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A’s pregame update: Wednesday

Pretty uneventful around the A’s clubhouse leading up to tonight’s game. A replay of the 1989 ALCS playoff series between Oakland and Toronto was on the TV, and players were kidding w/Mike Gallego. Gallego is currently the team’s third-base coach, but back then, he was playing second base for the team and sporting traces of a mullet (not that mullets were unusual on the ’89 A’s). It’s amazing how ancient those old films look now, particularly the TV graphics. Didn’t seem that way then …

On to the news …

The A’s claimed lefty reliever Craig Breslow off waivers from the Minnesota Twins today. He’s expected to arrive tomorrow, and will be the team’s lone lefty in the ‘pen. Manager Bob Geren usually downplays the need for having a set number of lefties or righties, but he acknowledged it would be nice having a lefty specialist of sorts. Breslow’s splits aren’t drastic: Lefties are hitting .211 against him, righties .226. Last year, he had a 1.91 ERA in 49 appearances combined with Cleveland and Minnesota. One thing to watch: He walked 11 in 14 1/3 innings this season w/the Twins.

Nomar Garciaparra (right calf) was not activated from the DL today, as he said the team wanted to save him from playing on the artificial surface of Tropicana Field. This turf has been tough on some A’s players with back problems in the past. But Garciaparra said he had a very good day of work yesterday and that he thinks he can be activated this weekend against Arizona.

Your A’s lineup:
Cabrera SS; Suzuki C; Cust DH; Holliday LF; Giambi 1B; Kennedy 2B; Crosby 3B; Cunningham RF; Davis CF; Anderson P.

And for the Rays:
Upton CF; Crawford LF; Longoria 3B; Pena 1B; Bartlett SS; Aybar DH; Iwamura 2B; Kapler RF; Navarro C; Kazmir P.

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A’s pregame update — Monday

We’re less than an hour from first pitch here in Tampa Bay (St. Petersburg to be precise) … It’s a pretty heavy-activity day for Nomar Garciaparra. He’s run the bases and taken grounders, and he’s about to hit. If today goes well with his right calf injury, I’d think he’s a decent bet to be activated Wednesday, as A’s manager Bob Geren is hoping. ….

Gio Gonzalez was scheduled to land in Tampa at about 4 p.m., but hadn’t made it to the park by the time we talked with Geren. He’ll be used in the same long relief role that Dan Giese was filling before going on the DL. Gonzalez walked 11 batters combined in two outings at Triple-A since he was last optioned, so it’ll be interesting to see how he responds up here when he gets in a game. I think the A’s just like the fact that he has some big league experience, and he’s pitched decently in relief up here. So he got the call.

Considering how he struggled for Sacramento, though, I wonder if his last outing with the A’s stuck w/him a bit. Remember, he was optioned out after pitching five innings in relief and giving up a three-run lead in that 15-inning loss May 3 at Seattle. Can’t blame him too much for that game. Five innings of relief is a lot to ask of anybody…

Today’s A’s lineup: Cabrera SS; Suzuki C; Cust DH; Holliday LF; Giambi 1B; Kennedy 2B; Sweeney CF; Crosby 3B; Buck RF; Gallagher P.

Rays lineup: Upton CF; Crawford LF; Longoria 3B; Pena 1B; Zobrist RF; Aybar DH; Bartlett SS; Iwamura 2B; Hernandez C; Niemann P.

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A mix-and-match Sunday

The A’s are trotting out a funky looking lineup today as they try to avoid the sweep in Detroit. Catcher Kurt Suzuki is getting a day off, and Jason Giambi gets a turn at DH. So Adam Kennedy is hitting second, Jack Cust moves from DH to right field, Bobby Crosby moves across the diamond to first base and Jack Hannahan starts at third. That’s six left-handed hitters in the lineup against right-hander Armando Galarraga (counting switch-hitter Landon Powell, who’s catching).

