Oakland A's MLN: News And Notes

The first five weeks of the season are in tbe books. Two of the Oakland A's affiliates are off to red-hot starts, one is near .500 and the other is really struggling. We take a tour around the A's system to bring you the latest news and notes from each affiliate.

Sacramento River Cats
The River Cats (20-11) are off to a red-hot start despite a rash of injuries which have depleted the team. Antonio Perez is the latest River Cat to land on the disabled list. He joins Mike Mitchell, Jeremy Brown, Brian Stavisky, Brad Halsey and Donnie Murphy. Perez has a sprained right knee.

Brown may be close to returning to the field. He has been sidelined by a calf injury for two weeks now. He started taking batting practice this weekend. Mitchell has been on the DL all season with shoulder tendonitis. For now, surgery has been ruled out for Mitchell and he will rehab the injury and hopefully return to the Sacramento bullpen in a few weeks. Murphy strained a bicep this weekend. The injury comes at a bad time for the middle infielder, who was batting .348 with a 957 OPS at the time of his injury.

In addition to the injuries, Sacramento has also lost two players to trades. Centerfielder Charles Thomas was dealt to Milwaukee on Friday for catcher J.D. Closser. Closser made his Sacramento debut on Monday night, going 1-3 as the River Cats' DH. David Castillo has been sent to Stockton to make room for Closser on the roster.

The River Cats also lost closer Marcus McBeth in a deal that sent him to the Cincinnati organization. McBeth has made four appearances for Louisville since the trade. He has one save and he has allowed two unearned runs in four innings.

Sacramento welcomed outfielders Nick Blasi and Jason Perry this weekend. Blasi, who was promoted from High-A Stockton, made his Sacramento debut on Sunday as a pinch-runner. He was in the starting line-up on Monday and had a big impact out of the number nine spot in the River Cats' order. Blasi went 2-3 with a run scored and three RBI in the River Cats' 6-0 win over Tucson. Perry, who was promoted from Double-A Midland, debuted on Monday and went 1-2 with a walk, an RBI and two runs scored out of the eighth spot.

Notable Performances:
- Daric Barton had a rough month of April, but he is off to a good start in May. The first baseman has a 1022 OPS with two homers and seven RBI in 23 at-bats thus far this month.

- Jason Windsor had his best start of the season on Monday. He went seven innings, allowing only four hits, one walk and no runs. He struck out five and lowered his ERA to 5.31.

- Dan Meyer has been very effective since joining the River Cats' roster last week. The lefty has allowed only one earned run in 10.1 innings in his two starts for Sacramento. Meyer, who underwent shoulder surgery last year to remove a bone fragment in his throwing shoulder, has allowed only eight hits and two walks and is back to throwing his fastball in the low-90s.

- J.J. Furmaniak extended his hitting streak to nine games on Monday evening. He is batting .290 with an OPS of 895 on the season. He has a team-leading five homeruns and 11 stolen bases.


Midland Rockhounds
Midland (19-9) is also off to a hot start. The Rockhounds have continued to win despite the losses of Danny Putnam, Jeff Gray, Brad Knox, Jason Perry and Dallas Braden to promotions.

The Rockhounds have been the beneficiaries of reinforcements from trades made by the A's with the Cleveland Indians organization. Dan Denham and Travis Foley both joined the Rockhounds' bullpen from the Indians organization during the past two weeks. Since joining the team, Foley has made eight appearances and has allowed only two earned runs in 10 innings. Denham has made three scoreless appearances, allowing two hits and a walk in three innings.

Midland has also received reinforcements from promotions from High-A Stockton. Mike Madsen has been brilliant in the starting rotation since joining the Rockhounds, allowing only one run on four hits in 13 innings in two starts. Luis Ramirez also joined rotation after a promotion from Stockton, and he has a 3.86 ERA in two starts with 12 strikeouts in 11.2 innings. Reliever Brad Kilby has six strikeouts in 5.2 innings since his promotion. Steven Bondurant has struggled for Midland, allowing three runs in 2.2 innings since joining the team from Stockton.

Notable Performances:
- Brian Snyder has a 935 OPS in 81 at-bats. He has six extra-base hits in his last five games. He is hitting .284 with four homers and a .556 slugging percentage.

- Brant Colamarino has been hot since joining Rockhounds from extended spring training. The first baseman has a 947 OPS and two homers in 32 at-bats since returning to game action.

