Youthful A's following Ellis' lead

Youthful A's following Ellis' lead

ARLINGTON -- The A's are rebuilding with youth, but every team needs at least a handful of veterans along for the ride.

Second baseman Mark Ellis, 32, has been with the team longer than any player on the active roster -- only injured Eric Chavez has more organizational tenure -- and, according to manager Bob Geren, is the ideal elder statesman.

"He has a lot of impact," Geren said of Ellis, who was acquired in a 2001 trade with the Royals and made his Oakland debut the next season. "His work ethic and his attitude are as good as anyone I've ever seen, and that rubs off on his teammates."

The teammate most benefiting from Ellis' presence these days is probably rookie shortstop Cliff Pennington, who took over as the starter when Orlando Cabrera was dealt away at the July 31 Trade Deadline.

"He's such a great guy, and he's so good he makes it look easy out there," Pennington said. "And that makes you more comfortable out there. It's great to have someone like that, not just on the field, but in the clubhouse. He'll answer any question, and he helps me as much as he can."

Ellis, who is on another second-half tear heading into Thursday's opener of a four-game series against the Indians at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, considers mentoring part of the job.

"Veterans, I think, have an obligation to help the younger guys out," he said. "Guys did it for me earlier in my career, and the faster the young guys come along, the better we'll be as a team, so of course you do what you can for them."

A perennial Gold Glove candidate who has yet to claim his first, Ellis missed two months of the season with a strained left calf but has been making up for lost time. Typically a slow starter, he's always hit better after the All-Star break, and this season is no exception.

Heading into the finale of a three-game series against the host Rangers on Wednesday, Ellis was batting .301 since the break and on a 45-game tear during which he was batting .321 with 31 RBIs.

"I don't know why I hit better later in the year," he said. "If I did, I'd do it earlier."

He'll get another shot at reversing that trend with the A's next season. He's under contract for 2010, with a club option for 2011.

Pitching matchup
OAK: RHP Clayton Mortensen (1-2, 6.75 ERA)
Mortensen, 24, earned his first career win in his third start on Friday against the Twins. His only major mistake came against the first batter, Denard Span, who homered. But Mortensen settled down after that, pitching six strong innings while allowing just the one run on five hits. He said after Friday's win that it was the first time he was able to effectively throw all of his pitches.

CLE: RHP Justin Masterson (4-7, 4.25 ERA)
Masterson is still getting the hang of this starting stuff, and a big key for him will be learning how to remain aggressive to keep his pitch count low and last deep into ballgames. He turned in a strong start against the Royals on Friday, but it wasn't quite as long a start as he'd like as he allowed just a run on four hits with four walks and four strikeouts in a no-decision.

Dribblers ...
Right-hander Vin Mazzaro, out since Aug. 29 with shoulder tendinitis, has not played catch since experiencing discomfort while throwing over the weekend and is all but certain to miss the rest of the season. Geren said there are no plans for Mazzaro, 22, to throw again any time soon, and when asked if the rookie was done for the year, the manager said, "Probably." Mazzaro is 4-9 with a 5.32 ERA in 17 starts. ... Righty Brett Tomko, who will miss his scheduled start on Sunday with a pinched nerve in his right shoulder, flew home on Wednesday morning to be with his wife, who will deliver twins this week. ... The A's still haven't decided if lefty Dana Eveland will fill in for Tomko, or if they'll dip into Triple-A Sacramento's roster for reinforcement. They have some flexibility because of their six-man rotation, which would allow Edgar Gonzalez, who pitched four innings on Tuesday, to pitch Sunday if need be. ... Sacramento lost the opener of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series on Tuesday, 1-0, at the hands of the host Memphis Redbirds. River Cats righty Chris Gissell took the loss despite giving up one run on six hits and a walk over 6 1/3 innings. The series is best-of-five. Chad Reineke was scheduled to start Game 2 on Wednesday in Memphis. ... Double-A Midland also lost on Tuesday in the opener of the best-of-five Texas League Championship Series. RockHounds catcher Josh Donaldson went 2-for-3 with a solo homer, first baseman Shane Peterson went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs and Jemile Weeks went 2-for-5 with a double, but it wasn't enough to stop the visiting Northwest Arkansas Naturals from rolling to an 11-5 victory.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• CSNCA-HD

On radio
• KTRB 860, KDIA 1640 (Español)

Up next
• Friday: Athletics (Brett Anderson, 9-10, 4.37) vs. Indians (David Huff, 10-7, 6.14), 7:05 p.m. PT
• Saturday: Athletics (Gio Gonzalez, 5-6, 6.31) vs. Indians (Jeremy Sowers, 6-9, 4.49), 1:05 p.m. PT
• Sunday: Athletics (TBD) vs. Indians (Fausto Carmona, 3-11, 6.58), 1:05 p.m. PT

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.