CHICAGO -- Good news from a depleted A's pitching staff has been rare, making righty Rich Harden's successful live batting-practice session in Chicago on Friday all the more encouraging.
Harden, nursing a sore lat muscle back to health, threw 20 pitches in the session and fielded nothing but good reports from his spectators, including a new one from interim skipper Bob Melvin.
"He looked good to me," Melvin said. "I know he had a little setback, but it was good to see him out there feeling good about himself.
"The Rich Harden that I know is that guy who sneaks the ball by the hitters and it's got that little wrist pop for the last 15 or 20 feet, where the ball explodes. You were certainly seeing that today, with some of the swings the hitters were taking. That was encouraging to see."
The A's will of course continue to be cautious with Harden, who has yet to pitch in a game this season and has a long history of injuries, evidenced by his 10 career stints on the disabled list. But as long as there continue to be no more setbacks with the proven right-hander, the A's will seek his help down the line as they try to offset numerous injuries to their starting staff.
"Here's a pitching club that relies on its pitching, so that dynamic plays into what's going on here," Melvin said. "You see someone who's getting close, someone who could have an impact, I think everybody feels good about that."
Anderson to get second opinion on elbow
CHICAGO -- A's lefty Brett Anderson is scheduled to see noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Florida on Monday for a second opinion on his sore left elbow.
Anderson, placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, initially underwent an MRI on his elbow with the team orthopedist earlier in the week and, according to a source, had expressed concern even before that visit that Tommy John surgery would be a likely option if his ulnar collateral ligament is torn.
That would be the worst-case scenario for the A's, who would be without Anderson for about a year's time should he need to undergo the operation.
Anderson endured two stints on the disabled list last season because of elbow problems and was subsequently limited to 19 starts. Upon his return, though, he compiled a 2.98 ERA.
The A's southpaw struggled in his last two starts, surrendering a combined 14 earned runs against the Yankees and Red Sox, along with four homers and five walks, in just 10 1/3 innings. Following a loss in Boston on Sunday, he noted that his slider -- normally his best pitch -- has not been as sharp as normal and he has not pitched with his usual velocity.
The A's have already lost three starters to injury within the first two months of the season, and that's not even including Rich Harden, who has yet to pitch in a game. Lefty Dallas Braden is out for the year after undergoing shoulder surgery, and right-handers Brandon McCarthy (shoulder) and Tyson Ross (oblique) are expected to be sidelined for at least another month.
Pennington to get a look in the No. 2 slot
CHICAGO -- Until recently, it was always an easy decision for former A's manager Bob Geren to insert Daric Barton in the second spot of the lineup.
For interim manager Bob Melvin, who replaced the departed Geren on Thursday, it was just as obvious of a choice to do the same with Cliff Pennington.
"He can handle the bat, he's a switch-hitter, so you're always going to have a matchup; he can bunt and we can use him to hit and run," Melvin said of Pennington, previously a No. 9-hole regular. "So, for me, it was kind of a natural fit.
"I know Barton is a consideration there because of the on-base percentage, but it just seems, recently, he's a little more comfortable down in the lineup and he can drive in some runs down there. It was actually an easy decision to make and one I'm probably going to stick with for a while."
Barton, meanwhile, was handed his first start under Melvin in the sixth spot, where he hit three times with Geren at the helm following lengthy struggles at the plate. The A's first baseman entered Friday 7-for-13 with four walks in that slot for a 1.262 OPS. Those numbers, obviously, come from a small sample size, but Melvin appears eager to expand it.
Pennington, then, will receive a long look hitting behind Coco Crisp. He entered Friday's contest against the White Sox batting .312 over his past 27 games after hitting just .217 in his first 35.Melvin's decision proved fruitful from the start, as Pennington notched a first-inning double against Chicago righty Edwin Jackson and scored on Josh Willingham's single.
Matsui to be A's regular designated hitter
CHICAGO -- After staring down the splits, new A's interim manager Bob Melvin faces no qualms in making veteran slugger Hideki Matsui the club's everyday designated hitter, no matter the opposing arm on the mound.
