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A’s: Crisp delighted to join the team in a victory again

Coco Crisp returned to the A's lineup in a big way Tuesday.

Coco Crisp returned to the A’s lineup in a big way Tuesday.

It had been less than two weeks since the last time Coco Crisp had been in the A’s starting lineup.

Quite a lot has happened in that seven-game interval. The A’s traded Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes. The Angels have crept closer in the standings. The Oakland offense had stalled.    Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays doesn’t change all of that. It does modify it some, though.

The offense is still struggling, but it was Crisp who came up in the fifth inning, looked for the biggest whole on the infield and guided the ball into right-center field for the game’s first RBI.

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A’s: Lester addition forces Tigers to play catchup

Yoenis Cespedes is heading to Boston after big trade deadline deal Thursday.

Yoenis Cespedes is heading to Boston after big trade deadline deal Thursday.

Deny them what you will, the Oakland A’s aren’t boring.

They could have settled for just having made the Independence Day trade for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, but in the final six hours before the trade deadline they went out and completely rebuilt their roster.

At that point, the Tigers’ Justin Verlander said Oakland made the trade because of the A’s had to come through Detroit in the post-season.

But after the A’s moved Yoenis Cespedes from left field and shipped him to Boston in exchange for All-Star starter Jon Lester and platoon left fielder Jonny Gomes, it seemed like the Tigers were playing catch up with the A’s when Detroit made a three-team deal for the other big name starting pitcher out there, David Price.

With it being obvious there was no room at the inn for Tommy Milone in the A’s rotation near term, they traded the minor league starter to the Twins for center fielder Sam Fuld.

The moves spoke about the A’s on several levels.

One. They didn’t believe they could re-sign Cespedes to a long-term contract when his four-year deal ran out after next year.

Two. They didn’t see Jason Hammel or Jesse Chavez as giving them their best chance to win in a post-season start.

Three. Center field is a problem. Coco Crisp has trouble staying in the lineup ever since running into a pole holding up the Coliseum outfield fence and suffered whiplash. And Craig Gentry has a broken right hand that will keep him out two more weeks at a minimum.

Four. There is no time like the present. The A’s are playing to go to the World Series this season. Next season will have to take care of itself.

Things could change, but Lester seems to be a two-month purchase. He gives the A’s something that, with all their pitching, they didn’t have – experience pitching in the World Series. He was 2-0 in the series last year with a 0.59 and 4-1 in the three rounds of the playoffs overall and his career ERA in the playoffs is 2.11.

The A’s have the best record in baseball four months into the season, but that gets you nothing, particularly when the team with the second-best record in the majors is in your division. Because of that, general manager Billy Beane keeps pushing forward.

Since Jan. 1, Beane has added a left-handed reliever who has been one of the best in the game, Eric O’Flaherty; added a right-handed hitting first baseman in Kyle Blanks, claimed lefty pitcher Jeff Francis from the Reds, traded for left-handed starter Brad Mills, traded for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, then traded for Lester and Gomes and reacquired Fuld.

That nine additions this year already, and even with Blanks injured and Francis no longer around, as A’s co-owner Lew Wolff told me Thursday, “there’s time yet.’’

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Coco Crisp joins disabled list, Michael Taylor back with A’s

We have some morning A’s news, though it’s not so unexpected …

Coco Crisp was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a lingering inner ear infection, and outfielder Michael Taylor was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento. I’ll be interested to see how much playing time Taylor gets, and what he does with it. His numbers for Sacramento so far have been impressive, and a scout told me Taylor has looked like an improved player from recent seasons. Might Taylor get a start in left field tonight? The Rays are throwing lefty David Price, so if Bob Melvin wants to get as many right-handed bats in the lineup as possible, he could throw Taylor in left and put Jonny Gomes at DH. Or maybe Gomes plays left because the ex-Ray is used to handling the outfield at Tropicana Field.

We’ll see if Cliff Pennington or Brandon Inge fills in as the No. 2 hitter with Crisp out. Pennington has gotten off to a slow start, so the A’s need him to start hitting more if he sees time near the top of the lineup.

I’ll post a bit later from the ballpark …

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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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“Captain” Sal Bando drops by Oakland A’s camp

Legendary A’s third baseman Sal Bando visited camp Friday and was introduced to the team by manager Bob Melvin. Melvin, a Bay Area native, wears No. 6 in honor of Bando – captain of Oakland’s World Series championship teams of 1972-74 – and Melvin wants his players to be exposed to some of the franchise greats.

“I think it’s important that these guys understand the history,” Melvin said. “So whenever we have a guy like him around — one of the all-time great A’s — I think it’s important we share that with our guys.”

Manny Ramirez is starting at designated hitter for Friday’s Cactus League opener against Seattle, but Melvin said he’ll pencil in Jonny Gomes as DH for Saturday’s game against the Mariners in Peoria. Ramirez won’t be eligible for the A’s first 50 games while he serves a suspension, so the A’s need to get looks at their other DH candidates who are available for the start of the season. The evaluation period is shorter than usual this spring as the A’s open the regular season March 28 against Seattle in Tokyo.

