OAKLAND -- After becoming the first woman to throw batting practice for a Major League Baseball team during Spring Training, Justine Siegal made history again Friday, when it is believed she became the first woman to throw batting practice in a Major League ballpark.
Siegal, the founder of Baseball for All, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing meaningful instruction and opportunities in baseball, especially for girls, threw batting practice for the A's on Friday before their series opener against the White Sox. The first batter she faced was A's manager Bob Geren, who stepped in to take some cuts to help Siegal find the strike zone while she loosened up.
"The guys hit her good," Geren said. "[Josh] Willingham hit her hard -- which is good. That's a compliment. When you throw batting practice, you want everybody to hit you really hard. It's not like a game. It's the opposite in a game."
It wasn't the first time Siegal threw batting practice for the A's, as they were one of a handful of clubs the righty tossed batting practice for during Spring Training, along with the Indians and the Rays. But none of those sessions took place in a Major League park like Friday's did.
While it's the second time Siegal has broken down a baseball barrier, she has said she thinks a day will come when women will make it to the Majors -- something Geren said he wouldn't rule out.
"You have all types throwing now," Geren said. "You have lefties, righties, sidearmers, knuckleballers -- anything's possible. You have people who throw 100 [mph], and then you have people like [Tim] Wakefield throwing knuckleballs up in his 40s. We've had pitchers in previous generations pushing 50, so I wouldn't rule anything out."
Willingham drops appeal, sits out A's opener
OAKLAND -- A's outfielder Josh Willingham has decided to drop his appeal for the one-game suspension he received earlier in the week and will serve that suspension during Friday's series opener against the White Sox.
"I just wanted to get the process over with," Willingham said.
With Chicago righty Phil Humber on the mound, the right-handed batter chose a good day to do it. Had he waited upon a ruling from Major League Baseball and had the suspension upheld, Willingham would have been forced to serve it that very day.
"You never know which way they're going to decide," he said. "I would've had no choice in the matter, and it could have come on a day where the team really needs me in there."
"Coming off an off-day for the team, with everyone healthy and fresh, you never want to play short but if you have to, it's a good day to do it," manager Bob Geren said.
Willingham, who will not be allowed in the dugout during Friday's game per Major League rules, was also fined an undisclosed amount Monday for what Major League Baseball deemed "inappropriate conduct" in Saturday's game in Kansas City.
The eight-year veteran was ejected by umpire Bill Miller for arguing a called third strike and throwing down his helmet at the conclusion of the top of the eighth inning. Willingham appeared to bump Miller, but said Monday, "I felt like there was contact, but I felt like the contact wasn't really initiated by me."
In Willingham's stead, Ryan Sweeney received a start in left field Friday. Sweeney entered the contest riding a season high-tying six-game hitting streak, a span during which he's gone 11-for-21 to boost his average to .364.
Bullpen faces test with 20 games in 20 days
OAKLAND -- Following a challenging April schedule that brought about a respectable 13-14 record, the A's are now facing another early-season test in the form of 20 games in 20 days.
That string, which began Friday against the White Sox, will highlight Oakland's depth and likely expose -- for better or worse -- a bullpen that has been spared a heavy workload thanks to a starting staff that has combined for a Major League-best 2.69 ERA and 240 2/3 innings, which ranks third in the American League.
The A's were given three off-days in a span of the first 42 days of the season and not one of their starters was skipped during that time.
"Our starters have been doing a really good job, and I've given them an extra day off whenever I could in the schedule," manager Bob Geren said. "Now they have to go pretty regularly, so it's still important for them to go deep in the games and keep the bullpen fresh."
Oakland's relief corps has tallied a combined 93 1/3 innings -- fewest in the AL -- all the while gathering a 2.89 ERA, good for second-lowest in the league. Even more, the relievers have yet to allow a home run in the club's last 17 games and boast the second-lowest opponents' slugging percentage (.321) in the AL.
That same bullpen just received a fresh face and could be getting a familiar one back soon. Rookie Trystan Magnuson, called up Wednesday to take the roster spot of lefty Jerry Blevins, will be on hand as a long-man option. However, his time in Oakland could be short should Andrew Bailey's rehab process continue to progress well.
Bailey is expected to throw 20 pitches in an extended spring training game in Arizona on Saturday and, barring any unforeseen setback, could be partaking in a Minor League rehab assignment thereafter, meaning Oakland's bullpen could further be strengthened by month's end.
Off the mound, Geren will rely on a steady handful of options off the bench during the next 20 games, all of which will take place in California thanks to a road trip through San Francisco and Anaheim.
"We've been changing the lineup around a lot, keeping them fresh, and with this stretch we'll continue to do that and keep everybody sharp and healthy," he said. "We have enough players, no problem, to get through these 20 in a row. Everyone is healthy and playing well.
"With position players, we've had plenty of options. I think the bullpen will get tested a bit."
Ziegler thrilled by Sharks game experience
OAKLAND -- Brad Ziegler was transported back to his childhood days for a handful of minutes during Thursday's off-day, when he was afforded the opportunity to ride the Zamboni during intermission at the San Jose Sharks' playoff game.
"When I first got on there," Ziegler said, "there was another kid riding it and he was about 9 years old, so I kind of felt like a kid all over again."
The A's reliever took in the game with bullpen mate David Purcey, who got a kick out of watching Ziegler wave from the middle of the ice rink.
"Let's just say I'm glad it was him and not me," Purcey said, laughing. "I enjoyed my seat just fine."
Ziegler grew up in Missouri watching the Kansas City Blades, which served as the Sharks' Minor League affiliate in the early 1990s. Since then, he's never experienced a thrill quite like the one he got Thursday, when the Sharks held off the Detroit Red Wings, 3-2, to advance to the conference finals for a second straight year.
"It was electric," he said. "The opening part, when the players skated out onto the ice, I got goose bumps because it's just so loud. You feel so much intensity, and I think the closest thing I've ever experienced like that was the Triple-A playoffs in Sacramento."
A's manager Bob Geren was also in attendance, calling the nail-biting game "fantastic."
As a thanks for his Zamboni ride, Ziegler is looking forward to welcoming the Sharks to the Oakland Coliseum for a round of batting practice by season's end.
Kevin Kouzmanoff was back at third base Friday, getting his first start since Sunday in Kansas City when he went 2-for-4 with a home run. Andy LaRoche started all three contests in Texas and has started a total of 11 at the hot corner this season.
"That's a position right now, where, whoever is playing best is going to play," manager Bob Geren said. "We want offensive production out of that spot, and that's what we're looking for. Kouzmanoff has had a great attitude through it all, and it's nice to get him back in there."
An indecisive Coco Crisp is reaching out to A's fans to help him decide on a hairstyle.
Fans can vote for one of three looks -- Afro, braids or shaved.
"I would think he'd just keep the braids," manager Bob Geren said. "I don't see him going bald."
Crisp, however, is thinking of taking it all off. In fact, he even made his own vote and checked the bald option.
"Is that right?" Geren asked when hearing that. "Is he thinking about shaving it off?
"Well, I guess that's the only vote that counts. I just like it when he's hitting and flying around the bases and makes things happen. When he's running around the bases, it doesn't matter how his hair looks."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.