A's digital mailbag: Smiling Cespedes, roster expansion

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A's digital mailbag: Smiling Cespedes, roster expansion

Programming note: Red Sox-A's coverage begins tonight with A's Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California!

OAKLAND -- Time for another edition of the A's digital mailbag. Remember, you can E-mail me any time CPratt@ComcastSportsNet.com or Tweet me @CaseyPrattCSN to get your questions answered.@caseyprattcsn Which player's success do you think is most important down the stretch for the A's to make the playoffs? Kevin Urquhart (@UrqMyHeart) August 31, 2012CP: The easy answer would be Yoenis Cespedes. The A's are 61-35 with him in the starting lineup and 12-22 when he doesn't play. We all know how important he is to the team, so I am going to go with a different player. I think Jemile Weeks could be the most important player for the A's during the stretch run. Here is a guy that sparked the A's offense last year. If he can find a way to return to the A's and do anything near what he did in his rookie season when he hit .303 with 22 stolen bases 26 doubles and eight triples in just 97 games -- the offense could be very good. In the seven games he has played with Sacramento since getting sent down he is hitting .419 with a .500 OBP and nine RBI.For the pitchers my pick is Brandon McCarthy. Without Bartolo Colon, the A's need a veteran they can look to in big games and that guy is McCarthy. @caseyprattcsn Do you think the A's are sold on Norris as the answer for the next couple years at catcher or is he a stop gap? Oakfan (@oakfan1108) August 31, 2012CP: The A's were so sold on Derek Norris that they traded Kurt Suzuki. He is the catcher of the immediate future for the A's. He has done a good job handling the pitching staff, and really benefitted from his time working with Suzuki. Now he has to turn the corner. He does have some things to work on -- as he should, he is a rookie after all -- but he has shown the team enough that they have faith in him. The bad: Opponents have been successful in 80.8 of the stolen base attempts against him, and he is only hitting .200 since being recalled on August 3. The good: A's starting pitchers have a 2.99 ERA with him behind the plate. He has seven doubles, five homers, and 23 RBI with the A's, so he is hitting for more power than Suzuki was. He also has five stolen bases which is the most by a rookie catcher in Oakland history. @caseyprattcsn Pennington and Rosales bring better defense to 2B but offense still isn't stellar.Does Weeks just step back in or platoon? Stephen Rosenthal (@srosenthal13) August 31, 2012CP: IF Jemile Weeks returns anytime soon he'd have to be put in the lineup daily. That's my take. Once he is ready to return the A's need to get him consistent playing time. Cliff Pennington and Adam Rosales have done a good job defensively as you noted -- Rosales has 0 errors in nine games at second, Pennington has one error, but has looked very good there. Offensively they are still struggling a bit even with the platoon. Pennington is hitting .200 as the A's second baseman. Rosales is hitting .208. So, if the A's feel Weeks is ready to return he could be an upgrade over the current platoon. Weeks is the future at second base. It is his job if they feel he has done enough in Triple-A. Don't forget Grant Green has also been told to focus on second base, so Weeks is under pressure to earn that spot again. @caseyprattcsn noticed Cespedes smiling a lot more now than a few months ago. Is it cause he fits in more or language barrier is diminishing Claudiu Toma (@cmtoma) August 30, 2012CP: Imagine escaping your homeland of Cuba for the Dominican Republic, getting signed to an American club, getting to Spring Training in Arizona late, getting sent to Japan to open the biggest series of your life, then heading to Oakland to start a career you have dreamed of since you were a child. A bit much, right? That's what Yoenis Cespedes has gone through. He can't see his family, is under intense pressure to perform and live up to his contract, doesn't speak much English, and has to face the best pitchers on the planet. He is smiling a bit more because he is definitely succeeding in the face of all those challenges. The team is succeeding as well. This guy eats, breathes, sleeps, and dreams baseball. He is having fun realizing his dream, and is emerging as a star in the game on a team in a pennant race. He has a lot to smile about. With everything he's gone through, can you believe this guy is playing as well as he is? Scary to think what will happen when he is comfortable. He is also getting a better grasp on the English language. Ariel Prieto has done a great job helping him get through all the unique challenges.@caseyprattcsn Any word on which WWE Superstar theme Reddick will be using tonight? Ramon Silver (@whatandwhy09) August 31, 2012CP: He has been using Daniel Bryan's theme which is a solid choice. With the recent news that his favorite Wrestler Triple-H is calling it a career, I'd expect a tribute to The Game. If it were up to me I'd come out to Shawn Michael's entrance theme as sung by Michaels himself. Why? Because I think it is the funniest song ever made. @caseyprattcsn who gets called up tomorrow? They can add up to 15 right ? Chris (@ChrisSpeer2001) August 31, 2012CP: With the rosters expanding the A's can add some depth. I wouldn't expect them to add 15 more players though. The A's are in contention unlike previous years. They don't have the opportunity in a playoff chase to see what they have in some of their prospects. The River Cats are also in a playoff run. While it won't stop the A's from taking players, it is good to let some of the younger guys get that experience. I'd expect the additions of relievers like Pedro Figueroa, Tyson Ross, and maybe Jesse Chavez first. The position players might not come up right away, but instead later down the stretch run. Guys like Collin Cowgill, Michael Taylor, Jemile Weeks, Brandon Hicks, possibly even Grant Green -- maybe even Daric Barton or Kila Ka'aihue -- to name a few. Really only the A's organization knows the true plan. You can definitely expect a return of A.J. Griffin soon. They will probably keep Dan Straily down to get regular work.

