OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -So much for the end of Mike Piazza's career as a catcher.
The Oakland Athletics have decided to bring Piazza back from his stint on the disabled list as a catcher and a designated hitter, postponing the scheduled start of his rehab assignment Sunday with Triple-A Sacramento to give him more time to get his arm in shape. The 38-year-old Piazza has been sidelined since May 3 with a sprained right shoulder, missing his 41st game Sunday against St. Louis.
Piazza, playing in the American League and as a DH for the first time after 15 seasons as a catcher, is batting .280 with one home run and four RBIs in just 25 games so far in 2007. A's manager Bob Geren, general manager Billy Beane and assistant GM David Forst met late Saturday and made the decision - and a big reason behind it was the fact Jack Cust has done such a good job as DH in Piazza's absence.
``It's something we had talked about for a while,'' Geren said. ``Part of it is the emergence of Jack and the importance of having Mike and have him contributing. Mike's great (with the decision).''
Geren said he expects it will take Piazza an additional two to three weeks to be ready to catch in a game, though he has been working to strengthen his legs under the direction of bench coach Bob Schaefer.
Geren isn't ready to call Piazza the backup to durable starting catcher Jason Kendall, who has caught at least 143 games in each of the past seven seasons and 150 or more in four of those years.
``We'll see how it goes and how much he can handle,'' Geren said of how often Piazza might catch.
Kendall said he was happy with the news about Piazza, expected to be a Hall of Famer. Piazza attended meetings with the pitchers during spring training and shouldn't have a long adjustment period getting back into his crouch behind the plate.
``That's cool,'' Kendall said. ``He's caught 1,800 games. That's awesome. Physically, it's like riding a bike - you get used to it. You get to a point it's like a mind-set. I feel more comfortable squatting than I do standing up. Anybody who's caught that many games, between the two of us we should have an idea of what we're doing.''
Cust, who was in the lineup at DH and batting cleanup for Sunday's series finale against the Cardinals, was batting .259 with eight home runs and 22 RBIs since the A's acquired him May 3 from the San Diego Padres in a minor league trade.
He entered play Sunday with back-to-back three-hit games and five of his eight home runs had come in the seventh inning or later - five of those giving Oakland the lead. With Piazza nearing his return, Cust wasn't sure what that would mean for his status, though he was trying not to worry about something out of his control.
Knowing he is still part of the A's plans made his day.
``It definitely gives you some confidence and a bit of an understanding of where you're at,'' Cust said. ``It's kind of nice they put that faith in you. I've still got to go out and do my job.''

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