“We know which guys we need to give more at-bats, and we’re in a little bit of a rush,” Melvin said. “We’re outta here on the 22nd,(to travel to Tokyo), and typically you like to get ‘X’ amount of plate appearances for guys. We’re going to be a little bit short of that, but we understand where we are.”

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Manny Ramirez likely to assume Oakland A’s DH role when suspension ends

The update from manager Bob Melvin’s morning media briefing …

Expect Manny Ramirez to be inserted as the A’s designated hitter as soon as the slugger comes off suspension. Melvin said that’s a logical assumption given Ramirez’s prolific hitting career. “He could jump out of bed in December and hit.”

Ramirez agreed to a minor league deal with Oakland on Monday and Melvin expects him in camp Friday, which is the full-squad reporting deadline. Ramirez must serve a 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy, meaning he’s not eligible to play in a regular season game until May 30. Given that, Melvin said he won’t give Ramirez the majority of spring at-bats at DH, but will mix him into a rotation that will likely include Seth Smith, Jonny Gomes, Chris Carter and Kila Ka’aihue. Melvin added that he wouldn’t rule out giving Ramirez an occasional start in left field during the regular season.

Ramirez can play in a 10-game minor league assignment as his suspension nears an end. He’s likely to spend that period with Triple-A Sacramento, according to Melvin.

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What will Manny Ramirez’s impact be on the A’s?

Checking in from Phoenix, where the A’s just announced the signing of Manny Ramirez to a minor league contract.

I have a couple different thoughts on this: First of all, spring training just got very interesting. I expect that Ramirez will attract a throng of national media when he arrives at camp, which is expected to be by the end of this week. He might be arriving right around the same time that Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes checks into camp. Cespedes’ four-year, $36 million deal should be finalized soon. But Ramirez should bring a circus-like atmosphere that’s all his own, thanks to his nutty personality as well as his reported performance-enhancing drug use. For a team that has lacked star power in recent years, this is quite a publicity boost and raises the A’s national profile. And if it boosts ticket sales, that’s a great thing for a club that ranked last in the major leagues in home attendance last season.

However … what will Ramirez’s real impact be on the field? He must serve a 50-game suspension, meaning he’ll miss more than one-quarter of the season by the time he’s eligible May 30. By that time, where will the A’s be in the standings? Will they be so far back that his addition won’t mean much? Or what if the other likely DH candidates (think Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes) really tear it up over those first 50 games. Do they stick in the lineup and does Ramirez get unceremoniously released? It’s worth pondering, but for now, the A’s will bask in the national spotlight a bit. And how often have we said that for a topic non San Jose ballpark-related?

Let’s hear some reaction to the Ramirez signing. Are you counting the days until May 30? Or do you hope that the A’s are hitting so much that adding Ramirez seems unneeded?

Sound off …

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A’s finalize one-year contract with outfielder Jonny Gomes

The A’s finally made official the signing of outfielder Jonny Gomes to a one-year contract, reportedly worth $1 million plus $200,000 in possible incentives. To make room for Gomes on the 40-man roster, the A’s designated for assignment infielder Adrian Cardenas, meaning they have 10 days to trade or release Cardenas, or send him to the minors if he clears waivers.

This decision might have surprised some fans. Cardenas was the marquee prospect obtained from Philadelphia in the Joe Blanton trade of 2008, but he’s failed to crack the majors to this point. “There’s a lot of people in this organization who believe in Adrian and put in a lot of time (with him),” A’s assistant GM David Forst said. “This time of year, you end up having to make tough roster decisions.”

Cardenas’ main position is second base (where Jemile Weeks is now entrenched), and the A’s have also tried him at third base and left field. He’s a career .303 hitter in the minors but has never reached double-digit homers in a single season. You would like to see more power from a potential third baseman or corner outfielder.

The A’s received three players in that 2008 Blanton trade: Cardenas, lefty Josh Outman (recently traded to Colorado along with Guillermo Moscoso for outfielder Seth Smith) and outfielder Matt Spencer (traded to the Cubs along with two others after the 2009 season for Jake Fox and Aaron Miles). Looking back, that deal simply hasn’t panned out.

But it’s worth noting that Cardenas is still just 24. Forst said the A’s would like to retain him if he clears waivers, so perhaps he can still make an impact.

As for the right-handed hitting Gomes, he’ll definitely get at-bats against lefties, either in the outfield or at DH. Smith, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick are the A’s projected outfield starters, left to right. Smith and Reddick hit left-handed and Crisp is a switch hitter. “Clearly we’re left-handed-heavy in both corners and with our potential first base/DH options,” Forst said. “We’ve been on the lookout for an experienced right-handed bat, and Jonny has had a lot of success hitting left-handers over the years.”