OAKLAND -- Though Grant Balfour blew a second save in his past eight appearances in Wednesday's extra-inning loss to the Angels, manager Bob Melvin maintains his closer has "pitched better" in recent days.
"Everybody goes through some struggles over the course of a season," Melvin said Thursday. "I think actually the last three times out, he's pitched better. His command's been better, and that's what we look out of him.
"His velocity's been fine. He's been ahead of hitters. He struck out the side [Tuesday], and yesterday was really one bad pitch. So I think he's been throwing fine, and we've still got a lot of confidence in him."
Having given up a game-tying, two-run shot to Josh Hamilton in the bottom of the ninth on Wednesday, Balfour has now allowed nine runs on 13 hits with six walks and seven strikeouts over his last 10 outings.
Ryan Cook, similarly, is going through a rare bout of struggles, allowing three earned runs over his past four appearances, after yielding as many over his previous 29 games.
The timing of these woes is uneasy for the likely playoff-bound A's. But Melvin plans to stick with them through the process, a decision Sean Doolittle, who experienced his own rough patch earlier this season, supports.
"That's huge," Doolittle said. "To know that your manager has your back, I think that was a huge help for me, turning things around, to continue to put you in those situations and to show you that he still thinks you can do it. Gradually your mindset just changes to, 'Yeah, I can do it.' You end up finding a way, whether you end up having to make certain adjustments in that process as well."
A's select Crisp for 'Catfish' Hunter Award
OAKLAND -- As voted on by his teammates, coaches and staff, Coco Crisp was named the recipient of the 2013 Jim "Catfish" Hunter Award, which annually honors an A's player whose competitive and inspirational spirit best resembles that of the late Hall of Fame pitcher.
The voting wasn't unanimous, as Crisp said, smiling, that he didn't vote for himself, but it was probably close.
"I voted for him, absolutely," Eric Sogard said. "Definitely well deserved. What he's done this year and throughout his career, but this year especially, what he's done for our team has been unbelievable. He's been a role model for all of us, somebody you can always look to because he's playing hard, playing the game the right way, always has that energy for our team. He's the sparkplug for our team, no doubt."
"Very deserving," added manager Bob Melvin. "He's been, since I've been here, one of the, if not the most respected guys in the clubhouse on a daily basis for us. He could've won it last year, the year before probably. And very deserving this year. He was the guy for it this year."
Crisp said the honor "caught me by surprise" but assured, "I am grateful that everyone feels I'm deserving of this award. It's a pretty amazing feeling coming from the team."
"I go out there and try my best, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't but I try to give 100 percent," he said. "I think that's what our team's all about, so hopefully that's one of the major reasons why they selected me."
"Guys are just trying to be like him and trying to play like him every day," Sogard said. "It doesn't matter how he feels that day, he's going to go out there and give everything he has. You can tell, by the end of the day, he's given everything he had that day, left it out there on the field. As players, that's what we strive to do."
Crisp, 33, is in his fourth season with the A's and entered the day one stolen base shy of becoming the 10th player in club history with 20 homers and 20 steals in a season. The 20 home runs are a career high for Crisp, who is batting .255 with 59 RBIs in 123 games and has not committed an error in 102 games.
Previous winners of the award, presented to Crisp in an on-field presentation prior to Thursday's game, include Tim Hudson (2004), Mark Ellis (2005, 2007), Jason Kendall (2006), Mike Sweeney (2008), Kurt Suzuki (2009), Ben Sheets (2010), Josh Willingham (2011) and Jonny Gomes (2012).
Cespedes gets cortisone shot, could return Friday
OAKLAND -- The A's began their four-game series against the visiting Twins on Thursday night without Yoenis Cespedes, who received a cortisone shot after Wednesday's game to alleviate pain in his right shoulder.
Cespedes, diagnosed with tendinitis in the shoulder on Tuesday after injuring it nearly two weeks ago, "feels really good today," according to manager Bob Melvin, and could be back in the starting lineup as soon as Friday.
"Whether we get him in the game tonight, not sure yet," Melvin said Thursday, "but hoping he can play tomorrow."
Upon his return, Cespedes is likely to continue DHing for at least a day or two before testing his shoulder in the outfield. But that's where he's needed most, which was the biggest reason why he was given the cortisone shot. Brandon Moss started in left field Thursday.
"We want him in the outfield, and we want him to throw," Melvin said. "Sometimes that speeds up the process. He has been feeling better with it as of late, but we felt this could speed it up even more so and give us a better chance to get him in the outfield sooner than later."
Cespedes did some shagging in the outfield on Thursday afternoon but was not expected to throw or hit. He belted his 24th homer of the season on Wednesday, one more than he had in his 2012 rookie season.
The Cuban slugger is enjoying a monstrous September, batting .365 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 16 games -- 10 of the multihit variety -- this month.
Jaso to see at-bats with instructional league
OAKLAND -- John Jaso's journey back from a concussion is next headed to the instructional league.
Jaso took batting practice without experiencing any symptoms for the first time on Tuesday, and he's progressing so well that the team is expected to have him get a few at-bats in instructional league games within the next week.
The A's catcher, who has been sidelined since the end of July, was not anticipated to be ready in time to appear on the postseason roster, should the A's clinch a playoff spot, as expected. But on Thursday, Melvin wasn't ruling out such a possibility.
"Three or four days ago, I didn't think there was a chance where maybe now there is a chance," Melvin said. "He really turned the corner three or four days ago. Now that he's out here doing baseball activity and taking batting practice, the next step is to get some at-bats, and if that's the case, you never know."
At the very least, having Jaso healthy could give the A's a lefty-swinging backup option, in the unlikely event Stephen Vogt goes down to injury at some point. Vogt and Derek Norris are likely to be the catchers appointed to the postseason roster.