"I've always been in a position where I have to look at the lineup and see if I'm in there, and then make the call, you know?" Thompson said.
Athletics manager Bob Geren said Thompson got the start because he was eager to see what the 27-year-old could do, and because he wanted to give several regulars the day off.
"I'm looking forward to seeing him play," Geren said before Sunday's game. "And as far as leading him off, it's what he's done a lot. He can steal a base. He's a good runner."
A day of rest:
Geren decided on Sunday to rest several regulars, leaving left fielder Shannon Stewart, designated hitter Mike Piazza and catcher Kurt Suzuki out of the starting lineup.
Jack Cust, who started the first two games of the series in right field, replaced Piazza as the DH. Nick Swisher moved from center field to right, opening center field for Thompson. Rob Bowen started behind the plate in place of Suzuki. Jeff DaVanon, whose wife, Kerrie, gave birth to the couple's second child and first daughter (Macie) last Tuesday, replaced Stewart in left.
Class reunion: Suzuki grounded into a fielder's choice in the eighth inning of Saturday's 7-3 loss against an old friend and former collegiate batterymate. Rangers reliever Wes Littleton was a teammate of Suzuki's for three seasons (2001-03) at Southern California collegiate powerhouse Cal State Fullerton.
"We've both had so much going on, we haven't had a chance to talk much this trip," Suzuki said. "But I know he's doing well, and it's always fun to see somebody you played with."
Suzuki is 1-for-2 against Littleton in the Majors, and faced him only once last season at the Double-A level.
"He's a tough guy to hit," Suzuki said. "And it's still funny to face him as a hitter instead of catching him."
Japan still a rumor to A's: Players union representative Huston Street said he has received no confirmation that the Athletics will open the 2008 season in Japan against either the Boston Red Sox or Seattle Mariners. The Athletics are expected to receive their preliminary 2008 schedule this week, and rumors have been circulating that the team might finally get the Japan visit that was planned but canceled in 2003.
"I have no clue," Street said. "[Club, league or union officials] haven't talked to me about anything."
What might have been: Right-hander Mike Wood pitched 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief for the Rangers on Saturday, but again couldn't help wondering how his career might have been different had he stayed with the team that drafted him. Wood was the 10th-round selection of the Athletics in the 2001 Draft, but was traded (along with third baseman/outfielder Mark Teahen) to Kansas City in June 2004 for reliever Octavio Dotel and cash.
"It always runs through my head," Wood said, "because I'm curious what it would have been like to be part of that [Oakland] rotation. But, KC gave me an opportunity to play and I can't deny that fact. I was ahead of [Joe] Blanton in the Minors, so I always wonder what would've happened if I stayed."
Briefly: Right-hander Rich Harden emerged in good shape from Saturday's 30-pitch simulated game. He is tentatively scheduled to throw another simulated game with a higher pitch count on Wednesday in Seattle. ... Bench coach Bob Schaefer, who missed Saturday's game because of discomfort from a kidney stone, was back with the team on Sunday. ... The A's entered Sunday with a 1-4 start to their nine-game road trip to face the Angels, Rangers and Mariners. A three-game series at Seattle's Safeco Field starts Monday.
Righty Joe Blanton (12-9, 3.81 ERA) is scheduled to face Seattle lefty Horacio Ramirez (8-5, 6.45) in Monday's opener in Seattle. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT.