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ALDS Game 5 pressure on shoulders of Oakland organization given its history, not the A’s players

The A’s have been very good at deflecting pressure, putting one foot in front of the other and moving on a very orderly path through the 2013 season.

Does all that change now, with the season down to one game?

They won’t want to admit it, but yes it does.

Just not so much for the players. Most of them went through the disappointment of losing in Game 5 of the 2012 playoffs to Detroit and Justin Verlander, and they know the obstacle the Tigers are.

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Jemile Weeks staying as A’s starting second baseman; Mark Ellis to be utility man

We’re in a rain delay at Citi Field. The announcement just came as rain started falling right around the time first pitch was scheduled for. No word yet on when we’ll start. Until then, here’s the pregame update …

The expected news came down that rookie Jemile Weeks will remain the A’s starting second baseman and Mark Ellis will slide into a utility infielder role. Ellis will be an option at first and third base as well as second, manager Bob Melvin said, and he could start at first as soon as Thursday.

Ellis is handling the news extremely well and saying all the right things, which isn’t surprising considering what a class act he is. “I wasn’t bracing myself,” Ellis said. “I’ve been in (Weeks’) position before. I’ve been that guy before. So I wasn’t bracing myself. But watching him play, I’m proud of him. He’s done a great job, and he’s my teammate.”

At the same time, reading between the lines, I get the feeling Ellis would welcome a trade if it meant going somewhere to be a starting second baseman. “I still see myself as playing second base every day,” Ellis said. “We’ll see what happens there as far as wherever.” Ellis said he has a no-trade clause that allows him to veto a trade to six teams, but didn’t say who they are. I’ve been told by another trustworthy source that the Giants are not one of the six teams. Even with Daric Barton going down to the minors and Conor Jackson being the regular first baseman, the A’s still have two right-handed hitting utility infielders in Ellis and Adam Rosales (Melvin said Rosales will serve as the backup shortstop and not Ellis).

Melvin commended Ellis for how well he took the news, and that Ellis took all the tension out of the conversation when the two talked.

–In other news, left fielder Josh Willingham was scheduled to test his sore Achilles’ tendon by running. That’s the main hurdle for Willingham to clear before he returns to the lineup. He’s OK hitting, he said. If Willingham can’t play Thursday, Melvin said Jackson likely would go to left field and Ellis might play first.

–As things currently stand, Melvin said he envisions Hideki Matsui getting two starts in left field against Philadelphia this weekend, though that depends a lot on Willingham’s availability.

–One man who’s still the odd man out of playing time — David DeJesus. With Jackson playing first, that relieves a bit of the outfield logjam. But you saw how Ryan Sweeney played last night — four hits and a sliding catch in right-center. It’s hard to take that guy out of the lineup right now. DeJesus, like Ellis, is taking his situation very well. “To hang my head and be miserable, the season is way too long to be like that every day,” DeJesus said.

The lineups:
A’s — Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Crisp CF, Matsui LF, Jackson 1B, Sweeney RF, Suzuki C, Sizemore 3B, Gonzalez LHP.

Mets — Reyes SS, Turner 3B, Beltran RF, Bay LF, Hairston CF, Paulino C, Duda 1B, Tejada 2B, Dickey RHP.

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Mark Ellis sits with inner ear problem; Andy LaRoche’s tour of the A’s infield continues

It’s getaway day for the A’s in Toronto, and they want nothing more than to get away with a victory. Trevor Cahill takes the mound looking to help the A’s avoid a three-game sweep. …

Andy LaRoche remains a busy guy. He’s starting at second base today with Mark Ellis experiencing an inner ear problem. LaRoche started at shortstop Tuesday, then played third base Wednesday night. It’s sort of a continuation of what we saw in the spring, when LaRoche bounced around to all four infield spots. Interesting story from the spring: Many utility infielders will have different gloves for different spots – a smaller one for turning double plays at second base or short, and maybe a bigger one for third base. LaRoche told me during camp he prefers sticking with one glove that he’s comfortable with at all three of those positions – advice he once received from Jeff Kent.

