SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Finding playing time for all his regulars has so far been a challenge for A’s manager Bob Melvin.
It’s especially tricky concerning Chris Coghlan.
Much like Ben Zobrist last season, Coghlan will serve as Melvin’s Swiss Army knife – a do-it-all utility man who can play everywhere on the diamond. The task is getting him enough innings at every position where there’s some comfort level heading into the regular season.
Coghlan is one of many Oakland veterans who has yet to receive substantial playing time in exhibitions, as Melvin works to give the many prospects in camp as much playing time as possible before they get sent down.
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“Once we get past the off-day (Wednesday), we’ll start to play him at some different positions,” Melvin said of Coghlan. “… A little right or left, second, he’ll play some third. I’ll move him around in-game. I might start him at second, then move him to the outfield. Yesterday he told me he feels he could play anywhere but short or catcher.”
Coghlan, acquired Feb. 25 from the Cubs, has in fact played every position except those two over his seven-year Major League career. He knows Melvin found a way to divvy up Zobrist’s playing time last spring, and he looks forward to getting his feet wet at as many positions as possible.
“We talked yesterday about it,” Coghlan said. “I was like, ‘Hey, whatever positions you envision me playing, let me play there in the spring, so when I do go out there I have some confidence to do that when it really matters.’ I’d just be more prepared, which essentially will give me more confidence.”
The left-handed hitting Coghlan doesn’t project as a starter anywhere, but he’ll be playing a lot somewhere. It stands to reason he’ll get innings at the corner outfield spots (he’s played left field more than any other position). He’ll also spell Danny Valencia at third and Jed Lowrie at second. Melvin also mentioned center field as a possibility.
Aside from wanting to evaluate prospects, the A’s have been conservative with their everyday players, in terms of playing time, partly in an attempt at injury prevention. Melvin said the training staff has targeted this juncture of camp as the most dangerous for injury potential. But after Wednesday’s day off, and after more roster cuts are made, the starters will begin logging more innings.
“A couple of guys have come to me (about a lack of playing time so far),” Melvin explained, “and I said, ‘There’s a lot of mouths to feed right now as far as at-bats go.’”