 Travis Buck, despite an RBI single last night, gets bumped from the lineup. But we also learned this morning that he’s nursing a sore left shoulder. Buck is still diving with abandon after balls in the outfield, and he thinks he aggravated the shoulder with a dive early in the season. Buck has talked before about the need to be smarter about hurling his body everywhere, and I can think of at least a couple of occasions this season when he’s dove for a ball he had no chance of catching. Not only does that put him at injury risk, it lets a runner take an extra base as the ball gets past him. Anyway, Buck has been told that his left shoulder is somewhat weak structurally. So he’s felt a little discomfort even just reaching across his body to make a catch. ”I would say I’ve got to play knowing it’s not going to be 100 percent,” Buck said. “I’ve got to find a way to strengthen it during the season.”

I asked Bob Geren about Orlando Cabrera’s play last night, when he reached down and slapped the ball on the roll to Adam Kennedy for a force-out at second. You might have caught it on ESPN’s “Web Gems”. Geren thinks Cabrera, a native Colombian, has probably made that play before. “In a lot of Latin American countries, they play a game called ‘Flip’ before batting practice,” Geren said. “It’s kind of a fun game. You hit the ball around with your glove. When I saw (Cabrera’s play), it didn’t surprise me one bit. He’s probably played that game a lot. The great thing was Adam Kennedy was ready for it.”

It looks like the earliest Nomar Garciaparra will return would be Wednesday, Geren said. Garciaparra’s right calf was sore after yesterday’s workout, so he’s taking today off. Tampa Bay starts lefty Scott Kazmir on Wednesday, so Geren would like to have Garciaparra’s right-handed bat in there. I didn’t get a chance to grab Garciaparra before the game.

A’s lineup: Cabrera SS; Kennedy 2B; Cust RF; Holliday LF; Giambi DH; Sweeney CF; Crosby 1B; Powell C; Hannahan 3B; Cahill P.

Tigers lineup: Granderson CF; Anderson LF; Thomas RF; Cabrera 1B; Ordonez DH; Larish 3B; Laird C; Santiago 2B; Everett SS; Galarraga P.

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A’s 12, Royals 3

Orlando Cabrera hasn’t struck me as the most vocal guy in the A’s clubhouse. Nice guy, sure. But I didn’t picture him as the take-charge type. Come to find out that it was Cabrera who initiated the players-only meeting for A’s hitters before today’s game. Whatever he said seems to have struck a chord, as the A’s had a season high in runs scored tonight and also put together their biggest rally with a seven-run second inning. Cabrera said his message was simple: Play hard every day, even if it’s in a losing effort.

The A’s made headlines by acquiring four marquee veterans for this season — Jason Giambi, Matt Holliday, Cabrera and Nomar Garciaparra. Of those four, Giambi was the one people pointed to as the clubhouse leader-type, the guy who would speak up when the team fell in a lull. Giambi, indeed, is that type of player. In fact, he and Garciaparra also addressed teammates in the meeting along with Cabrera. But I think the A’s have found a surprise leader in Cabrera along with someone who plays Gold Glove-caliber defense and provides a steady bat.

Just as important as his words, Cabrera raked from the leadoff spot once the game started, going 3-for-5 w/four RBI. Jack Cust hit a three-run homer and Giambi and Holliday added two RBI each.

–One thing I didn’t squeeze into tomorrow’s stories: Reliever Santiago Casilla (sprained right knee) pitched a 1-2-3 inning tonight for Triple-A Sacramento. He’s thrown two perfect innings in his two rehab appearances, and I would think that’s a good sign he’ll be activated from the DL for Friday’s game at Detroit.

