OAKLAND -- Yoenis CÃ©spedes is back in Oakland and back in the cleanup spot for the A's today as they try to avoid a four-game sweep at home against the Baltimore Orioles. CÃ©spedes was activated from the 15-day disabled list this morning; to make room on the 25-man roster, the A's designated outfielder Casper Wells for assignment.
CÃ©spedes went 3-for-9 with a home run during his three-game rehab assignment with the Triple-A River Cats. He said this morning his left hand, where he strained a muscle April 12, is pain-free and that he "felt pretty well" hitting in Sacramento.
"Those games, I used them not only to hit, but to recognize the pitching," he said.
Well-documented is the disparity between the A's record when CÃ©spedes is in the lineup and when he isn't, both last year and so far this season (9-2 with him, 4-10 without him). Manager Bob Melvin, who said yesterday he sees players throughout the lineup maybe trying to do too much to reverse the team's current stretch of eight losses in nine games, said he thinks CÃ©spedes' return could help ease that problem.
"One of the things he does in the middle of our lineup is take pressure off everybody," he said. "Even when he's not swinging well, I think guys have less pressure on them."
Here's the A's full lineup against the Orioles today:
And the Orioles against the A's and Bartolo Colon:
* Dan Straily is in Oakland and is expected to be activated tomorrow to start against the Los Angeles Angels in place of left-hander Brett Anderson, who is still feeling soreness in his right ankle. Anderson felt the soreness on a pitch during his last start and the next day, and said he and A's trainers decided to skip a start to let the injury heal.
Melvin said there are no plans to put Anderson on the DL and the A's hope he'll be able to make his following start. Anderson said the ankle is "not a major concern ... Try to get this out of the way and not have any long-lasting effects." It's Anderson's landing foot, so he said he doesn't want to develop any bad habits as a result of favoring the ankle.
The A's have not announced a planned roster move to clear a spot for Straily. Straily has made three starts in Triple-A and is 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings. He said he has been "fine-tuning" pitches, including a two-seam fastball that he introduced this spring.
Straily said his changeup, which wasn't working well in spring training, also came back in his first start with the River Cats. He made one start for the A's on April 5, as Colon served the end of his PED suspension, before being optioned back down. This too could be a one-start stay in Oakland. Of his role as a sort of swing option, Straily said he has "just learned to kind of accept it, roll with it.
"It's a good opportunity to come up here," Straily said. "Obviously I want to pitch well, win a game for the club."
* Shortstop Jed Lowrie was a late scratch from the lineup with a right neck strain. Melvin said Lowrie apparently slept funny last night and arrived at the park today having trouble turning his head to the right. As the only middle infielder on the bench, Lowrie could still be pressed into action, but Melvin said he'd prefer to get Lowrie a full day off.
* Josh Reddick is not in the lineup despite the Orioles throwing a right-hander in Miguel Gonzalez. Melvin said that's a combination of Gonzalez's early-season splits -- lefties are hitting .190 (8-for-42) against Gonzalez, while righties are hitting .341 (15-for-44) -- and of Reddick struggling at the plate. Reddick is 1-for-9 in the series and batting .155 on the season.
* CÃ©spedes' return marks a tough -- if expected -- turn for Wells, whom the A's acquired Monday from Toronto. Wells started the spring with the Mariners, who designated him for assignment March 31. He was claimed off waivers by Toronto on April 10, but didn't appear in a game for the Blue Jays before they DFA's him on April 15.
Wells now has to wait and see if another club claims him in the next 10 days, or if he'll remain in the A's system on a minor-league assignment. Wells, who went hitless in five at-bats with the A's and made one start, was pragmatic about his situation.
"I know the business of the game," Wells said. "CÃ©spedes coming back is good for the ballclub here -- he's a great hitter. I'll be fine, whatever happens with me. Hopefully I'm still part of this organization. Obviously for my career it'd be good for me to stay in the big leagues somewhere, but there's a chance I could still stay here -- I like this organization and these guys here. My time here was enjoyable."
Melvin acknowledged the A's didn't get much of a look at Wells but that "he's fit in well in the short time he's been here. If he were to get through (waivers) we'd certainly love to have him and value him. The other side of it is, you always want to see a guy potentially get a big-league job."
-- Matt Kawahara