CHICAGO -- A's interim manager Bob Melvin plans to take full advantage of backup catcher Landon Powell, utilizing him not just when regular Kurt Suzuki is in need of a day off but when he can "get him in there where he can have success."
"I want to try to profile what kind of hitter he is, who he's had success against, and try to get him in those games," Melvin said.
Powell received his first start behind the plate under Melvin on Sunday in the club's 5-4 loss, playing battery mate to right-hander Guillermo Moscoso. It marked his first start since June 4 against the Red Sox and just his 13th this year. Suzuki, meanwhile, had seen time in 27 over the last 29 days.
Melvin knows first-hand the demands of a big league catcher, having spent 10 Major League seasons behind the plate with seven teams.
"Kurt wants to play every day," he said. "He's able to do it, but you also want to keep him fresh. I think, even as a regular behind the plate when you're playing that much, you don't even understand the toll it takes on you.
"I want everyone to be part of it. We need to get [Powell] involved. He does a nice job behind the plate."
The 29-year-old Powell entered Sunday hitting .204 in just 49 at-bats this season and had tossed out three of eight basestealers. Powell struck out twice and walked once to lower his average to .196. Josh Willingham pinch-hit for him in ninth inning with two runners on base.
Willingham out of A's Sunday lineup
CHICAGO -- A nagging left Achilles tendon strain kept A's outfielder Josh Willingham out of Sunday's lineup against the White Sox, putting designated hitter Hideki Matsui into the cleanup spot with left fielder Ryan Sweeney batting third.
Willingham didn't play a week ago because of the same soreness, and interim manager Bob Melvin noted, "I don't think it's gotten any worse, but he still feels it."
"With [Monday's] off-day and the long season, it should do him good," he said. "He's been run out there pretty hard, and we need him."
Melvin said he wouldn't rule out using Willingham as a pinch-hitter, and, in fact, sent him in to hit for Landon Powell in the ninth inning as the A's attempted a late rally in the 5-4 loss. Willingham, who flew out to right for the second out of the inning with two runners on base, has been the team's biggest run producer this season, with a team-high 10 home runs and 41 RBIs, despite a .235 batting average.
The lineup shift came less than 24 hours after Melvin had deemed Matsui the club's new No. 3 hitter.
"I should have come out here with the shoe in my mouth," he joked.
As long as Willingham is good to go for Tuesday's series opener against the Royals, Melvin will resume his plan of having Matsui bat third.
Melvin to employ pregame infield drills
CHICAGO -- A rare scene unfolded on Sunday morning, as Oakland's position players took to the field for pregame infield practice -- an oddity for the A's on days when they hit in the indoor cages.
However, it's not so unusual for interim manager Bob Melvin, who utilized the same practice regularly while managing in Arizona.
"I've always been a proponent of infield, especially on days when you hit in the cage," said Melvin. "A day game after a night game, it makes sense to hit in the cage, but I don't want the first ball of the day that you see being the first hit ball. I want you to break a little sweat."
The infield session followed Saturday's three-error performance -- tying the A's for the most miscues (50) in the American League -- but Melvin insisted it wasn't punishment. In fact, he notified his squad of his preference for such practice on his first day at the helm.
"You work all spring long working as a unit on team defense," he said. "Every day, it's a priority. And then you get into the season, and you never do it. There are just things that I think are conducive to good defensive play, if you do it as a unit. This team has to win as a unit, and that's why I like to do it."Ironically, third baseman Scott Sizemore's errant throw in the seventh inning on Sunday allowed the go-ahead run to score in an eventual 5-4 loss.
Interim manager Bob Melvin announced his rotation for the A's three-game home set against Kansas City beginning on Tuesday. Righty Trevor Cahill will get the nod for the opener, and lefties Josh Outman and Gio Gonzalez will follow.
Despite Monday's off-day, Melvin said he's tentatively planning on keeping rookie Graham Godfrey, who made his Major League debut on Friday, in the rotation, meaning the right-hander will likely get a start against the Giants in Oakland next weekend.
Daric Barton played his 420th career game at first base on Sunday, tying Scott Hatteberg for third most in Oakland history. Mark McGwire leads the pack by a long shot with 1,251 starts at first base, with Jason Giambi in second at 728.
Entering Sunday, A's starting pitchers were winless over their previous 12 games, going 0-9 with a 7.39 ERA and a .322 opponents' batting average. Members of the Japanese media honored Hideki Matsui's 37th birthday on Sunday by presenting the A's designated hitter with a large cake. It's a tradition that has spanned 19 years.