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09/04/10 5:35 PM ET

Ziegler's injury revives maple bat debate

Reliever suffers scratch, bruise after broken wood hit him

OAKLAND -- For years now, the debate over the use of maple bats has been ongoing within the baseball community.

It was reprised Friday night, as Oakland reliever Brad Ziegler was struck by a large portion of Mike Napoli's broken bat in the ninth inning of an 8-0 A's win. Ziegler had a deep scratch and a bruise on his back below his right shoulder, but was able to stay in the game and finish the inning. He received a new bandage and ointment before Saturday's matinee and said he would be a game-time decision.

"It really feels like it's starting to tighten up today," Ziegler said Saturday.

As Oakland manager Bob Geren pointed out Friday, had Napoli's bat rotated another 10 or 20 degrees before it struck Ziegler, it could have done more damage or even impaled the reliever. Napoli said he was using a maple bat from maker SSK on Friday.

"That's one of the things we've been talking about with maple bats for a long time, the inherent danger," Ziegler said. "It didn't seem like bats broke like that -- with the barrel end flying all the time -- 10, 15 years ago. Now that's happening a lot, almost every game or every other game. It was just a matter of time before someone got hit with one, I just wish it wasn't me."

Maple bats have become more prevalent in baseball over the past couple of decades, replacing ash bats. Although maple bats can pack more punch than their ash counterparts, maple bats tend to break in fuller shards as opposed to flaking like ash ones.

Some have even said pitchers should wear protective headgear on the mound. Asked whether he would support such a measure, Geren said, "If there was something available and a pitcher wanted to, I would have no problem with it."

'Scary' cramp won't change Braden's plans

OAKLAND -- Although he left Sunday's contest in New York with a right hamstring cramp, A's lefty Dallas Braden is scheduled to make his next start Tuesday against the Mariners.

With temperatures on the field at Yankee Stadium reaching triple digits, Braden's hamstring tightened up after he threw a pitch to Curtis Granderson.

"It was so scary," Braden said. "I never experienced something like that before. I knew my day was done."

Braden has battled through numerous injuries this season, including elbow stiffness, a rolled ankle and a mysterious illness that affected him for a week in May.

Reliever Joey Devine, who has missed all season but is on day 38 of his 60-day throwing program, threw a 20-pitch simulated game before Saturday's tilt with the Angels. It marked the first time in four months that Devine faced batters.

"He reported that he felt good," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "He looked pretty good."

Devine threw between 75 and 100 percent on Saturday and is scheduled to throw another bullpen session or simulated game on Tuesday. Devine said he hopes to pitch in a game or two before season's end, as he will be eligible to return for the season's final week if he sticks to the throwing program.

Fellow pitcher Josh Outman, who has also missed all season, threw off flat ground before Saturday's game.

Four A's affiliates are playoff-bound

OAKLAND -- It was a banner day for the A's farm system on Friday, as three Minor League affiliates clinched postseason berths.

While Triple-A Sacramento won the Pacific Coast League South Division, Double-A Midland and Class-A Advanced Stockton each won their respective second-half titles to secure playoff berths. Class A Vancouver has already clinched its division, meaning all four affiliates will participate in the postseason.

"Were having a very good year in our system as far as winning," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "It's wonderful. They work very hard and deserve credit. You look at our team up here and so many of them have come through our system, they do a great job."

Althrough outfielder Matt Carson is currently with the A's, he played 64 games with Sacramento this season, batting .303 with 13 homers and 36 RBIs for the RiverCats. Sacramento won its ninth division title in 11 years on Friday, despite trailing by as many as 12 1/2 games in June.

"There's times when I went down that the team was struggling pretty good," Carson said. "We'd be down quite a few games, and we'd get some momentum going and before we knew it we were up. It's pretty cool, I don't think I've been on a team that's been that far back and overcome the deficit. It's definitely going to be one I'll remember."

The Triple-A playoffs feature two rounds and a championship game, meaning Triple-A callups could be considered as early as the second week of September and as late as Sept. 22.

Among the possible callup options could be outfielder Matt Watson -- who has played in Oakland this season -- top prospect Michael Taylor, catcher Josh Donaldson, infielder Eric Sogard and recently acquired outfielder Jeremy Hermida. Top power-hitting prospect Chris Carter is on the disabled list with a sprained left thumb.

Alex Espinoza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.