Notes: A's defense takes a hit
Broken finger forces Ellis out for remainder of postseason
OAKLAND -- Injuries are nothing new for the Oakland A's. They have dealt with injuries since Opening Day against the Yankees, when shortstop Bobby Crosby suffered a lacerated finger from a Robinson Cano slide into second base. So, when Mark Ellis left Game 2 of the Division Series against the Twins with a broken right index finger, nobody was miffed.
"We wouldn't be us if something like that didn't happen," said A's general manager Billy Beane on Thursday.
Oakland used the disabled list 15 times during the regular season, which was the most since 1997, when the A's used the DL 21 times.
"It's been amazing from the first day of the season," Ellis said of the injuries. "You think you're finally over it, and then something like this happens in the playoffs. That's the way it is, and hopefully it won't happen to anybody else."
Ellis suffered the fracture when an inside fastball from Twins closer Joe Nathan smashed Ellis' finger against the bat.
"I knew it was broken right away," said Ellis, who also broke his thumb on May 31. "I knew how my thumb felt, I knew, when I could barely swing the bat, that it was pretty bad."
The injury leaves the A's without one of the better defensive second baseman in baseball for the rest of the playoffs. Ellis had just two errors all season and is in the running for his first Gold Glove Award.
"It just breaks our hearts to see [Ellis] go down," said pitcher Barry Zito. "It really hurts to watch him [sit out], because he is the type of player where he would rather be in the lineup more than anyone."
"I'm crushed," said Ellis, who has three small breaks between the first two knuckles. "You play the whole season to get to this point. You don't want to miss [the playoffs] because of this, but that's just the way to it. I'm not going to bring the team down. I'm going to be the best cheerleader we have. Me and Bobby [Crosby] are going to be right next to each other on the bench."
Crosby has been out with a lower back strain since Aug. 22, and A's manager Ken Macha isn't counting on Crosby being back during the postseason.
With backup infielder Antonio Perez also on the injured list with broken right index finger, D'Angelo Jimenez will replace Ellis at second.
Jimenez made his postseason debut on Wednesday when he came in for Ellis in the ninth inning. The utility player hit .183 in 71 at-bats with the A's and Rangers this season. Jimenez was signed to a Minor League contract after he was released by the Rangers in June. He joined the A's in August.
Jimenez has seen action in eight games since joining the A's, collecting one hit in 14 at-bats. He said he feels "great" about the opportunity to get some playing time in the postseason and that his rustiness will go away after his first action.
"It's not like I've never been there before," said Jimenez, who can also play shortstop and third base. "I just gotta go out there and do my best. At first you're mind might feel [a little overwhelmed]. But after the first ground ball you are going to feel relaxed."
If anything should happen to Chavez, Jimenez or shortstop Marco Scutaro, Hiram Bocachica is the emergency backup infielder.
One reporter asked Chavez how he would react if he were moved to shortstop in an emergency and the five-time Gold Glove winner at third base didn't sound too willing.
"Not in my current condition," said Chavez, who has played with a left hamstring problem most of the season. "There's nowhere to hide at short. I don't even want to talk about that."
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The A's, however, cannot make a roster move in the middle of a series, they could add a player if they advance to the American League Championship Series.
Beane said that the A's are auditioning Minor League infielders in the instructional league in case they advance to the ALCS.
"The bad part is that most of the guys from the Minor Leagues are back home and haven't been playing," Beane said.
Harden still feels good: A's pitcher Rich Harden, who would start Game 4 if necessary, threw about 30 pitches in a bullpen session on Thursday.
Harden has made three starts since coming off the DL on Sept. 21, with a sprained ligament in his right elbow.
In his previous start, Harden was touched for six runs over 3 2/3 innings against the Angels on Oct. 1. Macha said that Harden's release point was his main problem vs. Los Angeles. Oakland decided to give Harden an extra day of rest instead of starting him in Game 3.
"My last start was just like going through Spring Training," Harden said. "That's something everybody goes through."
Harden said that everything felt good after his throwing session, and that it helped to have an extra day before his start. He is 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA in four career starts against the Twins.
Game 5 could move: Currently scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN2 on Sunday at 1 p.m. PT, the start time and broadcast network for Game 5 vs. Minnesota, if necessary, could change depending on the outcome of the ALDS series between the Yankees and the Tigers and the NLDS series between the Mets and the Dodgers. If both of those series are decided before Sunday, then an Oakland-Minnesota Game 5 would start at 4 p.m. PT and be broadcast nationally on FOX.
Crow hops: Perez had surgery on his broken finger on Thursday and is expected to need 6-8 weeks to recover ... When Scutaro was asked about any differences playing with Jimenez as opposed to Ellis, he said the only difference will be easier communication, because he and Jimenez both speak Spanish ... Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire had nothing but praise for the A's when he was asked about his offense's struggles in the first two games. "These guys have a great pitching staff," he said. "I think they are probably as good as any team you're going to see in the playoffs. The A's defense has played fantastic baseball. They have made a lot a great plays on us. Right now, it's more of the A's playing super baseball; they really haven't done anything wrong."
Up next: On Friday, the A's and Twins with play Game 3 of the ALDS. Dan Haren (14-13, 4.12 ERA in the regular season) is slated to start against right-hander Brad Radke (12-9, 4.32 ERA) at 1:05 p.m. PT.
Ryan Quinn is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.