Notes: Kotsay's pain, Melhuse's gain
Backup catcher has flourished in role as fill-in designated hitter
OAKLAND -- A's manager Ken Macha was already at McAfee Coliseum on Thursday morning when a call came in from Mark Kotsay.
Kotsay, who has missed a good deal of playing time since suffering back spasms in the last week of July, told Macha he wanted to be Oakland's designated hitter in the finale of the three-game series against the Angels.
Replied Macha: "I've already got a DH with some pop: Adam Melhuse."
Alas, Kotsay did start at DH on Thursday, and Melhuse was on the bench when Joe Blanton threw his first pitch. But Macha's point wasn't entirely in jest. Melhuse, who homered Sunday in Kansas City and again here Wednesday, has been making Kotsay's pain his gain.
Given three consecutive starts for the first time this season, Melhuse, a switch-hitting catcher stuck behind iron man Jason Kendall, went 7-for-11.
"We know he has that in him. We saw it last year," Macha said, referring to Melhuse's 11 homers in limited 2004 action. "I'm happy for him. It takes a special player to sit as much as he has and come out and do the things [he's done].
"[But] that's kind of his role with this team, and he's handled it extremely well. He'd be getting a lot more playing time with some other teams."
Macha also raved about Melhuse's attitude and work ethic, noting how much time Melhuse spends in the weight room, doing agility work and showing up for early batting practice.
"The other 24 guys [on the roster] see what he does, and when he's up there, they're pulling for him to get a hit."
Said Kendall of Melhuse: "He's nails. When he's in there, he produces."
"It's definitely not easy," Melhuse said. "But the situation is what it is, and you have to stay prepared and just make the most of your chances to play."
The situation, however, might change down the stretch. General manager Billy Beane has said there are no plans to add a third catcher, which would free up Macha to put Melhuse and Kendall in the lineup on the same day without worry. But Macha admitted that he's given some thought to playing them at the same time, anyway.
He's reluctant, however, to give Kendall many days off.
"When we moved [Kendall] into the leadoff spot, we started doing real well," Macha said. "I'd like to keep him in there."
As for using Kendall as his DH, Macha invoked his catcher's well-documented disdain for not being in the thick of things on the field.
"We'd have to give him some ideas about what to do between at-bats," said the manager. "He's probably not gonna like it, but he'll look at it and say it'll help the team.
"We'll see. This is all conjecture. It's just nice that Adam is hot right now."
Saturday is Eck Day: Former A's closer Dennis Eckersley will become the fourth Oakland player to have his number retired Saturday as the club pays tribute to the Hall of Famer prior to Saturday's game against the Minnesota Twins.
Pregame ceremonies will begin at 12:30 p.m. PT, with a car parade featuring Eckersley and some of his former teammates, including Rickey Henderson, Carney Lansford, Terry Steinbach, Dave Henderson, Scott Sanderson, Rick Honeycutt, Mike Moore, Gene Nelson and Jim Corsi. The on-field ceremonies, which will be emceed by A's announcer Ray Fosse, will include a video tribute, remarks by A's owner Lew Wolff, former A's executive Wally Haas and Steinbach, and the unveiling of Eckersley's No. 43 on the right-field wall.
The first 10,000 fans through the gates will receive a Dennis Eckersley replica jersey, courtesy of Wells Fargo Bank.
Eckersley will join Jim "Catfish" Hunter (No. 27), Rollie Fingers (No. 34) and Reggie Jackson (No. 9) on the outfield wall.
Dribblers: First baseman/DH Scott Hatteberg looked good in batting practice, sending a few balls into the right-field seats, and could be back in action for Friday's opener of a three-game series against the Twins. Hatteberg has not played since being scratched from the starting lineup in Kansas City last Friday with a strained right oblique muscle. ... Lefty Dan Meyer, one of the three players acquired from Atlanta in the Tim Hudson trade, gave up two earned runs on one hit while striking out six over six innings for Triple-A Sacramento on Wednesday night. Meyer is 2-6 with a 5.61 ERA for the River Cats. ... Double-A Midland outfielder Andre Ethier went 2-for-3 with a double on Wednesday to lift his batting average to .326. Daric Barton went 1-for-3 to boost his average to .299. ... Outfielder Danny Putnam, a 2004 draftee out of Stanford, went 2-for-4 with two doubles for Class A Stockton on Wednesday. He's batting .305 for the Ports.
Up next: A's righty Dan Haren (10-7, 4.08 ERA) takes on Twins lefty Johan Santana (10-6, 3.68 ERA) on Friday. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.