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A's Yoenis Cespedes cleared to play in Game 1


OAKLAND - There was good news coming out of the Coliseum for both A's and Tigers fans Thursday.

Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes and Detroit's Miguel Cabrera both were given a thumb's-up to play in Friday's Game 1 of the American League Division Series in the Coliseum.

The 6.37 p.m. start to the playoffs pits the two winningest pitchers in the AL this season, Detroit's Max Scherzer (20-3) and Oakland's Bartolo Colon (18-6).

The bad news is neither Cespedes nor Cabrera is likely to be at his best. Cespedes has played just half a game in left field since Sept. 13 and the latest outbreak of tendinitis in his right shoulder.

Cabrera also limped in down the stretch, waylaid first by abdominal pain and more recently by groin problems.

And yet these are right-handed hitters who inspire confidence in their teammates and induce fear in the opposition, so just having them playing is a step forward for each offense.

Cespedes spent most of his time batting cleanup this year for Oakland, but lately he's spent the majority of his time batting fifth against right-handed starting pitchers, which is the only kind the Tigers have. It's not by coincidence that lefty Brandon Moss' late-season homer surge has come largely with the right-handed Cespedes batting fifth behind him.

"Having him healthy and in the lineup is really good for our balance," Moss said. "And it makes the other side think about what they want to do with their relief pitchers.

"Do they want to bring in a lefty for me, then burn him because they don't want to have any lefty face Cespedes?" Moss asked Thursday. "We all know he crushes left-handers (11 of Cespedes' 26 homers came off lefties even though he only had 161 at-bats against them this year)." Moss hit .350 in September while having Cespedes behind him, scoring eight times and driving in 11. The outfielder-turned-first baseman-turned outfielder had half of his 14 hits in that stretch for extra bases - two homers, five doubles. Teams don't want to pitch to him unless they have to. But they don't want to face Cespedes, either, who hit .314 with six homers for the month.

"Just having him in the lineup puts that thought in their heads," Moss said. "The Tigers have three (lefty relievers). We have me in front of Cespedes and more lefties behind him. Do they want to use one lefty against all of us, as well as he hits them? Or do you want to burn through all your lefties?" A's manager Bob Melvin said the club will have to wait until the pre-game workout to know if Cespedes's shoulder is feeling well enough to allow him to play in left. If so, Moss will be the DH. If not, Cespedes will DH and Moss will be in left.

Cabrera, the defending Most Valuable Player, had a great year - a .348 batting average to lead the league, 44 homers, 137 RBIs and the league lead in on-base percentage (.442) and slugging percentage (.636). Imagine the year he would have had if injuries hadn't limited him to one homer at seven RBIs for September.

As it is he'll be playing with both sides knowing that he can't run. Manager Jim Leyland said he would pinch-run for Cabrera in the eighth inning or later, but not before, not when running would take a potential at-bat away from him.

"He's playable, but he's not 100 percent," Leyland said. "He's handicapped a little bit, although I think he is (getting) better. You've just to be willing to live with the fact that he's not going to run very well, and that pretty much sums it up." Cabrera badly wants to play. For all the pain he was in down the stretch, he didn't take a day off until the season finale, giving him five days to recover.

"I feel better today; hopefully tomorrow (I will) feel much better," he said. "I'm going to be OK, and hopefully I can play 100 percent." If he does, that's going to be a problem for Oakland. This is an Oakland team that back on Aug. 26 intentionally walked Cabrera intentionally to load the bases rather than pitch to him with two men on base.

"Fundamentally he's as sound as you get," manager Bob Melvin said of Cabrera. "He hits the ball both ways, and he uses the power to all fields." Colon said Cabrera is as tough a matchup as any pitcher would have to face.

"He's one of the best hitters right now in baseball in both leagues," Colon said. "Everybody knows how important his is for (their) team." Will the stars shine? Will the injuries prevail? We'll get an idea beginning Friday night.