Report: A's bringing back former slugger first baseman

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USATSI

Report: A's bringing back former slugger first baseman

The A's hit a lot of home runs and they appear to be bringing back a player that hits a lot of home runs.

Chris Carter, who played for the A's from 2010 through 2012, is reportedly signing a minor league contract to return to the organization.

News of the deal was first reported by FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman.

Carter was released by the Yankees on July 10. In 62 games for New York, Carter hit .201/.284/.370 with five doubles, eight home runs and 26 RBI.

Over the previous four seasons between Houston and Milwaukee, Carter hit 131 home runs and drove in 328 runs.

Carter's high-water mark with the A's came in 2012 when he hit 16 home runs in 67 games.

Sonny Gray keeps dealing, A's avoid sweep with win over Rays

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Sonny Gray keeps dealing, A's avoid sweep with win over Rays

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND — Sonny Gray struck out six pitching into the seventh in what might have been his final home start in Oakland if the club tries to deal him before the trade deadline, and the Athletics rallied in the fifth inning to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-2 on Wednesday.

Matt Joyce hit a towering homer to the right-field seats in the eighth for Oakland.

Rajai Davis doubled home Oakland's first run in the fifth then Joyce followed with a tying sacrifice fly before Davis scurried home with the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.

Gray (6-4) won his third straight start and fourth in five. When speculation arose from the White Sox side before his Friday outing that the right-hander had been scratched because of a possible deal, the A's quickly announced that he was indeed taking the mound for his scheduled outing.

After a pair of one-run defeats to begin this series, the A's avoided being swept by the Rays in Oakland for the first time. This already marked just their third lost series at home to Tampa Bay.

Gray allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings with two walks.

The Rays got three straight singles off Gray to start the fourth inning, including an RBI single by Wilson Ramos. Brad Miller also drove in a run on a groundout.

But Oakland finally got to Tampa Bay right-hander Jake Faria (4-1) in the fifth. With seven straight quality starts to begin his career, Faria took his first big league loss.

A's All-Star Yonder Alonso hit an RBI single in the inning, when Faria had two of his four walks. He allowed six hits and four runs in five innings, striking out four.

Alonso was thrown out at home in the first when he tried to go from first on Khris Davis' double to right. The throw beat him so handily Alonso didn't even try to slide and instead ran behind the plate before turning for the dugout.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rays: RF Steven Souza Jr. exited the game in the first after straining his left hip trying to steal second after drawing a leadoff walk to start the game. Shane Peterson replaced him. X-rays were negative and he will be re-evaluated once the team arrives home. ... Manager Kevin Cash said LHP Blake Snell would make his next turn in the rotation despite still being winless at 0-5 with a 4.98 ERA in 11 starts. "He's going to pitch well," Cash said.

Athletics: The A's hope to have Chad Pinder back from the DL and a strained left hamstring when they return home from an upcoming seven-game trip to the New York Mets and Toronto. Manager Bob Melvin plans to use him as a utilityman. ... RHP Kendall Graveman allowed five hits and four runs with one strikeout and a walk on 46 pitches in 2 1/3 innings with Triple-A Nashville rehabbing his strained pitching shoulder. RHP Jharel Cotton (blister on his right thumb) also pitched in the game, striking out six in 3 1/3 innings, while Pinder was 0 for 2 with a walk and strikeout for the Sounds.

UP NEXT

Rays: With the Rays back home, RHP Alex Cobb (8-6, 3.59 ERA) takes the ball in Friday's series opener against Yu Darvish and Texas having not faced the Rangers since April 6, 2014.

Athletics: After Thursday's day off following a cross-country flight, RHP Paul Blackburn (1-0, 1.83 ERA) pitches the series opener at the Mets in his fourth career start.