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Chavez now battling back problem

The injury news just doesn’t get any better for third baseman Eric Chavez. Already on the DL for an elbow problem, he’s now headed to Phoenix to have his back checked after an MRI yesterday showed a bulging disk. Chavez recently began having back spasms, which initiated the MRI. Bob Geren said they started Sunday, but Chavez wasn’t available before the game to clarify for sure. He’ll be examined by Phoenix-based specialist Dr. Rob Blackaby. Chavez was targeting Friday for a possible return, but now Geren said his return will be pushed back “a couple of weeks for sure.” Can’t say for certain is this is related to the lower back surgery he had in October 2007. …

This development makes a healthy return from Nomar Garciaparra even more important. I saw Garciaparra taking infield practice today, and he’s also been hitting. The thought is he might be ready to come off the DL for this weekend’s series in Detroit. “He’s optimistic about returning somewhat soon,” Geren said. “He’s definitely going to be with us in Detroit, and if he’s ready, I’ll activate him.”

Let’s get away from the injury news for a second, shall we? The clubhouse emptied out earlier than usual today, as the A’s held a players’ only meeting on the field before batting practice. Not sure what the motivation was, or who called it. But it’s time somebody lights a fire under this team before they dig too big of a hole to crawl out of.

You should have seen the show Matt Holliday was putting on during BP not long ago. He crushed at least two homers to center that hit near the strip of concrete running just underneath the luxury suites. Absolute bombs. Jason Giambi put a couple in the second deck in right field. … I know, I know. This is sort of like being impressed by NBA players dunking during a shootaround, right? But it’s still quite a spectacle to watch …

Dallas Braden’s left hand is doing better, but he’s still wearing an Ace bandage and you can still see the lace marks on his swollen knuckles. He said he’ll try throwing a bullpen session tomorrow. The plan is for Braden and Brett Anderson (blister) to start Friday and Saturday, or vice versa. But at this point, they’re both a question mark. Geren mentioned Sean Gallagher and Dan Giese as candidates who could fill in if needed. Doesn’t sound like the A’s plan to call anybody up to take those starts, but as we’ve found, things change quickly with this team.

Some encouraging news: After throwing a scoreless inning for Single-A Stockton on Saturday, reliever Santiago Casilla is scheduled to make another rehab appearance tonight for Triple-A Sacramento. If that goes well, he could be activated Friday.

Your A’s lineup for tonight:
Cabrera SS; Suzuki C; Giambi 1B; Holliday LF; Cust DH; Sweeney CF; Kennedy 2B; Buck RF; Hannahan 3B; Cahill P.

For the Royals:
Crisp CF; DeJesus LF; Teahen 3B; Guillen RF; Butler 1B; Jacobs DH; Callaspo 2B; Buck C; Aviles SS; Hochevar P.

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A’s trade for Adam Kennedy; he’ll start at 2B

Expect a different face out at second base for the A’s as soon as tomorrow. They acquired Adam Kennedy from the Tampa Bay Rays today for a player to be named later. He’s expected to arrive in Oakland tonight, and Bob Geren indicated he’d get Kennedy in the lineup immediately. “We’ll give him a shot to get out there,” Geren said. “He’s similar to other players here. He’s very experienced, he’s been in pennant races, the postseason. He’s a good base runner and good fielder, and he’ll bring another veteran presence to the team.”

Obviously the A’s felt they needed an experienced everyday-type player with Mark Ellis likely to miss at least another month with a strained left calf. And calf injuries can linger for longer than expected, so I’m sure that factored into the A’s decision-making. Although Gregorio Petit provided a spark at the plate last weekend in Seattle, they must not be sold on him as a starter. With Eric Chavez’s uncertain status, Bobby Crosby will be needed more at third base (Chavez took grounders today during batting practice, but I don’t believe he made any throws. I saw him tossing the ball to Jack Hannahan).

The A’s will have to bump somebody from the 40-man roster to make room for Kennedy, who was on Tampa’s Triple-A roster. Kennedy is a .276 hitter over his 10-year major league career. He was the Cardinals’ main second baseman last year, hitting .280 in 115 total games. Geren wouldn’t predict where he’d bat Kennedy in the lineup.

Other tidbits …

–Reliever Santiago Casilla will make a rehab appearance for Single-A Stockton tomorrow. He’ll pitch a couple days later for Triple-A Sacramento, and if his sprained knee is feeling good, he’ll be activated from the DL next Friday, when the A’s open a seven-game road trip in Detroit.

