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A’s minor league recap: Unsteady Eveland gets win for RiverCats

Here’s a brief look at what happened down on the farm Wednesday for the A’s affiliates:

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

RiverCats 6, Albuquerque (Dodgers) 5: Story l Boxscore

Dana Eveland picked up his first win since being sent down to Sacramento, but he still had some command issues as he walked four in six innings and threw just 57 of his 101 pitches for strikes.

Aaron Cunningham provided some offense by hitting a two-run home run. Cunningham has two homers and is hitting .375. Danny Putnam had a pair of hits and is now 3-for-7 since being recalled from Double-A Midland.

Meanwhile, Daric Barton is slowly getting things together. He has a hit in nine of his past 10 games (10-for-36) and is hitting .196.

Albuquerque got a hitless inning of relief from former Granada High standout Erick Threets, the hard-throwing lefty who was originally drafted by the Giants.

Thursday night’s game features a pitching matchup of Gio Gonzalez and the Isotopes’ Shawn Estes.

MIDLAND (Double-A)

RockHounds 7, San Antonio (Padres) 4: Story l Boxscore

Tommy Everidge drove in five runs, including three on a long home run to lead the first-place RockHounds’ offense. The ex-Sonoma State standout is second in the league with 32 RBI and is hitting .311 while transitioning from a first baseman to a third baseman.

Travis Banwart improved to 4-1 after allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings. Banwart, the Texas League’s top starting pitcher statistically, allowed just two baserunners after San Antonio scored single runs in the first and second. Closer Sam Demel notched the save.

Chris Carter and Corey Brown each had a hit, but each also struck out twice. Carter and Brown are both battling to overcome their propensity for strikeouts.

Josh Donaldson, who has also played some third base, was back behind the plate. He went 1-for-3 and his average is at .261, thanks to a recent hot streak (7-for-16).

STOCKTON (High Single-A)

Inland Empire (Dodgers) 6, Ports 5: Story l Boxscore

Craig Italiano struck out eight in six innings, but the bad news was he gave up nine hits and five runs to absorb the loss.

Christian Vitters went 2-for-4 and is 3-for-8 in his two games since joining Stockton from extended spring training. However, the third baseman grounded out with two runners aboard in the ninth to end the game.

KANE COUNTY (Low Single-A)

Wednesday: Cougars vs. Burlington (Royals), ppd., rain

Thursday: Cougars vs. Burlington (Royals) doubleheader

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Mazzaro shines

I know the A’s 12-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday was quite a sight for those starved to see the A’s bats. But the organization’s best news came up the freeway. Vin Mazzaro, who had yet to win this season, followed Santiago Casilla’s rehab start with eight one-hit innings for Triple-A Sacramento. That’s the kind of performance that has led some to speculate he might be the best of the three (Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill being the other two).

Interesting note on Aaron Cunningham in this morning’s Sacramento Bee game story.

The bad news: Tonight brings a Dana Eveland sighting.

Oh, one more thing on the River Cats. Brad Kilby walked four straight hitters to lose a game last week,something that should never happen on the professional level. But after reading this, I have no reason to question his committment to getting better.

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

— Told you the other day that Matt Spencer was bucking for a promotion from Single-A Stockton, and sure enough, he was called up to replace Danny Putnam after Putnam was moved up to Sacramento. Spencer immediately did something positive.

SINGLE-A STOCKTON

— Mazzaro wasn’t the only A’s product doing some dealing last night. Carlos Hernandez was pretty darn good, too. By the way, interesting figure on the mound for San Bernardino in the same game.

SINGLE-A KANE COUNTY

— Huge night for the son of a former major leaguer.

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Weekend Wrap

A busy weekend down on the farm. Here’s a quick review while hoping (futily, probably) for the day that we similar promotions to the one taking place in Las Vegas today. A 10:30 a.m. start to accomodate local school children on field trips. Brilliant. Wouldn’t you just love to see major leaguers forced out of bed before 8 a.m. for a game just once in a season?

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

The River Cats entered Monday’s morning meeting having lost the first three of four-game series at Las Vegas and had dropped six straight to teams in Nevada (Reno won three in a row earlier in the week). Among the lowlights:

James Simmons surrendered six runs in 3 2/3 innings in a loss Sunday. At this point, the A’s would be smart just to leave Simmons in the minors all season. Why use up a year of service time for a team that doesn’t appear headed anywhere. And given that Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill look like they’ve arrived prematurely, no need to rush Simmons. Besides, the righty has had his issues.

