Brandon McCarthy confirmed as A’s opening day starter

Brandon McCarthy was announced as the A’s opening day starter Tuesday, a move that had been expected since spring training began. McCarthy was coming off a solid season – he went just 9-9 for the A’s last year but posted a 3.32 ERA with five complete games. The right-hander set a franchise record for strikeout-to-walk ratio at 4.92 – 123 strikeouts and just 25 walks in 170 2/3 innings. The selection was a no-brainer considering the A’s dealt away starters Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill in the offseason and given that Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden are both recovering from long-term injuries. McCarthy will take the mound in the March 28 opener against the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo, and manager Bob Melvin confirmed that Bartolo Colon would start the second game of that two-game series.

Now the question is which other three starters will fill out the A’s rotation. Some of that depends on Dallas Braden’s availability. With Melvin estimating Braden’s return anywhere from mid-April to early May, the A’s can’t pencil him into the rotation just yet. Graham Godfrey, Tom Milone, Tyson Ross, Jarrod Parker and Brad Peacock remain the primary candidates (in no particular order) fighting for the open spots. Milone has certainly made a good impression early, so it’ll be interesting to see him in exhibitions. He’ll pitch in Friday’s Cactus League opener against the Mariners at Phoenix Muni.

In other news, A’s assistant general manager David Forst said the team will explore the free agent and trade market for third base options in light of Scott Sizemore’s season-ending knee injury. That doesn’t mean that Josh Donaldson or someone else currently on the team can’t win the job. “This is definitely an opportunity for (Donaldson),” Forst said. “At the same time, we have to do our due diligence and see what else is out there on the market to make sure we give Bob the best team we possibly can.”

Forst added that teams aren’t usually looking to deal so early in camp, “but they know we have a need.” Miguel Tejada, Wes Helms and Felipe Lopez are available free agents, and Los Angeles Angels third baseman Alberto Callaspo has been mentioned as a potential trade candidate. One thing to keep in mind there: The Angels would need to feel confident they have a replacement to step in at third should Callaspo be dealt, and they don’t have terrific depth at that position either. Expect the A’s to take their time sorting out the third base situation. In the meantime, we’ll see what Donaldson’s got …

Joe Stiglich