August 2010

This and that …

Some postgame tidbits as we say farewell to the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington for the last time this season:

  • The A’s improved to 30-13 in day games this season after Sunday’s win.
  • The club now has 8 home runs through the first 6 games of their current road trip through Cleveland and Texas. They had just 3 over their previous 14 contests.
  • Gio Gonzalez’s 12 wins are an ongoing career high and second on the team only to Trevor Cahill, who is 14-5. He improved to 3-1 with a 1.93 ERA in 7 career games – 5 of them starts – against Texas.
  • Mark Ellis’ fourth-inning homer was his first since June 17 at Wrigley Field, ending a 56-game drought. It marked his first long ball against an AL club since May 29 at Detroit’s Comerica Park.
  • The A’s have a Major League-leading 52 stolen bases since the All-Star Break and 117 overall, which ranks third in the AL and the Majors.
  • Cliff Pennington earned his 23rd stolen base Sunday, and that’s the most by an A’s infielder since Carney Lansford tallied 35 of his 37 steals in 1989 while playing in the infield.
  • Kevin Kouzmanoff homered Sunday for the second time in three games, and he’s now 9-for-20 with 8 RBIs on the road trip after going 4-for-42 (.095) over his previous 14 games.
  • Craig Breslow entered Sunday’s game having allowed at least one run in six of his nine August outings, but he managed to toss two perfect innings against the Rangers after Gio’s exit.
  • Michael Wuertz followed Breslow with a shutout ninth and has not allowed an earned run in 21 of his past 24 appearances after posting a 7.71 ERA over his first 17 outings.

Chris Carter lands on DL

Here’s a quick item on Chris Carter’s recent move to the DL. Talk about bad timing, considering rosters will expand in four days and he was a likely choice to join the A’s again.

ARLINGTON — Chris Carter
was placed on Triple-A Sacramento’s 15-day disabled list Saturday with a left
thumb sprain, seemingly hindering his chances of being recalled again when
Major League rosters expand to 40 men on Wednesday.

Carter suffered
the injury during the River Cats’ home game against Fresno on Friday while
diving for a ball in the outfield, A’s assistant general manager David Forst
confirmed.

X-rays were negative, but Forst said
there is currently no timetable for the return of Carter, Oakland’s highly
touted prospect who received his first taste of the big leagues earlier this
month but struggled, going 0-for-19 with nine strikeouts before being optioned
to work on his swing.

Carter, who
reached the 30-homer mark with Sacramento earlier this week, appeared to be an
easy choice for a September roster addition with the A’s. He’s hitting .258
with 31 home runs and 94 RBIs for the River Cats, but his injury will likely
force his Oakland return to be delayed for a handful of weeks.       

Ballboy is Ball Man for a night

By now, most everyone knows all about Kevin Fennell, the A’s ballboy
who was very generous to a young girl named Jacki by way of four foul
balls last night. As I wrote in this story,
Jacki said she received a fifth ball from the A’s bullpen, which
requested a phone number for Kevin. Now, most of you are thinking that
it was the relievers, not Kevin, who is responsible for him landing the
number. But Jacki assured me that she was going to give Kevin her
number anyways. After all, Kevin is quite the gentleman – he not only
gave Jacki the foul balls but hand warmers as well because she was cold. Major props on that one.

The A’s are loving this, by the way. During Kevin’s live interview with MLB Network this afternoon, the A’s were on the field during batting practice and were essentially glued to the screen, laughing hysterically, while watching it all. And before his interview, he was roaming around asking for any and all interview tips. Michael Wuertz told him to “just be yourself,” while Landon Powell had a different idea in mind: “Use the third person.” When I heard that, I could just picture the way that would go: “Kevin wants girl, Kevin gets girl.” Kevin didn’t end up taking Landon’s advice, but I’d say he did pretty well with the interview, which you can see here.

