Zobrist eases back into A's lineup at DH

Versatile player managing soreness in left knee

Zobrist eases back into A's lineup at DH

OAKLAND -- Ben Zobrist made his return to the A's lineup for Friday's series opener against the visiting Astros with a start at designated hitter, as he looks to ease his way back into game action.

With Zobrist holding down DH duties, after being held out of each of the club's previous four games because of left knee soreness, Billy Butler made his first start of the season at first base. Zobrist went 0-for-4 with a walk and didn't appear comfortable running in the A's 5-4, 11-inning setback.

He's not expected to play Saturday.

"It's certainly not 100 percent by any stretch," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "I don't know that he can play a position at this point. After tonight, good chance I won't play him at all tomorrow."

Before the game, Zobrist put his knee through numerous tests. He ran, slid and took balls in the outfield, acknowledging that he's still putting much of his weight on the right leg. It's his way of compensating for the slight discomfort he's still experiencing in the other leg, "but hopefully I can get close to 100 percent out there speed-wise," he said.

"The goal is to hit a home run and you don't have to run hard," continued Zobrist. "If I hit a ball to the infield, you know, I'm going to run hard. If I think I'm sniffing a hit, it doesn't mean I'm going to be diving into first base. I've got to make sure I take care of the progression here and make sure that I'm going as hard as I can go tonight without making it worse. That's the goal.

"I just don't know how it's going to react. After today, we're just trying to take the natural progression to getting back into the full game."

Worth noting

• Outfielder Coco Crisp took more dry swings Friday and will throw out to 75 feet again Saturday, as he continues to progress from right-elbow surgery.

• The A's will wait to announce their rotation plans past Monday's off-day until they have a better understanding of when Jesse Hahn (blister) will be able to start.

• Shortstop Marcus Semien made his first start of the season in the leadoff spot Friday, a decision made by Melvin that was just as much about batting typical leadoff man Craig Gentry in the bottom of the order.

Gentry entered the day 0-for-22, but recorded a third-inning single to snap his season-opening slide. He finished 1-for-3.

"Against left-handed pitching, Gentry's been our guy. So just take a little pressure off him," said Melvin. "He's been struggling some, and Marcus is pretty versatile in where he can hit in the lineup."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.