OAKLAND -- The A’s will skip right-hander Jason Hammel’s next turn in the rotation, lining up Sonny Gray, Jon Lester and Scott Kazmir to start the three games this weekend against the Los Angeles Angels, whom they’re battling for the division. But manager Bob Melvin stressed today that despite Hammel’s struggles since arriving in Oakland, the right-hander remains one of the A’s five starters.
Melvin said Hammel will make his following scheduled start against the Houston Astros. "With the days off (Monday and Thursday this week), we’ve manipulated it a little bit here," Melvin said. "But we still know this is a guy that’s very important to us, and we have to get him going."
Hammel is 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA in his seven starts with the A’s. Skipping him allows the A’s to line up their top three starters against the Angels, who will counter with Hector Santiago, C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver in the Friday-Sunday series. Melvin said that Hammel could pitch in long relief if needed on certain days over the weekend.
Like the A’s in general, the rotation has struggled lately, taking the loss in each game of their current five-game losing streak. That matches the longest losing streak by A’s starters in the last five years. Kazmir will try to snap it tonight in the opener of a two-game series against the New York Mets. The A’s lineup behind Kazmir:
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And the Mets’ lineup behind right-hander Dillon Gee:
* A few injury updates: Melvin said outfielder Craig Gentry (broken hand) will play seven innings in the outfield tonight after appearing in a rehab game last night with Triple-A Sacramento in which he "felt good with no issues, as far as the hand goes." Melvin said he doesn’t know yet whether Gentry might be available for the Angels series: "We want to make sure he’s comfortable and plays several games in a row, and certainly would like to se him have some confidence."
Things are still "status quo" with Nick Punto (hamstring), who has begun some baseball activities, Melvin said. Kyle Blanks (calf) is scheduled to DH tonight for Sacramento. Jed Lowrie (finger) has taken ground balls and conditioning to try to stay in baseball shape while his broken finger heals.
* As is customary around this time, the A’s return home from their last homestand to find yardage markers across the middle of the field, after the Raiders held their first preseason game at home over the weekend. Melvin said he got a quick look at the state of the field and saw no immediate issues.
"It plays a little differently usually, a little faster in the outfield," Melvin said. "Until we get out there and play on it we’re not really sure, but that’s usually the way it is."
* Melvin was asked about the A’s offensive funk coinciding with their trading Yoenis Cespedes and said he’s getting that question just about every day. His answer remains that other hitters may be feeling some effect from their new roles, but that one player didn’t make the A’s lineup before, and the loss of Cespedes is not an excuse.
"At some point in time we have to get past that," Melvin said. "We were struggling some before the trade as well. We haven’t been as good offensively as we have for the better part of the season. But I expect us to get much better offensively, because we still do have a very deep lineup."
* Commissioner Bud Selig is in town today as part of his touring all the MLB parks before he steps down as commissioner after the season. Apparently he and Melvin go back a ways -- Melvin said Selig helped get him his first non-player job in baseball in Milwaukee years ago.
How did that come about? Melvin’s great-aunt Estie, Melvin said, played bridge with the parents of Selig’s wife in Milwaukee. "It’s not what you know," Melvin joked, "it’s who you know."