Inside Pitch: Hatteberg Still Healing

Scott Hatteberg lost his first-base job to rookie Dan Johnson, but the A's want him to know they haven't forgotten about him and still consider him their primary designated hitter.

Manager Ken Macha pulled Scott Hatteberg aside recently to remind him exactly that. Lately, an ongoing right oblique strain has kept Hatteberg out of the lineup, off and on, for the last three weeks.

"Before (the injury) he was swinging the bat extremely well," Macha said. "I'm very much aware of what his physical situation is. He said it's not 100 percent. He had it in Boston, and it took quite a long time to heal.

"We'd like the guy to be 100 percent, but he probably won't for a while. He gives us such a quality at-bat every time."

Hatteberg started at designated hitter Aug. 20 and entered the game in a 1-for-19 slump. He struck out and grounded into a double play Saturday, didn't start Sunday, and was expected to get Tuesday off as well, which gives his oblique three full days of rest.

With Hatteberg out of the lineup, the A's have rotated their DH between Bobby Kielty (who is also slumping) and backup catcher Adam Melhuse (who continues to produce when he gets rare playing time).

The A's hold a $2.7 million option on Hatteberg for next season, which will be one of the tougher decisions this offseason.

Hatteberg is a favorite of the front office and will probably work in the A's front office, in some capacity, when his career is over.

Swisher Returns From Leave

RF Nick Swisher returned Friday after missing four games because of the death of his grandmother, Betty Lorraine Swisher, who raised him in West Virginia.

Her initials are already tattooed on his chest. He put her initials on the inside of his arms and wore black tape in her honor Friday night in his first game back.

Before the A's stretched for batting practice, Swisher gathered his teammates and thanked them for all the cards, flowers and others well wishes sent by spouses back to his home in West Virginia.

Then he led a slumping offense out of his stagnant ways with a pair of run-scoring doubles early in the A's 4-0 win over the Royals. It snapped the A's four-game losing streak and extended the Royals run at futility to 19 games.

"I had a lot of stuff on my mind and I had a lot to play for," Swisher said. "What makes me feel comfortable is she was never really able to watch me play because our games are on too late back there. Now she's got a front-row seat for every game."

Other News and Notes

--OF Jay Payton had 10 home runs in his first 117 at-bats with the A's. In 133 at-bats with the Red Sox in the first half, Payton hit just five home runs. The A's hold an option on Payton for 2006 and there have been rumblings that Oakland will bring the productive outfielder back next season.

--With about two weeks left in the minor league regular season, it's possible the top five A's minor league teams will all make the playoffs. Triple-A Sacramento has a nine-game lead, Double-A Midland won the first half and has a one-game lead in the second half, Stockton has a 2 1/2-game lead in the second half, low-Class A Kane county is two games back, and short-season Vancouver has a three-game lead.

--RHP Dan Haren has lost two straight starts after having his nine-game winning streak snapped. He's received very little run support in those two starts. He's now 9-2 with a 3.55 ERA over his last 16 starts.

--RHP Kirk Saarloos' turn in the rotation will be skipped with two off days in a five-day stretch. Saarloos is not likely to pitch until next Saturday in Baltimore.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- number of team to lead the league in shutouts for and against in a season. The A's could become the sixth as they lead the league with 10 shutouts for, and are tied with nine shutouts against.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "When I see Huston (Street) go out there, and he's just ignorant of opponents and he doesn't care what the situation is, that inspires me to go out there and be like I used to be. I used to think, 'I'm here to shock the world and I don't care who you are and what you've done.'" -- A's pitcher Barry Zito.

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