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AL NOTEBOOK: A'S GETTING KEY PLAYERS FOR STRETCH.

Byline: DOUG PADILLA Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- The Angels can only hope that the Oakland Athletics somehow get worse by adding solid major-league tested players.

Showing their penchant for good timing, the A's are in the process of adding Huston Street, Bobby Crosby and possibly even Rich Harden, as they try to hold off the Angels in the division and head into the playoffs. All three have been out with injuries.

Street was the first to return this weekend. He was struggling before the A's put him on the disabled list with a hamstring problem. Justin Duchscherer took over the closer role for twoweeks and went 5for5 in save opportunities.

Duchscherer now slides into the setup role so that Street, last season's American League Rookie of the Year, can return to his closer job.

``He looked extremely good,'' A's manager Ken Macha said this past week after Street pitched a simulated game. ``Getting your No. 1 guy in the bullpen back is going to be real helpful.''

Crosby, the AL Rookie of the Year in 2004, is on a rehab program in Arizona as he tries to recover from back problems. He is set to resume baseball activities Friday with a goal of returning for some, if not all, of the seven games over the final 10days between the A's and Angels.

Harden is scheduled to pitch a simulated game today and is likely will be used out of the bullpen the rest of the season since there's little time to get him stretched out to start. He'll be used like Kelvim Escobar was down the stretch with the Angels last year.

Actually, it's been a season full of injuries for the A's, who have managed to keep it all together. Eric Chavez has been banged up all season, Frank Thomas struggled to return from multiple ankle injuries before hitting his stride and Milton Bradley also was injured. The bullpen has been without not only Street but Duchscherer, Joe Kennedy and Jay Witasick.

Liriano back: The A's aren't the only ones glad to get some reinforcements. Rookie of the Year candidate Francisco Liriano of the Minnesota Twins is set to pitch Wednesday against the A's.

Liriano hasn't pitched since Aug. 7 because of elbow soreness. The left- hander went on the shelf along with his 12-3 record, 142 strikeouts in 119innings and 2.19 ERA that would lead baseball if he had enough innings.

The Twins are still trying to catch the Detroit Tigers for the AL Central title but will settle for holding off the Chicago White Sox for the wild card.

``I knew I was making it back this year,'' Liriano said. ``I did not think it was a big deal when my arm got hurt.''

Pressing issues: The Boston Red Sox are almost assured of not making the playoffs, which might be a good thing so everybody involved with the organization can sit back and catch their breath.

Over the past month, pitcher Jon Lester was diagnosed with cancer, David Ortiz had two scares with an irregular heartbeat, Manny Ramirez and Curt Schilling had baseball-related injuries, and the team was swept in a five-game series by the rival New York Yankees.

``I think this is the most difficult of any period that an organization could probably face,'' catcher Jason Varitek told mlb.com. ``From injuries to people getting sick, to people getting diagnosed with life-threatening diseases to freak injuries, it's been a very trying time.''

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 10, 2006
Words:582
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