San Francisco Giants

Lowrie (finger) not in A’s lineup for series opener against Twins

OAKLAND -- Jed Lowrie’s bruised right index finger will keep him out of the A’s lineup for a third consecutive game tonight, but manager Bob Melvin said there’s a strong chance Lowrie will return to the lineup Friday against the Minnesota Twins.

The finger bothers Lowrie when throwing, which is why Melvin said he decided not to start Lowrie tonight at shortstop.

"I think he could’ve played today," Melvin said. "But at shortstop if you get any number of throws you have to make off-balance, maybe he’s still feeling it a little bit."

Lowrie’s absence has not been timely, as he was one of the few A’s players hitting well before hurting the finger. In his last 24 games, Lowrie is batting .337 with 10 multi-hit games. The A’s have scored three or fewer runs in six of their last seven games, going 3-4 in that span.

Melvin said he didn’t consider using Lowrie at designated hitter because it would have left the A’s with no middle infielders on the bench. Lowrie is available off the bench tonight, though, and Melvin said he’s "almost certain (Lowrie will) start tomorrow."

Here’s the full A’s lineup for their series opener against the Twins:

CF Crisp

DH Jaso

3B Donaldson

LF Moss

C Norris

RF Reddick

2B Callaspo

1B Vogt

SS Sogard

And the Twins’ lineup against left-hander Jon Lester:

CF Santana

2B Dozier

3B Plouffe

LF Willingham

DH Vargas

RF Arcia

C Suzuki

1B Colabello

SS Escobar

* First baseman Kyle Blanks (calf) ran bases for the second time today and Melvin said if all goes well Blanks will likely start a rehab assignment this weekend, with his first game either Saturday or Sunday.

* Ryan Cook hasn’t allowed a run over his last 18 appearances, a span of 17 2/3 innings in which he’s allowed six hits and struck out 13. The 18-game scoreless streak is tied for the second-longest in the A.L. and Cook’s longest since he went 22 games without giving up a run from Sept. 2011 to May 2012.

Melvin said this is clearly the best Cook has pitched all year, and that the key for the right-hander has been "just getting back to where he’s fully healthy and confident, and the command’s there.

"It really is all about the command for him," Melvin said. "(When) his arm slot’s there, his mechanics are sound, you’re going to see the results that you see. He was an All-Star at a young age for us and is pitching as well as he ever has for us, including that year."

* Another player having a good year: Twins catcher (and former A) Kurt Suzuki, who ranks first among major-league catchers with a .307 average and leads all A.L. catchers in average and doubles. His 46 RBIs are also fifth among league catchers.

Suzuki made the All-Star team and recently signed a two-year contract extension with the Twins with an option for 2017 -- a strong vote of confidence by the Twins in the player they brought in to replace Joe Mauer behind the plate when Mauer made a full-time move to first base.

Suzuki played for the A’s from 2007-12 and again for a short stint in 2013, and Melvin said the A’s still "have a lot of guys that have tremendous fondness for Zuk. … A guy that was a fan favorite, pitching staffs love him, he’s all about the pitchers. And to watch him have the year he’s having, make an All-Star Game, everybody felt great about that."

* If you didn’t catch today’s episode of "Intentional Talk" on the MLB Network, you might want to find a replay. Jonny Gomes and Stephen Vogt were on, and apparently Vogt -- a talented mimic -- did his "basketball referee" impression, complete with the striped shirt and whistle.

"Probably the best I’ve ever seen," Melvin said.

Vogt said he’s been working on the referee impression for four or five years, and it’s "probably top three" in his repertoire.