–Nomar Garciaparra ran again today, but no word on his timetable for coming off the DL. Ditto for Chavez.

–Lefty Brett Anderson has been throwing with a protective device on his left index finger to protect his blister. He isn’t likely to make his next start until next weekend in Detroit, Geren said. With two offdays before then, the A’s have some flexibility to rework their rotation a bit.

Tonight’s A’s lineup. Not surprisingly, it’s identical to the one that produced nine runs yesterday:

Cabrera SS; Suzuki C; Giambi 1B; Holliday LF; Cust DH; Sweeney CF; Crosby 2B; Buck RF; Hannahan 3B; Outman P.

Blue Jays lineup: Scutaro SS; Hill 2B; Rios RF; Wells CF; Lind DH; Rolen 3B; Millar 1B; Barajas C; Bautista LF; Richmond P.

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“Tommy John” surgery for Devine

It’s about an hour until first pitch this afternoon at Yankee Stadium. No sign of rain, but still overcast skies. As for your morning A’s news:

Manager Bob Geren confirmed that Joey Devine had reconstructive surgery on his elbow (Tommy John surgery), and that the estimated time for recovery is 8 months to a year. Fautino De Los Santos, the A’s prospect who had the procedure last May, has taken about a full year to recover, so I’d say that’s the more realistic timetable.

As I wrote this morning, it’s obviously a costly blow for the A’s. Devine was being counted on to share the ninth inning this season. And though Brad Ziegler has been solid as the closer, it hurts not having a pitcher of Devine’s caliber available as a late-game option.

No Eric Chavez in the lineup today, as it’s a day game after a night game. Geren said during the spring that Chavez wouldn’t play in day games after night games, but he’s hoping it won’t be necessary as the season goes on. Bobby Crosby gets the call at third today, with Jason Giambi DH’ing and Landon Powell playing first.

Nomar Garciaparra is hitting today and doing a little more running, and he told me this morning he’s aiming to return Friday. Tomorrow’s offday gives him an extra day of rest. The A’s have missed his bat against this slew of lefty pitchers they’ve faced. But as Geren said, “Nomar is a good hitter, period. He’s not necessarily better against lefties or righties. Missing a bat of his caliber always (hurts).”

One last tidbit: It’s confirmed that the A’s and Yankees will make up Monday’s rainout on July 23 at Yankee Stadium, meaning they’ll now play a four-game series here July 23-26.

A’s lineup: Sweeney CF; Cabrera SS; Giambi DH; Holliday LF; Cust RF; Suzuki C; Ellis 2B; Powell 1B; Crosby 3B; Anderson P.

Yankees lineup: Jeter SS; Damon LF; Teixeira 1B; Posada C; Cano 2B; Swisher RF; Matsui DH; Cabrera CF; Ranson 3B.

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Chavez starting at third; still no Nomar

Quick update here from Rogers Center, where the A’s wrap up a three-game series against the Blue Jays. A victory today would give them the series win and take some good vibes into a three-game series w/the Yankees, where the intensity is sure to crank up a notch.

Eric Chavez is in the lineup at third base. He threw this morning and took BP and looked good (that’s according to Bob Geren, who was pitching to him). Still no Nomar Garciaparra, who can’t lick this right calf problem. “He feels better today than he did yesterday,” Geren said, adding that the DL is not being discussed yet for Nomar. Not having his right-handed bat Saturday or today hurts the A’s, as Toronto has gone w/three left-handed starting pitchers. The A’s also get lefties Andy Pettitte and C.C. Sabathia out of the chute in New York.

Jason Giambi is at DH, w/Landon Powell playing first base, his second start there in the past four games. It’s an effort to preserve Giambi’s legs a bit. Plus, Geren wanted to get Powell, a switch hitter, into the lineup without sitting Kurt Suzuki, another right-handed bat.

