September 2012

Crisp “no better” Monday, remains out of lineup

ARLINGTON — Three doctor visits and more than one frustrating week later, Coco Crisp remained sidelined by an irksome case of pink eye Monday.

Crisp has seen specialists in the Bay Area, Detroit and New York, all of which have delivered the same diagnosis for the allergic conjunctivitis that has kept the A’s table setter out of the starting lineup in seven of the club’s last eight games. Crisp attempted to play Tuesday in Detroit but could only make it through four innings.

“No better today, unfortunately,” manager Bob Melvin said as his squad prepared for the opener of its crucial four-game series in Texas. “He’s having a tough time with it. I hold out hope every day, but we’re just not seeing much progress. It’s in both eyes, and on a particular day one’s worse than the other, and he’s just having a tough time getting any traction on it.”

Crisp’s absence hasn’t gone unnoticed. In the six games he’s missed, the A’s are 2-4, their strong hold on the top Wild Card slot no more. Baltimore held that spot entering the day, while the Angels trailed Oakland by just 2 1/2 games for the second spot, with 10 to play.

It goes without saying, then, that the A’s need all of their weapons against the American League West division-leading Rangers, who carried a four-game lead on Oakland coming into the day. Crisp is one of them, yet it’s uncertain when, if at all, he’ll be available this week.

At the very least, Crisp could potentially lend the A’s a base runner off the bench. He currently ranks fourth in the American League in stolen bases (35).

“He is integral for us, and we look forward to getting him back as soon as possible,” Melvin said. “He does a lot of things for us — plays a terrific center field, he’s our runner on the bases, he’s our igniter, he hits good pitching, he’s a really good player for us, so we miss him. But like anything else, if one of our guys is out for awhile, someone else has to pick him up.”

Stephen Drew, owner of 12 hits in his last 37 at-bats, was slotted into the leadoff spot Monday in Crisp’s stead, with Yoenis Cespedes holding his defensive place in center field, while Brandon Moss again drew a start in left field.

Injured Anderson’s future uncertain

DETROIT — The A’s have triumphantly overcome much adversity in an inspiring season, and it appears they’ll have to do it at least one more time in order to maintain their hold on a playoff spot.

Having already lost their top two starters in Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon, the A’s watched in fear as Brett Anderson went down with a right oblique strain during his shortened start against the Tigers on Wednesday.

Anderson underwent an MRI later in the night but results weren’t readily available yet, so it’s not yet known whether he will be able to make either of his final two scheduled starts of the regular season. He was only sure of how he felt.

“Each pitch I would get to my power position to throw and I would turn and it would feel like somebody was jabbing me there,” Anderson said. “It’s kind of one of those fluke deals where it wasn’t one pitch or one play. I thought it was a cramp and obviously it was worse than that. It’s sore to the touch and sore when I do certain movements and stuff, and it kind of bothers me to sit.”

Oblique injuries typically call for at least two weeks of rest and often more, meaning Anderson likely isn’t to be ready until postseason play, should the A’s participate.

“I don’t think it’s anything real serious, but obviously they’re going to take the most precautions with him, being as how good he is,” catcher Derek Norris said. “You don’t want to risk something that could take him out a long period of time. Hopefully he’ll bounce back quick.”

“It definitely hurts, but hopefully just like the rest of the year’s gone, someone will step in his shoes and do a good job for us.”

With one out in the third inning, Anderson fell to the ground while throwing a 2-2 pitch — his 48th of the night — to Delmon Young, departing the game with the bases loaded having already given up two runs in the frame. He finished allowing three runs on three hits and three walks in 2 1/3 innings, with one strikeout.

“Coming into the inning, he was a little bit tight, and we could see a couple pitches he was stretching his back,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We just didn’t want to go any farther with it.”

“He tweaked his oblique a few pitches before, threw a few more and said it just didn’t feel right,” Norris said. “With the cold weather, it tightened up on him and couldn’t loosen up.”

Righty Pat Neshek was called in from the bullpen to replace Anderson, who was making his sixth start of a season that was previously defined by Tommy John rehab. Before a five-run outing against the Angels last week, Anderson had surrendered just two combined runs over his first 26 innings.

