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A title for Kane County

Nice to see that some of the seasons in the A’s organization aren’t going as dismally as the one the big team is enduring. Kane County, the team’s Single-A affiliate clinched the Midwestern League Western Division title for the first half with a 6-0 win over Wisconsin on Sunday. Shawn Haviland (5-3) earned the win with six strong innings, and Franklin Hernandez hit a grand slam.

Among the Kane County standouts in the first half:

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Looking ahead

Quick question: Is it me or does it seem like we’ve been reading or hearing about the A’s offensive struggles for oh, about a dozen years? OK, so it hasn’t been that long. But the team’s three losses to the Giants over the weekend was all too similar to all too many series for all too long. The A’s talled all of 16 hits, hit .172 and scored three runs.

Not sure how you feel, but to these eyes, it’s gotten old. So thought I’d spend Tuesday morning looking at some of the hitters who might be coming down the road for the A’s.

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The Midland Mashers

Not so long ago, any numbers generated by somebody at Double-A Midland had to be taken with a skeptical eye. Adam Piatt, of all people, earned Minor League Player of the Year honors playing there.

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A’s minor league recap: Rivercats win in 16; Weeks homers again

Here’s a look at the A’s minor league leaders as well as a brief look at what happened down on the farm Friday for their affiliates:
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A’s minor league recap: Weeks hits his first HR

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

Second baseman Jemile Weeks, the A’s No. 1 draft pick last June, has quickly made his presence felt with the Stockton Ports. Weeks went 3-for-6 and hit a home run, and is now 4-for-12 overall in just two games.

The 22-year-old second baseman had been rehabbing at extended spring training while recovering from a torn hip flexor that ended his season last July 29 at Low-A Kane County. He was also battling other minor leg ailments this spring.

Fans in the Bay Area can get their first look at Weeks beginning Sunday in San Jose when the Ports begin a four-game series against the Little Giants. You wouldn’t get them to admit it, but the A’s probably envision Weeks spending much of his career in San Jose.

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

RiverCats 9, Iowa (Cubs) 1: Story l Boxscore

In finishing off Iowa, Sacramento closed its road trip winning seven of eight and has now won 14 of its last 17 overall.

Dana Eveland had his second straight solid start. The lefty allowed just one earned run in 6 2/3 innings, striking out nine. He still struggled with his control, walking four. Still, Eveland has permitted just one earned run in his last two starts, covering 12 2/3 innings, and has given up just five hits while striking out 12.

Loaded question, to be sure, but am I the only one who feels Eveland still has some value?

Aaron Cunningham is hitting .315 after going 3-for-5 with a homer and double.

Daric Barton, who hit his second HR on Wednesday, had two hits and a walk and is now hitting .215.

Danny Putnam hit a grand slam in the ninth for his RiverCats HR. He had seven for Double-A Midland before being promoted. The ex-Stanford star had three hits Thursday night.

The Cats added Henry Rodriguez to their bullpen. Rodriguez worked in three games for Stockton, allowing no runs in five innings and striking out 11.

MIDLAND (Double-A)

RockHounds 12, NW Arkansas (Royals) 8: Story l Boxscore

First baseman Chris Carter drove in three runs and now has 38 RBI, second to Tommy Everidge, who homered for the seventh time and now has 43 RBI. Carter, by the way, would just as soon play all of his games at Midland’s Citibank Ballpark — he’s hitting .384 at home and just .182 on the road.

Adrian Cardenas went 0-for-4 with an RBI. The second baseman came into the game hitting .403 after going 10-for-19 since being sent down from Sacramento.

Corey Brown went 2-for-4 and is hitting .345. In his last six games, the center fielder has gone 13-for-29 (.448).

Carlos Hernandez from Santa Clara picked up his second win in as many Double-A starts. He gave up three runs in six innings.

STOCKTON (High Single-A)

Bakersfield (Rangers) 6, Ports 5: Story l Boxscore

Jemile Weeks had three hits in his last four at-bats Thursday night, including an opposite-field homer while batting left-handed. The switch-hitting Weeks has batted second in both of his games.

Weeks’ home run followed a blast by Jermaine Mitchell, who now has two homers.

Todd Johnson went 2-for-3 with a homer and a pair of RBI.

The Ports had runners in scoring position in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings, but weren’t able to capitalize. Stockton lost on Timothy Smith’s RBI single in the bottom of the 11th.

