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Competition is on for A’s backup infielder spot

Position players continue to trickle into A’s camp. I saw Conor Jackson and second base prospect Adrian Cardenas this morning. Word is that Hideki Matsui will be here Saturday, but I’m not sure if he’ll be addressing the media then or wait until Sunday, which is the reporting deadline.

Adam Rosales will wear a walking boot on his right foot for two more weeks, so he won’t be hitting the field any time soon. That means there’s open competition for the backup infielder spot, and the ability to play shortstop is key for whoever claims it. Among the candidates manager Bob Geren touched on this morning:

Steve Tolleson: I’d put this guy as the front runner. He got his feet wet with 25 games in the majors last season and did a capable job. Tolleson spent more time at shortstop than any other position last season at Triple-A Sacramento, but he can also play third base, second base and left field.

Eric Sogard: The A’s like this Arizona State alum, especially for his bat. He’s also the only one of the backup infield candidates who’s already on the 40-man roster, but Geren said that wouldn’t be a factor. “The best guys will be on the team.” Sogard is more of a second baseman, though the A’s have exposed him to shortstop.

Andy LaRoche: The most intriguing name, just because he was such a highly touted prospect for the Dodgers. LaRoche didn’t pan out with the Pirates over the past two-plus seasons, and he’s never played shortstop in his professional career (third base is his main position). But Geren said LaRoche, Sogard and Tolleson will get most of the innings at short until starter Cliff Pennington is ready. Pennington is being brought along slowly after offseason surgery on his left shoulder.

Josh Horton: A’s farm director Keith Lieppman has raved to me in the past about Horton, a 2007 second-round pick. Geren identified Horton as the strongest defensive shortstop of all the candidates based on reports he’s gotten. He said he hasn’t seen Horton much in person.

Grant Green: Finally, the name you were waiting for, right? The 2009 first-round pick enjoyed a fine offensive year with Single-A Stockton in 2010 but still has a long way to go defensively. Since Green was drafted, there’s been speculation about him moving to third base or second base. For now, he’s a shortstop. “He’s still a ways away,” Geren said. Green is expected to begin the season at Double-A Midland, and the A’s consider Double-A a good measuring stick for how close a prospect is to being big-league ready.

Joe Stiglich