Michael Taylor made his big-league debut last Sept. 2, called up when the A's expanded their roster. It was the realization of the outfielder's dream and it meant Taylor would be leaving a River Cats team he had helped guide to the Pacific Coast League playoffs, right before the playoffs started.
"It's exciting and tough at the same time," Taylor, currently a River Cat, recalled this week. "You'd like to finish what you start. But it's every player's goal to be at the next level. That's where you want to be today, tomorrow, yesterday, forever."
As befits the fluctuation in minor league baseball, the River Cats are trying to secure their sixth consecutive division title knowing the roster that carries them through the final weeks of the regular season likely won't be the same one they'll run out for the playoff opener Sept. 5, should they make it.
Following their 2-0 win over the Las Vegas 51s at Raley Field on Monday night, the River Cats hold a 4 1/2-game division lead over the 51s with 14 games to play. Starting Sept. 1, major league teams can call up any player on their 40-man roster.
As of Monday, that included 11 players on the River Cats' active roster, plus infielder Eric Sogard and outfielder Seth Smith, who were on rehabilitation assignments. And as August days fall away, players said, the clubhouse does begin to take note.
"It's not like the first thing we talk about when we walk in, but it definitely comes up in casual conversation," said infielder Grant Green, who is not on the A's 40-man roster. "There's joking around with guys saying they won't be here at the end of the season and whatnot. But of course it's (in the back of everyone's) mind."
Some players said they try to keep it out of their mind. Outfielder Collin Cowgill, who played 32 games with the A's earlier this year and is on the 40-man roster, said he hasn't heard anything about potentially being recalled and that "I try not to pay attention to any of it."
"If that happens, it happens," agreed infielder Brandon Hicks, who is on the 40-man roster. "You don't want to get caught up worrying about that kind of stuff. It wouldn't be fair to your other teammates to do that."
No PCL team has won its division six straight years since the league adopted its current format in 1998. The River Cats are chasing their second in a row under manager Darren Bush, who has juggled 142 player transactions this year while guiding his team to the league's best record (78-52).
Bush certainly isn't the only Triple-A manager dealing with roster moves and said he actually welcomes them at this time of year "because these guys are getting to go up there (to Oakland) and contribute to that club."
Unlike last year at this time, the A's are in a playoff race, entering Monday a half-game out of a wild-card spot.
Bush said he isn't sure what effect that might have in terms of call-ups from his team.
"It's going to be what the big club needs, what they think is going to help the big club be better, and that's what we want," Bush said. "We'll be fine. We'll battle and play hard and see what happens."
Last September, the River Cats sent six players including Taylor, infielder Adam Rosales and then-PCL home run leader Jai Miller to Oakland just before or during the PCL playoffs, in which Sacramento lost in the league title series to Omaha.
"If they're in a playoff run and they don't call guys up because they don't want to change the composition or upset the balance or whatever, that might happen, too," Taylor said. "But at the end of the day, if you do get called up, you just try to help the team win."
NEARING THE END
The River Cats have six regular-season home games left:
Day Opponent Time
Today Las Vegas 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday Salt Lake 7:05 p.m.
Thursday Salt Lake 7:05 p.m.
Friday Salt Lake 7:05 p.m.
Saturday Salt Lake 7:05 p.m.
Sunday Salt Lake 6:05 p.m.