OAKLAND -- Right-hander Brandon McCarthy is nearing a return to the A's, and it looks like fellow starter Brett Anderson isn't too far behind.
The lefty made his third rehab start on Tuesday in his recovery from the Tommy John surgery he underwent last July and took a "big step," in his words.
Anderson allowed two runs in four innings for Triple-A Sacramento, but like with McCarthy, the focus is more on how he feels than the actual results. After his stuff and delivery were inconsistent in his first two outings, Anderson reported improvement in those areas on Tuesday. His breaking ball was much improved, and his velocity remained in the 90-93 mph range.
"I felt good," Anderson said on Wednesday. "Breaking ball was better than it has been, finally got some strikeouts on it. Velocity was about the same. It's getting closer and closer to being consistent as I make more starts. Threw 73 pitches, Sunday will be close to that again, and then maybe build up after that a little more."
The four strikeouts he had were significant, since they were his first punchouts in game action since June 5 of last year. To mess with Anderson, River Cats infielder Wes Timmons gave him a commemorative ball marking the milestone, complete with sarcastic congratulatory remarks scribbled on it.
But Anderson's progress is no joke. He will pitch again for Sacramento on Sunday with another pitch count around 75. After that, he will work that count up close to 90-100 pitches. If all goes well, he could be only one or two more rehab outings away from finally rejoining Oakland.
A's carrying lots of momentum into August
OAKLAND -- The A's opened the month of August with their series finale against the Rays on Wednesday, and while they were focused on taking the series, they were probably sad to see July go.
The team set a franchise record for July winning percentage (.792), finishing the month 19-5. It was a July full of walk-off wins, continued great pitching and affirmation of Oakland's status as a playoff contender.
As such, A's manager Bob Melvin hopes to keep that success going in the season's second-to-last month, though he realizes that it isn't realistic to fully replicate what was accomplished in July.
"We expect to do the same thing in August that we did in -- no," Melvin began jokingly. "July was the best [July] in franchise history. We're proud of the fact that we did that, and we can't just stop and say we're done. You have to move forward and continue to try to play well and ride the momentum of the month before."
It may be tough to do so, considering Oakland will take on such playoff hopefuls as the Blue Jays, Angels, White Sox and Rays. But if nothing else, July proved that the team is likely to be in contention the rest of the way.
And even after all of that success, Melvin isn't changing his approach or outlook.
"We don't look snapshot at a month," Melvin said. "Our kind of long-term vision is a series. We try to focus on today, each at-bat, each pitch, and try to keep those other distractions away."
McCarthy will make a second rehab start for Sacramento on Saturday, barring any setbacks with his scheduled bullpen session on Thursday. McCarthy will then presumably rejoin the A's rotation at some point next week, though it's unclear how his presence will shake up the current roster.
Outfielder Coco Crisp (left hamstring) made "significant progress" on the field Wednesday, Melvin said, and he appears close to returning to the lineup. Crisp has missed four straight games.
Cliff Pennington, on the disabled list with left elbow tendinitis, will hit on the field Thursday before departing for Sacramento on Friday to begin a rehab stint with the River Cats.
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. Ben Estes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.