— Reliever Brad Kilby walked four straight hitters in the 10th inning Saturday, resulting in an 8-7 Sacramento loss. Not to sound like my late grandfather, but in my opinion that shouldn’t happen at any level of professional sports. Gio Gonzalez wasn’t much better in that one, either.

— Joel Galarraga had three RBI and helped stake Sacramento to a 9-0 lead on Friday, but the River Cats still couldn’t win. The starting pitcher who allowed a good portion of the lead to get away? Dana Eveland. Frankly, I would just as soon not see him in an A’s uniform again. Who’s with me?

Anyway, the common theme, here, obviously, is that help for the A’s sorry starting pitching isn’t 90 minutes up Interstate 80.

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

— A very forgettable weekend as well. The Rockhounds lost three times to Corpus Christi by a combined score of 23-6.

— First baseman Chris Carter increased his RBI total to 28, tops on the team and second in the Texas League. First baseman Tommy Everidge collected RBI No. 26. Both have got to be en route to a promotion at some point this season.

SINGLE-A STOCKTON

— The Ports (9-22) extended their winning streak to a season-high three before losing the finale of a three-game series to Rancho Cucamonga. Cal product Tyson Ross, the A’s second pick last season, allowed two runs and three hits in only two innings and walked the first three he faced. He has not an auspicious beginning to his professional career.

— Outfielder Matthew Spencer is bucking for a promotion. Spencer homered in victories Friday and Saturday and has gone deep 10 times. The rest of his numbers are pretty good, too.

Yusef Carter is hitting .333 in his first exposure to High-A and had the game-winning single Saturday.

LOW-A KANE COUNTY

— First baseman Steve Kleen is hitting .303 and his 33 hits trail only Dusty Coleman’s 34 on the Cougars. Both Kleen and Coleman are in the top 10.

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A’s minor league recap: Corey Brown stays hot; RiverCats add Adam Kennedy

Here’s a brief look at what happened down on the farm for the A’s affiliates:

Corey Brown is the latest Midland Rockhound to haunt opposing Texas League pitching (see below) and Dana Eveland is set to make his first bid to return to Oakland tonight when he takes the mound for Sacramento.

The RiverCats technically added former Angels and Cardinals second baseman Adam Kennedy to the team. Kennedy was acquired from Tampa Bay on Friday afternoon for a player to be named later and was assigned to Sacramento. However, the A’s indicated later Friday that Kennedy, who was hitting .280 with three HRs and nine RBI in 23 games for Triple-A Durham, would join the big league club as soon as Saturday.

Also, highly touted pitchers Michel Ynoa, the free-agent pitcher from the Dominican Republic, and Fautino De Los Santos, the hard-throwing righty acquired from the White Sox last year in the Nick Swisher deal, arrived in Phoenix for extended spring training on Thursday. We’ll get updates on their progress as it warrants.

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

Reno (Diamondbacks) 4, RiverCats 1: Game story Boxscore

The RiverCats’ third straight defeat still leaves them in first place, two games ahead of Reno in the PCL’s Pacific South division. But, the alarming news is Sacramento’s continuing struggles offensively as the RiverCats rank last among the PCL’s 16 teams with a .229 team batting average. The ‘Cats are also 15th in on-base percentage (.318) and 14th in OPS (.680).

Adrian Cardenas, who was tearing up Double-A Midland, is just 2-for-22 (.091) through six games in Triple-A. Daric Barton’s 1-for-4 in Thursday’s loss boosts his average to .167 (15-for-90 for the season).

Sean Doolittle is one of Sacramento’s more productive hitters with a .257 batting average, four homers and 15 RBI in 27 games.

As a side note, Reno’s Bryan Byrne, the former Saint Mary’s College standout, went 0-for-4 in his Triple-A debut.

Recently demoted Dana Eveland will make his RiverCats’ debut tonight (Friday) in Las Vegas.

