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A’s pregame update — Wednesday

Slow news day on the A’s pregame front … Bob Geren said there’s a good chance Ryan Sweeney might be activated tomorrow. That’s assuming Sweeney’s left knee feels good after another workout in center field today. He looked OK retreating back to catch a couple deep flies during batting practice, for what it’s worth.

Geren was asked a couple of follow-up questions on his 10th inning argument last night that resulted in a double-play call being overturned in the A’s favor. Replays showed Jason Giambi came off first and made the tag on James Loney, but first base umpire Adrian Johnson called him safe. Geren asked the umpires to discuss it, and after a conference, home plate umpire Ted Barrett ruled Loney was out. I asked Geren if he was surprised to get a call overturned in his favor, just because it seems 99.9% of those arguments end with the manager walking back to the dugout and things remaining status quo.

“I don’t know if I was surprised,” he said. “I was happy that they all got together and asked if somebody had a better angle.”

On to tonight’s lineups, featuring Jack Cust batting second with right-hander Hiroki Kuroda on the hill for L.A. …

A’s
Kennedy 2B
Cust RF
Holliday LF
Giambi 1B
Suzuki C
Cabrera SS
Hannahan 3B
Davis CF
Cahill P

Dodgers
Pierre LF
Furcal SS
Hudson 2B
Loney 1B
Blake 3B
Ethier RF
Kemp CF
Martin C
Kuroda P

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Suzuki back hitting second

I’ve been to Dodger Stadium one time previously, during a family trip to Disneyland many years ago. But I forgot a lot of the characteristics. The media entrance takes you on to the 5th deck behind home plate. I thought my ears were gonna pop. … The A’s haven’t been here in quite some time either — the 2000 season to be exact.The forecast called for possible rain, but it’s warm. Perfect night for ball …

–More shuffling in the A’s batting order … Adam Kennedy is hitting leadoff like Sunday, but Kurt Suzuki has been moved back up to the No. 2 spot and Jack Cust is back hitting third. Orlando Cabrera is sixth. Bob Geren said he didn’t put Cust back in the ‘2’ hole because he didn’t want left-handed hitters batting back-to-back atop the order against Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw. Against righties, Geren said he might try Kennedy-Cust in the first two spots again. “I’m going to keep Cabrera down in the lineup,” Geren said, noting Suzuki’s .323 on-base percentage compared to Cabrera’s .280.

–Geren said he’s inclined to install Ryan Sweeney back as his regular center fielder once he’s activated from the DL. He’s eligible Thursday. It was worth asking the question since Rajai Davis has made some impact while filling in for him. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the right-handed hitting Davis continue to play some against lefties, since Sweeney has been much more effective against right-handed pitchers.

Sweeney said he was feeling good before batting practice, and he was scheduled for full pre-game baseball activity, including tracking down balls hit to his left and right. He thinks that’s the big test for his left knee. He’s optimistic about possibly being ready Thursday.

Tonight’s lineups:

A’s
Kennedy 2B
Suzuki C
Cust RF
Holliday LF
Giambi 1B
Cabrera SS
Hannahan 3B
Davis CF
Braden P

Dodgers
Pierre LF
Furcal SS
Hudson 2B
Blake 3B
Loney 1B
Kemp CF
Ethier RF
Martin C
Kershaw P

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A’s 4, Twins 3

Just a quick update on the A’s outfield corps, which has suddenly gotten pretty thin. Aaron Cunningham left tonight’s game with a concussion after he was beaned in the helmet by an Anthony Swarzak fastball. Cunningham was taken to the hospital for X-rays, but there was no further update on his condition. The A’s were already down to four outfielders, because Ryan Sweeney went on the DL and they chose to promote first baseman Daric Barton rather than another outfielder. A trip to the DL would certainly seem possible for Cunningham, but we’ll know more tomorrow.

–Anyone out there got any thoughts on who the A’s will choose with the 13th pick in the draft tomorrow? The common logic is it will be a pitcher, since the top of the draft is so deep with pitching. I threw out a few candidates in my notebook for tomorrow’s paper, so check that out.

A couple names I didn’t throw out:

–Arizona State right-hander Mike Leake. The A’s drafted this kid out of high school back in 2006, and now he’s one of the top right-handers in this year’s class after a standout career as a Sun Devil. He doesn’t blow up the radar gun, but he’s said to have great command, and we know the A’s often value that more than velocity (see James Simmons: 2007).

–We’re talking a real dark-horse candidate here, but keep the name Mike Trout in mind. He’s a high school center fielder from New Jersey that Baseball America projects will go in the first round. I know GM Billy Beane was in New Jersey doing some scouting recently, though he could have been checking out any number of prospects. Anyway, this is a longshot, since the A’s haven’t taken a high school position player in the first round since Eric Chavez in 1996. But scouts think Trout is a five-tool guy, and his competitiveness draws comparisons to Aaron Rowand.
Just throwing this one out there.

