Members of the Oakland Athletics use the term "youth movement" to characterize the club's recent roster moves.
That doesn't necessarily translate into a concession, however, especially in the era of the wild card.
The Athletics, with last night's 7-2 victory, have won eight of 10 to draw within 2 1/2 games of Texas in the AL wild-card race.
"Realistically, I think we have as good a chance as anybody," said Oakland catcher Terry Steinbach. "I like where our momentum is, coming off a successful [7-4] homestand. A lot of good things are happening. We feel that we can keep those things going."
After the Athletics hit their low point of the season in mid-August -- falling nine games under .500 and 17 1/2 games behind the California Angels in the AL West -- the team began moving some of its veterans.
Right-handed starter Ron Darling was released on Aug. 20 and four days later left-handed pinch hitter Mike Aldrete was traded to the California Angels for Single-A outfielder Demond Smith.
A concession? Apparently not.
"I understand what they're trying to do," said Athletics closer Dennis Eckersley, who earned his 26th save last night. "If you're going to go off in a direction, you might as well see what you've got. And maybe save a little money while you're at it."
Said Oakland manager Tony La Russa: "We weren't conceding. Aldrete was a special case. We had a chance to pick up a young player. [The Angels] had a special need and Aldrete is as good a left-handed pinch hitter as there is.
"Darling was a tougher case. We had a young man, Doug Johns, who we wanted to give some starts to. We actually tried to keep Darling on the ballclub, but if he wasn't starting he didn't want to stay."
The insertion of Johns -- who was recalled for the fourth time this season -- into the rotation has helped spark the resurgence of the Athletics, who are 16-12 this month after losing 20 of 28 in July.
Johns (3-0, 3.71), a 27-year-old rookie left-hander who beat the Orioles last night, has won his past three starts, allowing just two earned runs in 19 innings (0.95).
Other members of Oakland's youth movement who have contributed recently include: rookie left-hander Steve Wojciechowski (2-2, 6.10), 25, who pitched well in his last start; 23-year-old right-hander Todd Van Poppel (3-5, 3.81), who has a 3.63 ERA over his past three starts; and 24-year-old rookie third baseman Jason Giambi (.282, six HRs, 24 RBIs in 44 games).
Overall, 11 players have made their major-league debuts for the Athletics this season, although some of the call-ups can be attributed to a rash of injuries rather than a planned youth movement.
Slugger Mark McGwire, starting pitcher Steve Ontiveros and Steinbach have all spent time on the disabled list and outfielder Rickey Henderson missed seven games this month with a strained left hamstring.
But the A's finally appear to be healthy in time for the wild-card stretch run.
"We had a number of key guys who were on the disabled list and we needed to somehow survive until they got back," La Russa said. "So now they're back and the objective is to string together some wins."