“It’s pretty disheartening the way I’ve been throwing,” Anderson said. “To come back after surgery and six starts into it, have some other kind of fluke injury that I don’t really know how it happened. It wasn’t like a one-pitch deal. It was over course of 10 minutes.”

Should Anderson miss his next start Monday in Texas, as he’s expected to, the A’s are to start rookie Dan Straily against the Rangers. Straily was originally scheduled to go Saturday in New York, but Melvin has decided to go with lefty Travis Blackley instead.

Oakland just begun a crucial 10-game road trip through Detroit, New York and Texas and, outside of Anderson and Blackley, its other four starters on the roster are all rookies.

“He’s done amazing for us,” Blackley said of Anderson. “It’s not someone you can just replace. Everyone’s going to need to pick up the slack and just try to do what we can to keep the ship moving. He’ll definitely be missed. We’ve had some rough ones, obviously with [McCarthy] and [Colon], but it seems like guys have stepped up and done the job in their stead. We’re still confident as a team. Not too much is going to overwhelm us.

Blackley to start Saturday in New York

DETROIT — The A’s have altered their rotation for their upcoming weekend series with the Yankees in New York, deciding to start lefty Travis Blackley on Saturday in place of the right-handed Dan Straily.

Straily, it appears, will now go Monday in Texas in the stead of injured lefty Brett Anderson, should Anderson miss his scheduled start against the Rangers as anticipated, after he suffered a right oblique strain in Wednesday’s loss.

A’s manager Bob Melvin cited matchup reasons for the switch, and Blackley, who has already bounced back and forth between the rotation and bullpen multiple times this year, is on board with the new plan. It will mark not only his first career appearance at Yankee Stadium but first against the Yankees.

“Obviously, when you grew up, that’s who you pictured yourself pitching against, the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium, so it’s going to be one of those dreams coming true again, and I’m looking forward to it,” Blackley said.

The southpaw isn’t too worried about such anticipation hindering his performance, though, even while also understanding the game’s significance from a team standpoint, as it will come in the middle of the A’s crucial 10-game road trip that could decide their postseason fate.

“If you’re looking at it like that, you’re going to psych yourself out,” he said. “I’m just thinking about keeping the team in the game as long as possible.

“It’s good to know that they can trust you to take the reins when they need it. I’m trying to treat it like any other game, not think too much about it and go out there and get outs.”

Blackley has excelled in every role with the A’s this year, posting a 4-3 record and 3.97 ERA for them in 12 starts, along with a 2.86 ERA spanning 13 relief appearances.

Straily, meanwhile, is coming off a poor outing against the Orioles, having allowed them four runs on five hits, including two home runs, and five walks with one strikeout in 4 2/3 innings on Sunday. The rookie has never faced the Rangers.

Anderson suffers oblique strain

DETROIT — A’s lefty Brett Anderson threw just 48 pitches in his start against the Tigers on Wednesday, before exiting with one out in the third because of a right oblique strain.

It’s a tough blow for the A’s, considering oblique injuries typically call for at least two weeks of rest and often more. Anderson could potentially be done for the regular season, though it’s unclear the severity of the injury.

The 24-year-old southpaw fell to the ground while throwing a 2-2 pitch to Delmon Young, departing the game with the bases loaded having already given up two runs in the frame. He finished allowing three runs on three hits and three walks in 2 1/3 innings, with one strikeout.

Righty Pat Neshek was called in from the bullpen to replace Anderson, who was making his sixth start of a season that was previously defined by Tommy John rehab. Before a five-run outing against the Angels last week, Anderson had surrendered just two combined runs over his first 26 innings.

Should Anderson miss his next start Monday in Texas, as he’s expected to, the A’s are likely to turn to versatile lefty Travis Blackley, who is currently stationed in the bullpen as a long-relief option.

Oakland just begun a crucial 10-game road trip through Detroit, New York and Texas and, outside of Anderson, its other four starters are all rookies.

McCarthy visits teammates, shows off “cool scar”

OAKLAND — Just hours before beginning their crucial series against the Orioles, the A’s on Friday received the perfect boost by way of a surprise visit from Brandon McCarthy.

