SAN FRANCISCO -- Based solely on their final outings of this preseason, Kirk Saarloos and not Seth Etherton will be the A's fifth starter as the regular season begins.

Etherton gave up five runs in his five innings Thursday night against the Giants, while Saarloos on Friday held San Francisco scoreless, scattering three hits over his five innings of work.

However, as Oakland manager Ken Macha pointed out before Friday's game, the A's brass will be looking at more than one game in making up its mind.

"(Saarloos) can't pitch better than he has the last two outings," Macha said, noting two consecutive five-inning starts without giving up a run. "He's really making a spot for himself."

However, as Macha pointed out before Friday's game, the A's brass will be looking at more than one game in making up their minds. The manager was careful not to divulge any final decision.

The A's will be weighing Saarloos' spring record of 2-0 with a 2.64 ERA against Etherton's marks of 0-1, 5.40

"It's all part of the equation," Macha said. "It's not only [Spring Training], but what they've done in previous years.

"If you look at Etherton and his year in Triple-A (5-6, 3.47 ERA for Louisville) he did a lot of things we value as an organization: low hits, low walks, strikeouts. That's why we were interested in getting him.

"If you look at Saarloos, Billy [Beane, Oakland's GM] likes guys that throw ground balls. He's got that sinker, and he pitched a couple of good games for us last year."

Saarloos, who went 2-1 with a 4.37 ERA in five starts filling in for an injured Tim Hudson last year, pitched a good game Friday, too.

The sinkerball pitcher got eight groundouts and three strikeouts through the first four innings before the Giants started hitting the ball to the outfielders in the fifth.

"I felt like I was overstriding maybe, leaving pitches up in the zone," he said. "Sometimes you feel too good or maybe overexcited, and sinkerballers can't feel overexcited. You've gotta be the guy who lays low and doesn't listen to heavy-metal music before he pitches."

Then again, maybe it got Saarloos pumped for his night at the plate. With one out and runners on first and second, Saarloos, following instructions, squared to bunt.

"I knew we weren't supposed to swing," he said. "I squared around to bunt and saw the shortstop take to third.

"At Cal State Fullerton I was around a lot of great baseball minds. They taught me if they crash, you slash. I don't know if I hadn't got the hit I would have been told you shouldn't have swung, but I think because I got the hit and got the RBI it was probably OK. I just couldn't help myself."

Actually Saarloos did help himself, pitching the way he did Friday. Now he and Etherton are waiting to hear Saturday on the club's decision on the fifth starter.

That anticipation, Saarloos said, is a little stressful.

"I've never been a shoo-in for a spot, so it's not like it's something new for me," he said. "I always come to spring trying to make the ball club.

"Previous springs, I don't think I was around this long. I was always the guy (called up) two weeks, three weeks into the season or halfway into the season. Obviously, my chances are a lot better because I'm still here now."

The rotation shuffle: Saarloos initially was supposed to appear Thursday in relief of Etherton, but was moved back a night to start in place of Rich Harden, who missed his turn because of a blister on his middle finger.

Harden, the A's No. 2 starter, said he is still planning on taking his turn Wednesday in Baltimore, but Macha said that's not a certainty.

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Because Oakland has Tuesday off, Machas has the luxury of shuffling the rotation. He said he may even the No. 5 starter on the mound for that second game against the Orioles, then work Harden in later in the week.

"I think the cautionary thing is the best thing," Macha said. "We don't want him going out there and ripping a bunch of skin off that thing and then miss a start. We want him to get 34 starts or 35 starts, and if he doesn't pitch the second game of the year, I told him it's no big deal."

Itching to go: Bobby Crosby showed up in the A's clubhouse Friday, two days after taking a pitch off his left hand and one day after X-rays and an MRI exam showed the injury to be no more serious than a bruise.

Crosby said when the pitch hit him, "it flipped me out."

"It was painful, but at the same time it more scared me than anything," Crosby said. "Once I got in the trainer's room and could move my fingers around it was a little bit better feeling."

Crosby didn¹t play Friday and isn't expected to play Saturday.

"I'd rather be playing," Crosby said. "This is a good series to get your feet wet a little bit. It's more like a regular season atmosphere.

"It's never bad to get a day off but you never want it in this situation."

The shortstop said he swung the bat a couple of times, but the team "doesn't want me to do any BP type of stuff yet.

"Monday is Opening Day, so I'll be in there," he said before Friday's game. "If it was up to me, I'd be in there tonight, so I'll be out there for sure."

Taking it on the shin: Second baseman Keith Ginter was out of the lineup Friday after receiving seven stitches in his right shin the night before.

Ginter was trying to turn a double play in the sixth inning of Thursday's game when the Giants' Jason Ellison slid hard into the bag.

"I didn't feel any bleeding or anything so I wasn't sure, but I felt he got me pretty good," Ginter said. "When I came in and pulled my sock down I saw it was a good gash."

Ginter said if this were the regular season, he would be fine to play, but Macha said he didn't want to take any chances.

"If you foul a ball off that shin, or somebody slid into him again, or he got hit by a ball, I'd feel terrible," Macha said.