OAKLAND -- Yoenis Cespedes is hitting fifth for the A's tonight, just the third time this season he hasn't been in either the third or cleanup spot. It's nearly impossible to bump him down much further -- he has hit sixth once -- but clearly his first half has not been what he was hoping for or likely expected at the plate. After going 1-for-11 in the A's series at Pittsburgh, Cespedes is batting .176 in July and, with only this weekend's series to go before the All-Star Break, is hitting .221 on the season, though he does have 15 home runs and 42 RBIs.
Cespedes, of course, was recently named as the fourth A.L. participant in the Home Run Derby, and manager Bob Melvin said before today's game that he believes there's some merit to the idea that participating in the Derby could be good for his left fielder. You'll sometimes hear of teams not wanting their sluggers to take part in the competition for fear it will alter their swings for the worse. Melvin, though, said the circumstances of the event -- in New York, in front of a big nationally televised audience -- may be the kind of thing that could jump-start Cespedes, particularly if he does well.
"He's a guy that is a spotlight-type guy, as we've seen since he first got here," Melvin said. "I know he's excited about it and rightly so. And it gives us a little more exposure too, because it's a heavily watched event. If ever there's a guy that's right for it, it's him.
"I think as much as anything you worry about injury, but that's anybody who's in it," he continued. "But I think it'll be good for him to be in that spotlight."
Regarding the possibility of injury, Melvin joked that he doesn't "think he'll be doing it with the donut on the bat," as Cespedes has done before in batting practice, and Cespedes is healthy going in, so it's not a big concern for the organization.
Third base coach Mike Gallego will throw to Cespedes during the Derby, and Cespedes was in Gallego's group Friday during batting practice. "If he's not in my group it looks like we're officially divorced," Melvin said with a smile.
Melvin said he'd like to throw to Cespedes in the competition -- he has other obligations -- but he added, "I don't know if I would be any good at it." He's used to throwing batting practice, where there's no catcher and you're just throwing to a hitter in a cage, and said the change in setting actually makes a big difference.
"I've thrown in one of them before and I threw to two different people, and neither of them hit a home run," Melvin said. "I don't know if that was me or them." Asked if he recalled who those hitters were, he said: "I do, and I'm not going to tell you."
Here's the full A's lineup for tonight's opener against the Red Sox and right-hander John Lackey:
And the Red Sox lineup against A's right-hander Jarrod Parker:
* One pre-game transaction note: Infielder Adam Rosales cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento. Melvin said he's glad Rosales, well-liked throughout the organization, is still with the A's, though it obviously means Rosales isn't getting an opportunity in the majors right now.
"But I think even when I talked to him he was excited about either way, because he does love the (A's) organization and wants to be here," Melvin said. "We're all excited about him still being an A."
Melvin said Rosales will move around the field and lineup in Triple-A.
* Melvin was also asked about Brett Anderson and said while the left-hander is throwing off flat ground at up to 105 feet, there's no timetable yet of when Anderson will throw off a mound. It doesn't sound like it'll happen before the second half starts.
* It's not the easiest way for the A's to end the ceremonial (not numerical) first half of the season, first visiting the N.L. wild-card leading Pirates and then hosting the owners of baseball's best record in the Red Sox. But if nothing else, it should provide a little more exposure for the A's before the break, as the spotlight that usually shines on the Red Sox will spill over this weekend to Oakland. The A's have the second-best record in the A.L., and if they win at least one game this weekend, they'll go into the break with their most wins at that point in any season since 1975, when they also had 55.
-- Matt Kawahara