Notes: With Kielty out, Melhuse back

Notes: With Kielty out, Melhuse back in bigs

BOSTON -- When the A's shocked catcher Adam Melhuse last week by optioning him to the Minors, the only silver lining he could find was the potential for regular at-bats.

"It's not even really a silver lining," Melhuse said at the time, "but yeah, as soon as [manager Bob Geren] told me I was going down, that popped into my head in a sick way: 'At least I'll get to play a little more now.' "

And he did. Sent down on Wednesday, Melhuse started two games and got eight at-bats with Triple-A Sacramento -- matching the number of starts he'd gotten with the A's and eclipsing his total at-bats with Oakland by two. He rapped out three hits for the River Cats, two of them doubles.

Now Melhuse is back in cobweb land, having returned to his role as the backup to ironman Jason Kendall when he was recalled on Tuesday in time to ride pine for the opener of a two-game series against the host Red Sox at Fenway Park.

"Getting [regular] at-bats is nice," he said. "But [being in the big leagues] is better."

Players optioned out are required to spend at least 10 days in the Minors unless they're needed as the result of an injury on the big-league club. Melhuse was recalled because Oakland placed outfielder Bobby Kielty on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to April 29) with a strained left calf.

While Melhuse was gone, 16-year veteran Mike Piazza, the club's full-time designated hitter, was listed as the No. 2 catcher. Piazza didn't spend any time behind the plate at Spring Training and openly rooted for Kendall to stay healthy.

With Melhuse back in the mix, Kendall might get a day off sooner rather than later, perhaps as soon as Saturday in Tampa Bay. The roster move also gives Geren the flexibility to pinch-run for the 38-year-old Piazza late in close games.

"I know Adam was disappointed when we sent him down, but I knew it was going to be a short stay down there," Geren said. "I couldn't tell him that, because you'd hate for something to happen that changes the plan and makes you look like you weren't truthful with the guy, but he did the right thing. He went down there and played hard, and now he's back up here with a good attitude."

Harden back home: On the DL with an irritated right shoulder capsule, Rich Harden will not be with the A's during their eight-game road trip through Boston, Tampa Bay and Kansas City.

Harden, who hasn't pitched since leaving an April 15 start against the Yankees, saw a doctor in Los Angeles on Monday and was advised not to throw until the team gets home.

"He'll have the rest of the road trip to rest, then try to get it going after that," Geren said. "We feel good with the report that with another week off, he'll be good to go."

Also on the pitching front, Geren said that Esteban Loaiza, who has been on the DL since Opening Day, continues to make good progress in his throwing program. Geren did concede, however, that Loaiza might not be ready to start a rehab stint in the Minors for another three weeks, so it could be early to mid-June before Loaiza is ready to return to the rotation.

More medicine: Outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher, who hasn't played since straining his left hamstring last Tuesday in Baltimore, had hoped to be ready for the series opener in Boston but now is looking at Friday in Tampa Bay as his target.

"This is driving me crazy," said Swisher. "You know me, man. I've gotta be involved."

Also out with a strained left hammy, outfielder Milton Bradley did some running before the game and, according to Geren, "felt great."

Bradley had declined all requests for comment on his health since being placed on the DL on April 23, but when asked if he expected Bradley to be ready to play when he's eligible to be activated on May 8, Geren issued a quick and firm, "Yes."

Dribblers: Outfielder Ryan Langerhans, acquired from the Braves on Sunday in exchange for a player to be named later, made his A's debut as the starting center fielder on Tuesday. Langerhans, who was batting .069 (3-for-44) with Atlanta, is wearing No. 11. ... Rookie outfielder Travis Buck was jacked up to play his first career game at fabled Fenway Park. "It's definitely going to be a lot of fun, looking around and feeling the history here," Buck said, adding with a smile, "Hopefully, I'll get all of that out of the way during batting practice." ... Geren doesn't anticipate any problems getting Buck or first baseman Dan Johnson regular at-bats when Swisher and Bradley return to the team. "Guys are still going to need days off, guys are always banged up a little, and we'll try to mix and match based on a lot of different things," said the skipper. "Trust me, having too many healthy bodies is a good problem to have. I haven't really had that yet, so I'm looking forward to it."

Up next: A's righty Chad Gaudin (1-1, 2.54 ERA) will get the ball on Wednesday opposite Red Sox righty Josh Beckett (5-0, 2.48 ERA) in the series finale. The first pitch is set for 4:05 p.m. PT.

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