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Athletics seek sweep of visiting Blue Jays

OAKLAND, Calif. -- It took Oakland A's right-hander Jharel Cotton a few days to get over the shock of getting sent down to the minor leagues for the first time in his career on May 11.

After all, Cotton had been with the A's every day since making his major league debut on Sept. 7 last season, just over a month after he came to Oakland from the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of a five-player trade. However, once Cotton adjusted, he made the most of what turned out to be a short stay with Triple-A Nashville.

Since being recalled on May 27, Cotton has posted an ERA of 3.18 and a .162 opponents' batting average in two starts, despite taking losses on the road to the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians.

Cotton will start Wednesday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum in a matchup against the Toronto Blue Jays and left-hander Francisco Liriano in the finale of a three-game series.

The A's won the first two games, and Cotton will try to lead them to a series sweep.

"Going down, I felt like the first couple days were hard," Cotton, 25, said Tuesday before Oakland's 4-1 victory. "I had to adjust to it, but after my first start down there, I felt good. I came to the ballpark and worked on what I had to work on every single day, cheered my teammates on. I was a good teammate. And then stuff happened up here and I came right back up. That was exciting."

Cotton was recalled after right-hander Jesse Hahn went on the disabled list with a strained right triceps. Cotton went from Triple-A to Yankee Stadium and had a no-hitter for 5 2/3 innings before walking Gary Sanchez and giving up a two-run homer to Matt Holliday in a 3-2 loss to New York. Cotton allowed three runs on two hits overall.

"That was crazy," Cotton said of his first appearance in the Bronx. "It was an honor to pitch at Yankee Stadium. Pitching in that stadium was awesome."

In an 8-0 loss to Cleveland on Thursday, Cotton gave up five runs over 5 2/3 innings, but only one of those runs was earned.

When Cotton (3-6, 5.11 ERA) was sent to Nashville, the A's wanted him to work on his command and his pace, Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.

"At times he'll take a little bit too long in between pitches," Melvin said. "We wanted to get his rhythm a little bit better and probably throw a few more strikes. His stuff's great. He's got a number of pitches. On a particular day, he might not have one, but can lean on the other ones, and a lot of times for younger guys, that's tough to do. But it's just the consistency of throwing the ball over the plate and getting into good counts."

Liriano (3-2, 5.94 ERA) will make his second start since a stint on the disabled list caused by left shoulder inflammation. He allowed two runs on four hits with five strikeouts and two walks over five innings in a 7-5 victory against the Yankees on Friday.

Liriano threw 81 pitches against New York, and Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said the lefty should be able to throw 90 to 100 on Wednesday.

"He was good last time out, five good strong innings, then he gave up a (single and) a homer to start off the next inning," Gibbons said Tuesday. "He was done. We were trying to build him up, but he's good now. He feels healthy. He could have gone more. He's strong. He's a big, strong dude."

Liriano is 5-4 with a 4.23 ERA, 88 strikeouts and 24 walks in 16 career games, including 14 starts, against Oakland.

Cotton will face Toronto for the first time.

"Some big guys in that lineup," Cotton said. "It's going to be a fun game. I'm excited to face them. That's a team you want to face. You want to see how you do against them."

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