Notes: Cruz handles demotion well
Right-hander optioned to Triple-A; Harikkala designated
OAKLAND -- A day after all but announcing that struggling reliever Juan Cruz would be optioned to Triple-A Sacramento and stretched out as a starter, the A's formally pulled the trigger Friday.
Cruz, 0-2 with an 8.49 ERA in 21 appearances for Oakland, wasn't the only member of the bullpen sent packing, but at least he knows his immediate future. Fellow righty Tim Harikkala, who was 0-0 with a 6.39 ERA in eight games after being called up from Sacramento on May 10, was designated for assignment.
After meeting with manager Ken Macha during batting practice, Cruz headed upstate to report to the River Cats. Harikkala said goodbye to his teammates before batting practice, not knowing if he'd ever see them again.
The A's have 10 days to trade Harikkala, release him or send him to the Minors, but he'd have to clear waivers before going back to Sacramento.
"Harikkala handled it like a professional," Macha said.
So did Cruz, to whom the A's had planned to break the bad news after Thursday's game, in which he gave up two hits, a walk and two runs in one-third of an inning. Cruz, however, left the clubhouse about five minutes after the final out, so he was informed of the move Friday.
"Juan was a complete, 100-percent gentleman about it," Macha said. "He said, 'You guys gave me a great opportunity, and I didn't do my job.' He said he's going to go to Sacramento, get himself pitching the way he can, and get back here to try to help the club."
Macha said Cruz will work exclusively as a starter for Sacramento, but noted that Cruz "wasn't acquired to be a starter," and "you can always go from being stretched out to being shortened."
The news guys: Called up from Sacramento to replace Cruz and Harikkala in the bullpen were hard-throwing righty Jairo Garcia and not-so-hard-throwing lefty Ron Flores, pushing the number of players to appear on Oakland's 25-man roster this year to 35.
Garcia, who zoomed from Class A ball to the big leagues as a 21-year-old phenom last season, opened this season at Double-A Midland, but was promoted to Sacramento on May 10 after posting six saves and a 1.08 ERA in 10 games with the RockHounds. He went 1-4 with a team-high six saves and a 4.50 ERA in 15 relief appearances with the River Cats.
In 25 relief appearances, Garcia struck out 55 and walked 16 in 32 2/3 innings while holding the opposition to a .183 (22-for-120) batting average. Equally important in Macha's eyes is that Garcia shored up some of the weaknesses that were exposed at the big league level last year.
"A lot of those things were taken care of at the Double-A level [this year]," Macha said. "Holding runners, being quick to the plate, preventing big innings ... they put that under the miscroscope."
Flores, 25, was 3-2 with a 3.28 ERA and two saves in a team-high 31 relief appearances with Sacramento. He is the younger brother of St. Louis Cardinals lefty Randy Flores, who was thrilled to hear of Ron's first big league callup.
"He left messages for me last night, but my phone was off," Randy said. "I talked to him this morning. It was great."
Top pick in awe: Cliff Pennington, a shortstop out of Texas A&M who was Oakland's first-round pick in this year's First-Year Player Draft, worked out with the A's on Friday and spent quite a bit of time with shortstop Bobby Crosby.
Crosby told Pennington about the day he was in Pennington's shoes. While nervously trying to take some grounders alongside Miguel Tejada in 2001, Crosby let one go right through his legs.
Shortly after Crosby told Pennington this, a ball went right through Pennington's legs.
"I definitely had some jitters going," Pennington said.
Also Friday, the A's came to terms with five more 2005 draftees, including fifth-round righty Scott Deal, sixth-round shortstop Justin Sellers and seventh-round righty Kevin Bunch, all of whom were drafted out of high school.
Oakland has signed 27 of its top 33 picks thus far.
Dribblers: Eric Chavez was back at third base after serving as Oakland's designated hitter for three days to rest his sore right shoulder. "Oh my God," Chavez said during batting practice. "It feels like I have a cannon right now." ... Erubiel Durazo was back with the team a day after flying to Los Angeles to have his elbow examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum, who recommended more rest, and Macha said Durazo has been getting antsy. "He's kind of been waiting for Christmas, and Santa delayed it for another couple weeks," Macha explained. .... A's outfielder Mark Kotsay is the celebrity panelist on this week's "The Last Honest Sports Show," which airs Saturday on KPIX-TV at 3 p.m. PT, then again on UPN-TV at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Up next: Right-hander Kirk Saarloos (2-4, 4.65 ERA) will take on former A's righty Cory Lidle (6-4, 4.18 ERA) on Saturday in the second game of a three-game Interleague series against the Phillies at 12:15 p.m. PT.