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Game 159 wrapup: Last two games aside, A’s have done well vs. top pitchers; It’s rookie hazing day for flight to Seattle

Dan Straily as Wolverine

Dan Straily as Wolverine

This is perhaps an odd time to concern oneself with the Oakland offense, but the A’s have gone from scoring early and often in game after game to having scored one run in the last two starts.

That in itself wouldn’t be too miserable if it were not for the fact that the A’s face Felix Hernandez in Seattle Friday and they haven’t scored a run off the King in two starts this year.

Having three of the final five games before the playoffs start be games in which they haven’t been able to score much is not the tone the A’s want to set.

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Game 145 wrapup: Reddick may be ready for a start; Gray has no problem sitting while A’s are scoring; Milone finally get an inning of work

A’s right fielder Josh Reddick may have played his way back into a start or two in the near future.

Talking before the game, manager Bob Melvin said he was finding it difficult to put Reddick, who hasn’t played in over two weeks thanks to a wrist injury, into the lineup. Brandon Moss and Daric Barton both are doing well in Reddick’s absence and the A’s were 11-4 since Reddick’s injury.

The A’s made it 12-4 Wednesday, but the scope of the win, 18-3, and the fact that the A’s scored early and often changed the dynamics for Reddick.

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Yoenis Cespedes shows up to take physical, will join A’s on Sunday

Well, Yoenis Cespedes arrived to A’s camp Saturday — sort of. He showed up to take his physical and met a few people, but the team isn’t announcing he has joined the team yet. Passing his physical is the last step for the Cuban outfielder’s four-year, $36 million deal to be finalized. It’s rather odd to see a player walk into the clubhouse, shake some hands, but no one is officially acknowledging his existence. At any rate, Cespedes missed the first two weeks of spring training while awaiting his visa paperwork to be processed. He will join his teammates on the field Sunday and address the media for the first time. Players were having fun with his arrival. “It’s a big day for you guys,” Jonny Gomes joked to writers, knowing full well how much ink Cespedes has received before he even showed up.

In other news, A’s manager Bob Melvin discussed his closer situation and said that choosing a ninth-inning man will depend partly on what the full composition of the bullpen looks like. He said spring results for veterans such as Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes won’t factor so much into the decision because of those pitchers’ vast experience. He stopped short of labeling those two front runners to be closer. Fautino De Los Santos and Joey Devine are also under consideration.

But one factor in the decision will be how many left-handed relievers the A’s break camp with. If Fuentes is the only lefty in the bullpen, for example, it might be tough to use him as closer because he might be needed for matchup situations earlier in the game. And that will take some time to play out. Jerry Blevins, Jordan Norberto and Pedro Figueroa, who has impressed early, are all lefty relievers who are legitimate candidates to make the team.

Manny Ramirez originally was going to serve as D.H. on Sunday against the Cubs in Mesa. Instead, Chris Carter will play that entire game at D.H. and Ramirez will start Monday’s split-squad home game against the Angels. “Carter’s the one guy, he had just one at-bat (Friday) and he’s not starting (Saturday),” Melvin said. “So I’ll give him several at-bats (Sunday).”

First baseman Daric Barton had an MRI on his surgically repaired right shoulder, which will delay his throwing program and likely hinder his chances in the first base competition. Barton said he started feeling sore recently as his throwing increased. After missing a couple of days, he was back doing infield work Saturday morning. He is scheduled to swing the bat Sunday and might be available to DH on Monday.”It’s good to be back on the field and be a part of the team again,” Barton said.

We’re off to Peoria for this afternoon’s game against (who else!!) the Mariners. It’s one of the longer Cactus League road trips for the A’s. Surprise Stadium, spring home of the Rangers and Royals, still takes the prize for longest drive from A’s headquarters.

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A’s add Chris Carter to 40-man roster — where does he fit best?

As you all know, the battle at first base will be one of the more interesting storylines for the A’s come spring training. Clearly, they need more pop at the plate from whoever’s playing first. The A’s have a logjam of youngsters at the position, but things would be less crowded if stud hitting prospect Chris Carter could play the outfield adequately. Check out this interview at Minor League Ball, where GM Billy Beane addresses that very topic. He says the ideal scenario would have Carter playing the outfield once he’s brought up to the majors. A couple different A’s officials have told me for some time now that Carter has the tools to be a decent left fielder.   And honestly, would he have to be that great? The A’s have shown they’re willing to use a defensive question mark in the outfield if it means getting a needed bat in the lineup.