When it comes to outfielders, they could also consider Sacramento State’s Tim Wheeler or Notre Dame’s A.J. Pollock. Or, they could just do the expected thing and grab a pitcher. We’ll find out tomorrow …

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Ryan Sweeney to DL; Daric Barton returning

Bob Geren was late for his pre-game media chat, but he had a pretty good excuse: The A’s decided to put Ryan Sweeney on the 15-day DL with a sprained MCL in his left knee. His replacement on the roster?

First baseman Daric Barton.

Barton got word about 4:30 p.m. and is driving to the Coliseum from Sacramento right now. The A’s like the way he’s been swinging the bat lately at Triple-A. He’s hitting just .245 with three homers and 32 RBI after getting off to a slow start. But he’s turned it on over his last 10 games, hitting .357 with a homer and eight RBI. Who could have predicted he’d be back this soon? You know all about his 2008 season, when he got his shot as the everyday first baseman but struggled mightily at the plate.

He was hard-pressed to win a roster spot in spring training after the A’s signed Jason Giambi and Nomar Garciaparra, and a quad injury ensured Barton would start in Triple-A.

Sweeney has missed five games, so his DL stint is retroactive to June 3, and he’s eligible to return June 18. Geren said surgery does not appear necessary for Sweeney. He added that Barton could draw some starts at first base to allow Giambi (who’s dealing with a sore lower right calf) to DH some. Jack Cust’s back is well enough for him to play right field in that scenario. Plus, Bobby Crosby is still with his wife, who’s in labor with their first child, so he won’t be available as an infield option for tonight and perhaps longer.

There’s been speculation about whether prospect Sean Doolittle had passed Barton on the pecking order as the future first baseman. But Doolittle is on Sacramento’s DL right now w/knee tendinitis. The A’s still think highly of Barton’s potential.

“He’s still very young and talented, and he’s hit very well at every level,” Geren said. “We’re going to give him a chance.”

The lineups:

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

Outman P

Twins:
Span LF
Mauer C
Morneau 1B
Cuddyer RF
Harris SS
Young DH
Gomez CF
Tolbert 3B
Casilla 2B

Swarzak P

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Cahill adding to his arsenal

Something to look for tonight from Trevor Cahill: Bob Geren says he’s been working to perfect a “front-door” sinker against left-handed batters. The pitch basically starts at a guy’s hip and works its way back over the plate. It takes a lot of confidence and trust in the pitch to throw it, because you’re basically aiming for a hitter knowing the pitch will tail back. “It’s not something that’s easily perfected, but it’s almost like having a new pitch,” Geren said. He added that not many pitchers utilize a front-door sinker, but Greg Maddux is an example of somebody who’s had incredible success w/it …

–Checked in w/Ryan Sweeney about his left knee, and he doesn’t sound all that optimistic right now. The A’s staff doesn’t want him to hit or run today. Sweeney found out yesterday he has a sprained MCL. “It’s irritated, so if I start doing stuff it’s going to flare up,” he said. “It’s frustrating.” No talk of the DL yet for Sweeney.

–Geren said he doesn’t expect Nomar Garciaparra to come off the DL when he’s eligible Monday, not a big surprise considering he hadn’t done much in the way of baseball activity since going on the DL.

–Tough news on reliever Dan Giese, who is having Tommy John surgery Tuesday w/Dr. Lewis Yocum. He thought his ulnar nerve simply needed to be moved, but his ulnar collateral ligament was torn, which was causing all the pain with his nerve. He’ll definitely be out at least a full year.

The lineups for tonight’s game, serving as a Jordin Sparks opening act:

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

Cahill P

Orioles
Roberts 2B
Markakis RF
Jones CF
Scott DH
Huff 1B
Mora 3B
Zaun C
Pie LF
Andino SS

Berken P

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Cust, Sweeney sit; Petit playing third

Not a lot to report on the pregame scene. It’s blue skies and sunshine at U.S. Cellular field, as the A’s try to make it three straight over the White Sox. As bad as the road trip started out in Texas, finishing out 3-1 in Chicago would be a nice rebound for the A’s as they head home for a seven-game homestand against Baltimore and Minnesota (and considering they follow up with three games at San Francisco, it’s virtually a 10-game homestand).

No Ryan Sweeney in the lineup, as we suspected. Bob Geren said the soreness in his knee has subsided, but he’ll probably get an MRI tomorrow. Jack Cust also gets a day off, with Jason Giambi at DH and Gregorio Petit playing third. I’m surprised it’s taken this long to get Petit back in the lineup …

Chicago’s lineup features blue-chip prospect Gordham Beckham at third. He took the express route to the majors after just 59 games in the minors …

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

Anderson P

White Sox:
Podsednik LF
Ramirez SS
Dye RF
Konerko 1B
Pierzynski C
Fields DH
Wise CF
Beckham 3B
Nix 2B

Buehrle P

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Quick update

Being that we’re in the third inning at U.S. Cellular Field, I’d say this post is coming to you a little late. So just a couple quick tidbits:

–Ryan Sweeney’s left knee is sore after his collision w/the center field while making a catch last night. Rajai Davis got the start in center tonight, but manager Bob Geren said Sweeney probably would have sat anyway against White Sox lefty Clayton Richard.

