OAKLAND -- The University of California baseball team entered its season with the program facing cancellation as the school's athletic department faced budget cuts.
But thanks to numerous donations, the team survived and staved off a potential final season.
"It was never a slam dunk that they were gone," said A's manager Bob Melvin, who spent time at Cal. "This is the University of California. For me, that's like USC losing their program. We all were embarrassed. Everybody that was part of the program in the past was embarrassed for the situation even to come up."
Through it all, though, the team persevered and made the College World Series for the first time since 1992, becoming the only Pac-10 school to make it to Omaha, Neb., this season.
The A's, who have five members of the club affiliated with Cal, honored the baseball team before Wednesday's game against the Marlins, who have a former Cal player of their own.
Making its first public appearance since being eliminated from the CWS, the team gathered around the pitcher's mound of Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on Wednesday evening and head coach Dave Esquer threw out the ceremonial first pitch to A's first baseman and former Cal player Conor Jackson.
"They had a great season and they deserve this tribute today," said A's righty Tyson Ross, who also attended Cal. "It was unbelievable. It was a tough year for them, and they really came together as a team and put something special together."
Along with Melvin, Jackson and Ross, assistant athletic trainer Brian Schulman and scouting director Eric Kubota each have ties to the program.
"They showed the baseball world that Cal baseball is here to stay," Melvin said.
A's Ross set to start rehab stint on Thursday
OAKLAND -- A's righty Tyson Ross is set to see his first game action since injuring his left oblique on May 19 against the Twins.
Ross will make his first of at least two rehab starts Thursday for Triple-A Sacramento. The righty said he will likely pitch four or five innings but wasn't completely sure about how long he will be stretched out, something manager Bob Melvin said he would address after Wednesday's game against the Marlins.
Before suffering the injury, Ross was a pleasant surprise for the A's while filling the void in the starting rotation left by the injured Dallas Braden. Ross, who exited eight pitches into his last start, is 3-3 with a 2.75 ERA. Now that his oblique is feeling better, the righty is just ready to get back on the mound.
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"There are no more limitations," he said. "I don't feel it anymore and I'm just kind of ready to get back to the normal schedule of things."
After Thursday's start, Ross will make another rehab outing for the River Cats, currently scheduled for Tuesday. Melvin said Ross is tentatively scheduled to make three rehab outings before being activated from the disabled list, but that can change with the All-Star break approaching.
"It's going to be pretty close right there, so I don't know exactly what we're going to do with the third one," Ross said. "We'll see what happens when that comes around."
Ross' progress means the A's are close to seeing three starters return. Right-hander Rich Harden is set to make his debut for the A's on Friday after being sidelined all season with a strained right lat muscle, and righty Brandon McCarthy was scheduled for a rehab start with the Class A Stockton Ports on Wednesday night and could rejoin the rotation next week.
Gio leads list of Melvin's potential A's All-Stars
OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin has been at the helm for only 17 games entering Wednesday's contest against the Marlins. But in that time, he has been impressed with what he has seen from some of his players and believes there are a few who are deserving of being named an All-Star come Sunday.
At the top of Melvin's list of potential candidates for the Midsummer Classic is lefty Gio Gonzalez, who one-hit the Marlins over eight innings on Tuesday while striking out nine.
"He certainly has the numbers to be an All-Star," Melvin said. "Certainly his numbers he's put up to this point, especially the ERA, would suggest that he would fit right in."
Gonzalez's 2.38 ERA was tied with Detroit's Justin Verlander for the fourth-best mark in the Majors entering Wednesday. Although Gonzalez had a rough three-game stretch to start June, he has rebounded nicely in his last three outings, giving up a combined three earned runs over 21 innings. Over that span the southpaw has fanned 27 and walked six.
Opponents are hitting just .216 against him, which is the 14th-lowest average in the Majors. Despite the numbers, and the support of his manager, Gonzalez was quick to deflect the praise and possibility of earning his first All-Star nod.
"I just put my head down and do my job, the rest is up to the fans and everyone else," Gonzalez said. "We have plenty of guys on this team that are definitely All-Stars in my opinion."
Among the other contenders in Gonzalez's mind, and on Melvin's list, are setup man Grant Balfour and starter Trevor Cahill.
Balfour was tied for second among American League relievers with four wins before being placed on the disabled list Tuesday with a strained right oblique. In 33 appearances, opponents are hitting just .198 against him, including .136 with runners in scoring position. He has also not allowed a run in nine of his last 10 outings.
Cahill sprinted out to a great start to the season but underwent a seven-game stretch in which he went 0-5 with a 5.67 ERA. He has bounced back with two stellar outings that Melvin said made the former All-Star look "like a guy who has pitched in an All-Star Game."
Although Melvin believes a handful of A's should be considered, it's likely only one will be named an All-Star. And while he won't be making any calls to campaign for them, Melvin said if AL manager Ron Washington calls, he would certainly give a recommendation.
"I'm probably a little biased ... I'm just talking about my guys," Melvin said. "But I think there are several guys who could certainly merit consideration."
Manager Bob Melvin said left fielder Josh Willingham, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained Achilles tendon, ran well on Wednesday and should be ready to go when he is eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday.
"If we were at Day 15 today, I think potentially he could come off tomorrow," Melvin said. "I don't have any doubts he'll be ready to come off on Sunday."
Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.