OAKLAND -- As well as the A's young pitching staff has performed this season, the team knows its rotation could be even better with the eventual return of injured starters Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson. Luckily for Oakland, both lefties appear to be on track to return in the not-too-distant future.
Braden took a big step forward on Monday when he threw his first bullpen session since straining his surgically repaired left shoulder before the season. He only threw 20 pitches, all fastballs, but manager Bob Melvin said Braden looked good.
Braden, apparently, was excited about finally getting back on the mound.
"Talk about fired up for an appearance, that was like game day for him," Melvin said. "I'm sure he woke up this morning a little extra pep in his step. Threw 20 pitches and he looked good. I actually was surprised how good he looked. We'll see how he feels tomorrow and what the next step is."
Melvin said he expects Braden to return and make a few starts this season, an expectation he had previously shared for Anderson, too.
The latter is ahead of Braden, having gotten up to 40 pitches and mixing in breaking balls in his latest bullpen session. Anderson will have another bullpen session on Tuesday and will then throw hitters on Friday, marking the first time he'll do so since undergoing Tommy John surgery last July.
Though both pitchers are progressing well, Melvin said there's no timetable for either's return.
Norris, Carter to see action leading into All-Star break
OAKLAND -- The A's are nothing if not a young team. They currently have 10 rookies and three other young players on the roster, and the team has used a Major League-leading 17 rookies this season.
But as manager Bob Melvin likes to say, the organization's propensity for youth doesn't mean that the players don't have to earn their lineup spots -- and recent callups Derek Norris and Chris Carter have done enough to earn more time leading up to the All-Star break.
Norris, 23, made a splash June 24, when he hit a walk-off home run against the Giants for his first career long ball. The catcher has been solid outside of that memorable play, too, hitting .333 and managing the A's pitching staff well.
Norris has started six of 11 games since he was called up from Triple-A Sacramento on June 21, and he will likely see a bit more playing time given how he's produced. Melvin said before Monday's series opener against the Red Sox that he's been pleased with how his rookie backstop has adjusted to the Majors and that Norris will play two of the three games against Boston. The manager's also happy since it means he can keep veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki fresh.
"One, I can give [Suzuki] some more rest," Melvin said. "He was dealing with the hand issue, playing all the time day games after night games and stuff like that. Add in a guy that deserves to be behind the plate and doing some things, [Norris has] caught [Travis] Blackley very well, he's caught some other guys real well and he's swinging the bat well."
Having just been called up on Friday, Carter has had even less time to impress than Norris, but he's still been able to do so. The first baseman collected three hits, two of them home runs, in seven at-bats against the Rangers over the weekend.
With Oakland scheduled to face three left-handers in the team's final five games before the All-Star break, Melvin said first base will be a true platoon position at least until then. The right-handed-hitting Carter will be in the lineup against left-handed pitchers, and the lefty-swinging Brandon Moss will face right-handers.
"I think to this point, confidence-wise, it's probably best to give [Carter] lefties right now," Melvin said. "You can't shut Moss down either. He's a guy that's done some good things here. It just is what it is. We feel like the matchups will be good for both of them."
Outfielder Colin Cowgill, who's been on the 15-day disabled list since June 23 with a sprained left ankle, has resumed baseball activities. He told manager Bob Melvin that he thinks he'll be able to return close to the date he's first eligible to do so. Given Cowgill can't be activated until July 8, which is the last day before the All-Star break, it seems more likely that Cowgill will be activated after the break.
Melvin said right-hander Bartolo Colon was still on track to be activated from the DL and start Tuesday night's game, and that catcher Kurt Suzuki will catch for him after not being in the lineup on Monday. Colon's been out since June 18 with a strained right oblique.
Ben Estes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.