Ellis’ inner ear problem is causing him some dizziness but it’s not thought to be vertigo, he said. He felt it a bit during Wednesday’s game (can you imagine backpedaling on a shallow fly to right field if you were dizzy?). Ellis said it was tough sleeping last night, but he gradually felt his ear popping, which relieved some pressure. “I’m not looking forward to the flight (to Minnesota),” he said. Manager Bob Geren said the team was weighing whether it was safe to have Ellis fly today, but driving to Minnesota is not a practical option – too far. The upshot: Ellis won’t play in his 1,000th career game until Friday at the earliest.

Conor Jackson draws a start in right field with David DeJesus getting the day off against Toronto left-hander Ricky Romero. Hideki Matsui is hitting sixth, and Geren said he’ll likely drop DeJesus or Matsui to the No. 6 spot against lefties most games.

A’s: Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Jackson RF, Willingham LF, Kouzmanoff 3B, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, LaRoche 2B, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.

Jays: Davis CF, Nix 3B, Lind 1B, Hill 2B, Rivera RF, Encarnacion DH, Snider LF, Arencibia C, McDonald SS; Romero LHP.

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A’s relievers still being handled carefully; the batting order takes shape

Hideki Matsui makes his A’s debut today, but don’t read too much into the rest of the lineup against the Angels with so many regulars getting the day off. David DeJesus is still trying to shake off a stomach bug, but it’s possible he’ll play tomorrow against the Reds. Here’s your starting nine:

Ellis 2B
Suzuki C
Matsui DH
Jackson 1B
Kouzmanoff 3B
Carson CF
Carter LF
Taylor RF
Tolleson SS

Braden P

**Joel Pineiro is on the hill for the Angels.

–Michael Wuertz is scheduled to throw off the mound Thursday for the first time since his shoulder soreness started. Fellow reliever Craig Breslow has had some tenderness in his throwing arm, according to manager Bob Geren, so there’s no indication yet when he’ll appear in a game. Closer Andrew Bailey is probably 5-7 days away from his first game. Those are three key guys in the bullpen, but I’d attribute their inactivity to the A’s precaution as opposed to anything seriously bothering any of these guys. The plan has been to limit their throwing early to preserve them for the regular season.

–A little insight into the batting order: Geren said he wants a right-handed hitter to bat behind Hideki Matsui (the likely No. 5 hitter). He mentioned Kurt Suzuki, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Mark Ellis as possibilities for the sixth spot. So bit by bit, we can piece together how the order will look. If I had to project right now, I’d say: Crisp, Barton, DeJesus, Willingham, Matsui, Kouzmanoff/Suzuki, Ellis, Pennington.

How would that lineup strike you, A’s fans?

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Thoughts on the 2010 Oakland A’s batting order

I was rummaging through my notes from last week’s A’s media event, and wanted to share some thoughts from Bob Geren about his possible batting order. Geren was asked how he would handle the 1-2 spots, with Coco Crisp and Rajai Davis being the prime candidates at the top of the lineup. His take:

“You can do that a couple different ways. You can go Raj-Coco or Coco-Raj. It might depend on who I bat third and fourth. If you have Suzuki batting third, a right-handed hitter, maybe you go Raj first and Coco second. And then Cust could bat fourth, a lefty. I kind of like to (alternate lefties and righties) if it makes sense, so it’s more difficult for the opposition to match up in the bullpen.”

I know … You were hoping that by now, the A’s might have obtained a better fit for the No. 3 hole than Suzuki, right? Perhaps that’s why we’re hearing the Johnny Damon reports. Anyway, Rajai-Coco (or vice versa) is a natural combo in the 1-2 spots. But I could also see a scenario where Suzuki or Ryan Sweeney could bat second and Davis or Crisp could drop down to the ninth spot. Nothing wrong with lighting a fuse at the bottom of the order.