One of the funnier things I’ve seen this season: Before batting practice, somebody went out to the center field wall and used white tape to trace an outline of a player wearing #15 — poking fun at the fact that Sweeney practically embedded himself into the padding. Sweeney played for Chicago before coming to the A’s, and word was that somebody from the Sox clubhouse was responsible. A probable suspect would be outfielder Brian Anderson, a good buddy of Sweeney’s.

–Second baseman Mark Ellis said his left calf is feeling great, and he’s likely to begin a rehab assignment with Single-A Stockton on June 16. After a couple games there, he would finish out with Triple-A Sacramento until he’s eligible to come off the 60-day DL on June 28. No way that Adam Kennedy comes out of the lineup the way he’s been playing, so the A’s may have to get creative if they want Ellis playing too. Geren mentioned that Kennedy has been taking grounders all over the infield. “Adam is up for playing anywhere,” Geren said.

A’s and Sox tied 2-2 in the third …

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Crosby back in the lineup; Cust hitting third

It rained pretty heavily early this afternoon, but it’s all sunshine at Comerica Park as the A’s get ready for  game two of this three-game series against Detroit. Bobby Crosby was feeling good enough to return to the lineup at third base after a stomach ailment prompted his early exit last night. Crosby is guessing it might have been food poisoning. “About an hour before the game, I was just feeling off,” he said before BP. “By about the second inning, I felt like I had to throw up.”

Whether that played a part in him booting that grounder last night, I’m not sure. But Crosby echoed what Adam Kennedy said after Friday’s game regarding the infield’s four errors: Sometimes bad defense can be contagious.

On the offensive side of things, Bob Geren has flip-flopped Jack Cust and Jason Giambi in the lineup, bumping Cust up to the No. 3 spot and dropping Giambi to fifth. It’s a decision spurred more by Cust’s hot hitting than any struggles Giambi might be having, Geren said. I asked him if he thinks Giambi will benefit from hitting fifth (seeing better pitches, etc.) “I don’t think that makes much of a difference as much as getting one of our top hitters an extra at-bat a game,” Geren said. Cust is hitting .281 right now, Giambi .208.

Geren also bumped Adam Kennedy to sixth and dropped Ryan Sweeney to seventh.

–Sean Gallagher will take Monday’s start in Tampa Bay, with Josh Outman going Tuesday. That’s also puts the duo on turn to pitch the May 29th doubleheader at Texas (when the teams make up their rainout from April 29).   

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

Tigers lineup: Granderson CF; Polanco 2B; Thomas RF; Cabrera 1B; Ordonez DH; Inge 3B; Raburn LF; Laird C; Everett SS; Porcello P.

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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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Angels 5, A’s 3

It’s pretty quiet in the postgame A’s clubhouse these days, not surprising after three straight losses and a 9-15 overall record. A’s manager Bob Geren, normally the eternal optimist, admitted his hitters appear to be pressing. Matt Holliday, who hit his first homer at the Coliseum to snap an 0-for-13 funk, agreed. “Anytime as a team you’re not scoring runs, you’re going to have a sense of urgency. You wanna score runs, and when things aren’t coming together — and the pitching is keeping us in the game — it’s frustrating.”

Geren was asked if he might shake up his lineup a bit. A night after hitting leadoff, Kurt Suzuki was hitting sixth again though he has the highest average among A’s regulars at .315. There’s an argument to be made for moving Suzuki higher in the order, and if the offensive woes continue, Geren may have to try it. Inserting him in the leadoff or second spot for Sweeney or Cabrera would be the logical switch. Geren’s take Tuesday night: “I think the guys I have in there have to get it done. They’re in there for a reason. They’re all good players.”

Would you like to see Suzuki hitting higher???

Holliday was wearing a big ice pack around his left ribs after getting nailed by a Shane Loux fastball in the second inning. He was doubled over after a head-first slide into second base that inning, but said it was the after-effect of getting hit, and not the slide itself that was hurting. “It got me square,” he said. “Not the ideal spot to get hit.”

Dallas Braden didn’t pitch that bad — six innings, five runs (three earned) — but he broke a streak of four straight starts in which he allowed two runs or less. Of bigger concern: Tuesday also marked the 12th straight game the A’s starter has worked six innings or less, the team’s longest such streak since it happened 13 consecutive times in August 1997.

Sweeney went 0-for-4 to snap his 12-game hitting streak, which was the second-longest active streak in the AL.