Huston Street and Andrew Brown stopped off at a local elementary school to hand out books and encourage reading before heading to McAfee Coliseum for the A's game against the Twins on Tuesday night.

The relievers, who often play chess with each other in the A's clubhouse, joined student volunteers from the Oakland Action Team who organized an assembly at Lockwood Elementary, a school that serves the neighborhood around the ballpark.

The Action Team volunteers planned the assembly as a fun and exciting way to encourage children to read while also helping disadvantaged kids in the Oakland area. Lockwood students in grades K-5 were greeted by Clifford the Big Red Dog at the assembly and received a book to take home. The books were provided by Scholastic Books.

The Action Team volunteers later joined Street and Brown at McAfee Coliseum where they received certificates of achievement from the players in a pregame ceremony.

Administered by Volunteers of America and the Major League Baseball Players Trust, the Action Team program was created to encourage young people throughout the United States to volunteer in their communities.

To date, Action Teams of high school students and Major Leaguers across the country have inspired more than 12,000 high school students to help more than 55,000 people in need by volunteering in their communities.

Pierzynski pushing the plate away: A.J. Pierzynski is off to a strong start since dropping 18 pounds in the offseason -- he's batting .344 after picking up two more hits on Tuesday night.

"I'm getting older," Pierzynski told the Chicago Tribune. "I wanted to get some movement back, especially defensively. Plus, as you get older, you want to keep your weight down -- especially if you're catching -- because it wears on you. Knowing I'm going to play pretty much every day, I have to be ready. I've felt great so far. I feel like I'm moving better, especially defensively, and that's something I really wanted to do this year."

So what's his secret? Nothing special really -- just common sense.

"Try to eat less, basically," he said. "Before, I'd go back and have seconds. Now I try to have one serving and walk away, and I try not to eat late at night. If you're hungry, try not to have room service. You wake up and eat something in the morning instead of having something late at night."

Smoltz chalks up 3,000th strikeout: John Smoltz added another major accomplishment to his Hall of Fame career Tuesday night when he recorded his 3,000th career strikeout. Smoltz used a splitter to fan Felipe Lopez and become just the 16th pitcher in history to top the 3,000 mark. Smoltz reached the milestone at home in front of more than 23,000 fans and called it even more significant than reaching 200 career wins.

"There were so many people pulling for me to get this done," Smoltz told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I wanted it to be at home. I think the fans deserved to see it here and be a part of something."

Brown brings some flavor to clubhouse: When the A's traded Nick Swisher, it created a void both at the plate and in the clubhouse. While many have stepped up to make up for his bat, relief pitcher Andrew Brown has done his part to take Swisher's role as clubhouse cut-up.

"There's never a dull moment, I'll tell you that," left-handed reliever Lenny DiNardo, who roomed with Brown this spring, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "He's an interesting cat, that guy. He's not shy at all. He's on -- 24 hours a day. There's no off switch -- that got broken a long time ago. And he loves the microphone -- he transforms into Barry Manilow on the Las Vegas strip."

Putz's return worthy of a pie in the face: The Mariners activated closer J.J. Putz from the disabled list, and he responded by recording a save in his first game back. Afterward, fellow reliever Mark Lowe made sure that a save wasn't the only thing Putz received Tuesday.

"I felt great, but I felt nervous, I'll tell you that," Putz told The Seattle Times. "I had butterflies the whole time. I ..."

Putz's thought got cut off when Lowe snuck up on him and hit him square in the face with a shaving cream pie.

"Welcome back, big guy!" Lowe exclaimed as he delivered the pie.

Rodriguez's quad injury similar to Jeter's: Alex Rodriguez was not in the starting lineup Tuesday night against the White Sox after receiving treatment for most of the day on Monday on his strained right quad. Rodriguez hurt himself Sunday during the sixth inning and stayed in New York on Monday while his teammates flew to Chicago.

Rodriguez saw a physical therapist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital for treatment on Monday before joining the team Tuesday. Earlier this season teammate Derek Jeter missed six games with the same injury.

"The description to me has been no different than Jeter's was," general manager Brian Cashman told The New York Daily News. "Alex is a quick healer, though, so we'll have to wait and see. We'll evaluate on a day-to-day basis and see where he's at."

Rodriguez also is a bit preoccupied with the birth of his daughter, whom wife Cynthia gave birth to late Monday night.

Lugo riding seven-game hitting streak: Julio Lugo has quietly been having a solid month of April for the Boston Red Sox. Lugo entered Tuesday night hitting .314 and riding a seven-game hitting streak. On Sunday, he went 4-for-4 with a walk against Texas.

"He's been good," infield/first-base coach Luis Alicia told the Boston Herald. "Every once in a while, when you get a day off, it helps you. It helps you watch the game and see some things you might not otherwise. He's done that."

Barmes surging with wave of momentum: Clint Barmes has not officially been named the starting second baseman for the Colorado Rockies, but due to his hot start at the plate, he has been seeing most of the action at second lately. Barnes has hit close to .400 this past week, going 13-for-33 (.394) and driving in eight runs during the team's road trip.

"Barmes is going to get the first shot now, and he needs to be given every opportunity to ride the momentum he's picked up," manager Clint Hurdle told The Denver Post.

