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A's start Interleague Play vs. Bay Area foe

ARLINGTON -- Having hung around the .500 mark for the first seven weeks of the season despite facing a tough schedule, the A's will soon break away from American League action and engage in Interleague Play.

"I like Interleague," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "I think the novelty is a little worn off for us, but I think, for the fans, certainly, to see other teams that they don't normally see is fun."

The "fun" begins Friday in San Francisco, where the A's are set to engage in the always popular Bay Bridge Series rivalry with three games against the Giants. Slated to take to the mound -- and the plate -- are right-handers Jarrod Parker, Tyson Ross and Bartolo Colon.

Parker, who hit .481 with nine home runs during his senior year of high school, still deems himself a "decent" hitter and is probably the most athletic of the aforementioned trio. Just how many times he'll be allowed to swing the bat, however, remains to be seen.

In the past, A's pitchers have rarely been awarded the green light to freely swing. Melvin, cautious with his staff in an effort to avoid injury, utilizes what he calls a "give and take" approach.

"They have to be ready for it, for sure, because you never know the situation," he said. "The pitchers hitting, you're worried about injury, and it's a progression to try to get them there, prepared for it. You don't want too many swings, to where you're starting to tax other muscles you don't normally use. But you also have to do what you can to get them ready."

This year marks the 16th season of Interleague Play across baseball, with two segments being featured on Oakland's schedule -- the first coming this weekend and the latter from June 8-24.

Following Sunday's series finale in San Francisco, the A's will return to AL play for three weeks before diving into 15 more Interleague contests, beginning Friday, June 8, against the D-backs for the start of a six-game road swing through Arizona and Denver.

Players to watch
Josh Reddick, RF (.366, 1 HR, 6 RBIs): Owner of just 41 at-bats in Interleague Play, Reddick has compiled 16 hits in as many contests.
Brandon McCarthy, RHP (2-1, 1.41 ERA): In nine games against the National League, including four starts, McCarthy has allowed just five runs in 32 innings with 23 strikeouts.
Grant Balfour, RHP (4-0, 0.95 ERA): Balfour has dominated the NL, surrendering only four runs in 35 innings while pitching to the tune of a 0.82 WHIP.

Come June 15, the A's will be back in their home ballpark to host a pair of California neighbors from the southern region. The Padres enter for a weekend series, and following an off-day, the Dodgers are set to take up residence in the visitors' clubhouse for three days.

Interleague Play concludes for the A's on June 24, when they're scheduled to close out a three-game set against the visiting Giants before they resume AL programming the next day with a seven-game road trip to Seattle and Texas. Of the 18 games to be played against National League counterparts, six particularly stand out in entertainment value, Melvin said.

"Playing the Giants at home and away, I think that's great for the Bay Area fans," he said. "Some of the other teams don't have that dynamic, where you have two-team cities, and I think that, for me, is the most exciting part about it. We have the natural rivalry, and I think that's terrific."

Last year: The A's went 8-10 in Interleague Play during the 2011 campaign, marking their third consecutive season with a losing record against the NL. The team struggled on the road, going 2-7 for a second straight year in NL ballparks -- a trend that continued throughout the season, as the A's finished with an overall record of 31-50 away from home.

All-time: The A's have fared well historically in Interleague Play, having gone 144-122 (.541) against the Senior Circuit since 1997. However, they're owners of a 78-84 record since 2003.

at Giants, May 18-20: The rivalry will continue across the Bay, as two of the Majors' best pitching staffs engage in battle, and the A's look to improve upon a 45-41 mark against the Giants. The two teams will meet a second time in Oakland on June 22-24.

at D-backs, June 8-10: Parker, relievers Ryan Cook and Jordan Norberto and outfielder Collin Cowgill will join the A's in playing the role of guests to their former team, which now employs ex-A's pitchers Trevor Cahill, Craig Breslow and Brad Ziegler. It will mark the A's first visit to Chase Field, where they're 6-3, since 2008.

at Rockies, June 12-14: Coors Field has not treated the A's kindly in the past, as the green and gold have lost four consecutive series there, the last one coming in 2006. They are 3-8 in the hitter-friendly park, and overall, they're 10-12 against the Rockies, who traded designated hitter/outfielder Seth Smith to Oakland in January in exchange for pitchers Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso.

vs. Padres, June 15-17: This will mark the Padres' first visit to the Coliseum since 2000, when Oakland swept San Diego in a three-game series. The A's are 6-2 against the Friars when playing at home and own a favorable 14-8 record vs. them overall.

vs. Dodgers, June 19-21: The A's are nearly perfect at home against the Dodgers, with a 9-2 showing at the Coliseum compared to a 4-7 record at Dodger Stadium. The two teams last met in 2009 in Los Angeles, and the Dodgers haven't paid a visit to Oakland in six years. It will mark second baseman Mark Ellis' first meeting with his former team, which employed him for 10 years before Oakland traded him to the Rockies last year.

Oakland Athletics