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Cook tries to get on top of ball in effort to correct flaw

Ryan Cook says he's trying to get his fingers more on top of the ball to drive it lower in the strike zone.

Ryan Cook says he’s trying to get his fingers more on top of the ball to drive it lower in the strike zone.

It’s good to be a veteran, as the A’s Ryan Cook attested Tuesday.

On Monday he gave up three runs in two innings as his bloated spring ERA settled in at 16.88.

The 2012 All-Star took a matter-of-fact look at the situation.

“If I wasn’t a veteran,’’ he said, “I might not be here right now.’’

Instead of being shipped down to the minor league camp, which would be the fate of a rookie, he’s getting time to work out his issues, spending time with pitching coach Curt Young. He’s healthy and he’s feeling stronger than he has in a couple of years, and he has the advantage of not making himself crazy about his mid-spring struggles.

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Freiman won’t blame weight room work for his back injury

Nate Freiman will miss a couple of weeks with a back strain, setting back his chances of making the A's roster out of spring training.

Nate Freiman will miss a couple of weeks with a back strain, setting back his chances of making the A’s roster out of spring training.

First baseman Nate Freiman said that he injured his back lifting weights this off-season, and even while the resultant muscle strain is causing him to miss a couple of weeks of Cactus League work, he defends against the suggestion that too much work in the weight room is bad for a baseball player.

“Respectfully, I have to disagree with that. I think work in the weight room is very important,’’ Freiman said. “The benefits enormously outweigh the risks.

“I think for every injury you see coming out of the weight room, there are many more injuries on the field that don’t happen because players who work with weights are in such good shape.’’

Freiman does admit this is a major setback to his hopes of making the A’s 25-man roster coming out of spring training. He was going to be hard-pressed to win a job with the A’s having a Rule 5 first baseman, Mark Canha, in camp who has to make the roster or be offered back to the Marlins.

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Zito, Crisp take center stage today for A’s vs. Cubs

Barry Zito's gets his first Cactus League start Thursday against the Cubs.

Barry Zito’s gets his first Cactus League start Thursday against the Cubs.

It’s a quiet morning in Mesa with only a little bit of news coming out of A’s camp

That figures to change this afternoon as former Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito makes his fist Cactus League start of the spring in what he hopes will be a first step toward winning a job in the A’s rotation.

And Coco Crisp will start in left field, marking his move there from center field, his home for most of his big league career.

Zito has a long road to go to make the A’s rotation. The A’s have three spots open behind Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir, but the club is leaning toward giving Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz the first shots at two of those jobs, and Oakland went out and got handful of not-quite-ready-for-primetime pitchers for the fifth spot, including Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman and Chris Bassitt.

It’s a virtual certainty that one of those last three makes the rotation, and two of them making it isn’t out of the question.

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Canha could be intriguing option for A’s at third base

Mark Canha, who went from Bellarmine High to Cal, will get every chance to stick with A's in 2015.

Mark Canha, who went from Bellarmine High to Cal, is mostly a left fielder and first baseman, but he can play some third, and A’s may well give him that chance in 2015.

The smart money says the A’s aren’t done with their tri-annual roster remake, but as we await those, there are some intriguing possibilities put forward by the moves the club already has made since the end of the season.

For me, one of the more compelling is the addition of Rule 5 slugger Mark Canha, the Cal product who is mostly a first baseman and left fielder.

He also plays third base, and has a Triple-A slash line good enough – .303/.384/.505 – that the A’s traded a young pitcher they liked, Austin House, Thursday morning to make sure they could emerge from the Rule 5 draft with Canha, the owner of 68 career minor league homers, in the fold.

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A’s add Ike Davis to first base mix; a deal may not be far off

The A’s added to their stockpile of first base possibilities for the 2015 season Sunday, trading with the Pittsburgh Pirates to get Ike Davis.

In dealing to get Davis, who was designated for assignment by the Pirates three days earlier, the A’s sent international slot position 27 to Pittsburgh while getting international slot spot 86 in exchange.

This means Oakland, which had to designate outfielder Andrew Brown to open space on the 40-man roster for the left-handed hitting Davis, has less money ($270,000 less) available to spend on international free agents without penalty while the Pirates have that much more.

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A’s react positively to loud pregame oration from chaplain

Nate Freiman was one of many A's who liked what he heard from team chaplain Donnie Moore.

Nate Freiman was one of many A’s who liked what he heard from team chaplain Donnie Moore.

The game-winning homer hit by Josh Donaldson in the 10th inning Sunday had competition for the loudest, most impactful noise of the day in the A’s 8-6 win over the Phillies.

Before the game there was Donnie Moore, the A’s team chaplain. He dipped into his persona as a motivational speaker to give the A’s some fire and brimstone in an effort to help the club get itself out of a collective funk.

The A’s had lost 26 of 38 games, and time is running out in the season. Oakland either has to win now or spend the winter mulling over perhaps the greatest freefall in baseball history. The A’s were six games up in the AL West at one point and had the best record in baseball.

Now Oakland is trying to find a way to earn one of the two Wild Card entries into the playoffs. Six teams have more wins than the A’s 85.

