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Have the A’s found their shortstop in Cliff Pennington?

With the A’s having just rolled out of Minnesota, we got a look at their current shortstop in Cliff Pennington and their former one in Orlando Cabrera. This team has a decision to make in the offseason at shortstop, but I’ll say that Pennington has impressed me with what he’s done so far. That leads me to believe the A’s could be better served by spending their free agent money at other positions (third base? veteran starting pitcher?).

Do you think the A’s should move forward with Pennington as their starting shortstop in 2010? Cabrera said upon his trade to Minnesota that he would be open to re-signing with the A’s this winter. Would you like to see him back in green and gold or perhaps someone else on the free agent market?

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A’s-Sox pregame update — Thursday

It was pouring when I got to Fenway Park about an hour ago, but the sun is out now and it’s looking like this game will start on time. … The Temptations were blasting in the A’s clubhouse this morning — not the usual pregame tunes. I’ll say this: Nomar Garciaparra has seen some Motown clips in his time, judging by the dance moves he was busting out.

No Scott Hairston in the lineup for the third straight day. He says his quad has been slow to recover, but he’s hopeful for tomorrow’s night game in Oakland. Eric Patterson sits today also, with Boston throwing lefty Jon Lester. Ryan Sweeney starts in left field for a change, with Rajai Davis in center and Jack Cust in right.

With the trade deadline just more than 24 hours away, shortstop Orlando Cabrera looked pretty loose this morning, joking around w/his teammates. Manager Bob Geren mentioned how veteran players don’t let trade rumors rattle them this time of year. I’d say Cabrera falls into that category …

The lineups
A’s
Kennedy 2B
Cabrera SS
Garciaparra DH
Cust RF
Everidge 1B
Crosby 3B
Davis CF
Sweeney LF
Powell C

Gonzalez LHP

Sox
Ellsbury CF
Pedroia 2B
Youkilis 1B
Bay LF
Ortiz DH
Lowell 3B
Drew RF
Varitek C
Green SS

Lester LHP

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Buck optioned to Triple-A; Eveland joins team

There’s no shortage of news here at Fenway, where Nomar Garciaparra held a news conference in front of 50-60 reporters and broadcasters, new A’s outfielder Scott Hairston is due to arrive anytime, and lefty Dana Eveland joined the club in place of Dallas Braden, who was placed on the bereavement list. We also just heard that Travis Buck was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento to clear a roster spot for Hairston.

Let’s recap the A’s news. I’ll try to throw some Nomar nuggets into a separate post.

–Hairston is not in tonight’s starting lineup, but he’ll be on the active roster and available if needed. It depends on how quickly he gets here. His flight was due to land in Boston at about 5:30 local time, 90 minutes before first pitch. Geren held his media chat before we got word of Buck’s demotion. But he didn’t offer much when asked about what the Hairston trade says about Buck’s status in the big picture. “He’s still very young. He’s a player that has a bright future.” Asked whether it’s been Buck’s injuries or flat-out ineffectiveness that’s held him back in the organization’s eyes, Geren offered: “Everything blends together. It’s a hard game to play, period. When he’s out of the lineup, it’s due to one factor or another.”

Geren confirmed that Hairston will take over starting center field duties, with Ryan Sweeney seeing lots of time in right field and Jack Cust sliding into the DH role more often. He said he envisions Hairston hitting somewhere in the 3-5 range in the order. “I like what the guys are doing at the top,” Geren said, referring to Adam Kennedy and ORlando Cabrera.

The A’s outfield defense will definitely be stronger when Matt Holliday, Hairston and Sweeney are playing left to right, with Cust at DH. “(Hairston) definitely improves our team offensively, defensively and on the bases. He’s also a very good base runner,” Geren said.

–I believe I hear the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love?” being played on the Fenway organ right now … just had to share.