Some
people have reacted to this story with the notion that Kevin should
have been giving away the balls to kids and, while I understand the
thought, I still think you have to enjoy Kevin’s efforts at getting a
girl’s attention. We’ve all been there, right? Besides, it’s always fun to see how baseball games bring
people together. And from my brief conversation with Jacki, she seems
like a sweet girl. She was even gracious enough to pass along a picture
of the ball that was sent via a security guard from the bullpen:

Thumbnail image for Ball.jpg

‘Wrath’ of an injury

I got to spend some time around the cages with a hobbling Adam Rosales today. He’s obviously bummed about his ankle, and rightfully so. But he’s been keeping himself plenty busy with books and movies. Right now he’s currently reading Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” to help pass the time in his San Ramon abode, and he said there are about 10 more books that have been recommended to him. His buddy’s trying to get him into “Lost” too, but he knows that six seasons is quite a commitment, as I’ve also come to learn (I started the series at the beginning of the baseball season, and I JUST finished season one). Rosales will head back east tomorrow to spend some time with his family and girlfriend, and he also said he’d likely meet up with the team in Cleveland just for kicks. He’s been out here in street clothes with his teammates every day this week, which shows the type of team guy he is. He’s got one week down and three more to go, but he’s hoping to maybe return before then. In the meantime, though, he’s been ordered to simply “mobilize” the ankle.

In Rosales’ stead, you’ve got to like what we’re seeing from Steve Tolleson, who has a chance of turning into an everyday Major League infielder if he continually shows a consistent bat and steady defensive presence. He’s 5-for-10 since his callup, and he and was essentially responsible for starting yesterday’s ninth-inning rally, so I would have liked to seen him in the lineup again tonight. You really don’t want to mess with a guy who’s on a hot streak, especially when confidence is also a big thing for a guy straddling the line between the Majors and Minors.
—————————————–
On a different note, the A’s were mentioned in a Las Vegas Sun article today titled, “Mayor: American League baseball team looking at Las Vegas.” Mayor Oscar Goodman wouldn’t comment on which franchise was looking at Las Vegas as a possible place to build a stadium, but it’s no secret that the A’s are one of just a few teams in need of a new home, and they’ve also been linked to Vegas before. Can’t say I’m a fan of a potential stadium in Vegas, where a dome would be required. Are you? Leave your thoughts here… 

With Jackson back in fold, who goes?

Conor Jackson just told me that, as far as he knows, he’ll be in Oakland today and activated from the disabled list, which means two things for this A’s team:

  • Someone’s gotta go. Whether it be Chris Carter or Jeff Larish, I think it’s pretty safe to say one of those guys will be optioned back to Sacramento. Both just got here, but Carter obviously hasn’t found a groove at the Major League level and Larish obviously hasn’t even been given the opportunity to find a groove. I’d hoped that Carter wouldn’t have to do the whole back and forth thing between Oakland and Sacramento, but if he does go, you figure it’s not a bad idea to let him keep swinging at Triple-A since he’ll be back in less than two weeks when rosters expand. As for Larish, I’m willing to bet some of you are wondering who he is and when he even joined the team. When Daric Barton was held out of the lineup with shoulder spasms, Larish was given a start at first base, but he hasn’t seen any action since – and that was a week ago. He was swinging the bat so well with Sacramento – lots of homers and RBIs – and when a guy’s sitting on the bench for so long like that, it’s easy to lose that consistent stroke. 
  • The lineup gets new life. Sure, as I’ve said before, I don’t think Jackson’s return is going to all of a sudden put this team back into playoff contention. But, the way things are going for the offense, a different bat can’t hurt. In fact, I think things are so bad for the offense right now – 6 hits over last 2 games – that it can really only get better. Day in and day out, loss after loss, we’ve seen the same lineup thrown out there. Granted, there aren’t many other options, especially in the No. 3-5 spots, but putting in a guy like Jackson (or even Larish) will at least mix things up, which is what the team needs right now.

