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6/4/2014 7:28 P.M. ET

Lowrie's dedication to defense paying dividends

NEW YORK -- Jed Lowrie's production at the plate has dipped in recent weeks, but his defense has been noticeably better.

The A's shortstop, typically regarded as a below-average defender with limited range, hasn't looked the part of late. He's committed just one error in his last 27 games, after making five in his first 24 contests.

Lowrie still ranks last among American League shortstops with a 3.31 range factor, but the A's have seen an improvement in this area. He averaged a 2.88 range factor in his previous seven seasons.

"I would say definitely an improvement," said manager Bob Melvin. "I would say, within the last three weeks or so, he's been the best that we've seen defensively.

"It seems like his range is better, he's certainly making some stronger throws from the hole at shortstop. It's a credit to him and his hard work, because he does take his defense very seriously, and he works at it every day. It's starting to pay dividends for him."

At the plate, Lowrie is just 7-for-37 over his last 12 games.

Crisp out of lineup with persistent neck soreness

NEW YORK -- Ongoing neck discomfort kept outfielder Coco Crisp out of the A's lineup in New York on Wednesday.

Crisp initially suffered a neck strain nearly a month ago and, after missing several games thereafter, has been playing through it ever since.

"He continues to grind through this thing, so if I feel like there's a night when it's bothering him a little bit more than a previous day, then we try to stay proactive and try to not get it worse," said manager Bob Melvin. "He's a pretty tough guy, been playing with this for a while, but there are certain days you need to give him off, and we felt like today was a day."

In Crisp's place, Craig Gentry batted leadoff and played in center, while Brandon Moss made the start in right field and Kyle Blanks played first base.

Yoenis Cespedes also has been playing through some discomfort, battling a bout of shoulder soreness he also experienced last year, according to Melvin. But it hasn't been serious enough to keep him out of the lineup.

"It's not an issue to where you're going to DH him and he's going to benefit from that, so we just monitor it," said Melvin, "and as long as he's comfortable swinging and it's not affecting what he's doing swing-wise too much, then it's just one of those things that you play with."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.