OAKLAND -- A's shortstop Jed Lowrie was held out of the starting lineup against the Tigers on Thursday because of ongoing neck soreness, opening up an opportunity for Nick Punto to get a rare start against a right-hander.
Lowrie, who missed two games last week because of the same issue, had started four consecutive games prior to Thursday. He appeared as a pinch-hitter in the ninth on Thursday and grounded out to end the game in Oakland's 5-4 loss.
"He's all right," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "He's still dealing a little bit with his neck issue. This was a good time … to give Jed a day off, after a night game, and get Punto in the game."
Punto, who had not played since Friday, was available off the bench the previous two days but did not see any action.
"Body feels good," said Punto. "Looking forward to getting back out there and playing."
Thursday marked just the seventh start made by Punto against a right-hander this season. He hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning for his first home run of the season.
Cook might only need one rehab appearance
OAKLAND -- A's reliever Ryan Cook threw another pain-free bullpen on Thursday, potentially putting him in the clear for a Minor League rehab appearance on Saturday.
That may be the only one he needs before returning to the active roster.
"As I'm told, I think there will be one Saturday," said Cook, "and then we'll go from there. Hopefully all goes well and then I just come back.
"It's obviously not up to me. They're going to make the best decision for the team and for my health."
Cook, sidelined since May 7 with a right forearm strain after already missing the first week of the season with right shoulder tendinitis, said on Thursday that he feels "10 times better than when I came back from the shoulder thing.
"Just in terms of sharpness and pitchability," the righty said. "Obviously I felt healthy, but I don't know that my pitchability was as good as it feels now."
Cook threw about 40 pitches on Thursday, with pitching coach Curt Young standing in against him.
Johnson can't escape home struggles vs. Tigers
OAKLAND -- Jim Johnson's struggles at the Coliseum continued in Thursday's 5-4 loss to Detroit, and so did the boos.
The home crowd has showered the right-hander with them in nearly every one of his outings, doing so again when Johnson allowed two runs in an inning of work against the Tigers with the A's already down.
"It's tough," said teammate Jed Lowrie. "You're talking about people who are paying to watch a game, but you would hope that people would be supportive when guys are going through a rough time. As a professional, you kind of just have to take the good with the bad."
Johnson has given up 13 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings for a 14.04 ERA at home, compared to just three runs allowed in 13 2/3 innings away from the Coliseum (1.98 ERA).
"He's having a more difficult time here at home," said manager Bob Melvin. "He's just not getting the same results here as he is on the road.
"He's going to pitch in some games when we're down, and today we were down. Guys have to respond to the opportunities they get. We'll continue to try to find a good spot for him and get him going."
Johnson, who compiled a Major League-best 101 saves in his previous two years in Baltimore, lost the closer's job just 11 days into the season following a string of ugly outings, and his role has since been undefined.
When asked about hearing boos from his new fan base, Johnson said, "What am I supposed to do?
"I don't know what to tell you," Johnson continued. "The balls are finding holes. I'm throwing pretty good pitches. Just feel like it's a little bit of bad luck. I don't think it's as bad as it really seems, but I think everyone else thinks that way."
Callaspo putting together better at-bats
OAKLAND -- May has been a rather rough month for Alberto Callaspo, but the veteran infielder has shown signs of life at the plate as of late, particularly in a crucial at-bat in the A's walk-off win against Detroit on Wednesday.
While the at-bat resulted in a groundout to second base, Callaspo made Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez throw nine pitches to push his pitch count to 109. He fouled off six of those nine pitches, including four with two strikes.
Before the ninth inning, Sanchez had surrendered just two hits without allowing a runner past second base. Callaspo's at-bat was vital in forcing the Tigers to go to closer Joe Nathan, who gave up a walk-off, three-run homer to Josh Donaldson.
"It really started out with Callaspo, because that's the one that probably wore [Sanchez] out and got him out of the game," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "If that's a two-pitch at-bat and then Coco [Crisp] doubles, then it's maybe a little different situation to deal with for them. But that was an awfully key at-bat.
"We've talked about, sometimes, early in games, getting pitch counts up and making guys work. There's something to it a little bit later in the game, body blows or whatever you want to correlate it to. But that was a key at-bat that really made him work and went a long way in getting him out of the game."
Callaspo, who is 6-for-18 over his last six games after going just 18-for-102 over his previous 31 contests, was back in the lineup Thursday for the fifth time in six days, playing first base in a matchup against right-hander Rick Porcello.
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.