OAKLAND -- Yoenis Cespedes said Thursday afternoon his left hand felt "better than yesterday," and it appears the outfielder could potentially return to the lineup as soon as Friday.

Cespedes, who on Wednesday was diagnosed with a muscle strain in the back of his hand, hit off the tee and took part in a round of soft toss Thursday, but the real test was to come following batting practice, when he was scheduled to see action in the inside cages.

How Cespedes fares swinging the bat in there should help determine his closeness to game action. Either way, manager Bob Melvin said he wouldn't be afraid to use Cespedes as a pinch-hitter Thursday against the Tigers, but he would prefer to avoid utilizing him defensively.

Cespedes' return would obviously be a welcomed one, particularly at the Coliseum, where he's batting .318, compared to a .194 showing on the road. Overall, he leads all rookies with five home runs, 21 RBIs and four stolen bases.

In Cespedes' place, Josh Reddick made his third consecutive start in center field Thursday, with Seth Smith starting in left and Michael Taylor manning right field.

McCarthy cleared to make Saturday start

OAKLAND -- Right-hander Brandon McCarthy came out of his Thursday bullpen session pain-free, putting him in the clear for his scheduled Saturday start against the Tigers.

Concern surfaced Tuesday, when McCarthy was scratched from his start because of soreness in his throwing shoulder, which has landed the pitcher on the disabled list in four of the past five seasons. And while Saturday's outing will truly dictate where he stands, McCarthy called Thursday's session "a little bit of a relief, considering how the week started."

"I didn't feel anything today," he said. "I felt fine, and it's really not a concern at this point. I wasn't mentally hung up, wasn't worried about it. I pretty much knew what to expect, and unless something unexpected happened, I wasn't going to be surprised. It went the way I wanted it to, and it just leaves me perfectly on course for Saturday.

"I know these next couple of starts will be big for me, to see where it's at and if it is coming on. But the way it feels right now, there's nothing that should stop me."

The A's hope not. McCarthy, pitching from the No. 1 spot, has been extremely consistent this year, allowing no more than two earned runs in six of his seven starts. He's pitched into the seventh inning in five of them, all the while compiling a 2.96 ERA.

McCarthy will be pitching on nine days' rest come Saturday, and when asked if he believed if the extra time off might affect him, he replied, "postgame Saturday, we'll find out."

McCarthy also reiterated that the pain he experienced after his last start in Boston "wasn't even pain."

"You know when you get a tickle in your throat before you're sick and you're trying to convince yourself you're not sick and two hours later you're sick?" he said. "It's like that, where it's not the actual sickness. You just feel something that feels different, and every time I've felt that, it's gone into that. But I've never been proactive with it before, so it might be possible to get around it this time.

"Everything I do is based around staying healthy, staying strong. There's not much more I can do."

Reddick sharing his love of wrestling with fans

OAKLAND -- The bleacher bums are in for a new, non-greasy treat, courtesy of Josh Reddick.

Forget "Bacon Tuesday," the outfielder says, and celebrate "Title Thursday."

"This is me starting my own thing since Kansas City right fielder Jeff Francoeur came and took my fans for one day," Reddick said, smiling.

Last year, Francoeur tossed a ball wrapped in a $100 bill into the right-field bleacher seats, instructing fans to use it to buy bacon or beer. So when the Royals outfielder returned in April, fans sported "Bacon Tuesday" shirts, with a large piece of paper bacon hanging from the railing.

Charming, no doubt, but it also made Reddick a little jealous. So now he's inviting fans to share with him a weekly celebration of his love for wrestling. Reddick got the word out on Twitter, and he said Thursday that fans have been responsive to the idea.

"It just came to me," Reddick said. "I realized they were cheering for the opposing right fielder, and it got under my skin a little bit. The fans are saying they're excited for it. They've got their wrestling belts and probably a few more signs that say, 'Title Thursday.' We'll see how it turns out, even though I'm playing in center tonight."

With Yoenis Cespedes sidelined with a hand injury, Reddick was in center, but he's expected to return to his normal position within days, and he's especially looking forward to running out there in Kansas City come June 1.

"I think I'll do it in Kansas City, too, since [Francoeur] did it to me," Reddick said. "I let him know. I texted him a week after it happened and told him, 'I'm going to take over your fans for one night,' and he said, 'Go for it.'"

Though Thursday's announced attendance was not expected to amount to much more than 10,000 and the average attendance on the year at the Coliseum is only around 15,000, Reddick has taken a liking to the hardcore fans always stationed behind him.

"They seem to be the most vocal ones in the whole stands," he said. "They're there every game, even the 12:40 p.m. [PT] games on a Wednesday afternoon. Either they've got a really nice boss or don't even care what he thinks and just play hooky."