A's Still Pitching Well Despite Losses

Oakland traded top starter Dan Haren over the winter, but the starting rotation shows little drop-off so far – through the first seven games of the season, none of the A's starters have allowed more than three runs.

The A's starters have an ERA of 2.18, tops in the American League. Rich Harden has been dominating, allowing one run in 11 innings while striking out 15, and Nos. 3 and 4 starters Justin Duchscherer and Dana Eveland won their season debuts this week. Each gave up only one earned run in the process.

There is concern about Duchscherer, however. The right-hander left his first start with a biceps strain in the sixth inning on Saturday and he was sent for an MRI on Sunday. He will miss his scheduled start this week, and RHP Chad Gaudin could be activated earlier than expected to start at Toronto. The A's are hopeful that Duchscherer will only need to be held back until Saturday at Cleveland.

If Duchscherer requires more time than that, long reliever Lenny DiNardo could make a spot start or two. Should the A's instead decide to dip down to Triple-A Sacramento, left-hander Greg Smith had an excellent spring and he probably would get the first shot as an emergency starter. Kirk Saarloos and Dallas Braden are also possibilities. Braden is the only one of the three who is on the A's 40-man roster at the moment.

Harden's hot start has led to increased speculation that he will be traded to a contender, and Blanton has been considered possible trade bait since the A's traded Haren in December, kicking off a youth movement. Eveland and Smith were both part of the trade (with Arizona) for Haren.

Monday Notebook

--OF Ryan Sweeney made an adjustment at the plate, with a new toe-tap to help with his timing. Sweeney said the timing mechanism helps him get his swing going earlier and he's thinking less about his hands. He went 4-for-4 in the first game of the Cleveland series with the new approach and he added another hit Sunday. He's batting .455.

--INF Donnie Murphy left Saturday's game in the third inning after colliding with left fielder Jack Cust. Murphy, the A's primary backup infielder, has a sprained right middle finger and is listed as day-to-day. He made his first start of the season on Saturday, playing third.

--C Kurt Suzuki is the A's only player to have hit in all seven games of the season. He had two hits Sunday to lift his average to .375. The second-year player is also drawing praise for his improvement behind the plate.

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