left field). I’m not sure the A’s would start Carter in the outfield right now considering how shaky he looked there last year during his big-league stint.

One interesting point Melvin made is that he’s considering giving Hideki Matsui time in left field after the A’s return to American League play after this road trip, and that could provide an opportunity for Carter to get DH at-bats. It’s sort of an awkward time for Carter to get called up. We always think of this guy in the context of him being an up-and-coming power bat that can help revive a sluggish offense. But the A’s have been playing good baseball lately – still not hitting a ton, but looking better – and it’s tough to identify an obvious role for Carter.

As for Willingham, he said his running didn’t go well Wednesday, which is why he became the A’s 11th DL transaction of the season. Willingham doesn’t consider the injury serious, but it’s also the latest in a string of injuries that have hampered him in recent seasons. You have to wonder how his health history will influence teams that view him as a trade target. And from the A’s perspective, I wonder how much they’re taking that into account as they weigh whether to offer Willingham a long-term extension.

–How would you like to be David DeJesus right now? The guy is obviously lost in the shuffle among outfielders (granted, his performance hasn’t demanded he be in there). And now that he’s finally playing today, he gets to face Mets lefty Chris Capuano. DeJesus is 7 for 56 (.125) against lefties this season, the lowest average in the American League against lefties.

–Injury updates: Brandon McCarthy is pitching today for Single-A Stockton in his first rehab start. Rich Harden will make a second start Saturday for Triple-A Sacramento, and Tyson Ross will throw a simulated game Saturday in Phoenix.

Today’s lineups:

A’s – Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Crisp CF, Jackson LF, Sizemore 3B, Ellis 1B, DeJesus RF, Powell C, Godfrey RHP.

Mets – Reyes SS, Turner 2B, Beltran RF, Murphy 3B, Pagan CF, Bay LF, Duda 1B, Thole C, Capuano LHP.

0

Jemile Weeks staying as A’s starting second baseman; Mark Ellis to be utility man

We’re in a rain delay at Citi Field. The announcement just came as rain started falling right around the time first pitch was scheduled for. No word yet on when we’ll start. Until then, here’s the pregame update …

The expected news came down that rookie Jemile Weeks will remain the A’s starting second baseman and Mark Ellis will slide into a utility infielder role. Ellis will be an option at first and third base as well as second, manager Bob Melvin said, and he could start at first as soon as Thursday.

Ellis is handling the news extremely well and saying all the right things, which isn’t surprising considering what a class act he is. “I wasn’t bracing myself,” Ellis said. “I’ve been in (Weeks’) position before. I’ve been that guy before. So I wasn’t bracing myself. But watching him play, I’m proud of him. He’s done a great job, and he’s my teammate.”

At the same time, reading between the lines, I get the feeling Ellis would welcome a trade if it meant going somewhere to be a starting second baseman. “I still see myself as playing second base every day,” Ellis said. “We’ll see what happens there as far as wherever.” Ellis said he has a no-trade clause that allows him to veto a trade to six teams, but didn’t say who they are. I’ve been told by another trustworthy source that the Giants are not one of the six teams. Even with Daric Barton going down to the minors and Conor Jackson being the regular first baseman, the A’s still have two right-handed hitting utility infielders in Ellis and Adam Rosales (Melvin said Rosales will serve as the backup shortstop and not Ellis).

Melvin commended Ellis for how well he took the news, and that Ellis took all the tension out of the conversation when the two talked.

–In other news, left fielder Josh Willingham was scheduled to test his sore Achilles’ tendon by running. That’s the main hurdle for Willingham to clear before he returns to the lineup. He’s OK hitting, he said. If Willingham can’t play Thursday, Melvin said Jackson likely would go to left field and Ellis might play first.

–As things currently stand, Melvin said he envisions Hideki Matsui getting two starts in left field against Philadelphia this weekend, though that depends a lot on Willingham’s availability.

–One man who’s still the odd man out of playing time — David DeJesus. With Jackson playing first, that relieves a bit of the outfield logjam. But you saw how Ryan Sweeney played last night — four hits and a sliding catch in right-center. It’s hard to take that guy out of the lineup right now. DeJesus, like Ellis, is taking his situation very well. “To hang my head and be miserable, the season is way too long to be like that every day,” DeJesus said.

The lineups:
A’s — Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Crisp CF, Matsui LF, Jackson 1B, Sweeney RF, Suzuki C, Sizemore 3B, Gonzalez LHP.

Mets — Reyes SS, Turner 3B, Beltran RF, Bay LF, Hairston CF, Paulino C, Duda 1B, Tejada 2B, Dickey RHP.

0

Does getaway day success bode well for A’s?

The A’s are 9-4 in day games and 8-2 in the last game of a series. So are good things in store for Oakland in this afternoon’s series finale against the Royals? They need to rebound after last night’s deflating loss. Tyson Ross takes the hill coming off strong starts in his previous two outings. … It’s a warm afternoon in Kansas City, but there’s a pretty strong breeze blowing, so I’d think the heat shouldn’t be too much of a factor.

–Hideki Matsui is sitting against Royals lefty Jeff Francis, and reading through the lines during Bob Geren’s pregame media session, Matsui could sit Monday as well. Geren said he’d stack his lineup with right-handed hitters against Texas lefty C.J. Wilson. Matsui is hitting .275 against right-handers, .171 vs. lefties. Last night, his two doubles were one of the few offensive bright spots for the A’s. But they both came with the bases empty.

