OAK@CIN: Norris gets A's on board with solo shot

OAKLAND -- Derek Norris caught Sonny Gray's first career start in Oakland on Thursday after the A's signal caller missed four games with back spasms.

Oakland's right-handed hitting catcher was available in "emergency situations" the past two games, but the goal was always for him to start in Thursday's series finale with left-hander Erik Bedard starting for the Astros.

Norris' back spasms made it difficult for him to stand as recently as four days ago, but he's good to go, though he said he doesn't anticipate being 100 percent.

Norris is batting .364 with seven walks and five home runs in 22 games since July 1 after a slump spanning May and June saw him hit .163. He's batting .299 with all eight of his home runs against left-handed pitching this season.

Melvin on board with instant replay proposal

HOU@OAK: Barnes throws out Sogard to end the eighth

OAKLAND -- A proposal to expanded the use of instant replay has the support of A's manager Bob Melvin.

"My stance on that has probably changed here in the last year or so," Melvin said on Thursday. "You want to get it right. I was a little bit of a traditionalist before where there's human error involved, but as long as everybody's on the same page with it and the idea is to get it right then, I'm all for that."

Critics of replay have often used the length of games as a rebuttal to those in favor, but with officials making rulings off-site, such a problem would theoretically be avoided.

"If there's someone there watching it, you would think that potentially that could speed it up," Melvin said. "Now where the flags or whatever come into play, I'm not really sure.

"Not only do you want to get it right, you also want to get it right quickly. So if someone's watching it and is on top of it and has the use of replay very quickly, then that certainly doesn't sound like a bad thing to me."

The proposal that will be voted on by owners in November would allow managers to challenge three calls per game, which would be reviewed by officials at league offices in New York and not umpires at the games. Of the three challenges, one would be allowed during the first six innings, with two additional provided in the final three innings.

The use of expanded replay might have prevented Melvin from getting ejected in Wednesday night's 2-1 loss to the Astros after arguing a call with second-base umpire Doug Eddings after the third out of the eighth inning.

Melvin approached Eddings after Eric Sogard was called out at third on an attempt to tag from second base on a fly ball to center field. Brandon Barnes' throw was ruled to have beaten Sogard, prompting a protest by Sogard and Melvin's emergence from the dugout.

"I didn't have intent to get thrown out of that game," Melvin said. "But I can't get thrown out of that game. In a close game like that, you have to go out there and give your two cents and address what you think is either right or wrong. But I can't get thrown out of that game."

Lowrie starts at DH with sore right knee

HOU@OAK: Lowrie opens the scoring with an RBI double

OAKLAND -- Jed Lowrie batted second in the A's lineup on Thursday, but as the team's designated hitter rather than as a middle infielder.

Lowrie's right knee remains sore after it was struck by a misfired pickoff attempt in Tuesday night's game. He's expected to play in the field Friday against Cleveland.

Coco Crisp, meanwhile, continues to recover from an ailing left wrist that he injured while diving in center field in Toronto. He received a cortisone shot on Tuesday night, which A's manager Bob Melvin said may allow him to play Friday.

"Whenever you get an injection like that, it's probably a minimum of two days," Melvin said. "Two days might be the timetable for that. Hopefully that's the case, and if we have to give him another day tomorrow, we'll do that."