PHOENIX – You won't see all the marquee names in the lineup Wednesday for the Oakland A’s exhibition opener.
Don’t downplay the significance of the game however. It’s the first real opportunity for several players to answer some questions the team’s brain trust might hold.
Here’s the lineup manager Bob Melvin posted for Wednesday’s 12:05 p.m. (PT) matchup against the Giants in Scottsdale:
1) Sam Fuld CF
2) Nick Punto SS
3) Josh Reddick RF
4) Yoenis Cespedes DH
5) Brandon Moss 1B
6) Alberto Callaspo 3B
7) John Jaso C
8) Michael Taylor LF
9) Eric Sogard 2B
Jesse Chavez RHP
Jaso draws the start at catcher. And though he seems all but guaranteed a roster spot as a potential designated hitter, he also gets the chance to prove he’s worthy of innings behind the plate.
Jaso missed the final two-plus months of the 2013 season with a concussion after he was hit in the head by two foul tips. He says that won’t be weighing on his mind Wednesday.
“Not at all,” Jaso said after Tuesday’s workout. “There’s not gonna be any flinching involved.”
It seems likely the A’s would keep three catchers on the roster – a regular platoon of Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt plus Jaso as the designated hitter. However, if Jaso were to prove capable of handling some regular duty behind the plate, there’s a slim chance he could take Vogt’s spot in the platoon (Jaso and Vogt both hit left-handed). Keeping just two catchers would give the A’s additional roster flexibility elsewhere.
The number of catchers the A’s keep will impact whether they break camp with four or five outfielders. Fuld gets a start in center field and will lead off Wednesday, hoping to convince the team’s brass that he deserves to make the club as a fifth outfielder.
Signed to a minor league deal shortly before spring training began, Fuld is known as an excellent defender. But he’ll really have to impress because it seems most likely the A’s will keep 12 pitchers, six infielders and three catchers, leaving room for just four outfielders (Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick and Craig Gentry).
Among the players Fuld is competing with to squeeze on to the roster is Taylor, who plays left field Wednesday. Taylor, a one-time headline prospect, is out of minor league options, so the A’s would have to expose him to waivers before sending him to the minors.
Chavez gets the start on the mound, but he’s trying to win a roster spot in the bullpen. Chavez is out of minor league options, as are Evan Scribner and Fernando Abad, two other relievers who will also be on the roster bubble.
“I just have to do what I’ve done in my bullpens,” Chavez said. “Just attack the zone, throw stirkes and keep the ball down. I know there’s going to be a little added adrenaline being back on the mound (in a game). I’ll just go out there and try to keep it simple and throw strikes.”
More regulars are likely to play in Thursday’s exhibition home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers. Expect Melvin to gradually increase the number of innings his starters play as the A’s get deeper into the Cactus League schedule.