Notes: Kendall's average no concern

Notes: Kendall's average no concern

OAKLAND -- A faction of A's fans might look up at the scoreboard when Jason Kendall comes to the plate, see his sub-.200 batting average, and wonder why he's still such a fixture the lineup.

Kendall has struggled at the plate, no doubt about it. And he openly acknowledged that fact. A's insiders, however, say that you can't even begin to place a value on what Kendall provides behind the plate. A's manager Bob Geren and Kendall's teammates definitely understand what he means to the team.

"Being an ex-catcher, I think it's the biggest part of the game," Geren said about Kendall's presence behind the dish. "He's a great game-caller, and everything he's doing is helping the team win.

"He's a career .300 hitter, so he's going to get his hits. He's already starting to hit."

Kendall's average has been climbing recently -- he entered Sunday's finale of a three-game series against the visiting Giants on a 4-for-11 roll. But that only got him to .191, and the only time it's been higher was when it crept to .194 on April 24 in Baltimore.

"Kendall is the guy who doesn't get enough credit," said Dan Haren, Saturday's winning pitcher. "The guy calls an amazing game and he prepares so well. He is so valuable, his batting average doesn't matter."

"That's pretty much the biggest compliment you can get," Geren said. "You know how much you mean to the team when your teammates don't care what your batting average is."

Friday's game underscored Kendall's value; he gave his Oakland teammates a spot-on scouting report on Giants starter Barry Zito, and the A's wound up torching Zito for seven runs in four innings in a 15-3 blowout.

Injury updates: Esteban Loaiza, who is trying to pitch through a knee injury, will make a pair of rehab starts next week. He threw 45 pitches in the bullpen before Sunday's game, and as long as he feels fine Monday, he'll start for Triple-A Sacramento against Salt Lake on Tuesday.

The next step will be for him to start for the Class A Stockton Ports when they travel to face the San Jose Giants next Sunday.

Outfielder Milton Bradley, who hasn't played since Monday's 2-1 loss to Kansas City, remains day-to-day. Bradley aggravated his strained hamstring in that game, and Sunday's game was the 28th he's missed with an injury this year.

Righty Justin Duchscherer, who has been dealing with an arthritic right hip, also hadn't played since Monday, but before Sunday's game Geren said his top setup man was close to being cleared for actiion.

"Duke's is going to try and throw in the bullpen, and if he feels good, he might be able to throw today," Geren said. "Even if he doesn't throw in today's game, the fact that he's on the mound is a good thing."

Crosby heating up: Shortstop Bobby Crosby has very much enjoyed seeing the calendar flip from April to May. He missed most of Spring Training after recovering from his back injury and said he's recently starting to get into a rhythm.

After hitting .215 in April, Crosby entered Sunday batting .308 with three home runs in May, with 13 hits in his past 36 at-bats (.361).

"When he starts using the entire field, he's a real tough out," Geren said. "That is what he has been doing."

Crosby had a great at-bat in the eighth inning of Saturday night's game, doubling into the right-field corner before scoring a big insurance run. Two nights before, against Kansas City, Crosby went with a pitch on the inner part of the plate and blasted it to left for a home run.

"I think he's very happy with the way things are going with his game and his health," Geren said.

The present of presence: Respected team leader and center fielder Mark Kotsay continues to progress very well from the back surgery he had early in Spring Training and Geren is thrilled with the prospect of getting him back.

Kotsay, like Kendall, commands clubhouse-wide respect.

"If everything goes well, he could be back June 1," Geren said. "His presence is one you can't put into statistics. He commands a lot of respect and I think he is one of the best center fielders in the game."

Bocachica in, Stewart out: Shannon Stewart, who played in 41 of Okaland first 42 games and started 39 of them, got a break Sunday as something of a reward for being the rock of an outfield that's been decimated by injuries.

"He's been the unsung hero of the outfield," Geren said. "I've been trying to find a way to get him a day off, and today's perfect."

Hiram Bocachica, 31, started in center field, with Travis Buck in left and Nick Swisher in right. Bocachica was called up from Sacramento this week and went 0-for-4 in Wednesday's 4-3 loss to Kansas City.

Up next: A's righty Joe Blanton (4-1, 3.32 ERA) will take the ball opposite White Sox righty Jose Contreras (3-4, 3.64 ERA) in Monday's series opener in Chicago. The first pitch is set for 5:11 p.m. PT.

Matt Smith is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.