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Game 26 wrapup: Blevins gives A’s shutdown they need; Donaldson continues to crush

If there was an unsung hero in the A’s bringing a streak of eight losses in nine games to a close Sunday, his name would be Jerry Blevins.

All he did was get three outs. What’s the big deal you say?

Well, he got the win, so that counts for something.

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Smith homer in wind and rain of Fenway Park leaves the A’s suitably impressed

It won’t be the most clutch home run Seth Smith has ever produced or even the longest he’ll ever hit.

But Tuesday’s homer in the fourth inning of Boston’s Alfredo Aceves is likely to go down as the hardest Smith has ever hit, even if Smith himself doesn’t think that’s necessarily so.

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Bullpen proving to be backbone of early A’s success

The one facet of the A’s game that has been almost unswervingly productive this season is one facet that tends to get overlooked.

It’s the bullpen, which comes into Sunday against the Tigers with a 1.64 ERA that is far and away better than the (but still very good) 2.08 turned in the by the White Sox. The A’s are one of four teams whose relievers haven’t lost a game (2-0).

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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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Yoenis Cespedes shows up to take physical, will join A’s on Sunday

Well, Yoenis Cespedes arrived to A’s camp Saturday — sort of. He showed up to take his physical and met a few people, but the team isn’t announcing he has joined the team yet. Passing his physical is the last step for the Cuban outfielder’s four-year, $36 million deal to be finalized. It’s rather odd to see a player walk into the clubhouse, shake some hands, but no one is officially acknowledging his existence. At any rate, Cespedes missed the first two weeks of spring training while awaiting his visa paperwork to be processed. He will join his teammates on the field Sunday and address the media for the first time. Players were having fun with his arrival. “It’s a big day for you guys,” Jonny Gomes joked to writers, knowing full well how much ink Cespedes has received before he even showed up.

In other news, A’s manager Bob Melvin discussed his closer situation and said that choosing a ninth-inning man will depend partly on what the full composition of the bullpen looks like. He said spring results for veterans such as Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes won’t factor so much into the decision because of those pitchers’ vast experience. He stopped short of labeling those two front runners to be closer. Fautino De Los Santos and Joey Devine are also under consideration.

But one factor in the decision will be how many left-handed relievers the A’s break camp with. If Fuentes is the only lefty in the bullpen, for example, it might be tough to use him as closer because he might be needed for matchup situations earlier in the game. And that will take some time to play out. Jerry Blevins, Jordan Norberto and Pedro Figueroa, who has impressed early, are all lefty relievers who are legitimate candidates to make the team.

Manny Ramirez originally was going to serve as D.H. on Sunday against the Cubs in Mesa. Instead, Chris Carter will play that entire game at D.H. and Ramirez will start Monday’s split-squad home game against the Angels. “Carter’s the one guy, he had just one at-bat (Friday) and he’s not starting (Saturday),” Melvin said. “So I’ll give him several at-bats (Sunday).”

First baseman Daric Barton had an MRI on his surgically repaired right shoulder, which will delay his throwing program and likely hinder his chances in the first base competition. Barton said he started feeling sore recently as his throwing increased. After missing a couple of days, he was back doing infield work Saturday morning. He is scheduled to swing the bat Sunday and might be available to DH on Monday.”It’s good to be back on the field and be a part of the team again,” Barton said.

We’re off to Peoria for this afternoon’s game against (who else!!) the Mariners. It’s one of the longer Cactus League road trips for the A’s. Surprise Stadium, spring home of the Rangers and Royals, still takes the prize for longest drive from A’s headquarters.

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Cliff Pennington doing much better, targeting possible Friday return

The news looks much better regarding A’s shortstop Cliff Pennington, who was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy last night. Pennington woke up feeling much better today, and said he can close his left eye and blink. He likely won’t play until Friday’s series opener at Tampa Bay, at the earliest. But both he and manager Bob Melvin were breathing a sigh of relief. Bell’s palsy is a nerve condition that causes partial facial paralysis, and Pennington left last night’s game with numbness on the left side of his face.

“I can blink, I can close,” Pennington said. “I’m still numb, but it’s night and day from yesterday. I’m going to do everything normal (as far as baseball activity). I’m going to keep going like normal, except I’m not playing.”

Because he was having trouble keeping his left eye closed last night, he put trainer’s tape over his eye so he could sleep. “I was so tired from stress that I slept great,” he said.

–To provide depth on the bench, the A’s recalled infielder Adam Rosales from Triple-A and designated reliever Jerry Blevins for assignment. Again, this DFA is procedural for Blevins because he has more than three years’ service time in the majors. He has to pass through optional waivers before being sent down. He is still on the 40-man roster and won’t be going anywhere.

Your lineups:
A’s — Weeks 2B, Crisp CF, Matsui LF, Willingham DH, Sweeney RF, Jackson 1B, Suzuki C, Sogard SS, Sizemore 3B; Harden RHP.

Mariners — Ichiro RF, Ryan SS, Ackley 2B, Carp DH, Kennedy 3B, Olivo C, Smoak 1B, Wells LF, Gutierrez CF; Hernandez RHP.

