ST. PETERSBURG -- Fresh off an anemic offensive weekend in New York, where they scored a total of five runs while being swept in a three-game series at Yankee Stadium, the A's on Monday were in need of a little positive news.
They got it when their two most decorated hitters took the same small but significant step toward returning to action. Designated hitter Frank Thomas and first baseman Mike Sweeney, both on the disabled list since late May, took part in early batting practice before the opener of a three-game series against the host Rays.
"Everything was great," Thomas said after taking a few rounds of cuts off bench coach Don Wakamatsu at Tropicana Field late Monday afternoon. "I was cutting it loose, hit some balls hard, and I didn't feel anything [painful]."
The A's have been listing Thomas' injury as tendinitis in his right quadriceps, but the Big Hurt said last month that it was a torn tendon in his quad. Regardless, he offered Monday, it's becoming less and less of an issue every day.
"I don't have that nagging pull in there anymore," he explained. "I'm feeling good."
So is Sweeney, who has surgery on both knees June 11. A's manager Bob Geren said both veterans put some good swing on the ball Monday, and the next step for each is to do some running.
"I know it doesn't sound like much, but it was a pretty big day for them," Geren said. "[They are] in a similar situation. ... Both had no problem swinging the bat."
Thomas will start a running program Friday in Oakland, and his job description -- hit the ball, preferably hard and far -- might allow him to skip the rehab stint in the Minors that almost certainly would have to precede Sweeney's return.
"I just need to get my swing right, and I've been on the DL enough to know how to do it without going to the Minors," Thomas said. "It's not like I need to throw or make hard cuts [on defense] or some of the things Mike might have to do. If I can get out there and run a little bit, it won't take long.
"I'm not going to be stealing any bases, put it that way."
Thomas remains optimistic about returning before the end of the month; a July return for Sweeney is unlikely.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.