A's lineup: Crisp returns

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A's lineup: Crisp returns

The Oakland Athletics have won their last six games against the Indians, and have shut them out in their last three contests. The A's are now a season-high 14 games over .500, with two more games remaining against Cleveland before heading home to the Coliseum. Oakland Athletics (71-57) lineupCoco Crisp, CF
Stephen Drew, SS
Yoenis Cespedes, LF
Seth Smith, DH
Chris Carter, 1B
Josh Reddick, RF
Josh Donaldson, 3B
Derek Norris, C
Cliff Pennington, 2B
Instant AnalysisCoco Crisp returns to the lineup after a day off to rest and help heal a sore foot. The immediate impact is a return to the sixth spot in the batting order for Josh Reddick. He went 5 for 8 with a homer in two games while batting sixth and it was a surprise to see him batting second for the first time this season on Tuesday. While batting second, Reddick popped out with the bases loaded in the second inning. He is hitting just .185 with runners in scoring position this season, the only blemish in an otherwise fantastic year. The sixth spot in the lineup might be a good place for him to hit even when he turns it around. Seth Smith is the designated hitter yet again. It appears the A's still don't want him in the outfield after straining his left hamstring. Since returning from the DL on August 21 all six of his starts have been as the DH. Smith has struggled all season offensively when not playing in the outfield, but seems to be overcoming the challenge lately. He is hitting .333 (7 for 21) with six runs, a double, a homer, and two RBIs since coming off the DL. Top of the OrderCrisp has become one of the most important players in the A's lineup. He is experiencing improvement across the board in 2012, even after getting off to a very slow start. He attributes his success to a modified batting stance and moving back to center field. He is apparently also killing sliders this year. Here are few statistical breakdowns on Crisp, courtesy of Bloomberg Sports.

Heart of the OrderYoenis Cespedes has been menacing pitchers all season. He is struggling on this road trip though, batting .143 with no walks and five strikeouts. Even with the recent dip in offense, he is hitting .333 since the All-Star Break, which is the eighth best average in the American League in that span.The reason Cespedes has been so successful this season is because he has found ways to quickly adjust on the fly. Pitchers have tried to exploit his perceived weaknesses many different ways this year only to see him modify his approach at the plate. Early this year pitchers tried to fool him on breaking pitches -- it didn't work. Then they tried pitching him outside -- he started going opposite field. Lately he is crushing change-ups.
(Courtesy Bloomberg Sports)Cespedes was 1 for 2 with a home run last time he faced Indians' pitcher Corey Kluber.
Bottom of the OrderDerek Norris is batting .197 with five doubles, two home runs, and 11 RBIs since returning to the A's on August 3. Norris is a rookie with a lot of responsibility behind the plate, so the A's aren't going to worry about his offense too much. That being said, he has been more productive than Kurt Suzuki offensively.
(Courtesy Bloomberg Sports)Norris has a lot to work on. Opponents have been able to successfully steal in 21 of 26 (80.8 ) attempts against him. The young catcher is calling a good game though, as A's pitchers have a 3.02 ERA with him behind the plate. Starting PitchersThe A's will dip into their pitching depth and start Travis Blackley (4-3, 3.52 ERA) on Wednesday. It will be his 19th appearance and 12th start this year. The Australian-born lefty is 3-3 with a 4.04 ERA in 11 starts. The Indians will counter with Kluber (0-2, 5.32 ERA). The right-handed pitcher allowed one run against the Yankees over five innings in his last start.

A's 17-year-old prospect 'Lazarito' makes Cactus League debut

A's 17-year-old prospect 'Lazarito' makes Cactus League debut

Lazaro Armenteros, the A’s 17-year-old stud outfield prospect better known as “Lazarito,” is believed to have become the youngest player in franchise history to appear in a Cactus League game.

Armenteros entered at the DH spot in the eighth against the Dodgers and went 0-for-2, flying out to right-center and popping up to shallow center. With the A’s short on position players, Armenteros was brought over from minor league camp and got a little exposure to the big league environment.

“He’s quite athletic, and I know they love him over there” at minor league camp, A's manager Bob Melvin recently said.

Armenteros also got a chance to mingle with Dodger outfielder (and fellow Cuban) Yasiel Puig before the game.

“Over there (in Cuba) you kind of play the game because you like it and you enjoy it,” Armenteros recently said through interpreter Juan Dorado. “Here, it’s more like a job. There’s more preparation.”

Armenteros will stay in Arizona through extended spring training and then head to play in the Dominican Summer League.

A's spring training Day 40: Manaea downplays struggles after walking five

A's spring training Day 40: Manaea downplays struggles after walking five

MESA, Ariz. — Something flipped a switch inside Sean Manaea in the third inning Saturday, and the A’s left-hander pitched with the aggressiveness he’s shown most of spring training.

It was a different story before that, as Manaea issued five walks, two of them forcing in runs, against the Cincinnati Reds. His final Cactus League outing ended after just three innings, his pitch count at more than 70, and he was charged with five earned runs.

“I was trying to nibble at the corners too much,” Manaea said. “The third inning I finally just said, ‘Throw it right down the middle and let them hit it.’”

The plan was to get Manaea close to 90 pitches, so he went to the bullpen and threw 10 more after he was pulled from the game. He entered the day with a 2.81 ERA in his first five outings, walking just one in each of those games.

He downplayed his struggles Saturday in Oakland’s 11-6 split-squad defeat at Hohokam Stadium, and manager Bob Melvin wasn’t expressing major concern either.

“He was just out of sync,” Melvin said. “Typically you don’t see him walk guys like that, let alone multiple guys in a row. It was just a tough day for him. We wanted to try to get him close to 90 pitches. But when you’re throwing that many pitches in three innings, I just couldn’t risk sending him back out there.”

Manaea was stressing the positives of his camp afterward. As he preps for one final tune-up start at AT&T Park against the Giants in the Bay Bridge Series, he particularly likes the way his slider has rounded into form.

“Just being able to have that confidence to throw it for a strike and get weak ground balls and swings and misses, it’s huge,” he said.

CAMP BATTLE: The A’s lost their other split-squad matchup by an identical 11-6 score to the Dodgers in Glendale. Jesse Hahn took the hill and struggled for the second consecutive outing, allowing two homers — including a grand slam by Andrew Toles — and surrendering seven runs (five earned) over 3 1/3 innings. Competing for one of two open rotation spots, Hahn hasn’t shown his best in the Cactus League stretch run. He gave up seven runs against Colorado in his previous start.

ODDS AND ENDS: Third baseman Trevor Plouffe had two more hits against the Reds to raise his average to .425 but left the game after tweaking an abductor muscle in his lower body. “He felt like he’s OK. We just didn’t wanna risk that,” Melvin said. … Rajai Davis connected for his first spring home run and scored three runs. … Sean Doolittle gave up two runs in his inning of work but struck out three. He sported his new eyeglasses for the first time in a major league game. … Matt Chapman hit a three-run homer off former Athletic Rich Hill in the game at Glendale.