HOUSTON -- The A's were down two center fielders after the club announced Monday that Craig Gentry had suffered a fracture of his right hand when he was hit by a pitch during a bunt attempt Sunday in Arlington, Texas.
The A's already were without Coco Crisp, who had missed two of the previous three starts before flying back to the Bay Area Sunday night to have his troublesome neck checked out one more time. Crisp underwent an MRI on Monday afternoon, with the results expected Tuesday.
To get the A's over the hump, they called up Double-A Midland center fielder Billy Burns, a 24-year-old speedster picked up in the trade of lefty reliever Jerry Blevins to the Washington Nationals last December. Burns, a switch-hitter, was hitting .250 with one homer, 23 RBIs, an on-base percentage of .333 and 51 steals.
For the moment, A's manager Bob Melvin said he will move Yoenis Cespedes from left field to center against right-handed starting pitching. Burns will start against left-handed starters.
Gentry wasn't awarded first base when he was hit by the ball because umpire Randy Wolf said Gentry was trying to bunt. Gentry had his hand examined by the A's trainers at the time, didn't think the injury was serious and continued to play. After the game, his right hand was X-rayeed and no damage was revealed.
When the hand was still swollen Monday morning, Gentry was taken for an MRI that showed a non-displaced fracture of his right hand.
"I did the same thing last year when Jarrod Parker hit me on the left hand," said Gentry, who was playing for the Texas Rangers at the time. "I only missed two weeks then and I'm hoping that's the case again this time."
Manager Bob Melvin concurred with the two-week timetable.
"It was disappointing news," Melvin said. "We know it's going to be two weeks, and hopefully that's it. It's a blow, but we're going to have to get past it. We're optimistic that's it, but you never really know."
Burns got the call because he's a natural center fielder, and that's where Oakland's greatest need is with both Crisp and Gentry unavailable.
"We needed a center fielder. He switch-hits, he plays the position well, and he runs very well, so we'll see what he has to offer," Melvin said. "This was a guy we gave a lot of at-bats to in spring training. He really impressed everybody in spring training. Couple that with we wanted a center fielder, and he was the guy.''
Gentry and Melvin saw something of a silver lining to the two weeks Gentry will miss. He's been troubled by a sore knee, and now he will have a couple of weeks to try to get that healthy as well.
The A's series coincides with the Houston area hosting a conference for KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) executives and teachers drawn from the organization's 162 nationwide schools, including 10 in the Bay Area. It's a program that is close to all three men. A's general manager Billy Beane is expected to fly to Houston Wednesday to be a featured speaker in front of the group Thursday.
A center fielder, the 24-year-old Wilson started the season in Double-A with the Twins, eventually working his way through the claims process to the Blue Jays and the A's. Under baseball rules, the A's have 10 days to trade him, release him, or sign him to a new contract.