So who goes? Geren said yesterday Jackson is “an everyday player,” and I don’t think the A’s want Carter sitting on the bench. Even when Jackson does need a day off between now and September, the A’s still have Gross, not to mention Steve Tolleson, who plays some left field. Thus, Carter’s my guess, but you never quite know with this team. Either way, we’ll likely find out in the next hour or so. I’m technically off today, but you can still get all your A’s news at the A’s website.

Postgame quick hits: An absent offense

Jack Cust’s struggles were mentioned in my previous post, but he’s not the only one battling at the plate right now, as evidenced by tonight’s three-hit showing against Minnesota’s Brian Duensing. Cust’s troubles just happen to stand out more because of his lack of run-scoring production, not to mention 28 strikeouts over his last 16 games. He’s obviously in a funk, but here’s a look at some other slumping players:

  • Cust may be streaky, but Kevin Kouzmanoff may be even streakier. He’s hitting just .136 (6-for-44) in August, which follows a combined .306 mark in June and July after hitting .244 in April and May.
  • Kurt Suzuki is hitting .192 (10-for-52) over his last 14 games after going 17-for-42 over his previous 11 contests. Overall, his season average is down to .255 — not exactly what the A’s are looking to get out of their catcher. He also hasn’t hit a home run since July 28, and Oakland as a team is currently in a six-game homerless stretch.
  • Mark Ellis, aside from his three-double day Thursday, has also been racking up outs lately. He’s batting .219 over his last 21 games but has still managed to maintain a .270 season average. Needless to say, his production’s been average this year, but you can’t discount his value to the team given his defensive ways — he’s committed just one error at second base all year.
  • Chris Carter came up empty again tonight, and he’s now 0-for-16 with seven strikeouts in his first five games. He really just needs one hit, I think, to get into a groove of sorts. In order to do that, though, he’s got to lay off those sliders, which aren’t exactly making him look good up there.

The good news? Tomorrow is a day game, and we all know how much the A’s like the sun. They’ve won 11 of their past 12 day games and are a Major League-best 28-11 (.718) during the day. 

Saturday tidbits from Target Field

  • Jack Cust’s recent struggles were brought up during today’s pregame manager’s session, but Bob Geren really doesn’t seem all too concerned about his designated hitter. He took the positive route and mentioned his two hits last night. However, it’s really hard to ignore his strikeout looking on a 3-2 pitch with runners on second and third and just one out, which brings to mind the big picture of his recent producing slump. His third-inning RBI double in last night’s game was his first RBI in 14 games. It’s pretty well-known by now that Cust is a streaky hitter — he had 15 RBIs over his previous 10 games before that ugly stretch. But your DH, especially one who often hits in the No. 4 hole, has to be notching those hits with runners in scoring position. Geren, though, sees nothing wrong with his current approach.
  • Chris Carter told me today he’s not too worried about his career-opening hitless streak. Geren isn’t either. In fact, the A’s skipper said today, “He’s going to have a good day today. He looks confident.” We shall see, but either way, it’s still fun watching Carter get a taste of the big leagues. He said today he loves “playing in stadiums with fans” and added, “I’m not used to being in an outfield where fans are yelling at me.” I didn’t want to break the news to him that he might not see so many next week in Oakland…
  • Geren said Andrew Bailey will throw a bullpen tomorrow, and the next step for him — whether it’s another bullpen, a simulated game, a rehab assignment, etc. — will be determined by how he feels coming out of the side session. He did say, though, that a rehab assignment may not be necessary, so — assuming all goes well tomorrow — Bailey could be lifted off the DL at some point on the next homestand.
  • It seems as though there’s really no rush in getting Conor Jackson back in Oakland. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and strikeout while playing nine innings for Sacramento last night, and he was slated to play nine more for the River Cats tonight. Geren simply said he’ll be back when he’s ready. I don’t think Jackson’s presence will be a difference-maker for this club right now, but it’d be nice to see what he can do after only playing in 14 games with the A’s following the trade. At the same time, given Oakland’s injury history, it’s probably best to take it slowly with Jackson. His return would also create quite an interesting outfield situation, especially with Carter now in the mix. 

