Oakland A's Notes: Kendall Coming Around

Jason Kendall arrived in Oakland as a career .300 hitter. Actually, a lifetime .306 hitter after nine seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Jason Kendall hit over .300 in six of his nine seasons, including a .327 mark in 1998 that was fifth-best in the league, a .325 in 2003 that ranked sixth, and a .319 in 2004 that ranked eighth.

In his first year with the A's in 2005, he hit just .271 and he needed a .324 final month to get that high. He admitted that it was a bad year.

Another slow start this year had many wondering if Kendall was over the hill offensively, if that was an example of how much better the pitching in the American League is, or if all the games Kendall caught had worn him out.

But in the second half, Kendall's been one of the hottest hitters in baseball. He stroked three straight hits in Wednesday's game, which raised his average to .2995 for the year -- the first time he's been at .300 with the A's.

It dropped down to .2989 when he made and out his final time up, but it's clear the old Kendall is close to being back. His on-base percentage is still significantly lower than it was in Pittsburgh, where he was regularly at or near .400 in OBP. He is at .367 at the moment.

But if you think Kendall knows, or cares, you don't know Kendall very well.

"I just want to win," he said. "I don't care about any of that stuff."

Kendall never even played on a team that was over .500 with the Pirates. Even though his offensive performance was bad last year, he called it the most fun he's ever had in the majors.

Now he's on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time. The A's have a 5-1/2 game lead with 23 games left. If Kendall keeps hitting, he'll get the best of both worlds -- over .300 for the year, and in the playoffs.

Friday's Notebook

-- All three A's minor league affiliates in the playoffs lost on Thursday. Midland dropped its third straight playoff game to Corpus Christi, who gave them fits all season. The third loss ended the Rockhounds season and their defense of the Texas League crown. Kane County and Stockton each dropped the second game of their three-game sets, forcing deciding game threes tonight.

--RHP Huston Street is expected to be activated from the disabled list before Friday's series opener against Tampa Bay.

--CF Mark Kotsay, who says he's putting himself together with duct tape, won't play all six games on this road trip because they are all on turf, and that's horrible on his back. It's most likely he will play four games, unless his back spasms again and he's shut down for a few days.

--RHP Rich Harden will be allowed to throw all his pitches in a bullpen session before Friday's game. If he continues to feel no pain in his elbow, he will throw a simulated game Sunday morning. He could rejoin the A's out of the bullpen as early as next week.

--RHP Joe Blanton became just the fifth A's pitcher to win 15 games in his sophomore year. He joins some pretty good company, too. Vida Blue went 24-8 in his Cy Young year of 1971. Tim Hudson was 20-6 in 2000 (his first full season), Mark Mulder went 21-8 in 2001, and Barry Zito went 17-8 in 2001.

--1B/LF Nick Swisher was the target of a noted heckler at Tropicana Field last year and went 1-for-15 with one RBI. It will be interesting to see if Swisher becomes the target again this weekend in Tampa Bay.

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