The right-handed pitcher, who last week underwent emergency brain surgery after taking a line drive to his head, insisted on making an appearance at the Coliseum in support of his teammates. In turn, he was greeted by a rousing reception, as they came off the field from batting practice and entered the clubhouse.

“Everyone was really excited to see him,” Jerry Blevins said. “I think he was really excited to see us, too. There’s just nothing that compares to the clubhouse atmosphere, and just to have him back and being around the guys, it’s hard to beat that.”

McCarthy didn’t stay long, as his activity level must remain monitored to assure a successful healing process. But he was around long enough to showcase the humor that very much embodies his personality.

He was working on a crossword puzzle as Blevins approached him, and Blevins suggested as a joke to fill in all of the spaces with backward letters and then show it to the trainer. McCarthy had a better idea: populate each of the spaces with smiley faces.

“He’s still the same old guy,” Blevins said, laughing.

As for his looks, well those have slightly been altered.

“He’s just got a buzzed head and a cool scar,” Blevins said. “He looks a lot tougher than he did.”

McCarthy was also presented a gift from Jonny Gomes, who had everyone sign a batting helmet on which he wrote “Heads Up” on the bill.

“It’s great for him to be back and part of the team, even though he was always a part and never gone from our thoughts,” Blevins said.

Cespedes day to day with wrist sprain

ANAHEIM — A’s outfielder Yoenis Cespedes left Thursday’s game against the Angels with a sprained right wrist and has been deemed day to day.

The Oakland rookie endured the same injury back in August and missed just one day, so it was rather encouraging when manager Bob Melvin relayed after the game that this “doesn’t appear to be as bad.” It’s not known whether he’ll be available for Friday’s opener against the Orioles in Oakland.

Cespedes suffered the sprain while sliding into second base in the fourth inning and was replaced in left field in the top of the fifth by Brandon Moss, who began the game at first base. Chris Carter assumed that position.

In his first big league season, Cespedes has endured a handful of injuries. But when healthy, his presence in the lineup is undeniable, as the A’s are 70-39 when he starts, compared to 12-22 when he doesn’t.

McCarthy discharged from hospital

The A’s just sent out this release, announcing the wonderful news that Brandon McCarthy has been discharged from the hospital less than a week after undergoing emergency brain surgery:

OAKLAND, Calif. – Brandon McCarthy, who underwent head surgery last Wednesday after sustaining injuries from a batted ball in a game played at the Coliseum earlier that day, was discharged from California Pacific Medical Campus in San Francisco earlier this afternoon.

Dr. Peter Weber, the neurologist who performed the surgery at CPMC, and Dr. Allan Pont, A’s team physician, both felt that McCarthy had made an excellent recovery and could be safely released from the hospital.

McCarthy, 29, issued this statement upon leaving the hospital today:

“From the bottom of our hearts, (my wife) Amanda and I want to thank everyone who was involved in responding to and treating my injury, starting with Dr. Weber and all the team’s medical personnel from doctors Allan Pont, Elliott Schwartz and Jon Dickinson to the Oakland A’s athletic trainers, as well as the other physicians and nurses who were on duty around the clock in the Critical Care Unit at California Pacific. We feel the same way about the ambulance driver and those who first met us at the hospital. We could not have been in better hands.

“We also want to express our deep appreciation to our teammates, manager and coaching staff for their concern and encouragement during the uncertain times, and also want to thank all the A’s fans who wished us well. It’s times like these when you realize you have an extended family, and feel so fortunate. Now we look forward to continuing the healing process, and returning to baseball and our normal lives in the weeks and months ahead. Go A’s!”

After the incident occurred in the fourth inning of last Wednesday’s game against the Angels, it was team physicians Schwartz (internal medicine) and Dickinson (team orthopedist), and athletic trainer Paparesta who initially took McCarthy to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland. A CT Scan revealed an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture. Later in the evening, McCarthy was transferred to California Pacific Medical Campus, where a neurosurgeon performed a second CT scan and clinical examination, which resulted in surgery to relieve pressure from the pitcher’s head. The two-hour procedure included the evacuation of an epidural hemorrhage and the stabilization of the skull fracture.

