The A’s held their annual preseason media luncheon Thursday at the Oakland Coliseum. Not surprisingly, manager Bob Geren was hit with a wide-ranging scope of questions. Here’s a sampling of what he had to say:
— Responding to whether the A’s can win the AL West division with the team they have right now: “I think if our starting pitching threw strikes and was very aggressive — all of them met or exceeded what they did last year — and we stay healthy … we definitely could. But it’s like the last couple years, we have to stay healthy.”
— His impression of the Los Angeles Angels: “They’ve got one of the best pitching staffs in the game, and they’re still the team to beat in our division, that’s for sure.”
Asked about the Angels losing one of the game’s best closers in Francisco Rodriguez, Geren brought up a good point. Their new closer, Brian Fuentes, is a left-hander, which won’t be a picnic for an A’s batting order that’s often lefty-dominated.
— Geren said the A’s likely will carry seven relievers as they have in the recent past. We know Joey Devine and Brad Ziegler will probably share closing duties to begin the season. Figure Jerry Blevins and Santiago Casilla have strong chances to land spots. Geren also indicated that Gio Gonzalez and Josh Outman were good bets to land in the bullpen if they’re not in the rotation. That would still leave one spot open, and of course there’s always the chance the A’s would want Gonzalez or Outman to start in their Triple-A rotation in case one of them was needed in a pinch. Long story short: The ‘pen is far from settled.
— Does Geren anticipate the A’s adding more players before spring training?: “There’s a lot of (free agents) out there. If something else happens, we will look at that later. But right now we’ll go with what we have and I feel pretty good about it.”
— Geren was asked if he could imagine what this offseason has been like for shortstop Bobby Crosby, considering the A’s pursued free agent Rafael Furcal and reportedly sent Crosby through waivers, where he went unclaimed: “I think major league baseball is a tough business, it really is, and that everybody gets their opportunities to see what they can do. He’s going to get that opportunity. But when you see your name out there (in trade rumors) or (that the team) is possibly bringing in other people, that’s a tough part of the game. He’s a tough guy.”
— Geren often has defended Jack Cust’s outfield work, and did so again Thursday. The A’s plans call for Cust to see substantial time in right field: “Jack’s a lot better outfielder than people think. He had a couple miscues (last season) where he dropped a couple balls. He actually changed equipment, he got a different glove, and didn’t drop another ball again. I think people think a couple of his miscues (are a reflection) of what type of fielder he is. He’s a lot better fielder than people think.”
— Toward the end of the session, assistant GM David Forst fielded a question about whether we can expect Matt Holliday — a free agent at season’s end — to be with the A’s for the entire 2009 campaign: “We’ll see how the season plays out. We made the trade for Matt regardless of how long he’s here. He’s going to help us on Opening Day. Whether he’s here until July, or the end of the year, or years beyond that, it was the right thing to do for the organization.”