CHICAGO -- Taking over a team midseason presents its own obvious difficulties. Certain factors make it even more of a challenge, as A's interim manager Bob Melvin -- three days into his new job -- is learning.
Oakland boasts five proven outfielders, all of whom have been everyday players at one point in their careers. But Melvin can't sprinkle each one into the lineup on a daily basis, particularly three -- David DeJesus, Ryan Sweeney and Conor Jackson -- who are fighting for time in right field.
Melvin has deemed right field his most difficult decision. With Jackson getting the start on Saturday, each of the trio has played there at least once under Melvin, a nod to his determination to feel out a staff he's still getting to know.
"I told them at the beginning, give me these four days to figure out the personnel, and once we get back home to Oakland, when they leave the ballpark that night, they're going to know if they're playing or not," he said.
That wasn't always the case before Melvin's arrival, as the lineup was routinely posted rather late in the day, often without any player knowing beforehand whether he was starting. Melvin said DeJesus will start on Sunday, but the position will likely continue to be a revolving door.
"Right now, Josh [Willingham] is important in the four-spot, and Coco [Crisp] is so important in the one-spot, that it seems like it's right field between three guys that all deserve playing time," he said. "It's really difficult. DeJesus is used to being a regular, Conor Jackson is used to being a regular, and Sweeney has got our highest on-base percentage.
"There's no perfect formula. Someone's going to be left out, and I feel bad about that. I wish we could play a rover out there and have four guys in the outfield, but that's not the case."
The decision would be slightly easier, he noted, if the club didn't have an everyday designated hitter in Hideki Matsui, as an outfield candidate could fill that slot every now and then. But, "it's more important to have [Masui] in the lineup right now," he said.
Matsui hits third for first time since '09
CHICAGO -- Making Hideki Matsui one of the focal points of the A's batting order is essential to interim manager Bob Melvin.
That very perspective influenced Melvin to insert Matsui into the third spot of the lineup for Saturday's contest against the White Sox, marking the designated hitter's first start there since 2009 and just the 23rd of his career -- 18 of which came in 2007 with the Yankees. The change, Melvin said, has potential to become a permanent one.
"He's a veteran," Melvin said. "He's a guy we need to lean on. He's had two very good games, and it doesn't mean that it's going to happen every day, but I feel good with a guy like him hitting in that spot."
Matsui was 4-for-8 during the first two games in Chicago following a disappointing 4-for-40 stretch over his previous 12 contests. He's mostly hit fifth this season, with 16 starts in the fourth spot as well.
Meanwhile, Conor Jackson has received the most starts in the No. 3 hole this season, with 28, and David DeJesus isn't too far behind with 22. Ryan Sweeney (8) and Josh Willingham (7) are the only other players to start there.
"I wrestled with the fact that you want to run the best lineup out there every day and you want to match up the best you can with a particular pitcher, but in the three-spot, if you keep running guys in and out of there, psychologically that may play into, 'Maybe we're not as good offensively as we think we are,'" Melvin explained. "I like to have a little bit more of a set lineup, especially in the middle, and rely on those guys and have confidence in those guys.
"That's a very important position, and when you rotate in and out of there, I don't think it sends a good message. We'll see where it goes, but at least that's the thought of the day."Matsui went 0-for-2 with a walk and a sacrifice fly in the A's 3-2 defeat.
Right-hander Graham Godfrey appears likely to stay on turn in the rotation, despite Monday's off-day, Melvin said on Saturday. Godfrey, who gave up five runs in 4 1/3 innings in his Major League debut against the White Sox on Friday, "certainly didn't pitch poorly," Melvin offered.
"We'll stick with that right now," he said. "I'll be definitive with it [Sunday]."
Daric Barton hit eighth for the first time since 2009 on Saturday. It marked the 49th time he's started in the No. 8 hole in his career, having made one start there in 2007, 29 in 2008 and 18 in 2009.