MIDLAND (Double-A)

RockHounds 14, Corpus Christi (Astros) 2: Game story Boxscore

Corey Brown continued his torrid pace by smashing a pair of homers, a double and droving in four runs in Thursday’s win. Brown, hitting .435 in 13 games this season, has gone 10-for-17 with four homers and nine RBI in his last four games.

Chris Carter had another RBI, boosting his total to 26 in 27 games. Also, catcher Josh Donaldson hit a three-run homer and his 6-for-15 streak has pushed his average to a more respectable .239.

Jason Fernandez (3-3, 4.04 ERA) picked up the win with eight solid innings. He gave up five hits, two earned runs, no walks and struck out four.

STOCKTON (High Single-A)

Ports 4, Visalia (Diamondbacks) 2: Game story Boxscore

Craig Italiano’s strong performance on the mound (6 innings, 3 hits, 2 runs, 8 strikeouts) helped the Ports snap a four-game losing streak by beating the Rawhide. Stockton’s 6-foot-9 closer Jon Hunton notched his fourth save.

Matt Spencer had two hits, including a double. Todd Johnson, leading the Ports’ regulars with a .267 average, drove in a run. Shane Keough (.232) had two hits and two RBI.

KANE COUNTY (Low Single-A)

Fort Wayne (Padres) 1, Cougars 0: Game story Boxscore

Anthony Capra was very good but took the loss after surrendering just one hit in six innings. Capra, who walked five and struck out three, allowed a solo home run to Fort Wayne’s Jeff Decker in the fifth inning for the game’s only run.

Kane County’s top two hitters, shortstop Dusty Coleman (.319) and first baseman Steve Kleen (.320) were a combined 0-for-7.

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Eveland sent down; OF Copeland joins roster

Today brought more shuttling with the A’s roster, as lefty Dana Eveland was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento and outfielder Ben Copeland was activated from the disabled list. Dan Giese will make tomorrow night’s start against Texas in Eveland’s place. Can’t be too surprised by the decision to send Eveland down, as those two outings in Seattle (one start, one unexpected relief outing) couldn’t have done much for his confidence. “We’ll get him in the rotation down there,” Bob Geren said. “He’s got to improve command of all of his pitches.”

Starting tomorrow shouldn’t be a huge adjustment for Giese, who served as a spot starter for the Yankees last season. “I really enjoy it,” Giese said. “I really don’t do much different (from relieving).” He said he’ll stay in the stretch tomorrow since that’s what he’s used to doing out of the ‘pen. Geren labeled this a spot start for Giese, and with two offdays next week, the A’s have some wiggle room with their rotation. They don’t know yet if Brett Anderson’s blister will be healed enough for him to start Saturday. If he can’t go, I’d assume Sean Gallagher would take his place. Geren mentioned Gallagher as a starting option when he talked about the flexibility with the upcoming rotation.

Copeland, you’ll remember from spring training, was the Rule 5 outfielder the A’s picked up from the Giants. He suffered whiplash when he crashed into the wall making a catch down in Arizona, and he had lingering shoulder problems as a result. He said throwing isn’t an issue now, and he was 6-for-13 in three games split between Single-A Stockton and Sacramento.

I’m not sure if I envision Copeland with a long-term future in Oakland, but as a Rule 5 guy, he has to stay on the 25-man roster or be offered back to the Giants. We’ll see what kind of playing time he gets. This gives the A’s six outfielders, which they’re able to pull off because they’re carrying just five infielders right now.

Nomar Garciaparra apparently is recovering well from his right calf injury. He’s back w/the team and Geren said Garciaparra is hopeful of being ready to come off the DL when he’s eligible May 14.

One last note: Geren said he’ll probably get Brad Ziegler in tonight’s game even if it’s not a save situation. Ziegler hasn’t pitched since April 25, but is ready to roll after recovering from the flu …

Today’s A’s lineup, featuring Ryan Sweeney back in the leadoff spot:

Sweeney CF; Cabrera SS; Giambi 1B; Holliday LF; Cust DH; Suzuki C; Buck RF; Crosby 3B; Petit 2B; Braden P.

Angels lineup: Figgins 3B; Matthews Jr., RF; Abreu DH; Hunter CF; Napoli C; Kendrick 2B; Morales 1B; Rivera LF; Aybar SS; Loux P.