- Kazuhito Tadano has displayed remarkable control out of the starting rotation this season. He has 34 strikeouts and only four walks in 29.1 innings pitched this season. The former Cleveland Indian is 3-1 with a 2.76 ERA in five starts.

- Infielder Eddie Cornejo hasn't had much playing time this season, but he has taken advantage of the time he has been given. Cornejo is hitting .353 with five RBI in only 34 at-bats.


Stockton Ports
Stockton (15-16) got off to a poor start, but has battled back close to the .500 mark. The Ports have suffered from a spate of injuries and have lost a number of players to promotions. The pitching staff has been hit especially hard by injuries. Jared Lansford has been out since the second day of the season, leaving a big void at the top of the rotation. The bullpen has seen Jason Ray and Brad Sullivan go down to injuries. Sullivan was sent to extended spring training on Sunday.

Promotions have also hurt the Ports' pitching staff. Madsen, Ramirez, Kilby and Bondurant have all left for Midland. Jose Guzman (5.00 ERA in two starts), Josh Alliston (5.54 in 13 relief innings), Jeff Muessig (2.70 ERA, one save and one win in 6.2 relief innings), Eric Sheridan (1.69 ERA in 5.1 relief innings), Patrick Currin (6.75 ERA in 5.1 relief innings) and Leonardo Espinal (nine earned runs in 2.1 innings) and Derek Tharpe (4.70 ERA and a save in 7.2 relief innings) have taken their place. Trent Peterson and Brad Davis have been moved from the Ports' bullpen into the rotation to fill the voids from the injuries and promotions, as well.

Notable Performances:
- Outfielder Jose Pineda has only nine hits in 43 at-bats (.209 BA), but five of those hits have gone for extra-bases and four have been homers.

- First baseman Tom Everidge is also struggling to collect hits this season (.208 BA), but he leads the team in homers with six.

- Third baseman Frank Martinez is off to a hot start. He is second on the team with a .302 batting average and he has 17 RBI in 30 games. He has struggled with the glove, however, and has committed eight errors.

- Starter Ben Jukich has discovered what a lot of pitchers discover when they get to the California League, that the hits tend to pile up. He has allowed 34 hits in 27.2 innings. However, he has shown good control and a strong ability to strike out hitters. He is sporting a solid 23:7 K:BB ratio through six starts.

- Starter Ryan Webb has been victim to the "one big inning" all season. His ERA is a misleading 4.11, despite allowing only 28 hits in 35 innings. He has struck out 35 and has walked 11 in six starts for the Ports.


Kane County Cougars
The Cougars' (5-23) nightmare season continued on Monday, when the team dropped yet another heart-breaker, losing to Dayton by a score of 3-2 in 15 innings. Kane County has lost a number of games in the late innings. Everything has seemed out of sync. When the Cougars have pitched well, they haven't hit. When they hit well, Kane County hasn't pitched well.

The Cougars' roster hasn't undergone too many changes since Opening Day. Patrick Currin was promoted to Stockton and Chad Lee has been on the disabled list since the start of the season. Haas Pratt spent time on the DL, but he has returned to the active roster. Inoel Deaza landed on the disabled list on Sunday.

Larry Cobb, Craig Italiano and Andrew Bailey have joined the team over the past three weeks from extended spring training. Cobb, who has been playing in the infield after playing in the outfield last season, got off to a hot start, but he has been struggling since and is now hitting .250 with a .308 OBP.

Italiano has also struggled, allowing 14 runs in 12.2 innings. He has shown off electric stuff (17 strikeouts), but his command has been off, which is not surprising considering that he missed most of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Bailey joined the team on Sunday and took the loss when he allowed a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the ninth. He struck out two in 1.1 innings of relief. Bailey is likely to move into the starting rotation after he builds up his arm strength.

Notable Performances:
- James Heuser is quietly having a solid season in the starting rotation. He has an 0-1 record, but his ERA is a solid 3.13 in 31.2 innings. He has 34 strikeouts and 14 walks in six starts.

- Reliever Branden Dewing has been flawless this season. He has yet to allow a run in 14.1 innings. Dewing has given up 15 strikeouts and only four walks.

- Infielder Alex Valdez is leading the team with an 830 OPS in 64 at-bats. He has a team-high 12 RBI and a team-best .469 slugging percentage.

- Catcher Jake Smith leads the team with a .300 batting average in 80 at-bats.

- Outfielder Matt Sulentic is struggling in his first full pro season. The 19-year-old has only 16 hits in 94 at-bats (.170 BA).


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