Dr. Pont, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer at California Pacific Medical Campus, oversaw the daily care of McCarthy at his headquarter facility.

McCarthy will remain in the Bay Area for at least the next three weeks, the team said.

McCarthy making steady progress

ANAHEIM — Less than a week removed from emergency brain surgery, A’s righty Brandon McCarthy continues to make steady progress and could even be heading home soon.

That was the good news relayed from Angel Stadium on Monday via A’s head trainer Nick Paparesta, who said McCarthy’s doctors “are all very happy with how he’s doing and the progress that’s been made” since he was struck by a line drive Wednesday.

The 29-year-old McCarthy, now stationed in a transitional care unit, walked down the hallway on Monday and went up and down four steps using a handrail. He was to be evaluated by physical therapists in the evening.

“The neurologist was very happy with the results of his examination today,” Paparesta said. “I think that we’re a little more comfortable with where he is and how he’s doing. He’s been able to spend some time on his phone and text some of his teammates back and kind of go back and forth a little bit with them.”

His teammates began a four-games set in Anaheim on Monday, and inside the home clubhouse, Erick Aybar — whose line drive hit McCarthy — expressed concern for the pitcher.

“It’s been hard,” Aybar said in Spanish. “You never want that to happen. We may be on different teams, but I don’t wish harm upon anybody. I always want things to turn out well.”

Aybar left McCarthy a cell phone message and received a call back from McCarthy’s wife, Amanda, who filled him in on her husband’s encouraging progress.

He’s had several visitors in the past few days, including Oakland pitcher Andrew Carignan, and Paparesta noted many have said they “feel he’s definitely kind of being himself again.”

McCarthy “conscious and doing well”

OAKLAND — Sometimes, the sacred confines of a ballpark are rattled in one terrifying instant.

And when that happens, perspective reminds us that the game itself is miniscule in comparison to the well being of those that play it.

A’s righty Brandon McCarthy showed just how vulnerable pitchers are to serious injury on Wednesday, when he took a screaming line drive off his head with two outs in the fourth inning of an eventual 7-1 Oakland loss to the Angels.

In a release sent out around 6 p.m. PST, the A’s said McCarthy “is conscious and doing well.” He’ll stay in a nearby hospital overnight for further observation and will not accompany the A’s on their charter flight to Seattle on Thursday.

The line drive, hit off the bat of Erick Aybar, deflected off McCarthy’s head, and third baseman Josh Donaldson fielded it for the out, at which point all attention turned to McCarthy.

He sat alert on the mound for several minutes after, with head trainer Nick Paparesta by his side, and he eventually stood up and walked off the field under his own power, before being taken to the hospital for a CT scan.

“I just tried to get out there as quick as I could, make sure he stayed down and didn’t try to do anything to further injure himself,” catcher Derek Norris said. “You try not to let it linger, but it’s human nature for it to. Your heart goes out to your teammate. You battle with them throughout the course of the season. But we try our best to let it motivate us to win it for Mac.”

Though that didn’t happen on this day, it didn’t really matter to the A’s — not after watching their teammate experience a pitchers’ worst nightmare.

“I didn’t know if it hit him in the face or hit his glove,” Donaldson said. “I saw it hit off him and kind of go toward my direction and I was able to field it and get the guy at first. It’s scary. It brings things back into perspective a bit. You just never know. Thankfully everything seems to be OK right now, but an inch here, an inch there, he can be really hurt.”

“It was crazy,” said Cliff Pennington, who was manning second base at the time. “From the side, I could tell it hit him in the head. I didn’t know if it clipped his glove or not, but I knew that it got him good. Obviously that takes precedence over anything that happened in the baseball game. You just want to make sure he’s OK.”

Lefty Travis Blackley was called in for long relief duties, and he excelled, pitching three innings of shutout ball — but only after shaking off the shock that took over the bullpen.

“I tell you, I didn’t even think about coming in to pitch at first,” Blackley said. “When that happened, you’re all just in shock a little bit. We all just stood there with our hands over our mouths. It looked nasty from our angle. And it just kind of clicked after they were hanging around for a second that I was probably going to be the one to go in.”

