OAKLAND -- Yoenis Cespedes was in the batter's box at the Coliseum early this afternoon for a Home Run Derby practice run, with third-base coach Mike Gallego throwing and coaches shagging balls in the outfield. Cespedes hit some impressive drives, including a few that neared or reached the luxury box windows beyond the stadium's center-field wall.
Gallego said he's getting used to where Cespedes wants pitches thrown to him -- a little lower than Gallego was originally aiming. A's manager Bob Melvin, who has thrown in previous years of the Derby, said Friday that the format is odd for him -- unlike normal batting practice, there's a catcher and no cage. Gallego said it doesn't bother him.
Cespedes is back in the cleanup spot for the A's tonight after hitting fifth Friday for just the second time this season (he has also hit sixth once). As for the A's representative in the actual All-Star Game, Melvin said he still has no official word on whether Bartolo Colon plans on attending the game or opting out. Colon is scheduled to start Sunday for the A's, and a new rule allows All-Star pitchers who throw the Sunday before the game to throw a maximum of one inning in the All-Star Game or remove themselves from the All-Star roster.
Here's the full A's lineup tonight against Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester:
And the Red Sox against A's right-hander A.J. Griffin:
* With two games to go before the break, Melvin answered a handful of questions this afternoon about the state of the A's in the first half -- though we're more than a dozen games past the numerical halfway point of the season already. We'll have an in-depth story in that vein next week, but the overall message from Melvin was that, while the questions surrounding the A's coming into this season mostly were about whether they could carry over their torrid, surprising second-half run from last season to this year, there was little doubt inside the organization that they could.
"I think we had some confidence from the second half of last year going forward, and we just kind of feel like this is who we are," Melvin said of the A's, who go into tonight with the second-best record in the American League (54-39) behind the Red Sox and lead the West by a half-game over the Rangers.
"This is a different season, we do have some different personnel there, but I think to an extent we play in the same fashion. We match up depending who's pitching on a particular night, that hasn't changed, and some of the personnel hasn't changed.
"We're probably getting some contributions around some of our key personnel that aren't having the years at this point that they were last year. But there are some similarities, and it does feel the same. I think that's a good thing."
* Melvin said he hasn't settled how the A's rotation will look out of the break. Much of that probably depends on whether or not Colon does opt out of the All-Star Game. Either way, it figures Dan Straily will rejoin the rotation from Triple-A, it's just unclear where he'll be slotted.
* After the break, the A's will regroup in Anaheim for a three-game series and hold a workout on Friday afternoon before the opener. Players scatter during the break, so Melvin said it would've been tough to pull everyone together for a Thursday workout. As for Melvin's plans during the break: "I'm staying at home."
-- Matt Kawahara