–Braden flew back to the Bay Area for what Geren called a family matter, but didn’t offer more information. Players can stay on the bereavement list a maximum of seven days. Eveland, 7-1 with a 3.49 ERA in 12 starts w/Triple-A Sacramento since being optioned May 5, could start tomorrow in Braden’s place. But Geren said Edgar Gonzalez also was an option if Gonzalez isn’t needed tonight in relief. If Eveland goes, he’d be pitching on three days’ rest, as he pitched for the River Cats on Friday. Geren said he’d have to check w/Eveland to see if his arm was good to go on three days’ rest, which is odd because Geren also mentioned Eveland could be used tonight (on two days’ rest) if needed out of the bullpen in a pinch …

Tonight’s lineups …

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

Anderson LHP

Red Sox
Ellsbury CF
Lugo SS
Youkilis 3B
Ortiz DH
Bay LF
Varitek C
Baldelli RF
Green 2B
Bates 1B

Smoltz RHP

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Buck returns to Oakland; Outman having surgery tomorrow

The A’s just announced that outfielder Travis Buck has been recalled from Triple-A Sacramento and third baseman Jack Hannahan will be optioned out.  We’ve been told Buck won’t arrive at the Coliseum until after the game starts. With Adam Kennedy now getting time at third and Bobby Crosby still available to play the corner spots, Hannahan’s chances were going to be limited . Buck was hitting .350 for Sacramento as of today, and he gives the A’s a better defensive option in right than Jack Cust, who can also DH (Cust is still in tonight’s lineup in right, as of my writing this). Or perhaps the A’s will give Cust a day off here or there. The guy has played a ton of innings, and it looks like he could benefit from a break. He’s hitting seventh today for the second time in three games.

More news of the day: Left-hander Josh Outman is having surgery on his elbow tomorrow, to be performed by Dr. James Andrews. But still no official word on whether it will be Tommy John (ligament replacement) surgery or something else. Details of the surgery, and Outman’s timetable for recovery, should come after the procedure. But all signs are that Outman won’t be back until sometime during the 2010 season. “He had a great season for us. He’s a fine young pitcher,” Geren said. “Obviously it’s a setback. Obviously a second (opinion) was deemed necessary to (decide on having) surgery.” As for Outman’s replacement in the rotation, Geren still isn’t committing to Gio Gonzalez beyond tomorrow’s start.

Geren continues to shuffle around his batting order looking for a combination that produces some results. Orlando Cabrera is back up in the second spot in the order after Kennedy. Switch-hitting Landon Powell gets a start at DH in order to get as many left-handed bats in against right-hander Rick Porcello as possible. …

The lineups

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

Anderson LHP

Tigers
Granderson CF
Polanco 2B
Cabrera 1B
Thames DH
Raburn LF
Inge 3B
Ordonez RF
Laird C
Everett SS

Porcello RHP

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Bobby Crosby back at shortstop — for a day

Orlando Cabrera is getting his long-awaited first day off of the season, which means Bobby Crosby draws a start at shortstop this afternoon against Seattle. It’s familiar territory for Crosby, of course, being he was the A’s starting shortstop (when healthy) from 2004-08. Although it’s his first start there this season, Crosby did play three innings at short last Monday against Tampa Bay in relief of Cabrera. Cabrera, who played 161 games for the White Sox last season, has said that the occasional break is crucial for him.

Adam Kennedy slides into the leadoff spot for a day. According to baseball-reference.com, Kennedy has started 28 games in the leadoff spot over his career. His approach is pretty basic. “Get on base, however you’re best at getting on base,” Kennedy said this morning. “I don’t think there’s any one way to get on base as a leadoff guy.”

No Nomar Garciaparra in the lineup for a second straight day. He didn’t offer much on the condition of his right calf. “It’s still attached,” he said. Geren is hopeful he’ll be ready to play tomorrow night.

Another injury update: Justin Duchscherer had his throwing session cut short yesterday in Phoenix because his back started bothering him. “His throwing program was set back a couple of days with a little stiff back,” Geren said, adding that Duchscherer’s elbow is feeling good. He’s rehabbing from arthroscopic surgery on his elbow March 31. Duchscherer has said he’s targeting a return sometime in June. Neither Geren nor pitching coach Curt Young thought the back issue will delay him long.

Your A’s lineup for a Memorial Day matinee:
Kennedy 2B; Suzuki C; Cust DH; Holliday LF; Giambi 1B; Ryan Sweeney CF; Buck RF; Crosby SS; Hannahan 3B; Anderson P.

Mariners lineup: Ichiro RF; Betancourt SS; Beltre 3B; Griffey Jr. DH; Mike Sweeney 1B; Lopez 2B; Johjima C; Chavez LF; Gutierrez CF; Jakubauskas 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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A’s 5, Blue Jays 3

If you missed the second inning, you missed all the offense tonight. The A’s five-run rally in the second, highlighted by Ryan Sweeney’s two-run homer, was all the scoring they needed. Another tag-team effort from the bullpen salted away the victory after Josh Outman lasted just 4 1/3 innings.