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A’s 6, Angels 4

Where to begin with this one? I thought the A’s lack of hitting w/runners in scoring position early on had doomed them tonight. Now they’ve earned at least a split in this series with Brett Anderson making his first career start tomorrow. Remember, first pitch got changed from 7:05 p.m. to 7:25.

A few things that didn’t make their way into tomorrow’s stories:

–Bob Geren figured Matt Holliday might not be available at all tonight due to the flu, so he actually had Bobby Crosby work w/outfield coach Todd Steverson before the game. Crosby said it was a 10-minute session, and he never thought he’d be called upon. Yet there he was in right field for the bottom of the ninth — his first career appearance anywhere but shortstop in a regular season game.

“It was just very, very weird,” Crosby said after the game. “People in the infield look small, the batter looks small. You’re kind of in the middle of nowhere.”

But by the ninth, Crosby already was in the spirit of chipping in wherever needed. Before the bottom of the fifth, with catcher Kurt Suzuki not ready yet and backup Landon Powell down in the bullpen, Crosby grabbed a catcher’s mitt and warmed up pitcher Dana Eveland.

–Speaking of Eveland, he talked after the game about how his fastball didn’t have its usual juice. That could be troubling for the A’s if it continues. “I’m usually around 89 to 91. I was 87 to 88 today. I’m not far off. It feels great coming out of my hand. But I get a peek at the (stadium radar) gun every now and then. I see 87-88 and I say, ‘Man, I better hit my spots more.’”

He still kept the A’s in the game, going six innings and allowing three runs on eight hits.

–Brad Ziegler got his second save in as many opportunities, but he took a hard shot off the left shin in the bottom of the ninth. After the game, he had a big ice pack on the shin and said the ball caught him flush.

–Jason Giambi is 5-for-9 over the past two games after going 0-for-3 in the opener.

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A’s rotation set; Outman in, Gallagher out

The A’s waited until the last possible moment here in Arizona to drop some concrete news regarding their rotation.

After today’s 8-8 tie against the Chicago Cubs, Bob Geren unveiled his starting five: Dallas Braden, Trevor Cahill, Dana Eveland, Brett Anderson, Josh Outman, in that order.

We knew for a while the 21-year-old duo of Anderson and Cahill looked pretty solid for the rotation. The big news here is Outman’s inclusion in the No. 5 spot over Gallagher. Outman, who gets the April 10 home opener vs. Seattle, pitched very well yesterday in a start against the Royals, and that probably sealed it for him. Gallagher, who the A’s envisioned as an instrumental part of their rotation when they acquired him from the Cubs last season, is still a long relief candidate, Geren said.

More details in tomorrow’s paper …

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A’s losing streak hits 10

The A’s dropped their 10th straight game, 4-2, to the Milwaukee Brewers this afternoon. Predictably, and probably wisely, Bob Geren isn’t pushing the panic button. “The big thing is getting pitchers deep in games and getting guys swinging the bat. (But) we’d like to snap out of this little thing we’re in.”

What do you need to know from today?

Dana Eveland looked awful to start, allowing four runs in his first three innings, but settled in to retire 12 of his final 14 batters. That was big for Eveland, who was still looking like he had a rotation spot, but had struggled for two straight outings. After the game, Eveland said he’s been using his spring outings to work on his changeup and curve ball. But after watching J.J. Hardy smack a three-run homer in the third, he went back to his best pitch (slider) and found his footing. His seven-inning outing was the longest by an A’s starter this spring. “It felt good to feel strong that late in the game, still have my legs underneath me,” Eveland said.

A less encouraging sign: Center fielder Ryan Sweeney had to leave the game before the bottom of the fourth. Sweeney wasn’t available afterward, and the only report Geren had was that Sweeney had tightness in one of his legs. That’s the bad thing about not being able to talk to team trainers unless the player signs a waiver — sometimes it’s tough to get accurate, detailed information on an injury. Anyway, if it’s something serious, it would obviously be a huge blow to the A’s. Sweeney has played a good center field and is the likely leadoff man.

Bobby Crosby looked pretty good at first base. Can’t say he really got challenged today, but he did throw Hardy out at second when Eveland threw to first and caught Hardy stealing. Crosby also drifted w/a difficult pop-up and made the play. Not graceful, but effective.

