OAKLAND -- With 29 games left and a 10-game deficit behind the Rangers entering Friday's action, Oakland's path to the summit of the American League West looks nearly impossible to negotiate.
The A's will play 17 games against AL West foes, while four of their remaining seven opponents currently have records better than .500. This weekend's three-game set with the Angels will open a nine-game homestand, as the Mariners and Red Sox also come to town.
"When you play in the division, it's always close games," A's catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "Nothing changes against the Angels. They're a great team and it's always fun games."
Oakland is a combined 33-31 this season against its remaining opponents, including the AL Central-leading Twins and Rangers. The A's will host the Rangers from Sept. 23-26 for a four-game series.
"Your goal still is obviously to finish first," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "If and when that becomes impossible, then we'll go for our second [goals], but right now we're just trying to win as many games as we can."
After the current homestand, the A's will travel to Kansas City and Minnesota for three-game sets before returning for their final home games of the year, three against the White Sox and four against the Rangers. Oakland will wrap up its season with three games in Anaheim and four in Seattle.
"It's no different than any part of the season," Suzuki said. "We're just trying to come out every day and play hard and win games. We don't try to turn it up a notch just because we're playing certain teams. We just want to win. We take the same approach with every team."
Entering play Friday, the A's hold at least a .500 record against five of their remaining seven opponents. Only the Angels, who held a 7-6 season series advantage heading into play Friday, and the Twins, who have beat the A's five out of six times this year, have bested Oakland in the season series this year.
Devine, Outman join A's to continue rehab
OAKLAND -- Pitchers Joey Devine and Josh Outman, who have missed the season and rehabbed together in Arizona, joined the A's on Friday as they continue their 60-day throwing programs.
While Outman said he won't be pitching this year, Devine said he hopes to make it back on the big league mound before Oakland's season ends. Devine said he has about three weeks left in his rehab, making him eligible to return around the final week of the season.
"I want to finish out the year in the big leagues," Devine said. "But that's not my call. ... It'd be an accomplishment just to know that I got back to the way I was before I got hurt."
Devine and Outman both underwent Tommy John surgery in 2009, Devine in April and Outman in June. Currently, they are throwing simulated games and bullpen sessions.
Devine, 26, was pitching with the team during Spring Training, but has since battled through two bouts of tendinitis and received injections in his arm. After posting a 0.59 ERA in 42 games in 2008, Devine was slated to be the team's closer in 2009 before his Tommy John procedure.
"It's been tough," Devine said. "My expectations were to be back by Opening Day, but now it turns out that we're in September. I'm trying forget about it, because the more I think about it, the more upset I get, the more frustrated I get, and that's not where I need to be mentally for my future and for my own personal career."
Outman, who is in roughly the same stage of his rehab, said the organization has decided to keep him out of game action for the season.
"I don't foresee being able to pitch anywhere this year," Outman said. "I got to go to the instructional league and build up a pitch count, go home, have a good offseason and come in spring ready to make the team again."
Outman, 25, went 4-1 with a 3.48 ERA in 14 appearances (12 starts) for the A's last season. The southpaw threw batting practice in Sacramento on Thursday, marking the first time he faced live batters this season. Though the competitor in him wanted to let loose, Outman said he threw at about 85 percent exertion.
Outman said it's been a pleasure to watch the A's young staff this season, as Oakland led the American League with its 3.58 ERA entering play Friday.
"It's great to see guys I pitched with last year and the way they've come along," Outman said. "Just how well the pitching staff as a whole, starters and the bullpen, have done this year makes me feel kind of left out. But hopefully I can get back in there next year."
While it's been a tough season for both pitchers, at least they've been able to lean on each other through the drawn-out rehab process.
"It's good having a partner," Devine said, "but I hate to see it for Outman and I'm sure he hates to see it for me because we want to pitch."
A's reliever makes long climb to MLB debut
OAKLAND -- From an independent league to the Major Leagues, reliever Justin James has had himself quite the season. Even better, he made his big league debut in the Big Apple on Thursday, in the grandiose Yankee Stadium.
"I guess if you're going to have your debut, that's where you want it at," James said. "Especially with the lineup that they have. ... I just told myself when going out, 'Just try not to worry about the crowd and who you're throwing against.'"
James completed the eighth inning on Thursday, allowing a run on three consecutive singles, but struck out Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter. James, a 28-year-old right-hander, featured a fastball that sat at about 93 mph and a slider.
James entered the game with the A's trailing, 4-0, and it doesn't appear that manager Bob Geren will be inserting James into pressure situations any time soon.
"I have other guys that would be ahead of him in [pressure] situations," Geren said. "But I do feel good about what he's been doing. ... Good movement on his fastball ... aggressive, a lot of the elements that you look for."
James signed a Minor League deal with the A's on June 19 after he made 11 appearances with the independent Kansas City T-Bones. James then posted a 2.29 ERA in 12 outings with Double-A Midland before he had a 1.37 ERA in 16 games with Triple-A Sacramento.
James will be one of seven players to represent Oakland's organization in the Arizona Fall League this season. He is the second A's player to make the jump from independent baseball this year, joining outfielder Matt Watson.
"I worked my [butt] off this year," James said. "As long as I stick with what I was doing with independent ball, I figured somebody would grab me and I'm glad that the A's did. It's a great organization to be with."
James was picked by Toronto in the fifth round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. He spent three years in the Blue Jays organization and another with the Reds before joining the T-Bones last season.
Triple-A Sacramento clinched the Pacific Coast League Pacific South division title on Friday with a 12-8 win over Colorado Springs. It marks the ninth time in 11 years that the RiverCats have won the Pacific South Division. ... Outfielder Jeremy Hermida, who was released by the Red Sox Tuesday, signed with the A's and was assigned to Triple-A Sacramento, going 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles, a run scored and an RBI on Friday. Hermida batted .203 in 52 games with Boston this season. ... Triple-A reliever Cedrick Bowers was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with an elbow strain. ... Less than 24 hours after the NFL's Oakland Raiders completed their final preseason game, the Oakland Coliseum was converted back into a baseball facility on Friday. Batting practice on the field was canceled for both teams as groundskeepers made their final preparations.
Alex Espinoza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.