–Kevin Kouzmanoff is starting at third for the second straight day. He’s 9 for 20 w/two homers against Francis. “When you’re trying to get somebody going, there’s nothing better than doing it with a guy he’s had success against in the past,” Geren said.

–Conor Jackson is back in the lineup at left field, with Josh Willingham the DH. I didn’t mention it in this morning’s stories, but Jackson’s left shoulder apparently was bothering him more than he let on after his collision at first base Friday night. Geren said after that game that he was planning to give Jackson a day off Saturday anyway, but it sounds as if Jackson needed a day to recover. “We’re very fortunate it wasn’t anything more serious,” Geren said.

–You’ll see lots of A’s players swinging pink bats today to raise awareness for breast cancer on Mother’s Day. And pitcher Brandon McCarthy will be wearing pink cleats. McCarthy is the only Athletic who wears Under Armour cleats, the official cleat of Major League Baseball. According to A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich, only players contracted with Under Armour can wear the pink cleats. Too bad McCarthy isn’t pitching today. It’s an interesting look …

The lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Jackson LF, Willingham DH, Suzuki C, DeJesus RF, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Ross RHP.

Royals – Getz 2B, Cabrera DH, Gordon LF, Francoeur RF, Hosmer 1B, Betemit 3B, Maier CF, Pena C, Escobar SS; Francis LHP.

2

Conor Jackson gets another start at first base for A’s; Kevin Kouzmanoff back at third

It’s early May, and the Royals are 17-14 and in second place in the AL Central. That has people talking in Kansas City after this franchise has struggled for so long. But the real buzz as the A’s begin a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium is the major league debut of Royals top prospect Eric Hosmer. The left-handed hitting first baseman wasn’t supposed to reach the bigs until later this season. But he mashed at Triple-A and the Royals believe he’s ready. Hosmer, 21, was the third overall pick in the 2008 draft. He’s the crown jewel from Kansas City’s loaded farm system, and it should be entertaining to watch him take his hacks against lefty Gio Gonzalez.

The A’s could use some exciting new blood in their batting order. For now, Oakland fans will have to settle for tonight’s intriguing lineup. Conor Jackson draws his second start in three games at first base in place of Daric Barton. Ryan Sweeney’s five-hit game Thursday buys him a start in left field, with Josh Willingham sitting. Andy LaRoche spells Cliff Pennington at shortstop and Kevin Kouzmanoff returns to third base after riding the bench for five games. A’s manager Bob Geren says no one is out of the lineup for health reasons. “Everybody’s healthy. That’s why I’m continuing to mix guys in to keep everybody healthy and everybody fresh,” Geren said.

I don’t read too much into Willingham sitting, but it’s interesting to see Jackson getting another start at first base, particularly against a right-hander. Geren is looking for ways to keep Jackson’s bat in the lineup, and Barton is hitting .204 with six RBIs in 31 games. If Jackson keeps hitting, might he get more time at first? Right now, I like him in the No. 3 spot with David DeJesus batting second.

–A team spokesman said there was no more news on Dallas Braden, so we can assume he has yet to get that second opinion on his injured shoulder.

–It’s a big night for DeJesus, who returns to Kansas City for the first time after spending the previous seven-plus seasons with the Royals. He held a pregame press conference but then had no idea how to find his way from the interview room to the visitor’s dugout. He never spent much time on the visitor’s side of this stadium until tonight …

The lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, DeJesus RF, Jackson 1B, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Sweeney LF, LaRoche SS, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B; Gonzalez LHP.

Royals – Aviles 2B, Cabrera CF, Gordon LF, Butler DH, Francoeur RF, Hosmer 1B, Betemit 3B, Treanor C, Escobar SS; O’Sullivan RHP.

1

Struggling Barton gets a day off

Daric Barton is out of the lineup tonight, which manager Bob Geren is calling a mental and physical day off. I talked to Barton this afternoon, and he wishes he was in there. He likes hitting in Anaheim. He’s a Southern California guy and would prefer to play when the A’s are here. But he also said he understands why Geren sat him considering his hitting struggles. Barton is 2 for 30 (.067) over his past nine games. If you watched the game last night, you saw him blow his top when he was called out on that close 6-3 putout, a play that landed Angels shortstop Erick Aybar on the ESPN highlights. That wasn’t the only play that had Barton steamed. He thought a ball he hit down the left-field line in his second at-bat landed fair, but it was called foul. “If I go 2 for 4, I’m probably in the lineup tonight,” he said.

It’s a long season, and the bad calls probably even out with the favorable calls over 162 games, so there’s only so much stock to be put in that. The A’s had Barton out taking extra swings before batting practice today. Conor Jackson draws the start at first in his place.

–Josh Willingham is not playing. He’s still got some stiffness after tweaking a back muscle last night and leaving the game. Sounds like he won’t be available in any capacity, but the injury is considered minor.

–Without coming out and directly saying it, Geren gave indication the A’s would call up a catcher to fill Kurt Suzuki’s roster spot when Suzuki leaves Wednesday on paternity leave. Willingham’s injury would seem to assure a catcher is called up since Willingham would normally be the A’s emergency catcher. Consider Josh Donaldson the likely choice to be promoted, as I wrote a couple days ago. …

The lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, DeJesus RF, Jackson 1B, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Sweeney LF, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; McCarthy RHP.

Angels – Aybar SS, Abreu DH, Hunter RF, Wells LF, Callaspo 3B, Kendrick 1B, Conger C, Bourjos CF, Amarista 2B; Chatwood RHP.