8/23/2013 7:32 P.M. ET
A's begin two-week stretch vs. contenders
By Todd Karpovich / Special to MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- The A's embarked on a crucial 13-game stretch against contenders beginning Friday in Baltimore, and manager Bob Melvin said the focus is still on winning the division.
Oakland trailed the Rangers by 2 1/2 games in the American League West entering Friday. However, the A's hold the second AL Wild Card spot, 2 1/2 games ahead of Cleveland and three games ahead of the Orioles. Melvin said the key is to win the division to avoid the AL Wild Card Game.
"You'd like to win the division first ," Melvin said. "If you don't, then you want to be in that game. Any time you get in the postseason, that's terrific. Our sights, for us right now, are still on the division."
Over the next three weeks, the A's will also play the Tigers and Rays, each of whom are in the playoff hunt. Oakland will then play another huge three-game series at home against Texas that could help decide the division.
"It's a little bit of an easier road when you win the division, rather than have to play a one-game playoff to get into a longer series," Melvin said. "It certainly makes for some drama for the fans, that winner-take-all game."
A's, Suzuki mutually excited about reunion
BALTIMORE -- Kurt Suzuki exchanged hugs with several teammates in the Oakland clubhouse prior to Friday's series opener after being traded from the Nationals.
Then, it was off to find a batting practice jersey and a suitable pair of shoes.
"It feels good," said Suzuki, who spent the first 5 1/2 seasons of his career with Oakland. "I'm shocked, to say the least. I mean, I couldn't be happier to come back where it all started and help this team get into the playoffs."
The A's acquired Suzuki from Washington for right-handed pitching prospect Dakota Bacus. Suzuki batted .222 with three home runs and 25 RBIs in 79 games for the Nationals this season.
Suzuki said he was happy with the time he spent in Washington, but was glad to be back in the green and gold.
"It's bittersweet," Suzuki said about the trade. "I wouldn't say glad for a change of scenery. I enjoyed my time there. Send to me to a place with a chance to win, and I'm all in."
Oakland manager Bob Melvin said Suzuki was a welcome addition to the clubhouse, especially with the loss of catchers John Jaso -- who could miss the rest of the season with a concussion -- and Derek Norris -- who was officially placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday, retroactive to Aug. 21, with a fractured left big toe.
Stephen Vogt was the only healthy catcher on the A's 40-man roster.
"He's terrific," Melvin said about Suzuki. "The tough part about replacing a catcher, as far along in the season as we are, is the transition period with the pitchers. So, this one is an easy one. He's knows most of our guys -- a team leader, always has been. I don't know if the front office could get a better guy for us."
Smith returns to A's lineup after lasik surgery
BALTIMORE -- Seth Smith was back in the lineup Friday against the Orioles after missing almost a week because of an eye astigmatism.
Smith's presence was especially important for the series opener in Baltimore against Bud Norris because manager Bob Melvin likes to use the outfielder exclusively against right-handed pitchers.
Smith is batting .241 with six home runs and 33 RBIs in 95 games this season.
"He's 20-20," Melvin said about Smith's vision. "He had an issue and then had to have the lasik [surgery]. I'm glad that's a quick process. A couple of days and he's seeing better than he was before. That's a good thing."
Reddick takes batting practice, nearing return
BALTIMORE -- Josh Reddick took batting practice prior to Friday's series opener against the Orioles.
Reddick could be available off the bench and then back in the lineup Saturday, manager Bob Melvin said.
Reddick was forced to leave Wednesday's game against the Mariners with a sprained right wrist he suffered while making a diving play in right field. He was taken to a nearby hospital for an MRI exam, which did not reveal any serious damage. However, the A's were being cautious because he suffered the same injury earlier in the season.
"I was worried about that -- the way he was feeling the other day and then had to have the MRI," Melvin said. "We were worried about how he would feel today. Surprisingly, he felt pretty good."
Todd Karpovich is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.