Here’s my stab at a full lineup if the A’s took their current roster into Opening Night. This is assuming that Eric Chavez is coming off the bench, as the A’s plan, and Chris Carter and Michael Taylor are starting the season at Triple-A:

1. Davis LF
2. Crisp CF
3. Suzuki C
4. Cust DH
5. Kouzmanoff 3B
6. Sweeney RF
7. Ellis 2B
8. Barton 1B
9. Pennington SS

**I didn’t purposely try to go right-left all the way down, just worked out that way …

Let’s hear some thoughts on the A’s options …

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A’s pregame update: Edgar Gonzalez will start Tuesday, Tomko goes Wednesday

All’s quiet this morning on the A’s front … Sunday mornings are odd because there’s usually no regular BP on the field. The pitchers stretch at their own separate time, and players pop in and out of the batting cage at their leisure. Mostly, players were just sitting around watching the Yankees-White Sox on TV. Probably not real different from how you spent your Sunday morning …

A little news to share w/you …

–Edgar Gonzalez is starting Tuesday unless something unexpected happens. Brett Tomko is slated for Wednesday, which bumps him ahead of Trevor Cahill in the rotation to give Cahill a little extra rest. Manager Bob Geren had mentioned yesterday that Tomko could stay on regular days’ rest in the six-man rotation to give the younger guys a longer break. The A’s will especially monitor the innings of Cahill and Brett Anderson, today’s starter, since those two will surpass their innings from 2008 by such a large margin.

–Geren acknowledged it’s real doubtful Dallas Braden returns from his foot infection in time to rejoin the rotation. A little bullpen duty is still a possibility in Geren’s mind, but like I’ve mentioned here before, I would just shut Braden down and make sure he’s good for 2010. My guess is that will happen.

–Asked if there’s a definitive plan for call-ups on Tuesday when rosters expand, Geren said talks have centered “99 percent about pitching.” That means no Travis Buck, at least not right away. There is a chance they could promote a catcher, Geren said. Eric Munson would be the lead candidate …

–Bobby Crosby is expected to be activated from the DL on Wednesday without going on a rehab assignment. My guess is his playing time would likely come at third or second base, whenever Adam Kennedy or Mark Ellis might need a rest. You figure the A’s will keep running Daric Barton and Cliff Pennington out to first base and shortstop, respectively, to evaluate them as much as possible …

Today’s lineups, featuring Ryan Sweeney batting third. Kurt Suzuki and Scott Hairston both have the day off, and Geren likes the way Sweeney is swinging, so he gets bumped to the middle of the order …

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

Anderson LHP

Angels
Figgins 3B
Aybar SS
Hunter CF
Vlad DH
Rivera LF
Morales 1B
Kendrick 2B
Matthews Jr. RF
Mathis C

Lackey RHP

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A’s, Mariners know each other well

A little late with tonight’s post, my apologies on that …

–Landon Powell gets a second straight start tonight for the A’s. He’s at DH after jacking a three-run homer yesterday. Jack Cust is in right field and Rajai Davis gets a night off to rest a sore right thumb.

It’s too bad for Powell he isn’t getting more playing time. He’s really produced when he’s been in there. But other than at catcher or DH, it’s tough finding at-bats for him.

–There was lots of get-reacquainted time on the field during batting practice, as so many former A’s players and coaches are with Seattle. Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu and bench coach Ty Van Burkleo chatted w/Bob Geren. M’s first baseman/DH Mike Sweeney was catching up w/Mark Ellis … And the newest ex-Athletic/current Mariner, Jack Hannahan, is in the lineup at third base against his former team …

The full lineups

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

Mazzaro RHP

Mariners
Gutierrez CF
Branyan 1B
Lopez 2B
Griffey Jr. DH
Hall RF
Johjima C
Hannahan 3B
Wilson SS
Saunders LF

Snell RHP

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Chad Gaudin — familiar foe for A’s

Not much in the way of pregame updates today. But I’ll be interested to see how Chad Gaudin looks tonight going against his old Oakland teammates. Big night for the right-hander, as this is his first start for the Yankees since they acquired him in a trade from San Diego. I talked to him during the A’s trip to San Diego in June, when he was still a Padre, and he was disappointed he wasn’t on turn to face the A’s down there. Surely he’ll have some extra adrenaline flowing tonight, just as Brett Tomko did facing the Yankees on Monday night.

Check out the first four hitters in the A’s batting order tonight: Adam Kennedy, Rajai Davis, Mark Ellis, Kurt Suzuki. That’s not exactly a 1-4 sequence you expected back in spring training, eh? Things are a little funky tonight because Scott Hairston isn’t starting (his quad still isn’t 100 percent). And there isn’t a hotter hitter on the A’s than Ellis, so might as well plug him into the “3″ hole for a night. Suzuki, the DH, gets his first career start at cleanup.

