OAKLAND -- Manager Bob Melvin said the last two days have been a good indication of what the middle of the A’s lineup will look like the rest of the season without Yoenis Cespedes.
Yesterday against a right-handed pitcher, Brandon Moss hit cleanup and Jed Lowrie fifth. Today, against Royals left-hander Jason Vargas, Derek Norris moves up to the cleanup spot with Jonny Gomes batting behind him.
Norris has batted fifth against left-handers much of this season, and Melvin said the A’s feel confident moving him into the cleanup spot. Norris is batting .359 this year against lefties and has hit particularly well with runners on base -- a .314 average with men on, and a .377 mark with runners in scoring position.
Another hitter who could move up in the lineup is Josh Reddick, who went 3-for-4 with a double Friday night and is 13-for-35 since coming off the DL on July 22. Reddick was a middle-of-the-order hitter in 2012, and Melvin said "now, with him being healthy and not having to worry about the knee or the wrist, we expect his production to go up."
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"We’ve all got to pick it up a little bit without Ces," Melvin said.
Norris also draws the task of catching Jon Lester in Lester’s A’s debut this afternoon. It’s a bit of a challenge for a catcher who has never caught his battery mate, and Melvin said Norris will have to make use of Lester’s warm-up throws in the bullpen to get a sense of the movement on his pitches.
Here’s the A’s lineup behind Lester:
And the Royals’ lineup behind Vargas:
* Brandon Moss is not in the lineup, which Melvin said is partly a product of Moss being in "a little bit of a funk" -- he’s 15-for-80 in his last 20 games -- and partly because Moss "never gets a day off now." Moss has also fouled several balls off his front leg recently, which Melvin indicated may be bothering him as well.
"He never wants a day off, but sometimes you do need a day off," Melvin said.
Moss came up twice Friday night with runners on the corners and one out and could not drive a run in either time, fouling out in the fourth inning and striking out in the sixth. Moss’ power hasn’t disappeared -- he has four homers in the last 20 games -- but Melvin said Moss seems to be "backing the ball up a little bit," trying to drive balls the other way sometimes when his success usually comes from pulling them.
"That just means he wants to get a little longer look at the ball," Melvin said. "But it’s just a little bit of a funk. Everybody goes through them over the course of the season."
* There was no update on Coco Crisp, who is again unavailable today. Crisp recently had multiple "trigger-point" injections in his ailing neck, and will likely be evaluated Sunday to possibly resume baseball activities. Crisp hasn’t taken swings since the injections, and Melvin said that will give the A’s a better indication of his timetable.
Melvin was asked why the A’s haven’t considered the disabled list for Crisp, who misses his sixth consecutive game today. His explanation: Crisp has shown in the past that once he "turns the corner" from an injury, he gets back into playing shape quickly, and usually doesn’t need a rehab assignment. So the A’s don’t want to take a chance of losing him for two weeks or more if it’s possible he could be back sooner.
* The A’s announced this morning that infielder Jake Elmore was claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Reds. Elmore was designated for assignment on Friday to clear a 40-man roster spot after the A’s trade-deadline moves. Reliever Evan Scribner was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento.
* Lester has never pitched for a team other than the Red Sox. But he has faced the Royals quite a bit in his career. In 11 career starts against Kansas City, he’s 7-3 with a 1.43 ERA, his lowest ERA against any team he has faced at least three times.