KANE COUNTY (Low Single-A)

Cougars 5, Great Lakes (Dodgers) 4: Story l Boxscore

Jason Christian drew a bases-loaded walk in the top of the 10th inning that allowed the Cougars to improve to a season-high 11 games above .500 (29-18).

Shortstop Dusty Coleman, one of the more pleasant surprises for Oakland, hit his team-leading eighth homer, a three-run blast to provided a 4-3 lead in the seventh.

Jeremy Barfield, the 20-year-old son of ex-Blue Jays star Jesse Barfield and the brother of Indians infielder Josh, had three hits and is now hitting .295 in 27 games.

Grant Desme had a pair of hits. The 2006 A’s second-round pick is hitting .278.

Pitcher Kenny Smalley, a 24th-round draft pick last year, struck out a career-high nine batters. Smalley went five innings and was charged with two runs when reliever Mike Hart allowed a three-run homer.

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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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The Farm Report

A quick post today before heading out to catch the big club at the Coliseum later this afternoon:

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

— The River Cats used Adrian Cardenas at second base in a 5-3 win over Reno last night, and Cardenas made the defensive play of the night, going behind second base to start a 4-6-3 double play. Keep an eye out to see if he also sees time at shortstop. The A’s are going to need somebody at that spot down the road.

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Monday’s minor-league rundown

News from the farm:

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

One pleasant thing to report: Vin Mazzaro, the talented 21-year-old pitching prospect, has an 0.75 ERA in his past two starts. Something not-so-pleasant: Daric Barton, who is fast turning into Kelvin Moore and other memorable busts, is in a 3-for-27 (.111) slump.

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

Tommy Everidge, last year’s Texas League RBI champ, drove in two runs to give the Rockhounds a quick lead, shortstop Adrian Cardenas erased a deficit with a two-run double, and pitcher Arnold Leon struck out Mark Ori to end an uprising in the ninth in a 7-4 win against Corpus Christi.

SINGLE-A STOCKTON

The Ports (4-14) will take their first two-game winning streak of the season into a three-game series against Visalia. One interesting item: Shane Keough, son of Matt, is hitting .209 in 17 games.

SINGLE-A KANE COUNTY

The Cougars hit three more homers Monday, pushing their Midwest League-leading total to 16, as Petey Paramore (solo), Grant Desme (two-run) and David Thomas (two-run) all went deep in a 10-6 win over Beloit. Kane County rallied from 5-1 down to win their sixth straight home game and capture its fifth straight series to start the season, a team record.

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On the farm

Today, we’re going to start something new on this blog.  We’ll be filing periodic minor-league updates that go beyond the daily updates that the minor-league teams provide. I’ve got calls out to Keith Lieppman and Billy Owens, both of whom are in the know regarding the A’s best prospects. No return calls yet, but as soon as I get some, I’ll update.

In the meantime, through the minor-league season’s first 10 days here’s what stands out.

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

— Vince Mazzaro, who lasted just eight total innings in his first two starts, went six while allowing a run on Monday and lowered his ERA to 1.93. Mazzaro, as everyone probably knows, is likely to be the first one tapped if the A’s need another starter.

— James Simmons, another highly rated prospect, had his best start of the year Tuesday in a 4-2 win at Portland. His overall stats so far aren’t overly impressive, but it’s early.

Daric Barton has been awful. And now he may be out a while. He didn’t play last night after being hit by a pitch on Monday. What’s happened to this guy? Remember when he was touted as a potential Albert Pujols?

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

— The Rockhounds have lost two straight after closing their first 10-game stretch at 7-3.

— SS Adrian Cardenas, whom the A’s acquired from Philadelphia last season in the Joe Blanton deal, was hitting .360 through Tuesday and had hit safely in all but two games. He also was tied for the Texas League lead in hits.

— Chris Carter, whose 39 home runs at Single-A Stockton last season led the A’s organization, has gone deep only once so far, but his 14 RBI were tied for the league lead. I saw this guy last year. He’s a beast.

SINGLE-A STOCKTON

— Bad start for Cal product Tyson Ross, who struggled with arm issues last seaon. Ross lost his first two starts, and his 1.67 WHIP (baserunners per inning) is a red flag. Then again, the team behind him isn’t very good. The Ports are 1-12.

LOW-A KANE COUNTY

— First baseman Steve Kleen is hitting .385 out of the gate and also has eight RBI, contributing mightily to the Cougars’ 7-3 start.

— Kleen isn’t the only one tatooing the ball. SS Dusty Coleman (.342), and outfielder David Thomas (.317) all have been key contributors to Kane County’s .275 average as a team.