6/12/2013 10:21 P.M. ET
Robot helps KC teen throw first pitch in Oakland
By Jeff Kirshman / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Nick LeGrande was told he'd be visiting his grandmother on Wednesday, not tossing out the first pitch at an A's game from 1,800 miles away.
No matter that the Coliseum isn't exactly within driving distance of his home in Kansas City, LeGrande made the first telerobotic first pitch in Major League Baseball history. His family surprised him with what was surely a welcomed birthday present one day before turning 14.
LeGrande has severe aplastic anemia, a rare blood disorder, and can no longer attend games because of his weakened immune system, so Google Fiber helped construct an indoor miniature baseball field at his home, complete with a set of bleachers and grass straight from Kauffman Stadium.
When Google's pitching machine was wheeled out to the mound before the A's faced the Yankees, LeGrande was part of the experience thanks to the live feed on the machine's camera.
With family, friends and his doctors in his ballpark's stands, LeGrande then threw a ball across a sensor that signaled for the machine at the Coliseum to propel the ball into the glove of A's reliever Ryan Cook, who helped bring the opportunity to the attention of the A's organization.
"My girlfriend's older sister works for an advertising company that works for Google," Cook said. "They brought it to her attention and she figured to bring it to my attention. And when she did that, I got obviously really excited about it. I thought it would be an amazing thing to be a part of, to make somebody's dream come true.
"And once it came to me, I started at the bottom of the ladder here at the clubhouse and took it to the Athletics. ... We got nothing but support all the way up, and from there it was pretty seamless and easy for me."
A's sit ailing Cespedes, Crisp
OAKLAND -- The A's series-opening victory over the Yankees on Tuesday night didn't come without cost.
Yoenis Cespedes was replaced in left field by Seth Smith to start the third inning for "precautionary measures" after tweaking his left hamstring trying to beat out a ground ball in the first inning. Leadoff man Coco Crisp was also seen hobbling to first base in subsequent at-bats with an apparent heel injury after starting the game with a solo shot off CC Sabathia.
Both were out of manager Bob Melvin's lineup to start Wednesday night's game against the Yankees. Seth Smith got the start in left field, while Chris Young started in center. Melvin said both Cespedes and Crisp were available to pinch-hit.
"We always feel confident with whomever we run out there," Melvin said. "Obviously the results would suggest that we do very well when they're both in there."
The A's are 27-8 (.771) with both Cespedes and Crisp in the starting lineup, 12-19 (.387) without.
Cespedes leads the A's with 13 home runs and is the only member of the team with double-digit dingers. His 35 RBIs rank second on the team behind Josh Donaldson. Crisp paces the A's with 29 walks, 13 steals and owns the team's third-best batting average at .289.
"But again, we have to try and keep them healthy, too," Melvin said. "Even if it is a day or so, if you give them an extra day, you really want to make sure they're not playing on something that's bothering them for an extended period of time because both of them have to use their legs with what they do. You don't want to put them in a position where something else happens and then they're on the DL."
Melvin added that "there's a chance" both could sit out the rest of the series because of the short turnaround for Thursday's 12:35 p.m. PT finale, though the manager added, "Coco felt a lot better when he got to the ballpark and got treatment than he did earlier today."
While Melvin suggested that neither ailment is severe, the timing is discouraging considering the A's are playing some of their best baseball of the season. Oakland (39-27) entered Wednesday with its best record after the first 66 games of the season since 1992 and had won 19 of its last 24 games.
Still, an injury before the All-Star break is preferable to later in the season, when the A's hope to be making their push for the postseason -- particularly with tricky muscles like Cespedes' hamstring.
"And it's a big hamstring on top of that," Melvin said. "We don't want to see that thing pulled. He actually wanted to stay in the game yesterday, but he understood. He's not a guy you want to take chances with."
Jeff Kirshman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.