OAKLAND -- A four-hour delayed flight couldn't keep the A's newest member out of the starting lineup, as Luke Hughes was immediately given the nod at third base upon his arrival Monday.

With Hughes on board, the A's decided to demote a struggling Josh Donaldson to Triple-A Sacramento, where he's expected to continue work at third base while also seeing time behind the plate at his natural position of catcher.

"It wasn't for a lack of effort, and he really did handle himself beautifully defensively," manager Bob Melvin said. "I know he would have liked to have swung the bat better, but at the big league level, to an extent, you have to produce. I don't feel great about the fact he's going down right now, but hopefully this isn't the last time we've seen him because he's a good athlete and has a lot of ability."

In 32 at-bats spanning nine games with the A's, Donaldson managed three hits for a .094 average. His lack of production led to more playing time for Eric Sogard and influenced the club to look outside of the organization for help.

"It's unfortunate that Josh has to go down right now," Melvin said. "We got to a point where I think he's grinding pretty hard, and he probably needs a bit of a break here. He worked very hard this spring, really every day to try to combat the fact he wasn't a natural third baseman.

"We still have high hopes for him. Just because he's not here right now doesn't mean he's not here at some other point in time. Hopefully he can get over this and go down there and continue to work as hard as he has, have some success."

Hughes' numbers aren't overwhelming, with a career .224 average, but the A's are hoping he brings consistency to a position that's been unsettled since Scott Sizemore endured a season-ending knee injury at the beginning of camp.

Melvin said he anticipates playing the versatile Hughes at third on a regular basis, with Sogard still in the mix while also spelling the middle-infield duo of Jemile Weeks and Cliff Pennington -- the only A's players who have yet to take a day off this season -- from time to time.

"From what I understand, [Hughes] is a scrappy player, a guy who likes to play," Melvin said. "We'll get him out there and get him in the fire right away."

Hughes gives the A's three Aussies, which represents a Major League record. There are only two other Australian natives in the Majors.

"It's pretty great," said reliever Rich Thompson, who grew up playing youth baseball with Hughes and was also introduced to fellow Sydney native Grant Balfour at a young age. "I love it here already."

Ka'aihue forcing himself into A's lineup

OAKLAND -- The A's produced their 15th different lineup of the season Monday and the eighth involving Kila Ka'aihue, who is quietly racking up consistent playing time.

Ka'aihue started at first base for the club's series opener against the visiting White Sox, entering the day having hit safely in six of his first seven starts. During that stretch, he's 10-for-25.

"You earn your opportunities here," manager Bob Melvin said. "Kila's the guy who's had to fight from Day 1 of Spring Training to keep a spot. To make it to Japan and then fight his way onto the 25-man roster, and we come home and we're making more moves and here he is still ... He's earned every at-bat he's getting."

The left-handed Ka'aihue hasn't shied away from southpaws, batting .500 against them, while posting a .316 mark against right-handers. Fellow first baseman Daric Barton is just 3-for-21 over his last eight games after notching four hits in his first 16 at-bats.

Barton figures to garner the majority of starts at first base, but that's mostly where Ka'aihue is likely to see action, considering Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes will return to designated-hitter duties with Coco Crisp back in the lineup after missing five games because of an illness.

Crisp back in action after lingering illness

OAKLAND -- Having missed five consecutive games because of a head cold that led to an inner-ear problem, Coco Crisp's return to the lineup Monday was a welcome sight for an A's team struggling to score runs.

"It's always nice to have Coco back in the lineup," manager Bob Melvin said. "Even when he's struggling, you feel like he's always going to get a hit. You know he's always prepared. Whenever he's out, you can feel it. It's good to have him back."

The A's entered the day with just 52 runs scored, fewest in Oakland history over the first 17 games of the season and fewest in the American League. And while Crisp didn't get off to a great start, at one point enduring an 0-for-16 stretch, he hit the game-tying RBI single in Tuesday's game against the Angels, signaling a possible turnaround.

With Crisp back in left field, Jonny Gomes and Seth Smith are to resume designated-hitter duties. Smith got the start Monday against White Sox righty Jake Peavy.