–Joey Devine is backing up to 45 feet to play catch tonight. He said a couple days ago that there wasn’t a set date for him to get on the mound. It’ll be baby steps for him as he continues strengthening his elbow after Tommy John surgery.

–Bob Geren said the team has begun discussions about possible September roster call-ups, and that “obviously pitching will be at a premium.” Triple-A infielders Adrian Cardenas and Brett Wallace are swinging hot bats, as is Double-A first baseman Chris Carter. It’ll be interesting to see if any of them gets a ticket to Oakland. I’d be surprised if Carter didn’t at least get a promotion to Sacramento.

Anyway, here’s tonight’s lineups:

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

Anderson LHP

Yanks
Jeter SS
Damon LF
Teixeira 1B
A-Rod 3B
Matsui DH
Swisher RF
Cano 2B
Cabrera CF
Molina C

Gaudin RHP

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Ellis back at second base for A’s; Buck gets start

We’ll keep this one brief. Mark Ellis returns to the A’s lineup at second base, with Adam Kennedy moving back to third base. Travis Buck gets a start in right field w/right-hander Carl Pavano on the mound for Cleveland. No Nomar Garciaparra tonight. The A’s are still being cautious w/him in the field, and Bob Geren said Garciaparra wouldn’t play in the field tomorrow either. I’m thinking he’ll DH tomorrow as the A’s face a tough lefty in Cliff Lee.

The lineups
A’s
Kennedy 3B
Cabrera SS
Holliday LF
Giambi 1B
Suzuki C
Cust DH
Sweeney CF
Buck RF
Ellis 2B

Mazzaro RHP

Indians
A. Cabrera SS
Sizemore CF
Martinez C
Choo RF
Hafner DH
Peralta 3B
Garko 1B
Valbuena 2B
Francisco LF

Pavano RHP

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Garciaparra starts at DH; Cust hitting seventh

Considering the rut the A’s find themselves in, it’s not surprising Bob Geren held a team meeting on the field before batting practice this afternoon. One message was the need to play better defense after the A’s committed five errors over the past two games. “I just wanted to make sure we separate offense and defense,” Geren said. “If you’re struggling offensively, separate the two sides.” But Geren also wants his players to just relax and have a little more fun. Perhaps that’s why we saw Jason Giambi taking some ground balls at third base (using his first baseman’s mitt, of course!)

Today’s lineup also has a different look to it. Nomar Garciaparra draws his first start since coming off the DL. He’s the DH and batting cleanup, with Jack Cust dropping down to seventh in the order. The A’s have been very cautious in easing Garciaparra back into action. I assume tonight could be a test run. If Garciaparra doesn’t respond well to a full night of activity, he could head back to the DL to open a roster spot for Mark Ellis, who will be activated tomorrow. Geren said he didn’t know when Garciaparra might be ready to play defense, but he wants his bat in the lineup, particularly against lefties. We still don’t know how Garciaparra’s calf will respond when he really has to exert himself on the bases, but Geren added: “He’s moving well. He looks great taking ground balls. It’s just a matter of volume, how much he does. If he’s on base four times tonight, he might not be able to go tomorrow.”

As for dropping Cust in the order? “The last few games he’s not seeing the ball as well as he normally does,” Geren said.

–Adam Kennedy was breaking in his new first baseman’s mitt before the game, in anticipating of seeing time at first when Ellis comes off the DL. Kennedy reiterated he’s ready to play wherever needed. As for Ellis, he said his minor league rehab stint has him ready to roll, and he’s excited to return to second base tomorrow.

And finally, your lineups:

A’s
Kennedy 2B
Suzuki C
Holliday LF
Garciaparra DH
Giambi 1B
Cabrera SS
Cust RF
Crosby 3B
Davis CF

Cahill P

Rockies
Smith LF
Barmes 2B
Helton 1B
Hawpe RF
Tulowitzki SS
Stewart 3B
Atkins DH
Gonzalez CF
Phillips C

De La Rosa P