Carter, by the way, was added to the A’s 40-man roster Friday, along with pitchers Fautino De Los Santos, Pedro Figueroa and Justin Souza.

But here’s a couple issues to consider: How soon will Carter be ready for the majors? Will one of the other first base candidates – Daric Barton, Sean Doolittle, Tommy Everidge, etc. – hit well enough to allow Carter to play somewhere else? Doolittle missed most of the 2009 season recovering from a tear in his left patella tendon, which he tried to rehab without surgery. He encountered road blocks in his recovery, and scout.com reported that Doolittle recently underwent knee surgery to fix the tear. It’s unknown whether he’ll be ready for the start of spring training.

Let’s remember that Scott Hairston’s status also will affect Carter, if Carter is indeed considered for left field. I honestly don’t have a read on how the A’s feel about Hairston at this point. They gave up three pitchers to get him from San Diego in July, and used him as the regular left fielder when he was healthy. Now Hairston is arbitration-eligible. I see the A’s tendering him a contract, but he got a rather lukewarm endorsement from Beane at the end of the season.

How do you see Carter fitting into the A’s puzzle???

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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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A’s minor league recap: Weeks hits grand slam as Ports end losing streak

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

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

RiverCats 3, Tacoma (Mariners) 2: Story l Boxscore

Dana Eveland is now 4-0 for the RiverCats as the lefty went six innings and allowed just one earned run. Eveland gave up three hits, three walks and struck out five.

Ryan Webb (fourth round, ‘04) got his first save.

Gregorio Petit had a two-run home run, his third homer of the season.

Travis Buck went 1-for-3 and is hitting .364 through four games while on rehab assignment.

MIDLAND (Double-A)

Corpus Christi 4 (Astros), RockHounds 3: Story l Boxscore

First baseman Chris Carter blasted his ninth homer of the season and second baseman
Alex Valdez also homered, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a RockHounds loss.

Jared Lansford gave up two runs in the eighth and was tagged with the loss. Corpus Christi catcher Jason Castro, the ex-Castro Valley High and Stanford star, scored the game-winning run.

STOCKTON (High Single-A)

Ports 5, Visalia (Diamondbacks) 4: Story l Boxscore

Jemile Weeks hit his first professional grand slam and Tyson Ross picked up his first pro win as the Ports ended their eight-game losing streak.

Weeks, whose grand slam highlighted a five-run third inning, now has four homers and 14 RBI in 14 games. He has a .464 on-base percentage and his OPS sits at 1.067.

Ross, who lasted five innings and allowed three runs, wound up tying his career-high with seven strikeouts.

KANE COUNTY (Low Single-A)

Cougars 2, Wisconsin (Brewers) 1: Story l Boxscore

Pedro Figueroa continued his solid pitching as he improved to 6-2 by throwing six strong innings. He allowed just one unearned run and has permitted just two earned runs in his last 24 innings, covering four starts.

Closer Mickey Storey notched his seventh save and lowered his ERA to 0.63. The 23-year-old righty has allowed just five hits in 14 1/3 innings and has 19 strikeouts.

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A’s minor league recap: Mazzaro looks ready for big leagues

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

The arbitration clock appears to be the only thing standing between Vin Mazzaro and a spot in the A’s rotation. After Mazzaro’s dominating effort Friday night, what other reason could there be for not promoting the 22-year-old right-hander?

Mazzaro flirted with a no-hitter against Omaha and it figures to be just a matter of a bad start or two by a current A’s starter before he’s in Oakland.

Meanwhile, Adrian Cardenas’ difficult time in Triple-A have come to an end as the A’s top middle infielder prospect was sent back to Double-A Midland. However, Cardenas was in the middle of another huge night offensively for the RockHounds on Friday.

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

RiverCats 3, Omaha (Royals) 1: Story l Boxscore

Vin Mazzaro fired eight innings of one-hit, shutout ball against Omaha to lower his ERA to 2.66. Mazzaro, who got no decision in the Cats’ 12-inning win, walked just one and struck out six. Over his last three starts, the A’s third-round pick from ’05 has gone 21 innings and given up just five hits and one earned run _ for an ERA of 0.43.

