OAKLAND -- The A's have a good problem on their hands.
Lefty Brett Anderson, rehabbing a stress fracture in his right foot, could make a return to the rotation as soon as Aug. 27. Bartolo Colon (left groin) is eligible to come off the disabled list two days later. That potentially gives the A's seven starters heading into the final stretch.
"We feel comfortable with the guys we have now, and we feel good about the two other guys that are potentially coming back," said manager Bob Melvin. "We've always felt good about our depth."
But how will they use it?
Though the A's have considered bringing back Anderson as a reliever, news of Colon's injury now has them in position to keep him in a starting role.
The A's will decide whether the Anderson returns next week soon after his rehab start on Thursday with Class A Stockton. He's slated to throw around 65 pitches, so he'd likely be limited to 80 his first time out with the A's, should they start him.
But Bob Melvin is not ready to commit to a return date for his Opening Day starter, only saying the lefty "could be" back after Thursday's outing, noting health is the most significant factor.
"We also want to make sure there's crispness on his pitches," he said. "Usually, when he's healthy, that's there. Trying to get his arm in shape, make sure the foot is in the condition it's in, and then we'll make a decision on what to do with him.
"We'll monitor everything. I don't think the results are the most important thing. We feel good about the stuff that he has. Until he gets done and how he feels and what we hear with life on his pitches and so forth from the people that are watching him, that will impact it, but to this point, everything that we've seen so far would suggest that he's almost ready to go."
Whether it's Anderson who comes back first or Colon, it's likely Tommy Milone would be the player sent down to Triple-A. Milone would likely be back soon after when rosters expand in September, though his role may be as a reliever.
A's mixing Lowrie in at designated hitter
OAKLAND -- For the third time in six days and the fifth time this month, Oakland's Jed Lowrie started at designated hitter on Tuesday.
Before August, Lowrie had not appeared there since May 21.
"Based on his workload this year, it's probably a prudent thing to do," said manager Bob Melvin, "and we're able to do that now with [Alberto] Callaspo here."
Tuesday's contest against Seattle marked Lowrie's 119th game of the season, which is already 21 more appearances than his career high of 97 set last year in Houston. Even in four years in Boston, the infielder averaged only 64 games because of a bevy of injuries
Lowrie is on track to turn in his first injury-free season in the big leagues, right in his prime at age 29. And he's excelling, batting .283 with a .344 on-base mark, giving the A's versatility in their constantly changing lineup. The A's would like to keep it that way, which is why giving him days off his feet is so important.
Lowrie has hit in seven different spots in the lineup, the most of any everyday player.
"He's as versatile a guy in the lineup as you've seen all year," Melvin said of Lowrie.
On Tuesday, Lowrie was back in the leadoff spot for the fourth time this season in place of outfielder Coco Crisp, who was given a scheduled day off to rest a nagging sore left wrist. Lowrie doesn't boast Crisp's speed, but he is batting .500 with a .600 OBP from the position.
"Yeah, I was looking at the numbers today," said Melvin. "Not bad."
A's extend affiliation with Class A Stockton
OAKLAND -- The A's on Tuesday extended their player-development contract with Class A Stockton through the 2016 season.
Prior to this new two-year extension, the A's and Stockton, home to the California League's Ports, had signed a two-year agreement in April 2010 for the '13 and '14 campaigns.
"We are pleased to renew our relationship with the Ports through the 2016 season," said A's general manager Billy Beane in a statement. "We are so appreciative the way the Stockton community has embraced our Single-A team. We look forward to continuing this relationship for many years to come."
It's been seven years since the A's began their affiliation with the Ports, the same year Stockton christened its new Banner Island Ballpark -- which seats 5,200 -- in the downtown area.
The Ports set attendance records in three of their first five seasons and averaged more than 200,000 fans per year, while qualifying for the playoffs in five of the first seven years.
Stockton is currently the home of 2012 first-round Draft pick Addison Russell, who is batting .276 with 15 home runs and 55 RBIs in 96 games for the Ports.
• Following Tuesday's scheduled day off, Coco Crisp is expected to start Wednesday's series finale against Seattle right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, allowing him to bat left-handed. It's from the right side Crisp still experiences some soreness in his left wrist, though with an off-day Thursday, Melvin said, "After that, hopefully we're past this."
• Entering Tuesday, the A's had committed 17 errors in their last 18 games, leading to 13 unearned runs. They made 61 errors over their first 106 games, which resulted in 23 unearned runs.
• Former A's hurler Travis Blackley made his Rangers debut as a starter against the Astros on Tuesday, prompting Melvin to smile and say, "I hope he pitches well and gets beat."
Houston, meanwhile, recalled catcher Max Stassi who went to the Astros alongside Chris Carter and Brad Peacock in February's Jed Lowrie trade. Stassi was selected by the A's in the fourth round of the 2009 Draft.
With Stassi now at the big league level, three of the A's first six picks in that Draft class are in the Majors, yet none are with Oakland. First-round pick Grant Green is with the Angels, and Ian Krol, Oakland's sixth overall selection, pitches for the Nationals.