SEATTLE -- Just how much more can the Oakland A's take? When many of the team's key players are injured, ailing or simply departed, that makes it a bit more difficult to generate yet another second-half surge. "Is it possible for it to happen again? Yes. Is it going to be a long tough road to hoe? No doubt about it," outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher said. "But everyone is loose. We're just hanging out. No pressure on us."
The reality is, however, that entering this four-game series against Seattle Thursday, the A's had 61 games remaining. They were five games under .500 (48-53) and 10 1/2 games behind the Angels in the American League West. Yet, this is a team that has a tradition -- and an AL West Division title -- to defend. They've had the best second-half record in the Majors for three of the past six seasons, including a blazing 48-26 record last year. But the A's have had a different kind of surge this season -- to the disabled list. The latest to land on the DL is shortstop Bobby Crosby, who was hit in his left hand by a pitch Tuesday and X-rays revealed a fracture. He could be out six weeks. "He's played shortstop almost every day for us, so it's a big blow," A's manager Bob Geren said. "But we've had so many [injuries] it's hard to put in any order. They all hurt." The club has used the DL 18 times this season, three short of the club record of 21 set in 1997. They have used 47 players, two short of the record set the same season. Since May 10, the A's have not gone more than three consecutive days without a 40-man roster move and not more than four straight days without a 25-man move. "That's one of the things we take pride in, being able to work though things like that," Swisher said. "Obviously, the season hasn't gone the way things were supposed to, but you know what? It's not over yet. We're going to keep plugging away until this thing's over. We look at the positive side of things. "It's [Crosby's injury] a huge blow. But we've got a great group of guys here." The A's, who are 7-14 in July and struggling with a .251 team batting average, took two of three this week from the AL West-leading Angels. They face the Mariners for four games here before returning home for seven. "It's a do-or-die type of trip for us," Swisher added. "We had a great series in Anaheim. We could have come out of there with three. As of late, we've started swinging the sticks." Geren, saying it's too early for crucial games or series, said there is hope that they can gain on at least the Mariners, who are seven games ahead. "They have a big homestand here, [with the] A's, Angels and Red Sox in town," Geren said. "There's potential for us to gain ground if we take care of our own business." Chavez's back: Third baseman Eric Chavez returned to the starting lineup Thursday after being limited to pinch-hitting, pinch-running and defense in the Anaheim series because of back stiffness. Asked if Chavez could be back to playing every day, Geren said, "I hope so. He's one of the toughest guys on the team. He'll play. He's very tough. "I'll talk to him every day. We'll be in a constant communication to see how he feels. When he gets going, he can carry a team." Visitor from the North: Rich Harden, trying to rehab his strained right shoulder, joined the team here. He had been working out and rehabbing in his home in Victoria, British Columbia, just a ferry ride away on the Puget Sound. Geren was anxious to see him.
"We have to find out exactly where we're at," he said.Harden has been on the DL twice this season and has appeared in only seven games, covering 25 2/3 innings. A's log: Outfielder Shannon Stewart, who has been one of the team's hottest hitters (11 of last 29), did not start. He was given the day off. ... Dan Johnson, with just one hit over his past 18 at-bats, also was on the bench. Geren said, "I'll get him in there" during this series. ... Marco Scutaro, who has started 36 games at five different positions, may have an extended stay at shortstop with Crosby on the DL. "He has done a nice job in the past," Geren said. "I'm sure he'll do the same." On deck: The A's continue their four-game against the Mariners on Friday with left-hander Dallas Braden (1-5, 5.15) facing Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez (6-6, 4.02). First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. PT.
Bob Sherwin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.