OAKLAND –- Billy Burns has quickly become a fixture atop the A’s lineup.
On Friday, his name was not written in to the leadoff spot for the first time since May 19. Burns finally received a day off after 34 consecutive starts in center field, a stretch he’s used to thrust himself into the thick of the American League Rookie of the Year race.
Manager Bob Melvin said it was time to give the speedy switch hitter a break, but also acknowledged: “He’s a little banged up. It’s probably good to give him a day off today.”
Will Burns be back in there Saturday?
“I hope so,” Melvin said. “I'd like to see that.”
If something is bothering Burns physically, he wasn’t letting on when asked about it, except to say he was due for a rest in general.
“I haven’t gotten one in a while,” Burns said. “I’ve been a little worn out. I think (Melvin) sensed that. He just wanted to give me a rest.”
Eric Sogard is hitting leadoff Friday night against Kansas City, which brings the American League’s best record (41-28) to the Coliseum for a three-game series. Melvin cited Sogard’s ability to handle the bat, run the bases and take some pitches as reasons he chose him to lead off. Continuing a theme of rotating players through the No. 2 spot, Brett Lawrie is hitting second for the first time as an Athletic.
Lawrie, hitting .347 in June, has been doing lots of damage in the bottom half of the lineup, usually hitting sixth or seventh.
“It's a different dynamic when Burns isn't in there,” Melvin said. “I do like Brett down in the lineup because he drives in some runs for us down there, and it's always nice to have that kind of production a little bit lower in the lineup. But for today, with Billy out, we'll lead (Sogard) off and hit Brett second because he's swinging the bat pretty well at this point.”
Both Melvin and his players went out of their way to say they’ve moved past the bad blood with the Royals during April’s series at Kauffman Stadium. Lawrie’s hard slide into shortstop Alcides Escobar angered the Royals in the opener. The benches cleared three times over a three-game series and five Royals were ejected in the series finale. Lawrie was plunked by a pitch from Yordano Ventura in the middle game, then after Scott Kazmir hit Lorenzo Cain with a pitch early in the final game, Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera threw a 100 mile-per-hour pitch behind Lawrie, which eventually drew a five-game suspension for Herrera.
“I'd just as soon not bring it up,” Melvin said before the game. “We want to go out there and forget about that and play baseball. I'd expect both sides would think the same way. That was probably uncomfortable for both teams.”
“We’ve won five games in a row,” said A’s designated hitter Billy Butler, a former Royal. “We just want to win games, go out there and play good baseball. That stuff happened a long time ago and I think it should be left in the past.”
As for Lawrie, he waved reporters off before they could even get close enough to ask a question, declaring he had nothing to say on the subject.
Ambidextrous reliever Pat Venditte, sidelined the past 14 games with a strained right shoulder, is scheduled to play catch for the first time Saturday to test things out.