In case you’re curious, Matt Holliday went 2-for-3 and is batting .326 …

Sean Gallagher takes the mound tomorrow against Colorado, which will counter with former Athletic Greg Smith, who was part of the trade that brought Holliday to Oakland.

Until then …

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A’s lose to Royals; rotation still undecided

The A’s dropped their seventh straight Cactus League game tonight, 8-3 to the Royals, though that’s hardly their primary concern at the moment. Earlier today, GM Billy Beane pretty much called Oakland’s starting rotation an open competition outside of Dallas Braden, who is on track to start Opening Day. You can read all about Beane’s take on the pitching staff (and Bob Geren’s contract extension) in tomorrow’s paper. Basically, Beane said even guys like Dana Eveland and Sean Gallagher don’t have spots sewn up and that four rotation spots are up for grabs. If you ask me, I think he’s just trying to light a fire under Eveland and Gallagher so they don’t get too comfortable. I don’t see how this rotation can function w/out them, particularly if Justin Duchscherer isn’t ready to go to start the season.

Gallagher certainly helped his cause with 4 2/3 shutout innings against K.C. That came after starter Josh Outman imploded, giving up eight runs in 3 1/3 innings. I still think Outman might land in the bullpen, and with the current state of things, he may not be out of the rotation running!

A couple items you won’t find in tomorrow’s stories:

–It’s been speculated that Duchscherer could pitch out of the bullpen temporarily as he gets his pitch count up following his elbow injury (You should see the look of disgust on Duchscherer’s face when a reporter asks him about it. He’s willing to pitch in relief temporarily, but he really dislikes relieving. More than anything, he’s sick of talking about it.) Anyway, Beane didn’t shut the door on that idea completely, but he’d rather have Duchscherer pitch in the rotation when he’s healthy.

“Right now we’re pushing to put him in the rotation even if it’s in an abbreviated sitauton, and we’ll build up from there,” Beane said. “If it means he can only go four innings, we’ll take those four innings.”

–Bobby Crosby didn’t get much action in his debut at second base Tuesday night. Two routine grounders, one pop-up. And he took a throw from Kurt Suzuki to nail a would-be base stealer. “He did a nice job,” Geren said. “He just needs to get acclimated on little things, where to go on bunt plays …”

A’s are in Glendale tomorrow against the White Sox. Seven more games left in Arizona …

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Duchscherer’s Opening Day start “in jeopardy”

A’s ace Justin Duchscherer will not throw for the next week because of his elbow soreness, and manager Bob Geren acknowledged that it’s doubtful Duchscherer will take the ball Opening Day against the Angels because he won’t be ready. “His Opening Day start is definitely in jeopardy,” Geren said in his morning media session.

Duchscherer had an MRI taken Monday with Dr. Doug Freedberg, but no structural damage was found. Duchscherer still wants a second opinion, and the plan is to send his images to Dr. Lewis Yocum in Southern California to examine.

When I talked to Duchscherer this morning, more than anything he sounded uneasy about not knowing the extent of his injury. The A’s and Freedberg think it’s an inflammation problem, Duchscherer said, and the hope is that rest will help calm his elbow down. “Every day I’ve thrown it hurts,” Duchscherer said, adding that he feels the discomfort when he cranks it up to around 80 percent intensity.

Asked if he still hoped to pitch Opening Day, Duchscherer said: “Of course I do. (But) honestly, I don’t know what’s going on with my elbow.”

What’s this mean for the A’s rotation? Sean Gallagher, Dana Eveland and Dallas Braden are the only three healthy pitchers who seem locked into spots. The A’s will likely need to choose two starters from a pool that includes Edgar Gonzalez, Gio Gonzalez, Josh Outman and Jerome Williams. And the possibility of throwing one of their stud prospects — Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill or Vin Mazzaro — into the rotation isn’t quite so far-fetched now. Geren has raved about all three at one point or another.

The A’s could also look to sign someone. Remember, ex-Athletic Mark Mulder is hoping to catch on with a team at some point …

Other bits:

–Eric Chavez will DH today against the White Sox, but Geren said Mark Ellis might relieve him and get a couple at-bats. If both players are ready tomorrow, Geren would like to DH one in a split-squad game against the Giants, and the other in a split-squad game against South Africa.