Back in the clubhouse, several players snuck in to check on McCarthy before he left for the hospital. It’s not yet known how much time he’ll miss, if any, but his absence would leave the young A’s without a veteran on their staff, as they face a grueling September schedule that will decide their postseason fate.

“It obviously hurts,” Norris said. “He’s our No. 1 guy out there.”

“We’ve got some young guys in our rotation, and he’s our veteran guy,” Blackley said. “He’s been there and done that, and I think a lot of guys like to look at what he does out there to get an idea of how to pitch guys. Hopefully he won’t miss too much. Hopefully he’ll be able to make his next start.”

The 29-year-old McCarthy is next slated to pitch Tuesday in Anaheim against Aybar and Co., though Blackley and Triple-A righty Dan Straily are other options should he be unable to go. A concerned Aybar made the effort to get McCarthy’s phone number and planned on calling the pitcher.

“You feel really bad. He’s a good guy,” Aybar said. “You never want to hit anybody over the head, and he’s a good guy. Hopefully everything turns out all right and, God-willing, that he gets better soon.”

“Obviously, you never want to see anything like that happen, no matter what the situation is,” Angels pitcher Dan Haren added. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the last game of the year and we’re tied. Nobody likes to see that happen. I know him a little bit, personally, and it was really hard to see. Being a pitcher, I know those things happen. He’s a good guy, and I just hope that he’s all right.”

A’s lose Inge for season

OAKLAND — It was one heckuva hurrah had by Brandon Inge.

His right shoulder dislocated just minutes before, the A’s third baseman stepped to the plate with two outs and runners on first and third in the third inning of Saturday’s contest against Boston, knowing what everyone in the stands didn’t: his season was over after this at-bat.

With that in mind, Inge laced a two-run double to right field and, just a couple of hours later following a 7-1 A’s victory, would confirm that his season is likely to end following shoulder surgery in a week or two.

The surgery calls for a typical recovery time of six months, though in a very Inge-like manner, he said with a smile, “I’ll be back quicker.” Inge has already endured the same procedure on his left shoulder.

“I’m OK. I gave it my best shot,” he said. “I knew it was going to be rough coming into this, and I probably didn’t tell them how bad it hurt. It was killing me every time I threw the ball, but I just wanted to make sure, in a year like this, I didn’t leave anything on the table.

“I know that I can be at peace with myself knowing I literally gave everything I had to offer to this team, and I’m happy with that. I’m pretty sure there are not too many people who would even try to go through what I’ve been going through since I did it.”

Inge initially dislocated his right shoulder Aug. 12 in Chicago and hit the disabled list soon after, before claiming himself ready to go when activated from the disabled list prior to Saturday’s game. Josh Donaldson, who nicely filled in for the veteran in his absence, figures to continue garnering the majority of playing time at third base moving forward.

Hitting never proved to be an issue for Inge. It was throwing that caused him discomfort, and it took just one throw in the top of the third inning to pop his shoulder out of place again. Adam Rosales shifted from second base to third base in Inge’s stead in the fourth inning, with Cliff Pennington entering the game at second.

“He knows he’s coming out of the game and he said, ‘I can hit,’ and to go out there and double knowing it’s probably going to be his last at-bat for awhile … pretty cool,” manager Bob Melvin said.

Melvin met with Inge after the game, and the latter made his case as an option off the bench in the coming week before he undergoes surgery.

“I said, realistically, ‘How much are you really going to need me as a designated hitter or a pinch hitter?’” Inge said. “My value, most of the time, has been defensively. I’ll hit a time or two and get some timely hits in RBI situations.

“I know we have plenty guys, but I just wanted to let him know the option is there. I would do anything for him. I would take a bullet for him.”

Inge has 52 RBIs in 74 games with the A’s, and his presence has meant more to the contending team than what’s seen on a stat sheet. He’s a go-to guy in an otherwise youthful clubhouse, which is why the 35-year-old hopes to remain with the team after his surgery.

“I want to come back right away, dress with the team, travel with the team, because in this clubhouse I feel like I can still make an impact no matter what,” he said. “I’ll keep the boys loose, that’s for sure.”

“I think that’s huge,” teammate Brandon Hicks said. “It’d be awesome for him to stick around, just to have that presence.”