OAKLAND -- A trip to Oakland is extra special for Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin. It gives him a chance to hang out with Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. They are close friends and part of a wider fraternity of Major League players who defected from Cuba.
"We get along really well," Martin said. "I played with him in Cuba on the national team. He's a great friend and teammate. I talk to him a lot. When he came to Texas, we went out together and talked about the good old days in Cuba."
Cespedes is three years older than Martin and the more advanced player. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2012, when he hit .292 with 23 home runs and 82 RBIs. When they played together for Cuba in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Cespedes was as a starter and Martin served as the fourth outfielder. Martin is in his first full season with the Rangers and is platooning in center with Craig Gentry.
"He's played a little bit longer than me," Martin said of Cespedes. "Whenever I needed it, he was always there to help me. I watch him. He's always engaged in the game and always plays hard. That's the kind of style that I want to emulate. I think he's the type of player who could be a superstar at the Major League level."
Cespedes left Cuba in the summer of 2011 and signed with the Athletics on Feb. 13, 2012. Martin left Cuba in 2010 and signed with the Rangers on May 1, 2011. They are two of 15 players in the Major Leagues who were born in Cuba and had to defect the Communist-controlled country so they could play at the highest level of the sport.
"Being able to talk to him and other Cubans in the big leagues has really helped me a lot." Martin said. "Not only do we talk about what we're doing in the big leagues but also about things back home. It's like a fraternity we have in the big leagues. We're all good friends.
"We all had a difficult decision to make. None of them made me leave the country, it was only my decision. It was a difficult decision. All my Cuban friends made the same decision; it was huge and difficult process to get here."
Berkman not afraid to bunt
OAKLAND -- The Rangers were trailing, 4-1, in the fourth inning on Monday when Lance Berkman went to the bunting game. He led off the inning batting left-handed against Oakland right-hander A.J. Griffin and was facing the usual drastic shift. The Athletics had three infielders on the right side and their third baseman was playing shortstop.
So Berkman tried to bunt it past Griffin on the left side for a leadoff single. But Griffin got off the mound quickly and was able to throw out Berkman at first.
Berkman is not afraid to bunt against the left-handed shift. He has three bunt base hits in his career.
"Coming into last night, I think I was batting .500 trying to bunt," Berkman said. "If they're playing that crazy shift and nobody is on that side of the field, you just have to get it past the pitcher. I didn't do it. There is a time and a place for it. We were down three runs, their pitcher is throwing a good game, I'm trying to get something going. It just didn't work out."
Manager Ron Washington agreed it was worth a shot.
"He just didn't get the speed on the bunt," Washington said. "If he had bunted it a little harder, Griffin would have had to run after it."
Rangers hopeful Pierzynski can return when eligible
OAKLAND -- The Rangers are encouraged about the possibility of catcher A.J. Pierzynski being able to come off the disabled list on May 21. That's the first day he's eligible after being sidelined since May 5 with a strained oblique muscle in his right rib cage.
Pierzynski said he is ready and has started to take swings off a batting tee without any problems. Hitting was the biggest issue with the injury and Pierzynski will likely start taking full batting practice either Wednesday or when the Rangers return to Arlington. The Rangers haven't made a final decision yet, but Pierzynski will likely get 1-2 games in the Minor Leagues on medical-rehabilitation assignment before he is activated.
"We'll just see how his progress is," manager Ron Washington said.
Pierzynski could catch Colby Lewis on Monday for Double-A Frisco. The Roughriders have an 11 a.m. game on Monday against San Antonio, and that might be Lewis' next start on his assignment. Lewis was shut down for a few days because of inflammation in his right triceps muscle. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen session over the weekend in Arlington.
Andrus hamstring fine; Murphy still stiff
OAKLAND -- Shortstop Elvis Andrus said his right hamstring was fine on Tuesday afternoon. Andrus felt it stiffen up on him when he stole second base in the ninth inning of Monday night's 5-1 loss to the A's. Manager Ron Washington and trainer Jamie Reed checked up on him, but Andrus stayed in the game.
The question remains, however, as to why Andrus doing trying to steal second base in the ninth inning with the Rangers down by four runs. Andrus barely beat the throw from catcher Derek Norris.
"They weren't paying attention so he took a shot," Washington said. "But you've got to be safe. You take away all the excuses if you're not safe. I'd rather see him stay at first, but I didn't put the hold on. When I got out there, I told him don't try to steal third. Just stay there."
David Murphy was also in the Rangers' lineup for a third straight game while still dealing with a bruised lower back. Murphy sustained the injury crashing into the left-field wall on Saturday in Houston and is still dealing with a certain amount of discomfort.
"It's just stiff," Murphy said. "It doesn't hurt but I have a hard time getting loose."
• Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish is making a $25,000 donation to help support the Dallas Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program. The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation is a major supporter of RBI, and Darvish said, ""I am happy to help a great cause and I hope that someday Major Leaguers will come out of the program."
• Washington said he expects catcher Robinson Chirinos to make his second start for the Rangers on Wednesday with a day game after a night game.
• Oakland pitcher A.J. Griffin said that as far as command, Monday's 5-1 victory over the Rangers was his best start in the Major Leagues. Washington agreed, saying, "He recognized what the umpire was doing and stayed with it."
• The Rangers have 12,500 tickets remaining for Thursday's game with the Tigers. Darvish is scheduled to face Justin Verlander in that game. There are approximately 7,000 tickets remaining for Friday and 3,000 for Saturday.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.