Rookie Sweeney out of jumbled lineup

Rookie Sweeney out of jumbled lineup

OAKLAND -- Thanks to many days behind the plate, Bob Geren will be the first to admit he's not the fastest guy around. However, the A's skipper is rarely slow when it comes to posting the starting lineup.

So on Saturday, when the lineup was still missing two hours before game time, the A's clubhouse contingent was left wondering who was in and who was out for the second game of a three-game set against the visiting Rangers.

First-base coach Tye Waller had those answers just minutes later, and quite a few changes were notable at first glance.

Where was Ryan Sweeney, the team's batting average leader who collected two hits in Friday night's loss?

"His finger was feeling sore," Geren said. "It got roughed up last night. He's available to pinch-hit if I need him, though."

The A's outfielder, who has hit safely in each of the last eight games, was replaced at the plate by Matt Murton in the ninth inning of Friday's affair after experiencing discomfort with his left pinky.

Nothing new for the always banged-up Sweeney, though. He spent time on the disabled list May 29 to June 12 with a left toe contusion and also missed three games at the end of June with a sprained left ankle. Oh, and that same bothersome left pinky was dislocated earlier this month, forcing him to miss three games.

"He's always getting roughed up out there," Waller said after Sweeney sprained his ankle in June. "He's a tough guy, and those are the kind of players you want on your team."

Getting the nod in Sweeney's absence was Rajai Davis, who entered his 20th start with the A's this season batting .232. The center fielder, usually found in late-inning roles, has 12 stolen bases with Oakland and 16 overall, which are the most among Major Leaguers with 200 or fewer plate appearances.

Next to Davis in right field was Carlos Gonzalez, who was slotted in the second spot of the lineup for just the second time this year -- a position Geren said he earned with his .444 batting average over the last three games.

"He's been swinging the bat well and using the whole field," the skipper said. "He's had a nice approach up there recently and has been a lot better disciplined at the plate."

The latter part of the Geren's statement goes hand in hand with Gonzalez's numbers -- five walks over those last three games.

"We know how talented he is," Geren said. "The key for him will be to keep learning how to control the strike zone."

Below Gonzalez in the lineup at the cleanup spot was Emil Brown, who entered Saturday's affair as the team's designated hitter with 60 at-bats this season in the fourth slot. Wes Bankston also received a starting bid at first base, while Jack Hannahan was found at third, meaning a day off for newcomer Brooks Conrad -- who collected his first Major League hits Friday night.

"He has good bat speed," Geren said of the A's infielder, who was called up from Triple-A Sacramento on Monday. "He's been on a lot of pitches. I feel like if he sees a mistake, he's right on it.

"He's smart up there."

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