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A’s promote relievers Blevins, Eveland, Kilby; Braden still doubtful to return

The A’s clubhouse got a little more crowded this afternoon, with left-handers Jerry Blevins, Dana Eveland and Brad Kilby getting called up on the first day big league rosters can expand to 40. That gives Bob Geren 10 relievers at his disposal (including five lefties), with Edgar Gonzalez moving into the expanded six-man rotation.

You’re pretty familiar w/Eveland and Blevins, who were both on the Opening Day roster. Kilby, 26, is getting his first major league action. Click here for a little information on the San Jose State product.

–Random thought, just for the heck of it: After playing the EXACT SAME batting practice soundtrack for the entire season, we finally have some fresh pre-game tunes being played over the PA. I guess Sept. 1 means that the CD collection expands as well …

And now back to business …

Eveland began the year in the A’s rotation but struggled and was sent down. He came back up for a spot start in Boston on July 6, but was sent right back down afterward. Interesting that the A’s promoted him considering he was 0-4 with a 7.88 ERA over his past five starts. But he’s got substantial big league experience, and he’s at least a pretty known quantity. The A’s saw Blevins as a key part of their bullpen when the season began, but he also struggled and has spent most of the season at Triple-A Sacramento.

Bob Geren said he sees Eveland filling the long reliever role previously held down by Gonzalez, and he said it’s possible the two could flip-flop — with Eveland taking on the starting role — at some point. Geren sees Blevins and Kilby as one-inning type guys right now, and said he wants to find some low-pressure situations to ease them into at first.

Dallas Braden is back w/the team, but isn’t throwing right now. He reiterated that doctors have told him rest is the best remedy for the “traumatized” nerve in his left foot. Does he expect to pitch again this season? “The urgency to get out and prove it’s healthy isn’t there,” Braden said. “If it’s getting better and I get back on the mound, so be it. If not, we’ll look forward to next season.”

As for other possible call-ups, Geren said he doesn’t see a third catcher coming up right now. No real timetable for when other position players may show up in Oakland. I’d expect them to show up one at a time, every few days or so. The A’s aren’t looking to deplete Sacramento’s roster w/the River Cats heading to the playoffs.

Here’s tonight’s lineups:

A’s
Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Suzuki C
Cust DH
Hairston LF
Sweeney RF
Ellis 2B
Barton 1B
Pennington SS

E. Gonzalez RHP

Royals
DeJesus LF
Maier RF
Butler 1B
Jacobs DH
Callaspo 2B
Teahen 3B
Olivo C
Anderson CF
Betancourt SS

Davies RHP

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A’s minor league recap: Cardenas moved to third; Weeks stays hot

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

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

Tacoma (Mariners) 6, RiverCats 4: Story l Boxscore

Relievers Henry Rodriguez and Jay Marshall gave up five runs in the final two innings as the RiverCats failed to protect a 4-1 lead. Rodriguez walked two batters and surrendered a game-tying, three-run homer to Brad Nelson. Marshall permitted the go-ahead runs in the ninth inning.

James Simmons was in line for the win after working five innings and allowing just four hits and one run. Jerry Blevins then added two scoreless innings with four strikeouts before Sacramento’s troubles began.

Travis Buck homered and drove in two runs as his rehab seems to be going well. Danny Putnam had a two-run homer, his third in 111 at-bats for the Cats.

MIDLAND (Double-A)

Corpus Christi 5, RockHounds 1: Story l Boxscore

Adrian Cardenas, who has played mostly at second base and some at shortstop this season, has spent the last two games at third base for the RockHounds, who suffered their second straight setback. Cardenas, who booted an eighth-inning grounder Thursday night, would seem to have a much clearer path to Oakland as a third baseman. Especially with Jemile Weeks playing second base at Stockton and seemingly Oakland-bound within a couple of years. The A’s obviously figure on finding room in their lineup one day soon for both Cardenas and Weeks.

Tommy Everidge had played third for Midland for most of the year, but he was promoted to Sacramento. Alex Valdez, who arrived from Stockton, is also a third baseman.

Bobby Cramer struck out seven in 4 2/3 innings, but took the loss after allowing two runs. Matt Spencer and Archie Gilbert had two of the Hounds’ five hits, and Cardenas had the other.

Jose Valverde, the Astros’ closer who’s on a rehab assignment, pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning for Corpus Christi.

STOCKTON (High Single-A)

Modesto (Rockies) 8, Ports 2: Story l Boxscore

The Ports lost their eighth in a row as they were swept in Modesto. On the bright side, Jemile Weeks continued his torrid pace, going 3-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to 13 games.

Weeks, who has hit in every game since joining Stockton from extended spring training on May 27, is now batting .370.

Christian Vitters had a pair of hits and scored twice for the Ports.

KANE COUNTY (Low Single-A)

Wisconsin 7, Cougars 3: Story l Boxscore

The Cougars scored three times in the first on a two-run single by Steve Kleen and an RBI double by Grant Desme, but Wisconsin countered with four runs in the bottom of the first off Shawn Haviland on its way to victory.

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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.