"The way [the offense] is going now, it's an easier decision to make than if everyone was batting .300," Geren said.
Cleanup hitter Mike Piazza was the only everyday player on the A's batting over .300 heading into Wednesday's game, but some of Geren's lineup changes were necessitated by the need to give shortstop Bobby Crosby and center fielder Milton Bradley some rest.
Crosby, who missed a big chunk of last season and part of Spring Training as a result of lower-back pain, missed a game last weekend in Anaheim with upper-back pain. Bradley, scratched from a game in Anaheim with soreness in his right side, tweaked his left hamstring while rounding third base on the way to scoring the tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning Tuesday. With the team's first off-day coming Thursday, Geren took advantage of the opportunity to give Crosby and Bradley two days off.
"They could both play if we really needed them," Geren said. "And this allows me to get [Todd] Walker back in there and get Marco [Scutaro] some at-bats, too."
With Bradley and Crosby out, Swisher moved to center field; Walker, one of Tuesday's heroes, took over at first base and batted seventh; and Scutaro started at shortstop and batted ninth.
Bobby Kielty, a switch-hitter who typically kills left-handed pitching, started in right field and batted third against White Sox southpaw Mark Buehrle.
Whatever you say, boss: In addition to having played all three outfield positions and first base over the past two seasons, Swisher has been moved up and down the batting order. Now he seems to have found a home in the No. 2 spot, as has Stewart atop the order.
"I contemplated all offseason about batting Nick second or sixth, even before we got Shannon," Geren said. "But right now, I just felt it best for the team to move him up. He takes a lot of walks, and he has the potential to hit 40 homers ... so the possibility of a big blast in the first inning is appealing to me, and the possibility of him getting a fifth at-bat [each game] is appealing to me, too."
Swisher, who led the team with 10 walks and a .474 on-base percentage through Tuesday, echoed Kendall's indifference regarding his spot in the order.
"I don't care," Swisher insisted. "I have so much respect for Geren, whatever he needs or thinks is best, I'm gonna do that and be happy to do it."
Swisher was in the No. 2 spot more than in any other spot in 2006 and batted .220 there, and he conceded that he's "not your typical No. 2-hole guy" but added, "When it comes time to move a guy over, I can do it like a two-hole guy should."
On cue, he followed Stewart's leadoff double in the first inning Wednesday with a sacrifice bunt that helped key a three-run rally.
Asked about Swisher's lineup promotion, A's general manager Billy Beane gave his approval of the move.
"He gets on base and he's one of our best offensive players," Beane said. "I'm not sure there's such a thing as a conventional No. 2 hitter; a lot of it has to do with who's hitting first and third."
Dribblers: Geren said he and pitching coach Curt Young will have decided by Friday whether to skip Chad Gaudin or Joe Kennedy's spot in the starting rotation in the wake of Thursday's off-day. The odd man out will be available in the bullpen during his 10 days between starts, but would be used only in an emergency. "Whoever it is will probably just throw a couple of extra sides," he explained. "You hate to knock a guy totally off his routine, especially as well as all the guys are throwing the ball." ... Kendall, who had thrown out two of the four baserunners who tried to steal against him through Tuesday, said his mechanics thus far have been as sound as they've ever been. "I can still launch a ball into center field with the best of them," he cracked, "but I feel like I'm repeating the same throw really well right now, and that's the key. It's like hitting. The results aren't always going to be what you want, but as long as you're repeating the right mechanics, you'll be OK." ... Triple-A Sacramento designated hitter Jason Stokes went 2-for-3 with a grand slam Tuesday to help give the River Cats a 9-1 victory over Portland. First baseman Daric Barton went 2-for-2 with two walks to raise his batting average to .400 (5-for-20) and his on-base percentage to .520. Class A Stockton's scheduled starter, righty Jared Lansford, was scratched Tuesday with tightness in his pitching arm.
Up next: Righty Dan Haren (0-2, 0.69 ERA) will start Friday opposite lefty Kei Igawa (0-0, 12.60 ERA) of the visiting Yankees in the opener of a three-game series. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT.