Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/9/12

The Oakland A's weren't expected to be potential contenders, but after winning 22 of their final 34 games before the break and getting back to the .500 mark with a 2-1 win in 13 innings over Seattle on Sunday, the club is feeling good about itself.

Oakland's pitching, in particular, has been superb, which has the A's believing they can contend in the second half. Even after trading All-Stars Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey, the A's had the best ERA in the league in the first half, 3.38, with a largely rookie rotation and a rookie closer.

The A's are still likely to be sellers at the break, as they so often are, but in this case, whether in contention or out, the team will not deal from its core group of players but would only part with some areas where there is excess. Starter Bartolo Colon is likely to be the first Oakland player traded, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last week, but the A's are rich in starting pitchers, especially with left-hander Brett Anderson expected back in August and right-hander Brandon McCarthy likely to return to the rotation at some point.

Oakland also has plenty of outfielders, and were the club able to trade center fielder Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes could return to center field, a spot he feels more comfortable. Longtime starting catcher Kurt Suzuki is now starting less than half the time, with rookie Derek Norris getting the bulk of time behind the plate, so he potentially could be moved, although the A's value Suzuki's work with the young pitching staff highly and they have few other backup catcher possibilities.

Oakland's biggest need in the second half is more sustained offense; getting off to a poor start at the plate dragged the teams' numbers down: the A's are last in the majors in average and they have scored the third-fewest runs in the league. Several regulars are underperforming to an extreme, including Suzuki (.211), shortstop Cliff Pennington (.206) and second baseman Jemile Weeks (.222).

The A's front office has not been shy about replacing slumping players or sticking them into a platoon, which Suzuki and Pennington have discovered. Oakland is making strong use of all 25 players, which has led to good job competition and to some interesting finds, such as the first-base platoon of Brandon Moss and Chris Carter.

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