Melvin is well aware that wasn't the case when his predecessor was running the show. Bob Geren handed Matsui just nine starts against left-handed hurlers, compared to 37 when the team was up against a righty.
But the numbers tell their own story. Entering Friday, Matsui was hitting .210 with a .267 slugging percentage against right-handers and .233 with a .465 slugging percentage against southpaws. Overall, his career splits are overwhelmingly similar -- .287 average with a right-hander on the mound, and a .285 mark against lefties.
"I look at stats, and Hideki Matsui is hitting better against left-handers than he is right-handers," Melvin said. "He's never had a problem against left-handed pitching, so just to see he wasn't playing against lefties ... I understand when you're in Bob Geren's situation, you're trying to do some things to shake it up, but when I looked, it kind of surprised me because I just assumed he had been struggling against left-handed pitching.
"That's nothing against Bob Geren. Trust me. He was doing everything he could and is very well respected, trying to get someone in there and be productive. I get that, but for me, I feel like Hideki Matsui needs to be in there, and we need his bat in the middle of the lineup for him to be productive."
Much like Geren often expressed, Melvin fully believes that Matsui will turn around a slow start that has brought about a lowly .215 average with just four home runs and 22 RBIs through the first two-plus months of the season. Age, he maintains, is not a factor.
"He's not as old as me," the 49-year-old Melvin joked when asked about Matsui, who turns 37 on Sunday. "I think the fact that he's DH'ing and not playing in the field, he can still swing the bat. He prepares very well and is very diligent. Guys who understand themselves and how to prepare, as they get further along in their career, can bridge that gap to where you get a little bit older but you get a little wiser as well. I see him to be that type of guy."
Whether Matsui sees as many at-bats during Interleague Play beginning next week is unknown, but Melvin said he is at least willing to entertain the idea of giving him outfield time -- a decision he will ultimately make based on a forthcoming conversation with Matsui.
Cramer optioned, Kouzmanoff outrighted
CHICAGO -- In making the move to bring up pitcher Graham Godfrey from the Minors, the A's optioned left-hander Bobby Cramer to Triple-A Sacramento and, to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, outrighted Kevin Kouzmanoff to Sacramento after he cleared waivers.
Godfrey, who made his Major League debut against the White Sox on Friday, had combined for a 7-1 record and 2.32 ERA in 10 starts between Double-A Midland and Sacramento. The 26-year-old righty leads the Pacific Coast League in ERA and also boasts the lowest opponents' batting average (.222).
Cramer was in the midst of his third stint with the A's this year, having been shuffled in and out of the big leagues because of myriad injuries and bullpen shuffling. The lefty, who pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Trevor Cahill in Chicago on Thursday, did not allow a run in two outings.
Kouzmanoff, meanwhile, is now not on the 40-man roster. Optioned to Sacramento on Monday, the 29-year-old third baseman hit a home run in his first game with the River Cats on Thursday night.
A's interim manager Bob Melvin acknowledged before Friday's game that the club is missing a true No. 3 hitter. Conor Jackson has received the most starts (28) there this season, and David DeJesus isn't too far behind with 22. Ryan Sweeney (8) and Josh Willingham (7) are the only other players to start in the coveted slot. Melvin noted he particularly likes what Jackson and Sweeney bring to the No. 3 slot. Neither, though, is considered an everyday player.
"They're guys that work the count, have good, natural swings," he said. "For guys that aren't playing every day, to put them in the three spot is a little against the grain of what you normally do. Looking at it from afar, I was always thinking, why are those guys hitting third if they're not playing every day?
"But Bob Geren did the right thing there. These guys are pure hitters and, without a prototypical No. 3 guy, it made some sense and it made sense in my lineup as well."
Melvin is understandably still finding familiarity with his new team. Speaking on Friday of his Thursday debut in the pilot's seat, he said, "At the beginning of the game yesterday, there were times I had to wait for a player to cross by me so I could look at the back of his uniform to know who he was."
A's outfielder Coco Crisp entered Friday just three hits shy of 1,000 career hits.