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A’s could help themselves by claiming Kubel

Jason Kubel, the kind of useful player that the A’s dote on, just became available when the Arizona Diamondbacks put him on the designated for assignment list before Tuesday’s game.

That means the Diamondbacks have 10 days to trade him, release him or, if he goes unclaimed on waivers, to sign him to a minor league contract.

It might well be worth the A’s effort to put in a claim on him. He’s a 31-year-old left-handed hitter with power, and with the A’s having lost one of their prime left-handed hitters, Josh Reddick, until probably the middle of September if not the remainder of the season, Kubel could fit right in.

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Sliding Nate Freiman, internet sensation

Nate Freiman, internet sensation.

Well, not quite up to Justin Bieber standards, perhaps, but a pieced-together video of Freiman’s slide at home plate was making the rounds Monday night and Tuesday.

The 6-foot-8 A’s rookie first baseman, not the fastest man on the field, galloped home from second base and did a part-dive, part-slide, part-scramble, getting his hand across home plate for the run that put the A’s ahead to stay in an 8-6 win over the Tigers.

Asked what an East German Olympic judge would give Freiman on form, shortstop Jed Lowrie said, “not a 10.0.’’

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A’s facing a flurry of roster moves this week

The A’s have some decisions to make in the next week, and not all of them are clear cut.

Between now and Friday, outfielders Chris Young and Coco Crisp and starting pitcher Brett Anderson are likely to come off the disabled list.

It seems a no-brainer that Dan Straily will be the odd man out in the rotation. He has made three starts with Anderson out, and is due to make another against Texas Wednesday, two days before Anderson (sprained right ankle) is first eligible to come off the disabled list.

Young and possibly Crisp could come off the disabled list on Wednesday, and while it’s certain that Michael Taylor, who has an .063 average and hasn’t driven in a run, will be sent down, choosing between the other two candidates, Luke Montz and Daric Barton, will be a matter of just what kind of flexibility A’s manager Bob Melvin wants.

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Game 38 wrapup: Balfour shakes off the rust; Barton feels his power coming back

Grant Balfour has rung up a save in every game he’s pitched this month.

Before Saturday night, that meant both of them. Pitching for the first time in six days, Balfour put two men on but pitched out of trouble to secure the A’s 4-3 win over Seattle that brought a five-game losing streak to an end.

And if there is anything that underscores the problems the A’s are having these days, it’s that they had not been finding chances for Balfour to do his ninth-inning thing.

He hasn’t blown a save all year, but he only has six chances. Either the A’s are behind late, which has been the problem in recent days, or they’ve had more than a three-run lead, which was the case much of the time in a 16-12 April.

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Barton back with a new attitude and second chance

UPDATED

If there was one player in the A’s spring training camp that seemed the least likely to make it onto the Oakland roster in 2013, Daric Barton would have gotten many, if not most, of the votes.

He is a left-handed hitting first baseman with minimal power and he is on a team where Brandon Moss is a one-time outfielder-turned-first base who is left-hand and who has plenty of power. It was Moss who had taken Barton’s job last season.

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Barton goes from least likely to back on A’s roster

If there was one player in the A’s spring training camp that seemed the least likely to make it onto the Oakland roster in 2013, Daric Barton would have gotten many, if not most, of the votes.

He is a left-handed hitting first baseman with minimal power and he is on a team where Brandon Moss is a one-time outfielder-turned-first base who is left-hand and who has plenty of power. It was Moss who had taken Barton’s job last season.

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Freiman an imposing presence in A’s clubhouse

Nate Freiman s an imposing figure in A's camp

The initial impression brought on by Nate Freiman’s first morning in the A’s camp is that the Warriors missed out on a good bet.

This guy has a power forward’s body.

It’s yet to be proven if he’s the right-handed power hitter the A’s need as an option to the left-handed Brandon Moss at first base, but spring is all about optimism, right?

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Players without options have an advantage with A’s

PHOENIX – There’s hardly ever anything completely fair in baseball when you are a player looking to make a big league roster, and that’s as true with the A’s this spring as with any other club.

The A’s have eight players who are out of options, meaning Oakland has to find a way to keep them on their roster this season or risk losing them by having to put them on waivers.

Daric Barton, Travis Blackley, Jerry Blevins, Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Pat Neshek, Chris Resop and Adam Rosales all are on that list. And it wouldn’t be a tremendous surprise if all eight landed a job, some at the expense of other otherwise worthy candidates.

Blevins is a fixture in the bullpen and Donaldson and Moss make up the corners of the infield, so they seem to be locks to make the final 25-man roster.

The other five will have a leg up on the competition based on the fact that the A’s historically don’t want to lose players without any return. Some could be traded, but all have value, as manager Bob Melvin admitted Wednesday.

“With our organization, we try to keep as many guys as we can,’’ Melvin said before the second day of spring workouts for pitchers and catchers. That’s not always the most popular position, but …’’

Melvin says the A’s will give everybody a look this spring, but come the end of March when rosters have to be finalized, he suggested that the desire to keep players would become a factor.

“The important thing right now is to give everybody a chance to play and see where we are,’’ he said.

