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LAND -- While Cliff Pennington's ongoing offensive struggles have been well-documented, so, too, has the work he's put in during the woeful stretch.
The A's shortstop, it turns out, took one too many extra swings while doing so a few weeks ago, and as a result injured the area of his left forearm and elbow, leading to his placement on the 15-day disabled list on Friday.
The club officially deemed it left elbow tendinitis and brought up Eric Sogard to take Pennington's roster spot. Sogard was immediately inserted into the lineup, batting eighth and playing shortstop against Yankees righty Ivan Nova. It's likely he'll platoon with the right-handed-hitting Brandon Hicks at the position.
Pennington, who was batting .197 on the season, the second lowest average in the Majors entering the day, initially felt pain in his arm during the club's stay in Texas three weeks ago -- "I took a lot of extra swings that day," he said -- and hoped to just make it to the break. He received a cortisone shot right before the break and felt immediate results, enjoying a pain-free four days away from the park before returning to more discomfort and going 0-for-12 in that span.
"Came back from the break and it felt pretty good and then it's just going right back to where it was, getting worse every day again," said Pennington, who will continue taking ground balls but won't touch a bat for a few days.
For the 28-year-old infielder, who is playing in his third full big league season, this marks the first DL stint of his career, and he said Friday afternoon, fresh off an MRI that revealed the tendinitis in his non-throwing arm, that he's "already bored."
Pennington wasn't doing much offensively even when healthy, though. His on-base percentage (.259) is second worst in the Majors, and his slugging percentage (.282) ranks last -- this coming off a productive 2011 season that saw the infielder hit .264 with career highs in hits (136), home runs (eight) and RBIs (58) in a team-leading 148 games.
But the switch-hitter, recently relegated to a platoon with Hicks, had yet to showcase any consistency before going down to injury. Pennington wouldn't go so far as saying the setback affected his at-bats, but manager Bob Melvin noted "it probably affected his swing some, certainly."
"I don't know," Pennington said. "I haven't been swinging it good, anyway, but it's limited how much I've been able to work in the cage. I've been trying to give it a break. I don't know how much you can quantify it affecting it.
"Offensively, it's definitely been a frustrating season. When you don't get hits, you're frustrated. But, really, this season, I've been pretty OK with it. I want to hit better, but I've been playing pretty good defense, and we've been winning a lot of games. And when you're winning, it kind of makes things not as bad. If we were 10 games below .500 and I was hitting below .200, it would be really frustrating. But of course you want to hit. You gotta hit to play in the big leagues."
Sogard will get that chance for a third time this year. He was batting .323 with five home runs and 22 RBIs for Triple-A Sacramento, while his numbers with Oakland -- .145 in 22 games with the A's this year -- have been less impressive. But A's management has done well in bringing up players while they're swinging well, a la Chris Carter and Brandon Moss, and Sogard relishes the opportunity to join a mix that has bred so many wins.
"Playing every day helps me get into that groove and feel comfortable at the plate, not trying to do too much," Sogard said. "Earlier in the year, when I was up here, playing once every four or five days, I put a little too much pressure on myself to try to succeed instead of just going out and playing my game."
"He'll get the brunt of the time at shortstop, at least against right-handed pitching," Melvin said. "This is probably the first time for him coming up being able to play on a mostly everyday basis. He's been the role player the times before, so this is a great opportunity for him to go out on an everyday basis and show was he can do at the offensive level in the big leagues."
Pennington is eligible to come off the DL on Aug. 4, though it's possible the A's could reel in another shortstop by the July 31 Trade Deadline. At this point, the position appears to be most in need of an upgrade, if the club chooses to move forward with the playoffs in mind. Melvin, though, insists he's "comfortable with who we have here."
"We're playing well now, and I certainly feel like we have enough players in our system to enhance whatever we need to do," he said. "If moves are made, moves will be made. But I have to be comfortable with the guys that I have here, and I am comfortable with this group. If Billy [Beane] feels like we need to do something differently, I'm certainly on board with that. But I try not to look and say, 'We need X or we're not going to play well or play consistently.' It's my job to feel good about the group that we have here, and I do right now."