ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The A's put together a lineup against the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday that did not include either center fielder Coco Crisp or shortstop Jed Lowrie.

Lowrie had hoped to be able to play after missing Tuesday's start against the Rays with a stiff neck. He was a possibility for later in the game as a pinch-hitter.

Crisp came out of Tuesday's game with a recurrence of the neck problems that kept him out of seven consecutive games mid-month. He'd only returned to active status on Friday in Cleveland.

The A's are hoping both men will be available to play in the series finale Thursday.

"They're both better. Maybe Jed's a little bit ahead of Coco," manager Bob Melvin said. "There are still some moves in the infield that are bothering Jed right now.

In addition, Yoenis Cespedes got half a night off by being asked to serve as the designated hitter. Brandon Moss moved to left field in his stead and Kyle Blanks, just acquired from the San Diego Padres, gets his first Oakland start at the first baseman.

Blanks was batting second, the manager said, to get him an extra at-bat, because he's got good speed and because Crisp and Lowrie frequently at the Nos. 1 and 2 hitters in the A's lineup. Craig Gentry was asked to lead off.

With the A's down to just two players on the bench beyond Crisp and Lowrie -- John Jaso and Eric Sogard -- Melvin will be limited in the moves he can make.

  • Jim Johnson, who began the season as the closer in the Oakland bullpen, is now what Melvin calls the "wild card" for A's relievers.

    Sean Doolittle is the closer, Luke Gregerson and Dan Otero are the right-handed setup men and Fernando Abad is the left-handed short man. That leaves Johnson without a defined position.

    "He's a little bit of a wild card," Melvin said. "There might be a couple of roles he could get. He's got the most difficult role to explain, but he understands and he will devote himself to getting back on top."

    Melvin said Johnson could find himself pitching a couple of innings in the sixth or seventh, getting to face a couple of batters in the eighth, pitching in extra innings or being used as the closer on a day when Doolittle isn't available.

  • Ryan Cook, who is eligible to come off the disabled list Friday, won't make it. He is, however, on the men.

    Melvin said Wednesday the right-handed setup reliever is throwing the ball at 110 feet and that a bullpen session could be in Cook's future in the coming week.

    Cook, who missed all of spring training with shoulder trouble, came down with right forearm stiffness two weeks ago. The medical team decided that rest was the cure, so it's just this week that Cook began playing catch and now throwing on the side.

  • Left-handed reliever Eric O'Flaherty's trip back from last year's tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery will take another step forward Saturday when he throws to hitters without a protective screen up.

    He's due to throw one inning, probably around 15 pitches, as he gets closer to being ready to pitch in games.

  • It will be an early morning for bench coach Chip Hale, who has a Thursday 7 a.m. visit with a Tampa-area dentist suddenly on his schedule.

    Hale said while he was chewing on a piece of soft candy Wednesday he had a crown on one of his teeth come loose. It will have to be cemented back into place.

    For more on the A's, see John Hickey's Inside the A's blog at ibabuzz.com/athletics. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JHickey3.