OAKLAND -- Oakland outfielder Mark Kotsay was a welcome sight in the A's clubhouse this weekend. His expected return to the lineup is somewhere around mid-season, and his teammates are glad to have him around as he tenderly begins his return from back surgery in March. "I like having Mark around," A's manager Bob Geren said before Saturday's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. "I was just talking to him today and getting his perspective on things. He's valuable to the team both on and off the field. Any time he's around, it's good." Kotsay is in town to play catch, participate in soft toss hitting drills, and to run.
"I won't be encouraged until I put on the uniform again," Kotsay said. "My main focus is being 100 percent healthy before I think about full baseball activities." Kotsay underwent microdiscectomy surgery on his lower back on March 8 in Los Angeles to relieve the pain he's endured for the past several years. Kotsay originally injured the back as a member of the San Diego Padres in 2003. He slammed into the outfield wall chasing a fly ball and went on the disabled list. Until this spring Kotsay managed to avoid a return trip to the DL, playing through pain. His back would stiffen up after long plane trips or periods of inactivity. After continually rehabbing, he found it difficult to continue and decided on the surgery. Kotsay said he hasn't had any spasms in his back since the surgery, and he's now waiting for clearance before becoming more aggressive with his baseball activities. "I can't play, so I can't help in any way," he said. "I don't want to be a pest but I do want to hang out with the guys. I don't want to be in anybody's way. I'm just trying to blend in." Kotsay said a June 1 return would be the perfect scenario, "if there are no setbacks," he said. A more likely return date would be July 12 in Minnesota, following the All-Star Game. He's turned cheerleader for the time being. "Yeah, I have my pom poms," he joked. One player named: Right-hander Marcus McBeth was sent to the Cincinnati Reds as one of two players to be named later in Friday's trade which brought injured outfielder Chris Denorfia (he was placed on the 60-day disabled list) to the A's. McBeth was 1-0 with an ERA of 1.80 in eight games with Triple-A Sacramento. He recorded five saves and struck out six in 10 innings. Originally drafted as a shortstop in 2001, McBeth was converted to a pitcher for the 2005 season. He led the A's Minor League system with 32 saves last year. Injury report: Right-hander Esteban Loaiza (spasms in right trapezius) continues a throwing program in conjunction with A's pitching coach Curt Young. "It's going very well," Geren said. Outfielder Milton Bradley (strained left hamstring) is in a strengthening program, while outfielder Nick Swisher (strained left hamstring) has yet to take live batting practice after leaving Tuesday's game against Baltimore. Right-hander Rich Harden (strained right shoulder) is taking a few days off from his throwing program and will likely pick up again when the team travels to Boston for a series beginning Tuesday. From the Minors: Infielder-outfielder Luke Appert extended his hitting streak to 17 games with his 1-for-4 effort in Class A Stockton Ports' 3-2 win over Lake Elsinore on Friday night. Appert is hitting .452 (28-for-62) on the season with three home runs and 13 RBI. Alexander Valdez upped his average to .333 after a 3-for-5 effort for the Class A Kane County Cougars on Friday night. He leads the team in hitting, although the Cougars are now 0-11 when trailing after eight innings, losing to visiting South Bend, 3-2, in 12 innings on Friday night. Right-hander Kaz Tadano pitched 6 1/3 shutout innings and got the victory in Double-A Midland RockHounds' 1-0 win over host San Antonio on Friday night. Tadano (2-1, 3.09) has a team-high 26 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings on the season. Up next: Dallas Braden (1-0, 1.50) takes the mound in Sunday's series finale against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Braden, who missed much of 2006 while recovering from surgery to unwrap a ligament around his humerus, opened the 2007 season at Double-A Midland and dominated in two starts before being promoted to Triple-A Sacramento. After throwing six shutout innings in his only start there, he was called up to make his big-league debut against the Orioles on Tuesday and allowed a run on three hits and a walk while striking out seven over six innings. Scott Kazmir (1-1, 4.40) pitches for the Devil Rays. Kazmir is 2-1 with a 3.71 ERA in five career appearances against the A's.
Rick Eymer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.