Notes: Crosby starts rehab assignment

Notes: Crosby starts rehab assignment

SAN FRANCISCO -- The lead story on the official Web site of Oakland's Class A affiliate, the Stockton Ports, is a pretty big story for the A's, too.

Shortstop Bobby Crosby, the 2004 American League Rookie of the Year, reported to Stockton on Saturday and went 1-for-2 with a double, a walk and a run scored in the first game of his rehab assignment. He's been on the disabled list with fractured ribs since Opening Day, and the A's on Saturday finally offered up a target date for his return.

It's May 30. The A's leave for a six-game road trip to Tampa Bay and Cleveland on Monday, and they're hoping Crosby will be ready to rejoin them when they get back.

"From everything I've seen, and everything I've heard from the coaches and trainers, that shouldn't be a problem," said A's manager Ken Macha.

Already three days into his rehab assignment, with Triple-A Sacramento, is outfielder Nick Swisher, who has been on the DL with a separated shoulder since May 2. Athletic trainer Larry Davis has repeatedly said that Swisher is ahead of Crosby in terms of being ready to play, but Macha said there is "more of an urgency" to get Crosby back.

Why? Two reasons.

"It's the impact Bobby can have on the game," Macha said, providing one of the reasons. "He hit 20 home runs last year as a rookie. ... And it's no secret that we could use a little more right-handed power in the lineup. He's a tremendous defensive player at a key defensive position, too."

Swisher, on the other hand, is a largely unproven talent. He was batting .218 with three homers and eight RBIs when he went down, including 2-for-24 (.083) with runners in scoring position. And while Swisher has been out of the lineup, corner outfielders Eric Byrnes and Bobby Kielty have been hot.

Byrnes entered Saturday's game batting .388 (19-for-49) with five doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and 10 runs over his previous 13 games. Kielty, the team's best hitter for the past few weeks, was batting .371 (26-for-70) with two homers and 16 RBIs over his previous 20 games.

"[Matt] Watson's been swinging the bat pretty well, too," Macha added.

Watson, called up from Sacramento last weekend, was 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position in his first five games with the A's, including a game-winning single last Monday night against the Red Sox.

Seldom-used Charles Thomas is Oakland's fifth outfielder and could be sent to Sacramento for regular work upon Swisher's return. Utilityman Jermaine Clark, recalled from Sacramento on Friday, is a candidate for the boot, too, as is Watson.

No matter what the A's do with their roster, finding playing time for Swisher when he comes back will require some creativity.

"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it," Macha said. "We've got some outfielders who are impacting games for us right now, so we'll just have to see how it goes."

Macha was similarly vague when asked about the roster move that will accompany Crosby's return. He did, however, say that he wants to go back to a 12-man pitching staff, and that would appear to spell trouble -- again -- for Marco Scutaro.

"It's gonna be an interesting decision," Macha conceded.

   Kirk Saarloos  /   P
Born: 05/23/79
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Back to the bullpen: A's right-hander Kirk Saarloos made his big-league debut for the Houston Astros in 2002 and appeared in 17 games, all starts. Yet when asked what it's like to be a temporary member of Oakland's decimated bullpen, he smiles and says, "It's like going back to my roots."

Saarloos, you see, broke into pro ball as a closer. And an awfully good one.

After going 15-2 with a 2.18 ERA as a senior while leading Cal State Fullerton to the College World Series and winning first-team All-America honors, Saarloos signed with Houston and was sent to Class A Lexington.

Aware that Saarloos, a third-round draft pick, had thrown 153 innings for the Titans, the Astros decided to limit his workload by making him a late reliever. In 22 games, he posted 11 saves and a 1.17 ERA.

"I didn't mind it at all. I was a closer my first three years at Fullerton, too," Saarloos said.

After a restful offseason, Saarloos was made a starter again in 2002 and assigned to Double-A Round Rock, where he went 10-1 with a 1.40 ERA to earn a trip to Triple-A New Orleans. Before he could report to New Orleans -- he made a little side trip to get married -- the Astros called him up.

"Our honeymoon was at The Pfister [Hotel] in Milwaukee," he cracked.

Saarloos' sense of humor reflects his easygoing personality. He had absolutely no problem with being asked to help out in the bullpen for a few days. On Friday, he helped secure an 8-4 victory with 1 1/3 perfect innings of work.

"Obviously, I like starting, but this makes sense for right now," said Saarloos, who will be available in relief through Tuesday and will make his next start next Saturday in Cleveland. "I've done it before, we need it, and it's kind of cool to do something different for a little while."

The patience of Kristen Saarloos, by the way, was rewarded with a proper honeymoon after the 2002 season -- in Bora Bora.

Dribblers ...: Righty reliever Kiko Calero, on the DL with elbow tendinitis, played catch at 135 feet Saturday. Davis said Friday that he'd like to see Calero stretch it out to 150 feet before throwing off a mound. ... Righty reliever Justin Duchscherer, who isn't on the DL but hasn't pitched since May 9 because of a sore back that required an epidural early this week, told Macha he was feeling better Saturday. He was nonetheless unavailable for a 10th consecutive game.

Mychael Urban is a national writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.