Hughes arrives; Donaldson sent out

A four-hour delayed flight couldn’t keep the A’s newest member out of the starting lineup, as Luke Hughes was immediately given the nod at third base upon arrival Monday.

With Hughes on board, the A’s decided to demote a struggling Josh Donaldson to Triple-A Sacramento, where he’s expected to continue work at third base while also seeing time behind the plate in his natural catcher position.

“It wasn’t for a lack of effort, and he really did handle himself beautifully defensively,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I know he would have liked to have swung the bat better, but at the big-league level, to an extent, you have to produce. I don’t feel great about the fact he’s going down right now, but hopefully this isn’t the last time we’ve seen him because he’s a good athlete and has a lot of ability.”

In 32 at-bats spanning nine games with the A’s, Donaldson managed just three hits for a .094 average. His lack of production led to more playing time for Eric Sogard and, ultimately, influenced the club to look outside of the organization for help.

“It’s unfortunate that Josh has to go down right now,” Melvin said. “We got to a point where I think he’s grinding pretty hard, and he probably needs a bit of a break here. He worked very hard this spring, really every day to try to combat the fact he wasn’t a natural third baseman.

“We still have high hopes for him. Just because he’s not here right now doesn’t mean he’s not here at some other point in time. Hopefully he can get over this and go down there and continue to work as hard as he has, have some success.”

Hughes’ numbers aren’t overwhelming, with a career .224 average attached to his name, but the A’s are hoping he brings consistency to a position that’s been unsettled since Scott Sizemore endured a season-ending knee injury at the beginning of camp.

Melvin said he anticipates playing the versatile Hughes at third on a regular basis, with Sogard still the mix while also spelling the middle infield duo of Jemile Weeks and Cliff Pennington — the only A’s players who have yet to take a day off this season — from time to time.

“From what I understand, [Hughes] is a scrappy player, a guy who likes to play,” he said. “We’ll get him out there and get him in the fire right away.”

Hughes gives the A’s three Aussies, which represents a Major-League record. There are only two other Australian-born players in baseball.

“It’s pretty great,” said reliever Rich Thompson, who grew up playing youth baseball with Hughes and was also introduced to fellow Sydney native Grant Balfour at a young age. “I love it here already.”

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