DET@OAK: Norris hits a grand slam to center field

OAKLAND -- The A's are healthier than they've been in days.

Catcher John Jaso was back in the lineup at catcher on Tuesday after missing a handful of games with back tightness, while infielder Nick Punto (calf strain) was expected to be available off the bench for the second game of a four-game set against the Tigers.

That meant sitting Derek Norris, who had caught four straight games, including three on artificial turf.

Norris hit a grand slam in Monday's win and entered Tuesday batting .400 with runners in scoring position on the season. As hot as he's been, Jaso's been keeping pace, entering the night batting .327 with three homers and eight RBIs in 15 games in May.

Manager Bob Melvin said Norris will be back behind the plate Wednesday against righty Anibal Sanchez. Norris is batting .286 with two homers and a .400 on-base percentage in 63 at-bats against righties this year after hitting .149 with no home runs when facing them in 135 trips to the plate last season.

Cook, O'Flaherty take big steps in recoveries

SEA@OAK: Cook injured on strikeout, leaves game

OAKLAND -- The A's have two relievers making significant progress in their rehabs.

Ryan Cook, out with a forearm strain, threw his first bullpen session Tuesday since landing on the disabled list. Lefty Eric O'Flaherty, finally nearing the end of Tommy John rehab, could begin a rehab assignment as early as next week.

The right-handed Cook utilized all of his pitches in a 22-pitch session Tuesday and is scheduled to throw even more in another bullpen session Thursday. At that point, the A's will decide whether he needs a rehab assignment before returning to the active roster.

"Today was great," said Cook. "It's one thing to be confident the whole time, but then to actually respond the way you feel is obviously a little relieving. Honestly I was thoroughly surprised with how good it was today, actually."

"He looked like he had never missed a beat," manager Bob Melvin said. "We feel like we dodged a bullet as far as what the injury looked like originally. He was going after every one of his pitches, throwing his slider as hard as he could throw it."

O'Flaherty, who will throw a simulated game in Sacramento on Thursday, said Tuesday he feels Major League-ready but understands he must remain patient with the process. The lefty hopes to make his A's debut in June.

"My arm's ready," he said. "It just has to get ready for that everyday grind.

"Everything feels great. It feels natural, pretty similar to how it felt before I even had the surgery. Where I'm at mentally, it's pretty good. When you first come out of surgery, the first four months, you don't doubt the process, but there are days when you're thinking, 'How am I ever going to throw again?' Now where it's at, I can't even tell I had surgery."

Doolittle reflects on historical Lt. Gen. Doolittle

DET@OAK: God Bless America is performed in Oakland

OAKLAND -- Sean Doolittle never met Jimmy Doolittle, but the lefty reliever's appreciation for his distant relative grows by the day.

A history buff at heart, Sean has sought out more information on Lieutenant General James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle in recent years, always knowing since he was a kid, staring down books printed with his last name, that he must be someone special.

He even did a grade-school book report on Jimmy, an aviation pioneer and leader of what became known as the Doolittle Raid during World War II -- the first air bombing raid to strike the Japanese home islands after Pearl Harbor.

It took until Friday, though, 72 years after the attack, for members of the Doolittle Raid to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

"The more you learn about it, the more I was surprised it hadn't been awarded to them already," said Sean. "It's kind of a long time coming, but it's definitely well deserved."

Jimmy, it turns out, isn't some great, great uncle of Sean's, like the youngster originally was thought to believe. That much he knew when learning through research on several ancestry sites that Jimmy was an only child. Only recently did he discover Jimmy is his seventh cousin.

Jimmy passed in 1993, when Sean was 7 years old, and there remain only four surviving Tokyo Raiders of the original 80.

Sean took a tour of the USS Hornet Museum at nearby Naval Air Station Alameda last year, piquing his interest even more after viewing maps of the attack sites and photos from that fateful day commanded by Jimmy.

"It's been kind of rewarding for me, being in this area, going over to the Hornet a couple of times and learning about the Raid," said Sean, whose father, Rory, is retired Air Force. "It's pretty crazy. So awesome."