Notes: Kotsay not worried about slide
Veteran outfielder considers A's recent struggles temporary
NEW YORK -- Veteran outfielder Mark Kotsay is considered one of the true leaders in the A's clubhouse, and he knows what a bad team looks like. He spent the first six full seasons of his career with the Marlins (1998-2000) and Padres (2001-03), who never came close to sniffing the playoffs during those years.
And while he concedes that the A's are struggling, having lost seven of eight and 13 of 17 heading into the second game of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, Kotsay doesn't see any need to flex his leadership muscles any more than he does on a daily basis.
"I guess if it got a lot worse than it is now, I might," Kotsay said before batting practice. "I mean, if it got to the point that I felt like we were totally in the tank, I'd probably think about doing something with some of the other veterans; call a meeting or pull some guys aside. But I don't see that right now."
What Kotsay sees is a team that's working hard, playing hard and getting some bad breaks, such as the double play that first baseman Dan Johnson hit into on Friday night. With the Yankees leading, 2-0, in the seventh inning and runners at the corners with nobody out, Johnson hit a bullet back up the middle that caromed off pitcher Mike Mussina and went right to second baseman Robinson Cano, who started a double play.
It scored a run to cut the lead, but it cost Johnson an RBI -- and the A's their best chance to put up a crooked number. Mariano Rivera took over an inning later. Game over.
"That's a perfect example of what's been happening to us," Kotsay said of the play. "You can't whine about it, because that kind of thing happens in this game, but it definitely gets old. We've played pretty good baseball the past four or five days, and we've only gotten one win and a bunch of tough losses."
Sooner or later, Kotsay is sure, the A's will start getting some breaks and turn things around.
"This team has won a lot of ballgames every year since I got here [in 2004], and there's a reason for that," he said. "We play the game the right way, and when you do that, with the talent we've got in here, you'll win your fair share of games. We're banged up right now, and that doesn't help, but we just have to keep going hard like we have been.
"Believe me, I know what a losing team looks like. I was on losing teams my first six years. This is not a losing team."
Duke delayed: Righty setup man Justin Duchscherer, on the disabled list since May 15 with a strained right hip, had to hold off on his plan to throw from the top of a bullpen mound on Saturday.
After playing catch in the outfield for a while, he decided to wait at least another day before throwing his first full-blown bullpen session since going on the shelf.
"I just didn't feel right," Duchscherer explained. "I don't know if it's residual from throwing [three-quarters up the mound in Cleveland] the other day, or if it's not responding to a new range of motion or what. I don't know. It's frustrating. I thought I was past this."
Throwing on the top of the mound will be a significant test for Duchscherer because it will include some pitches from the stretch; before going on the DL, it was pitching from the stretch that gave him the most trouble.
"When you're in the windup, you can generate some momentum and take pressure off the hip," he said. "In the stretch, it's just, boom, go! It probably doesn't sound like much, but it's a totally different kind of stress on your body."
Buck goes bald: Outfielder Travis Buck, whose long, curly blonde hair made him recognizable from afar, was barely recognizable in the clubhouse on Saturday after third baseman Eric Chavez and lefty reliever Alan Embree shaved the rookie's head.
"I just figured it was time to do something productive," said Buck, who was placed on the 15-day DL with a sprained right thumb on Friday. "It was time for a change."
While Buck was talking about his new look, Kotsay was at the next locker, telling his wife about it over the phone.
"She said, 'Oh, no! Why??'" Kotsay said with a laugh.
Embree was laughing, too, while noting that the female fans in Oakland will be bummed about the trim. Even manager Bob Geren weighed in.
"He had nice hair," Geren said. "But it'll grow back."
"My hair grows back quick," Buck claimed. "It'll be back in a month."
Dribblers: Outfielder Nick Swisher, who took a beating on Thursday and Friday while making and attempting some spectacular catches, was back in the lineup on Saturday. Geren was contemplating giving Swisher a day off, but when he returned to his office after a trip to the field on Saturday morning, Geren got word from Swisher that he was OK to play. "He left me a little note saying he was fine," Geren said. "It was kind of cute." ... Geren said he was trying to facilitate an introduction between Buck and Don Mattingly, the former Yankees great who now serves as New York's bench coach. ... Outfielder Bobby Kielty (left calf strain) went 1-for-5 with Triple-A Sacramento on Friday and was 3-for-11 with two doubles in three rehab games with the River Cats. ... Sacramento first baseman Daric Barton extended hit hitting streak to 24 games with an RBI double in the third inning.
Up next: A's righty Dan Haren (9-2, 1.91 ERA), expected to be named an American League All-Star later in the day, will take on Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte (4-5, 3.24 ERA) on Sunday in the series finale. The first pitch is set for 10:05 a.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.