Moore runs the A’s Sunday chapel sessions, but upon occasion the former Tennyson High quarterback will be given leave to address the whole team. Sunday was one of those.

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A’s powering down as their season is winding down

Josh Donaldson has struggled along with the rest of the A's hitters.

Josh Donaldson has struggled along with the rest of the A’s hitters.

There are only so many ways to ask the A’s about their frustration level and if their supply of moxie evaporated at the end of July.

Oakland is simply not the same team it was six weeks ago.

For four months, Oakland had the best record in the game, the best run differential, the most runs scored and ranked in the top five in the fewest runs allowed.

The pitch has remained relatively constant, but all the other numbers have fallen off a cliff, mostly because the offense has gone from awesome to awful.

“We were one team for the better part of four months,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “Then for the last month and a half it’s been different.’’

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Pomeranz likely roster space victim after strong start

Drew Pomeranz gave teh A's a huge lift Wednesday, but they may need his spot on the roster Thursday.

Drew Pomeranz gave teh A’s a huge lift Wednesday, but they may need his spot on the roster Thursday.

There have been a lot of “thanks, but no thanks’’ moments for the A’s of late.

They sent down reliever Dan Otero last week. when he had a 7-1 record and 2.28 ERA when they needed the roster space.

They told first baseman Nate Freiman they were sending him down Wedendsday because they needed roster space.

And the man Freiman was moved for, Drew Pomeranz, could be facing the same fate Thursday.

Pomeranz isn’t at all likely to stay in the starting rotation, and even after 5.1 innings in which he allowed one unearned run and did more than his share in a 5-4 A’s win over the Astros, it will be three or four days before he could pitch again. Because the rosters expand after Monday’s game, Oakland could send him down and have him back on Tuesday.

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Will acquisition of Blanks cut into Moss’s playing time?

Brandon Moss has been playing almost daily; will that continue with acquisition of Kyle Blanks?

Brandon Moss has been playing almost daily; will that continue with acquisition of Kyle Blanks?

The A’s tried going to battle with two left-handed first basemen.

Now they are trying it with one left-hander and one right-hander.

Kyle Blanks joins the A’s Friday in Cleveland as the right-handed hitting first baseman, joining Brandon Moss, the lefty. Daric Barton, the other lefty at the season’s start, has been designated for assignment to make room for Blanks.

It never seemed to make much sense to outsiders to have both Moss and Barton on the roster at the same time unless one was going to be the DH and one was going to be the first basemen and both were going to play against both left-handed pitchers as well as right-handers.

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Freiman, Lindblom, Leon cut, but Burns earns Bay Area trip

Athletics first baseman Nate Freiman celebrates two-run homer vs. Astros Aug. 15, 2013

Athletics first baseman Nate Freiman celebrates two-run homer vs. Astros Aug. 15, 2013

The A’s made what are likely their last roster trims in Arizona Sunday when they optioned first baseman Nate Freiman and pitchers Josh Lindblom and Arnold Leon to Triple-A Sacramento.

Lindblom, who had a hitless, scoreless 4.2 innings against the Mariners Sunday before the M’s tagged him in the fifth, was in the mix in the bullpen, but with the A’s short two starting pitchers to the disabled list in Jarrod Parker (Tommy John surgery) and A.J. Griffin (elbow), both he and Leon will be starters for the RiverCats.

“We’re two down in the rotation,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “We need backup.’’

Lindblom served as starter and reliever in the big leagues with the Rangers last year after having been exclusively a reliever with the Dodgers and Phillies. He threw 4.2 innings without allowing a hit or a run Sunday against the Mariners before being tagged for two runs and lifted in a game the A’s lost in the bottom of the ninth, 6-4.

Lindblom said he long since learned how fruitless it was for players to play general manager, ended his spring with a 4.02 ERA and knowing that he’ll be a starter, which is what he would prefer.

Leon, too, made an impact with Melvin this spring with a 2.13 ERA in five games, including one start. The manager called him “highly impressive.’’

As for Freiman, he was a Rule 5 player last year, so the A’s had to keep him on the roster or lose him. This time around, he has options, so the club can send him down without risking losing him. And he needs more at-bats, because 2013 saw him serve almost exclusively against left-handed pitching.

“Nate needs to build up at-bats,’’ Melvin said. “Last year we needed him against left-handed pitchers, and he prepared for that. But he needs to get at-bats against right-handers and play every day.’’

Freiman hit four homers last year after having hit 42 combined in 2011 and 2012 in the minor leagues. Melvin suggests the power will return.

“The power comes when he gets more at-bats,’’ the manager said. “It’s easier to track the ball.’’

Melvin said the A’s won’t be making any more cuts before the Bay Bridge series, which means non-roster outfielder Billy Burns has opened enough eyes that he’ll be in the mix this weekend in San Francisco and Oakland.

“It’s pretty awesome,’’ Melvin said of Burns having made it this far. “I don’t know that he would have through that this would have been the case for him, but he’s earned every bit of it.’’

Burns had two more hits in Peoria Sunday, has 20 hits for the spring and is averaging .313. And let’s not forget the Major League-high 10 steals the fleet Burns had. One of his two hits Sunday was a bunt to the right side that only the fastest of men could have beaten out.