CHICAGO -- When the A's open an eight-game homestand Wednesday night at McAfee Coliseum, they'll get their first regular-season look at one of their American League West rivals.

After opening the season with series against the Red Sox, Indians, Blue Jays and White Sox, the A's will welcome into town the Seattle Mariners for a two-game series, but the schedule then veers back away from the AL West.

The Royals visit Oakland this weekend, followed by a visit from the Twins before the A's travel to Seattle for three games April 25-27. Immediately thereafter, they'll head to Anaheim for their first look at the Angels in a four-game series April 28-May 1.

Oakland manager Bob Geren, whose team typically opens the season with a slew of intradivision games, doesn't seem to mind waiting to get into the meat of the AL West schedule.

"It's a good point of the season to get started," Geren said before the A's closed out an eight-game road trip Monday with a 4-1 loss against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. "I'm looking forward to it."

Geren said he's seen a little of the Mariners on television, adding that he and his coaching staff will essentially cram for Wednesday's series opener on the flight home from Chicago.

"Everybody works pretty hard on the airplane," Geren said.

With Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez scheduled to start Wednesday, Geren plans to get Jack Cust, a left-handed slugger, into his starting lineup for the first time in four days. Another lefty, third baseman Jack Hannahan, is expected to start for the first time in four games, too.

Cust and Hannahan have been mired in a slump that has them a combined 1-for-31 going into Wednesday's game.

Pitching matchup
OAK: RHP Joe Blanton (1-2, 4.15 ERA)
Blanton picked up his first win of the season against the Indians last time out, allowing five runs and eight hits over 7 2/3 innings. Blanton, who pitched well against the Red Sox in each of his first two outings of the year but got little in the way of support, cruised through the first seven innings against the Tribe, giving up only Jhonny Peralta's home run in the second. Blanton had Seattle's number in a big way in 2006, going 4-0 with a 1.55 ERA in four starts, but in 2007, he went 1-2 with a 4.18 ERA in four starts against the M's.

SEA: RHP Felix Hernandez (1-0, 1.66 ERA)
Hernandez, 22, surrendered his first earned runs of the season in his previous start, ending a 17-inning streak. He had to work for everything last week against the Angels, throwing 117 pitches over 6 2/3 innings. The two-seam fastball has been Hernandez's best pitch, particularly when he's getting it down and in to right-handed hitters. "King Felix," as he's known in the Emerald City, was a royal pain for the A's in 2007, going 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA if four starts.

Dribblers ...
Right-hander Rich Harden, on the disabled list with a strained muscle beneath his right shoulder blade, has not started a throwing program. "We're waiting until the soreness is gone," Geren said. ... There's better news regarding righty Justin Duchscherer, on the DL with a strained right biceps. Duchscherer continued his preparation for a scheduled April 21 rehab start at Triple-A Sacramento with a long-toss session at 140 feet. Geren said Duchscherer was really "letting it go" and felt fine. ... Nothing new to report on third baseman Eric Chavez (back), who hasn't played all year and still hasn't been cleared for baseball-related activity. ... Catcher Kurt Suzuki, whose 4-for-4 night Monday boosted his batting average on the year to .370, sixth-best in the AL, was moved up to sixth in the batting order Tuesday. He went 0-for-3 and is now hitting .347.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• CSN-BA

On radio
• KFRC 106.9-FM/KYCY 1550-AM

Up next
• Thursday: Athletics (Lenny DiNardo, 1-0, 6.75) vs. Mariners (Carlos Silva, 2-0, 3.27), 7:05 p.m. PT
• Friday: Athletics (Chad Gaudin, 0-1, 7.20) vs. Royals (Brian Bannister, 3-0, 0.86), 7:05 p.m. PT
• Saturday: Athletics (Greg Smith, 1-0, 2.08) vs. Royals (Zack Greinke, 3-0, 0.75), 1:05 p.m. PT