OAKLAND -- Quietly showing improvement in his play of late is A's second baseman Eric Sogard, who is 6-for-16 in five games since the All-Star break after going 7-for-39 over his final 16 contests before the break.
Not the largest sample size, of course, but manager Bob Melvin has taken notice, and if Adam Rosales' struggles at the plate continue down the stretch, Sogard could see increased playing time rather than the current platoon situation employed by Oakland's manager.
"He's just taking advantage of his opportunities," Melvin said. "When you're not playing every day, even though you see mostly right-handers, he's getting quite a few at-bats."
Nine of Sogard's last 13 hits entering Friday have been for extra bases, and he's homered twice in his last 11 games after going homerless in a career-high 90 consecutive games dating back to last year.
For now, he'll continue to provide a left-handed bat in the lineup against primarily right-handed pitchers. He's made 66 of his 69 starts against right-handed pitching and is batting .278 against right-handers compared to .189 against lefties.
"It's about making a case for yourself and results, and he's done a nice job for us," Melvin said. "He's really swinging the bat as well as anybody we have right now. Consistent play in the infield, and a guy that's getting more of an opportunity to play on a semi-regular basis than he has in the past, and the reason he is because he's doing well."
Donaldson honored with A's Heart and Hustle Award
OAKLAND -- Josh Donaldson was honored before Friday's game against the Angels as the A's recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award.
The distinction, awarded to a member of each MLB team, is voted on by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association and given to active players "who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and tradition of the game."
"That's Josh Donaldson," said Ray Fosse, who was a member of the 1973 and '74 Oakland A's World Series teams and presented the award to Donaldson. "He's a student of the game. He's out here all the time. He plays hard, and he plays the game the right way."
Donaldson has been the A's most consistent offensive contributor this season, batting .304 with 61 RBIs ad 112 hits in 100 games. He also made the transition from catcher to third base at the beginning of last season and has manned the position with poise, so much so that Fosse said he should be considered for a Gold Glove Award.
"You have to look at what he does on the field and realize that he's a special talent, but he's more than that," Fosse said. "He's the ultimate gamer. He's here all the time. He's like a stadium rat, where he spends a lot of time out here trying to get better. That's a credit to him."
As the season draws to a close, fans, alumni and active players will vote to select the final winner from the 30 honorees. Last season's overall winner was Mike Trout of the Angels, and Oakland's representative was Jonny Gomes, who also has been the club award with the Rays and Reds.
"There's a lot of former players who come around here, not only who played for the A's but in other organizations, and they say they enjoy watching me play and enjoy the way I play the game," Donaldson said. That's the biggest honor, when an ex-player comes up to you and gives you that token of appreciation."
Balfour's wife leads treadmill run for charity
OAKLAND -- Tommy Milone called her a "fitness freak". Josh Donaldson claimed, "She could probably beat up half the guys in this locker room."
Angie Balfour, wife of A's closer Grant, is many things: mother, physician's assistant, avid runner -- and she's teamed up with Smile Train and the better halves of the A's players and coaches to raise money in Friday's "Miles for Smiles" treadmill run.
Smile Train is an international nonprofit organization that provides free cleft surgery and comprehensive care to underprivileged children in developing countries. Angie Balfour reached out to the charity and discussed possible fundraising opportunities before bringing the idea to the A's and settling on the treadmill vehicle.
"It was always something that I had considered, maybe joining on a medical mission with them, and now that I have two children and I get to wake up and see their beautiful smiles every day, it's hard to not tie the two together," she said. "I just fell in love with this organization. They're awesome and amazing, and the things they do are hands-down phenomenal."
A single cleft surgery costs as little as $250 through Smile Train, and the A's wives, girlfriends and other family members will attempt to raise enough money to fund a surgery with every mile run on a treadmill set adjacent to the left-field BBQ Terrace at O.co Coliseum.
Balfour, owner of the A's record for consecutive saves, participated in an autograph session prior to the game, and there was also an in-game raffle and donation table set up behind Section 120. All proceeds will benefit Smile Train.
Among those expected to run include Maria Crisp, Milessa Lowrie, Tina Milone, Lindsay Smith, Kaycee Sogard and Amanda Straily. Mrs. Balfour ran the first 15-minute leg before Straily took over, and they'll keep rotating throughout the game.
A's left-hander Tommy Milone said his fiancee would be able to run in the range of 5-7 miles, but Angie is undoubtedly the favorite to log the most mileage among the members of the A's locker room.
"I know Angie's ready to run a fair way," Grant Balfour said. "She usually runs every day in the morning, but she chose not to run too much this morning, just a little bit, so she could run tonight.
"We'll see how many she logs in. She's the one behind it all and promoting it all, so hopefully throw in the most miles, I hope. There are some girls out there that can run, so there's a lot of pressure."
Jeff Kirshman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.