Jackson slugs way to weekly honor: Conor Jackson was named the National League Player of the Week Monday after scoring 10 runs and driving in 10 runs, the East Valley Tribune reported. Jackson had two or more hits in four games and had games in which he had four, three and three RBIs. He also added three home runs and two triples to rack up a 1.080 slugging percentage.

Jackson edged Chase Utley of Philadelphia, Chipper Jones of Atlanta and Derrek Lee of the Cubs for the honor. Utley hit .391 with three home runs and eight RBIs while Jones hit .565 with four home runs and seven RBIs. Lee hit .400 with three home runs and eight RBIs.

Ledezma still hungry for more innings: Wil Ledezma threw five shutout innings in the Padres' 22-inning game against the Rockies, allowing only three hits and two walks. Ledezma was called on once again to save the pen Monday night when he entered the game against Houston in the fourth inning. Ledezma was able to go 3 2/3 innings and threw 46 pitches.

"I felt great," Ledezma, who lowered his ERA to 1.42, told The San Diego Union-Tribune. "I knew when Germano got into trouble that I would be in the game for a while if they needed me."

Hamilton not scared to swing at first pitch: When Josh Hamilton is at the plate, there is a good chance he will be swinging at the first pitch. In fact, no other player in the American League has swung at the first pitch as often as Hamilton.

The center fielder has swung at the first offering from the pitcher in half of his plate appearances this season. But the approach taken by Hamilton appears to be working, as he is hitting .305 with four home runs and 19 RBIs this season for the Rangers.

"It doesn't matter what it is -- fastball, curveball," Hamilton, who swung at the first pitches in his first three at-bats on Monday, told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "If it's over the plate, I'm going to swing at it."

Zambrano credits Maddux for tips: Including his start on March 31, Carlos Zambrano is 3-1 this month with an ERA of just 2.67. He credits an old teammate -- and better use of his sinker -- for his success.

"I played with one of the best pitchers in history, Greg Maddux," Zambrano told the Chicago Tribune. "He told me one time he preferred to throw more sinkers, more movement than velocity.

"Anytime I want to throw 95 or 96 [mph], I can throw it. But it's not how hard you throw in the big leagues; it's how you locate your pitches and learn to pitch the game."

Byrd finds success in recent outings: Paul Byrd has allowed just one earned run in his last 13 innings of work.

"I really don't know," Byrd told the Akron Beacon Journal when asked about the recent success. "It's one of those things I don't have an answer for. My fastball just showed up. Maybe I went through a little dead-arm period."

Sherrill took road less traveled: George Sherrill, now 31 years old, spent more than four years in the independent Frontier and Northern leagues and, as recently as 2004, was playing Triple-A ball in the Mariners organization. Now he is the closer for the Baltimore Orioles.

"This was light years away," Sherrill told The Baltimore Sun. "I'm really blessed. It's just an honor to put on this uniform, and any uniform. It's rare that anybody makes it this far, and you've got to remember where you came from."

Span ready for a permanent stay: Denard Span knows that, if he's going to spend any significant time with the Twins this year, he has to take care of the opportunity he has right now.

"I'd love to play here," Span told The St. Paul Pioneer Press. "I've been here since I was 18, but I'm getting to the point where now I want to be in the big leagues, whether it's with Minnesota or whoever. I want to be in the big leagues."

Greinke soaking in hot start: Zack Greinke is off to a 3-0 start with a 1.24 ERA, but he admits that he's already starting to thinking about how much he'll miss the game -- someday.

"Every now and then," Greinke acknowledged to The Kansas City Star. "I find myself thinking I'll definitely miss this when it's over with. That makes me want to try to really enjoy it while I can. No one can do it forever. I could make another two starts and have some sort of serious injury. What I mean is I'm able to look forward to trying to enjoy it -- just take everything in more than I ever did before, because I know it can't last forever."

Jacobs content with taking a first-pitch hack: Among the Marlins to enjoy swinging at the first offering is first baseman Mike Jacobs, who is 4-for-12 with a home run when he connects on the initial pitch of an at-bat.

"All pitchers in general are taught from day one to get ahead," Jacobs told The South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "There are certain times when it's probably not the greatest idea to swing at the first pitch, but, for the most part, it's hard to make guys change that. You don't want to take away people's aggressiveness and turn them into something they're not."

Lowell not far from returning to lineup: Mike Lowell is making steady progress toward returning from his thumb injury. Lowell is eligible to return from the disabled list Friday, three days after taking batting practice on the field.

"Probably not that far away," manager Terry Francona told The Boston Globe about when Lowell might come off the DL. "I think it depends on how he feels. For us to tell him doesn't make any sense. He's a veteran player who knows himself. He plays with pain. How comfortable he is -- that's really what it amounts to."

Return to Houston familiar for Byrdak: In 1994, left-handed pitcher Tim Byrdak was an All-Southwest Conference selection as a junior at Rice. Fourteen years later, he is back in Houston after making his debut with the Astros on Monday night against San Diego, throwing one scoreless inning.

"My career has gone full circle now, back to where it all began with me," told The Houston Chronicle.

Story courtesy Red Line Editorial.