Eric Patterson had an RBI triple and Danny Putnam followed with an RBI single in Sacramento’s two-run 12th inning. Gregorio Petit had snapped a 0-0 tie with a run-scoring hit in the top of the 11th, but the struggling Jerry Blevins gave up the tying run in the bottom of the inning.

Cliff Pennington was 3-for-3 with a walk and is hitting .283.

MIDLAND (Double-A)

RockHounds 24, Corpus Christi (Astros) 6: Story l Boxscore

Midland abused Corpus Christi pitching while amassing 24 runs on 28 hits, including four apiece by four different players. Here’s the RockHounds’ honor roll from last night:

Adrian Cardenas: After hitting .177 in Sacramento, he resumed his torrid Texas League hitting by going 4-for-5 with 3 RBI. Cardenas is hitting .398 with 22 RBI in 20 Double-A games.

Corey Brown: Went 4-for-5 with six RBI and five runs, and came within a single of the cycle. He’s hitting .326 with five HRs and 22 RBI with an OPS of 1.044 in 95 at-bats.

Archie Gilbert: Ex-James Logan High star went 4-for-7 as his OBP stays over .400.

Matt Spencer: Went 4-for-5 with four RBI.

Matt Sulentic: Had two hits and 3 RBI and the 21-year-old outfielder is hitting .444 over his last eight games, boosting his average to .306.

Josh Donaldson: Went 3-for-3 with two RBI and is hitting a season-high .273.

Chris Carter: Had 2 doubles, 3 RBI and is hitting .268 with four homers, 32 RBI.

Tommy Everidge: Had three RBI and is now second in league with 37 RBI.

In injury news, 20-year-old reliever Arnold Leon is on the disabled list with a strained right elbow.

STOCKTON (High Single-A)

Ports 4, Visalia (Diamondbacks) 1: Story l Boxscore

Things are looking up in Stockton, as witnessed by a thoroughly dominating show by Ben Hornbeck. The 21-year-old lefty, making his Stockton debut, struck out a career-high 12 in six innings and allowed just one hit and one walk.

Hornbeck (32nd round, ’08) has probably been the best pitcher in the minors this year, having gone 4-0 with a 1.24 ERA at Kane County before last week’s promotion to the Ports. On Friday, Hornbeck struck out the side in two consecutive innings and finished by striking out eight of his last nine batters.

Larry Cobb drove in two runs, including one on a solo homer, to spark the Ports’ offense. Justin Friend of Tracy picked up his first save, as regular Ports closer Jon Hunton was promoted to Double-A.

Hard-throwing Henry Rodriguez recently was activated after recovering from offseason hernia surgery. Rodriguez, whose fastball has been clocked at 100 mph, has pitched in two games for Stockton, throwing three scoreless innings with seven strikeouts.

More excitement should be on the way shortly as second baseman Jemile Weeks, last year’s No. 1 pick, figures to arrive from extended spring training in Arizona in a matter of days.

KANE COUNTY (Low Single-A)

Cougars 6, Wisconsin (Brewers) 3: Story l Boxscore

Pedro Figueroa, a smallish (6-foot-1, 164 pounds) left-hander, threw seven strong innings as the Cougars (25-16) stretched their Western Division lead to 2 1/2 games. Figueroa (4-1, 5.40 ERA) gave up six hits, three runs, one walk and struck out five.

Franklin Hernandez had three RBI.

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A’s minor league recap: Kane County’s Figueroa dominant in win

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

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

As noted Friday, the RiverCats lost 5-1 to Portland (Padres) despite a strong start by Vin Mazzaro.

Sean Gallagher makes his first start for the RiverCats Saturday night against Las Vegas (Blue Jays).

MIDLAND (Double-A)

The Rockhounds got three hits from Tommy Everidge, two hits from Chris Carter (.328) and a homer from Danny Putnam in their 9-3 victory over San Antonio (Padres).

STOCKTON (High Single-A)

Catcher Raul Padron now has six RBI in just three games for the Ports, but that was about the only bright spot in Stockton’s 4-2 loss to Bakersfield (Rangers) on Friday.

KANE COUNTY (Low Single-A)

Lefty Pedro Figueroa was dominant in the Cougars’ 8-1 win over Burlington (Royals). The 23-year-old threw seven shutout innings, allowing five hits, no walks and striking out nine.

Kane County’s offense was boosted by home runs from Jason Christian, Grant Desme and catcher Juan Nunez.