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Postgame thoughts as A’s notch their sixth straight victory

Here’s a few odds and ends that didn’t all make it into my story for tomorrow’s paper. …

–How much should we pay attention to Cactus League winning streaks? Not a whole lot. But the A’s notched their sixth victory in a row with Thursday’s 11-7 win over Texas, and manager Bob Melvin thinks there’s something to be said for it. The A’s are 10-3-1, tied with Seattle for the best mark in the Cactus League heading into the Mariners’ game Thursday night. “We have a lot of new guys, and winning is important, whether it’s an intrasquad game or a spring training game,” Melvin said. “If we were 2-12, I’d probably be talking differently. But it does matter. It really does.”

Right now, I think fans should be more enthused about the hot hitting of Jemile Weeks and Cliff Pennington. Weeks, who is batting .419 and homered from both sides of the plate Thursday, is an obvious key in the leadoff spot. I’ve had Pennington pegged as the No. 9 hitter in my projected batting order. But the guy is hitting .464 right now (4 for 4 on Thursday). If he keeps this up, might Melvin be inclined to hit him higher in the order? I still like him hitting ninth, a speedy guy who can turn the lineup over and get Weeks some at-bats with runners on base.

Where would you like to see Pennington hit?

–Melvin applied some sugar-coating on Brad Peacock’s poor start Thursday — 2 1/3 innings, 5 runs, 3 walks. But Peacock was understandably disappointed in himself. He walked two men in the first and then allowed a three-run double to Nelson Cruz on a 1-2 pitch. “I was missing spots,” Peacock said. “I can’t walk guys.” He’s had two shaky outings sandwiched around one good outing. Right now, it’s tough to see him nailing down a rotation spot. If I were choosing winners today for the three open rotation spots, I’d go Tom Milone, Jarrod Parker and Tyson Ross. “He’s going through a little bit of a tough time,” Melvin said of Peacock. “He hasn’t had the greatest draws either with lineups. The results aren’t what he wants to see right now. The stuff’s still good.”

–The first base job is looking like a two-man battle between Brandon Allen and Kila Ka’aihue. That’s what I gleaned from Melvin’s comments Thursday morning when asked about Chris Carter’s spring camp. Carter is hitting .263 with no homers and one RBI. That average is actually better than Ka’aihue’s .211 mark, though Ka’aihue has one homer. But it’s clear, judging how playing time is being doled out, that Carter doesn’t appear to be in the big league plans. Melvin remarked recently that Carter’s at-bats were better in early exhibitions than they have been lately. He has seven strikeouts in 19 at-bats overall.

“We were looking to try to see if his at-bats were better at the big league level. That’s really the only thing that’s been missing,” Melvin said. “He’s ended up feeling comfortable at every level, but (not) at the big league level at this point.”

Interestingly — and surprisingly — Melvin does not count Daric Barton out of the competition. Barton has been slowed all spring by complications as he comes back from shoulder surgery. His throwing has been limited, but he is tentatively set to play defense for the first time Saturday. Melvin does acknowlege, however, that a stint in extended spring training is possible for Barton.

The smart money remains on Allen to be the A’s opening day first baseman …

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Bob Melvin takes part in “Feats of Strength” tradition

Pretty quiet Sunday morning at Muni, where the A’s host the Royals this afternoon. There wasn’t much in the way of news, although the first big round of cuts is expected after the game. Right-hander Sonny Gray, the 2011 first-round pick, was the first to be sent down. He got word yesterday.

–An A’s spring tradition, the “Feats of Strength” presentation, took place in the clubhouse. I’ve seen this six times now, and it never fails to entertain. Team chaplain Donnie Moore and a couple of his assistants tear apart phone books, bend steel bars and karate-chop concrete blocks with their bare hands – the motivational message being that if you envision yourself able to do something, you can accomplish any goal.

This was the first time manager Bob Melvin has seen the “Feats of Strength.” Little did he know he’d be asked to lay flat on his back on a bench, with a slab of concrete resting on his chest. Then someone took a hammer of some sort (my view was blocked by all the players gathered around) and smashed the concrete across his chest. Melvin hopped up and gave a couple high-fives, admitting later he had his eyes closed through the whole episode. Moore did the same thing with former manager Bob Geren last spring.

“There’s motivational speaking and then there’s that,” Melvin said. “Actions speak louder than words, and it was all it was cracked up to be.”

On the baseball front …

–Yoenis Cespedes is hitting third as D.H. today. “Maybe we’ll move him back to fourth the next day,” Melvin said. “We do feel he’s a middle-of-the-order bat. I don’t think he did anything to disprove that (Saturday).” Where might Cespedes settle in the batting order? I’d say that depends on whether anyone else emerges as a potential No. 3 hitter. Seth Smith or Josh Reddick could fit the bill, although we don’t even know if Smith will be in the lineup full time. Cespedes will be off Monday, as Melvin is putting him on the same two-on, one-off rotation as his regular starters.

–Daric Barton will make his exhibition debut Monday, serving as D.H. against the White Sox in Glendale. His throwing is still coming along slowly after shoulder surgery, so no word yet on when he’ll play first base.

The lineups:

A’s: Weeks 2B, Crisp CF, Cespedes DH, Gomes LF, Donaldson 3B, Smith RF, Recker C, Ka’aihue 1B, Pennington SS; Milone LHP.

Royals: Cain CF, Betancourt 2B, Hosmer 1B, Butler DH, Francoeur RF, Moustakas 3B, Pena C, Robinson LF, Escobar SS; Chen LHP.