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06/23/12 3:09 AM ET

A's reliever Fuentes slowed by ankle injury

OAKLAND -- Though five runs allowed in nine innings of work for Brian Fuentes over his last five outings could perhaps explain his absence of more than a week, that's not so much the case.

Fuentes, who was again rested in favor of southpaw Sean Doolittle following Ryan Cook's ninth-inning fallout in the A's loss to the Giants, has been slowed by an ankle issue that made him unavailable for a few days.

Fuentes, 36, said he has been 100 percent healthy since Sunday, and Melvin acknowledged such, explaining that he wants to ease the lefty back into action in a non-pressure situation.

Fuentes last pitched June 14 in Colorado, marking a stretch of eight days (seven games) in which he hasn't appeared in a game. He has a 5.79 ERA on the season, which ranks third highest among American League relievers.

Cespedes' DH prowess gives A's options

OAKLAND -- Any questions about Yoenis Cespedes' ability in the designated-hitter role have been put to rest, and it appears the rookie's production from the spot could lead to intermittent starts there even when he's completely healthy.

Still nursing a strained left hamstring, Cespedes made his third straight start at DH for Friday's series opener against the Giants, having gone 3-for-8 in his previous two games there, with one of those hits being a walk-off, three-run homer in Thursday's win.

Cespedes appears to be nearing a return to the outfield, but manager Bob Melvin confirmed the slugger won't completely be stripped of DH duties when he does.

"I think that's an option with everybody, yeah," he said. "It allows us to incorporate more guys and rest guys as the season goes along. We're coming up to the halfway point, and at this point, guys aren't always healthy.

"The one thing I was a little bit concerned about was him not DHing before, but he seems to be doing OK with that. It gives us the opportunity to make sure he's 100 percent when he goes back out there."

Cespedes, who is batting .341 with runners in scoring position, entered Friday ranked second among American League rookies in RBIs (30) and third in home runs (7), doubles (9) and extra-base hits (17).

Crisp setting table atop A's lineup

OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin talks a lot about the importance of getting his first two hitters on base. Outfielder Coco Crisp and second baseman Jemile Weeks have speed to burn, and Melvin says that when they get on, their presence on the basepaths does wonders for the offense.

And after struggling for quite a while, Crisp has been getting on base in spades recently. The 32-year-old's batting average stood at a paltry .158 on June 6, but Crisp has hit .333 in the thirteen games since, including a 7-for-19 performance on the current homestand going into Friday's game against the Giants.

The dynamic that Crisp brings was on full display in Thursday's win against the Dodgers. Leading off the bottom of the ninth inning, the outfielder walked, advanced to second on a wild pitch (with pitcher Josh Lindblom's focus drawn to Crisp instead of the batter) and got to third on Weeks' bunt, putting the winning run 90 feet away in a matter of pitches.

"It ended up being a great inning, but it all started with Coco and what he does to set the table," Melvin said.

Crisp's hot play has also coincided with his move from second in the order to the leadoff spot, with Melvin flipping him and Weeks. But the veteran said he hasn't changed his approach since he began hitting first and doesn't have a preference between the two slots.

He also doesn't have an explanation for his improved play, insisting that he felt the same even when he was struggling. Whatever the reason, others in the lineup have certainly noticed and are keenly aware of the impact that Crisp's ability to get on base has on Oakland's offense.

"He's a table-setter for us," said shortstop Cliff Pennington. "When he's getting on, he's one of the best basestealers, baserunners in general, in the game. When he's getting on base, it just means good stuff for the team. He's creating havoc and scoring runs, and that's what we need."

A's pitchers having dominant run

OAKLAND -- For as many pitching greats that have made their way through the historically rich confines of the Oakland Coliseum, none have combined for the type of stretch the current staff has managed.

Vida Blue wasn't around for something like this. Neither was Catfish Hunter or Blue Moon Odom. But the not-so-much household names of Tommy Milone, Tyson Ross and Travis Blackley, along with Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon, are.

Together, the five pitchers entered Saturday having allowed just 22 hits over the last six games, fewest by A's hurlers over a six-game span since at least 1918. They've allowed just 10 runs in that time for a 1.67 ERA.

"It's obviously impressive," Jonny Gomes said. "I don't even think it matters what level you do that at. If you did that in the College World Series, it would be impressive. If you did it in Triple-A, it would be impressive. So it obviously stands out a little more doing it in the big leagues, especially when you've just played the best team in baseball, record-wise. I think the story only gets better with that."

It's true. The A's trio of McCarthy, Milone and Blackley, along with a handful of bullpen arms that combined for three innings, surrendered just eight hits to the Dodgers over the last three games -- all wins that gave Oakland its first home sweep of the season.

"They start feeding off each other," manager Bob Melvin said. "Each starter takes it upon himself to go out there and keep it rolling.

"For Blackley, we haven't seen a performance out of him like that. I think he's gaining confidence each and every time he goes out there. Now it's [Friday starter] Jarrod [Parker]'s turn to go out there and do his thing."

Worth noting

• Colon, who is disabled list-bound Saturday, could return before the All-Star break, Melvin suggested.

"I certainly think there's a chance of that," he said.

Colon, out with a strained right oblique, played catch Thursday, just four days after exiting his start early after suffering the injury. Right-hander Tyson Ross will start in his stead Saturday against the Giants.

• The A's, who entered Friday just two games below the .500 mark for the first time since May 25, are eager to even out their record, something they haven't done since May 22. But Melvin wants to make sure his team knows that's not the end goal.

"I think once you're close to it, you have to set your goals a little higher and say, 'Can we get past it? Ahead of it?'" he said. "If all you're looking to do is play .500, typically you'll get there and kind of stall out. Once you get to .500, you'd like to set a higher standard and get over it. So it would be big for us to get there and try to move forward."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Ben Estes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.