A’s lineup: Sweeney CF; Cabrera SS; Giambi DH; Holliday LF; Cust RF; Chavez 3B; Suzuki C; Ellis 2B; Powell 1B; Braden P

Jays lineup: Scutaro SS; Hill 2B; Rios RF; Wells CF; Millar DH; Rolen 3B; Overbay 1B; Raul Chavez C; Snider LF; Romero P

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Time warp in Toronto

Tune in to tonight’s series opener between the A’s and Blue Jays, and you’ll see the Jays wearing their powder blue throwback unis, as they wore during the 1980s. Is it powder blue? Carolina blue? No idea … I guess we’ll just call it Blue Jay Blue. They wear them for every Friday home game as part of a “Flashback Friday” promotion. …

Josh Outman starts for the A’s against lefty David Purcey, but the talk surrounding the Jays is their impressive offense out of the gate. Bob Geren talked before the game about how Toronto’s offense has done well supporting a young pitching staff, which is what the A’s are trying to do. “They’re always a team that when you come in here, you know they’re going to provide some offense,” Geren said. “They always play us tough.” Former Athletic Marco Scutaro has been terrific in the leadoff spot. He already has 3 HR’s, and he’s never hit more than nine in an entire season.

No Eric Chavez today, and probably not tomorrow or Sunday either. He says Monday is the day he’s likely to return, and he sounded pretty certain about it, for what it’s worth. He’ll take BP tomorrow, and if all goes well, he’ll throw and take grounders Sunday. In Oakland, he had mentioned possibly playing Saturday or Sunday, but the training staff is holding him back from throwing an extra day, thus Monday is the target.

Nomar Garciaparra is DHing tonight, so Bobby Crosby starts at third. The turf here in Toronto can be tough for anybody dealing w/leg issues (Garciaparra’s calf is giving him trouble), and Geren wants Garciaparra to start at third in tomorrow’s day game, so he’s saving him as much as possible.

No fresh news on reliever Joey Devine. He underwent those additional tests on his elbow, and he’s going back to visit Dr. James Andrews on Monday. The A’s should know more by Tuesday.

The lineups:

A’s — Sweeney CF; Cabrera SS; Giambi 1B; Holliday LF; Garciaparra DH; Cust RF; Suzuki C; Ellis 2B; Crosby 3B; Outman P

Jays — Scutaro SS; Hill 2B; Rios RF; Wells CF; Lind DH; Rolen 3B; Millar 1B; Barrett C; Bautista LF; Purcey P

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No Holliday for A’s tonight

Not a ton to report from tonight’s pre-game happenings at Angel Stadium. The major news: Matt Holliday is not playing because he’s sick. So Travis Buck is starting in left field and Jack Cust is back in right field. Jason Giambi is once again DH, with Nomar Garciaparra getting another start at first and batting cleanup in Holliday’s place.

Holliday was not at the ballpark as of about 5:45 tonight, but Geren was hopeful he might be able to play tomorrow after getting some rest.

–Thought I’d include both teams’ lineups tonight. For the A’s:

Sweeney CF; Cabrera SS; Giambi DH; Garciaparra 1B; Chavez 3B; Cust RF; Suzuki C; Buck LF; Ellis 2B; Cahill P

For the Angels: Figgins 3B; Kendrick 2B; Abreu RF; Guerrero DH; Hunter CF; Morales 1B; Rivera LF; Mathis C; Aybar SS; Moseley P

–I noticed the rosters have been posted for most of the A’s minor league teams, so check them out.

Click here for Triple-A Sacramento, here for Double-A Midland, here for high Single-A Stockton and here for low Single-A Kane County.

A couple of things that caught my eye: The starting infield you’re likely to see on any given night in Sacramento could have been an A’s starting infield last season (Daric Barton, Cliff Pennington, Gregorio Petit and Jack Hannahan among that bunch). Midland’s infield includes a couple of top-tier prospects in first baseman Chris Carter and middle infielder Adrian Cardenas. …