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Oakland Athletics' new interim manager Bob Melvin coaches his first home game against the Kansas City Royals at O.co Coliseum on Tuesday, June 14, 2011, in Oakland, Calif. (Jane Tyska/Staff)

Concluding his first postgame news conference at the O.co Coliseum, Bob Melvin ambles into his new office, where two employees with a combined 17 years with the A's sit on leather sofas facing his desk, quietly eating off paper plates.

Melvin reports to neither, but both can influence his job performance and, moreover, both report to his boss.

Melvin plops into his chair, leans back and casually wades into conversation. It's his sixth day as A's manager and he's talking about the challenges he faces. There are many.

His offense is dreadful.

His ace right-hander, Trevor Cahill, has submitted one of the worst performances of the year, a loss Tuesday to Kansas City in which he walked seven batters and struck out none.

One of three ace left-handers, Brett Anderson, is on the disabled list, receiving treatment on his pitching arm. He will miss at least another month.

Another ace lefty, Dallas Braden, already was declared out for the year.

Melvin's team lost four of its first five since he took the job, including his home debut. This came after a nine-game losing streak prior to his getting the job last week and meeting the club in Chicago as an interim replacement for Bob Geren, who was dismissed after four-plus seasons.

In the first of 16 weeks on trial, the signals pointing to Melvin's failure are imposing.


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"I can't look at it that way," he says. "It's important that you win games, ultimately. At the end of the day, it's about winning ballgames. We have to get back to being confident. At this point, it's a process. We have had some injuries, starting pitchers in particular, and that goes a long way (in determining) the psyche of a team. Confidence-wise, your starter goes a long way in how good you feel when you go out there. Not that we don't feel that way with the guys we have right now, but there's a little more pressure on some younger guys.

"We've got to fight, which we're doing. We've got to get better with our defense. And we have to do the little things right, get the intangibles right."

Despite the presence of assistant general manager David Forst and director of baseball operations Farhad Zaidi -- both lieutenants of general manager Billy Beane -- Melvin is speaking comfortably with someone he'd met seconds earlier. No stammering, no furtive glances toward Forst and Zaidi to check for visual cues or approval.

It was enough to lead me to believe Melvin has the latitude to be his own man, for the most part, in a position where the concept of autonomy had been philosophically excised.

For more than a decade, through three managers -- Art Howe, Ken Macha and Geren -- the A's have operated as dictated by Beane. He has been at the center of the success and failures. If Billy's efficient early years as a G.M. depicted him as bold and innovative, unsuccessful recent years find him rebooting and perhaps drifting back toward convention.

He seems to have developed a renewed appreciation for the brains and instincts of the manager, in which case the organization is destined to fall in line with the notion of loosening the collar of the man in the dugout.

"Billy's been great about that -- and helpful if I have some lineup questions," Melvin says. "He doesn't come to me with the lineups. I go to him at times and say, 'What do you think about this?'

"Dave and Billy have been very supportive and there for me regarding any questions I may have. They obviously have a little bit more background with these guys. So I'm going to lean on not only the coaches but everybody who has been here."

The Beane-Melvin relationship and the apparent mutual respect would seem to provide Melvin an opening to parlay this 99-game interim period into a contract beyond Sept. 28. He's winning friends in the clubhouse.

Melvin has managed two teams, Seattle and Arizona, leading both to one 90-win season apiece. He was voted N.L. Manager of the Year in 2007 with the Diamondbacks.

Asked to describe his preferred style of play, he responds with a thoughtful answer: "Are you talking about this particular team, or any team?"

Before I could recast, he adds: "I have to acclimate to the style the team can play -- and I don't think we're going to sit around and play for three-run homers. We're going to have to be aggressive on the bases. We're going to have to play better defense, obviously. We're going to have to do situational things right, getting (runners) over and getting them in; we've done that OK to an extent. We're going to have to battle and put pressure on (opponents) over the course of the game."

The odds are long indeed, certainly improbable, perhaps impossible. But there is no sign Melvin will throw up his hands and surrender to the circumstances or to the boss.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.