It was the second straight game Sweeney has batted sixth, and he said afterward he feels more at ease than he did batting leadoff. “I just feel more relaxed,” he said. “I may have put pressure on myself to get on base and make something happen (in the leadoff spot).”

So, Orlando Cabrera and Kurt Suzuki have batted 1-2 over the past two games, and the offense has responded with two encouraging efforts. How much credit should go to Bob Geren’s lineup shuffle? Tough to say for sure.

I’ll be curious to see what happens if new second baseman Adam Kennedy is inserted in the lineup for tomorrow’s game, as Geren said is likely to happen. Where would he hit? Would it upset whatever chemistry has developed?

I’d put him in the eighth or ninth spot right now, thinking maybe he can get on base and help turn the lineup over. But who gets bumped from the lineup? And from the 25-man and 40-man rosters to make room for him?

The A’s currently have six outfielders (including Jack Cust), so maybe they offer Rule 5 pick Ben Copeland back to the Giants. If not, I’d think Gregorio Petit gets optioned. He’s been stuck on the bench. Jack Hannahan has delivered a couple of big hits each of the last two games, so it might be tough to send him down right now. And with the A’s starting pitchers not going deep, I’d think they’d want to keep a 12-man pitching staff. We should get the answer early tomorrow …

Sean Gallagher makes his first start of the season, in place of Brett Anderson. With the game not on TV, I’ll try to provide a couple in-game updates …

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A’s 9, Rangers 4

Pretty good day for the A’s offense obviously, and boy, was it needed.

After shaking up the top of the order today and scoring nine runs, I don’t see why Bob Geren would change things tomorrow. Sure, Orlando Cabrera went 0-for-5 hitting leadoff, but Kurt Suzuki had three hits in the No. 2 spot and help set the table for the heart of the lineup.

But the way I see it, the A’s can tinker w/the top of the lineup all they want. It’s the guys anchoring the middle — Jason Giambi, Matt Holliday and Jack Cust — who have to produce. They did that today, and you saw the results.

–Putting just a tiny damper on the victory was Brad Ziegler’s shaky ninth inning. He entered with a 9-1 lead and left with it 9-4 after getting just one out. Andrew Bailey came in to slam the door. In Ziegler’s defense, an error by Cabrera opened the door to the rally.

But it makes you wonder if Bailey will start getting some of the save opportunities over Ziegler. Geren has dropped hints that Bailey could be in line for some closer’s duty. I don’t think Ziegler’s done enough to lose his handle on the job, but Bailey definitely has more of the classic closer-like stuff, a little like Joey Devine.

–Toronto rolls into town for three games this weekend, followed by Kansas City for two. To the A’s benefit, they’ll avoid seeing both Roy Halladay and Zack Greinke.

Check in w/you tomorrow …

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Ellis, Cabrera both starting today

The A’s will have their starting double-play combo in the lineup together for the first time today against the Chicago White Sox. Mark Ellis will make his spring debut at second base, and Orlando Cabrera is back at shortstop after missing seven games because of the flu and lower back stiffness. Ellis told me earlier this spring he didn’t think it would take long to build chemistry w/Cabrera, but manager Bob Geren is happy to finally get them on the field together. “You can do it in practice quite a bit, but to actually feel it in a game is important.”

The infield may also welcome back third baseman Eric Chavez on Friday night against San Diego. And if Chavez is able to play defense and hit in that game, he thinks it’s conceivable he’d be in the Opening Day lineup. “It depends on the workload I’m able to jam in. If I can play Friday or whatever — get an every-other-day or two-days-in-a-row schedule … Hopefully one of (the Bay Bridge Series games) against San Francisco I’m in there nine innings.”

–Despite Josh Outman’s horrible outing last night against the Royals, Geren said he still considers the lefty in the running for the rotation as well as the bullpen. Doesn’t surprise me. With the rotation a question mark, Outman could serve a very important role as a long reliever if he’s not starting.

–Gio Gonzalez said he was looking forward to throwing a side session later today to see how his left shoulder is feeling. He hasn’t been on the mound since hurting his shoulder a couple of weeks ago.

The starting lineup vs. the ChiSox:

Davis CF
Cabrera SS
Ellis 2B
Cust RF
Sweeney DH
Suzuki C
Doolittle 1B
Crosby 3B
Cunningham LF

Brett Anderson is on the mound (I had written a couple days ago he was throwing on tomorrow’s offday. My bad …)