Oakland A's

A’s Crisp (neck) takes BP on field, possibly nearing rehab assignment

A’s outfielder Coco Crisp took a significant step toward his return from a neck injury Tuesday, taking batting practice with the team on the field before their game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Crisp has been on the disabled list since May 20 because of a cervical strain and also missed the first part of the season following right elbow surgery. He has played in just 13 games this season, going 2 for 45.

The irony is that the A’s moved Crisp to left field this spring hoping it would help keep him healthy and on the field. Crisp has been the offense’s sparkplug in recent seasons. His absence, however, has allowed for the emergence of Billy Burns, who is batting .302 with 19 steals and is a candidate for American League Rookie of the Year.

Manager Bob Melvin said that Crisp likely will have to do several days of batting practice and pregame work with the A’s before going on a rehabilitation assignment. Once Crisp is healthy enough to play, it shouldn’t be long before he rejoins the A’s.

“We’re not really sure until he starts doing everything on the field, whether it’s the running portion, the fielding, certainly seeing how he responds to hitting from both sides of the plate,” Melvin said. “Then we’ll have a better understanding (of a timetable). But we should know a lot more by the end of this homestand.”

The latest recovery hasn’t been easy for Crisp. While recovering from the neck injury, he dealt with kidney stones and went home to Palm Springs for that issue. Melvin, though, said, “When he does come around, it seems to happen pretty quickly.”

▪ The A’s lineup for Tuesday’s series opener against the Blue Jays and left-hander Mark Buehrle:

CF Burns

1B Vogt

2B Zobrist

DH Butler

LF Smolinski

3B Lawrie

C Phegley

RF Reddick

SS Semien

And the Blue Jays’ lineup against A’s right-hander Kendall Graveman:

SS Reyes

3B Donaldson

RF Bautista

DH Encarnacion

1B Smoak

C Martin

LF Carrera

CF Pillar

2B Travis

▪ The second name in that Blue Jays lineup, of course, is a familiar one to A’s fans. Josh Donaldson returned to O.co Coliseum for the first time since being traded to Toronto last November, and he met with reporters Tuesday afternoon. That story can be found here.

Donaldson said he wasn’t sure what kind of reception he’d get from the Oakland fans, but former teammate and catcher Stephen Vogt said he expects it’ll be a warm welcome. Donaldson was one of the most popular A’s players during his time in Oakland and a key to their three straight playoff appearances from 2012 to 2014.

It may be easy to forget that Donaldson, before becoming one of the league’s top third basemen, was the A’s backup catcher as late as the 2012 season. In fact, Sean Doolittle reminded a reporter Tuesday, when Doolittle made his third major-league appearance in 2012 as a recently converted relief pitcher, Donaldson was behind the plate.

“I shoved,” said Doolittle, who had five strikeouts in two innings in the outing. “And he would always remind me of that – and take all the credit for it.”

If it seems as though the A’s have had a handful of these reunions this year with former players, they have. Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris and Jeff Samardzija have faced the A’s this season after wearing the Oakland jersey last year.

“It’s just the way it is,” Vogt said. “It’s always strange when you see your former teammates in new uniforms – they look funny … But it’ll be good to see (Donaldson). I was fortunate enough to get to hang out with him a little bit (at the All-Star Game), and he’s the same guy. Just plays hard and plays baseball the right way.”

▪ Doolittle, coming back from a strained left shoulder, has started playing catch out to 105 feet, and Melvin said the reliever could throw a bullpen session off a mound by the end of the month.

▪ Reliever Pat Venditte will throw an inning for Class-A Stockton on Thursday, his first time facing hitters since going on the DL on June 11 because of a strained right shoulder.

▪ Reliever Taylor Thompson, who has missed the entire season because of a strained right shoulder, also will throw an inning for Stockton on Thursday.

▪ Vogt on Tuesday was named the A’s winner of the 2015 Heart and Hustle Award. One player from all 30 teams receives the designation, which recognizes passion and spirit for the game, and an overall winner is named in November.

“I think that’s great,” Melvin said. “It’s definitely a guy that, when you think of heart and hustle, you think of Stephen Vogt.”