Rosales exits with ankle injury

Adam Rosales made an early departure from Wednesday’s game after aggravating the ankle injury that’s been bothering him this week. Rosales told me Monday he’s been battling ankle tendinitis for about a year now, but only recently has it really affected him on the field. When I ran into him today, I said his ankle must be feeling better if he’s in the lineup. He shrugged with a smile, saying, “It’s playable.” Yet, after Geren deemed him “100 percent” and “ready to go” before the game, Rosales lasted just one inning. Hopefully this signals a need to get it completely taken care of before running him out there again. The A’s don’t need to crowd the DL any more.

Note: Geren also said before the game Gabe Gross turned his ankle and is a little sore but is still available. Gross hasn’t appeared in a game since Sunday, when he walked in a pinch-hit at-bat.

‘Minor’ Notes

Some quick updates from around the Minors:

  • Conor Jackson went 0-for-2 with an RBI in five innings of work in Arizona tonight. It marked his second rehab game, and he’s expected to continue building up innings before returning to Oakland.
  • First-round Draft pick Michael Choice collected his first pro hits tonight, as he went 2-for-4 with a triple for Vancouver, the A’s short-season Class-A club.
  • In that same game, Jason Jennings pitched two innings, allowing one run with one strikeout.
  • For Triple-A Sacramento, Travis Buck went 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs and has suddenly raised his average to .309. Unfortunately, I see Buck staying there for quite some time, given Carter’s promotion and Jackson’s impending return.
  • Also in that game, Adrian Cardenas collected a double in his first Triple-A action since being promoted from Double-A Midland today. He started at third base.

Dribblers: Injury updates and more

SEATTLE — Chris Carter’s promotion and Don Wakamatsu’s dismissal have created lots of commotion around these parts today. That doesn’t mean all other news stopped, though. Here’s some updates from beautiful Safeco Field, where Carter just went down on a swinging strikeout in his first at-bat:

  • Andrew Bailey (rib strain) endured a good side session from flat ground today, Geren said. No word yet, though, on when he’ll begin throwing off a mound.
  • It sounds like Daric Barton (shoulder spasms) should be good to go tomorrow.
  • Adam Rosales said he’s available tonight if need be. He’s suffered from ankle tendinitis for the past year, but it only recently started bugging him after the All-Star Break. Nothing major, though.
  • Conor Jackson (right hamstring) played 3 innings in Arizona on Sunday, and Geren said there were “no issues,” so he’s slated to play 5 today.
  • Matt Watson underwent an operation this morning to remove the kidney stones that were causing him severe side and back pain yesterday. Geren wasn’t sure how long his recovery process will be.

This and that:

  • Carter is widely known as being a shy personality, but today he surprised all by responding to questions with answers other than “yes” or “no.” You can tell he’s so psyched to be here, and it’s fun watching him go through the big league routine for the first time. Geren wouldn’t go into much detail — if any — regarding his playing time, but I would imagine the A’s would like to give him a long look in the outfield. I don’t think they want that kind of power sitting on the bench.
  • Jeff Larish, meanwhile, is also pretty shy, I’ve heard. But, just like Carter, I found him to be rather nice and respectful. Sounds like he was looking for a change of scenery and, while he told me it’s been a crazy couple weeks for him, he said he’s genuinely excited to be here with a young bunch. He went to Arizona State, so he knows fellow Sun Devil Travis Buck pretty well. He’s also friends with Eric Sogard, who was a freshman at ASU when he was a senior.
  • One final note, Adrian Cardenas was promoted from Double-A Midland to Sacramento today, and for good reason. He had reached base safely in 46 of his past 50 games and was hitting .347 over that stretch.
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