07/06/11 3:45 AM ET
Weeks, Gio receive honors
By Tom Green / MLB.com
A's rookie second baseman Jemile Weeks was voted co-winner of the American League Rookie of the Month Award for June, and left-hander Gio Gonzalez was named American League Co-Player of the Week.
Weeks was called up from Triple-A Sacramento on June 7 to replace an injured Mark Ellis at second base. What was expected to be a short-term stint turned into a long-term situation, when Weeks got off to a fast start for the A's -- eventually securing the second-base job and leading the A's to trade Ellis to the Rockies.
"He came up here swinging the bat and swinging hot," Gonzalez said. "I'm surprised he hasn't burned his hands, already."
In 21 games in June, Weeks hit .309 with seven doubles, three triples, six RBIs and six stolen bases, which was good enough to finish tied atop voting for the award with Twins outfielder Ben Revere. Weeks also had seven multi-hit games for the month.
Weeks, who described his first month in the Majors as a "whirlwind," was hitting .299 entering Tuesday's game against the Mariners, with a .330 on-base percentage.
"Not bad for his first month," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We've seen what he brings to the table. ... He's been as advertised, and we expect big things out of him."
"It feels good," Weeks said. "Just to get any accolade this early in your Major League career, it's all positive, right now. It's something I never really thought about getting. I was just out here trying to help the team win and play well. I'm glad to know it's been noticed."
Meanwhile, Gonzalez earned AL Player of the Week honors for the first time in his career, after going 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA and a Major League-leading 16 strikeouts in wins over the D-backs and his hometown Marlins. Gonzalez shared the award with Toronto's Jose Bautista.
"It's an exciting award," said Gonzalez, who was also named an All-Star for the first time in his career on Sunday. "I'd like to continue to try to keep my head down and receive more awards like that.
"When we get Florida guys representing, it's even more exciting."
Willingham nears return from DL
OAKLAND -- Josh Willingham is still listed as day to day with a strained left Achilles tendon, but the slugger is inching closer to a return from the disabled list.
Willingham hasn't played since June 17, but is eyeing a return to the A's lineup when the team travels to Texas for a four-game set with the Rangers.
"It just depends on how it feels," Willingham said. "If it continues to get better, we'll look at playing in Texas. If it doesn't, then we won't sweat it and wait until the end of the All-Star break."
"I think there's a good chance," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "I'm cautiously optimistic about him playing before the break. What day that is, I'm not sure. But based on the last two days, they've been his best days by far."
Willingham was originally expected to come off the disabled list this past Sunday for the A's series finale against the D-backs. But the pain in his Achilles persisted after a rehab stint with Triple-A Sacramento, and his return was pushed back.
However, he said he has been able to run on it the last three days, and that it is gradually getting better.
"The key isn't how I do running on it," Willingham said, "it's how it responds to running."
The Achilles is responding well to the rehab, and Melvin said the left fielder got over a "significant hurdle" in the healing process in recent days.
"[Tendinitis] is really a nagging injury that, all of a sudden, one day you'll wake up and it's dramatically better," Melvin said. "So I think that's what he had a couple days ago. I know he had a smile on his face, and for the first time felt like maybe we really can do this before the break. I don't want to jump the gun, but I'm cautiously optimistic he can play before the break."
If Willingham does return during the Texas series, it could give the A's offense -- which is one of the worst in the Majors -- a needed boost against a division opponent before heading into the break. Before hitting the disabled list, Willingham was hitting .231 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs, leading the A's in the latter two categories.
In his place, the A's have rotated four players in left field, including Hideki Matsui, Ryan Sweeney, Adam Rosales and Conor Jackson. With his best power hitter out of the lineup, Melvin also moved Matsui to Willingham's usual cleanup spot, while slotting Coco Crisp third in the order.
Setup man Grant Balfour, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right oblique, made his first rehab appearance for Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday. The righty tossed one inning for the River Cats in Fresno, giving up one run on two hits, with a walk. He threw 23 pitches, 12 of which went for strikes.
Balfour expects to return to the A's on Thursday, when he is eligible to come off the disabled list. At the time of his injury, Balfour held opponents to a .198 batting average, including a .136 mark with runners in scoring position.
Righty Tyson Ross, who has been sidelined since straining his left oblique on May 19 against the Twins, made his second rehab start for Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday night. Ross tossed 3 1/3 innings in Fresno and gave up four runs -- all earned -- on seven hits. He struck out four and walked two, but also gave up a home run and threw a wild pitch. In all, the righty threw 71 pitches in his outing, with 43 of them finding the strike zone.
Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.