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Crisp says he had other options besides A’s

A few more items from A’s camp this morning:

–Coco Crisp said he had “several” multi-year contract offers from teams over the winter, including the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays. He was impressed with Rays manager Joe Maddon and thought he was headed there until the A’s presented a two-year $14 million offer that swayed him. It was the best financial offer he got, and he liked the idea of staying in California. He’s from Los Angeles.

–Talking about A’s second baseman Jemile Weeks, manager Bob Melvin said he was actually more impressed with Weeks’ defensive progress last season than his hitting performance. That’s interesting in that Weeks led AL second baseman with 13 errors despite not being called up until June. He looked right at home with the bat, hitting .303 with 123 hits in 97 games. But that was Melvin’s point: Weeks is much more of a work-in-progress with the glove, and he thought Weeks got much better ranging to his right to make plays and get the out at first. Weeks took advantage of his chance to play when veteran Mark Ellis was hurt, and did so well that the A’s eventually wound up trading Ellis to the Rockies, entrenching Weeks at second. “There was no bigger obstacle than (the presence of) Mark Ellis,” Melvin said. “You just go out and play to the best of your abilities and those things will take care of themselves.”

–The A’s will play an intrasquad game next Thursday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. If you’re in town, it’s probably safe to get there around 11:30 a.m.-noon to catch the start of it. The A’s play their Cactus League opener the next day against Seattle at Muni.

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Coco Crisp reports to A’s camp — battle for center field should be interesting

Coco Crisp reported to A’s camp Thursday and addressed his status as the A’s center fielder. The addition of Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, whose four-year, $36 million contract should be finalized in a week or so, could bump Crisp to left field, as Cespedes primarily has been a center fielder himself. Rest assured this will be one of the best storylines this spring for the A’s.

“I’m just going to go out there and have fun and everything is going to fall where it falls,” Crisp said. “If anybody is better than me, I’ll give him that … and I will take my cap off … but if they’re not, then I’ll say that too.”

A’s manager Bob Melvin declined to discuss Cespedes since he’s not under contract yet, but he does plan to talk with Crisp soon about the situation. Melvin said lots of factors come into play with choosing a center fielder. The afternoon sun at the Coliseum makes playing center a challenge during day games, for example, which could give Crisp an advantage because he’s played there for two seasons. But the A’s also will want Cespedes to play a position where he’s most comfortable as he transitions to a new country and an increased level of competition.

I’ve read some viewpoints that question how valuable Crisp really is in center. My opinion might clash with what the sabermetric fielding stats suggest, but from watching Crisp play center on a daily basis last season, I thought he was very impressive. He covers a ton of ground left to right. Granted, his below-average arm is a liability, and base runners usually went first to third on a single to center without hesitation. But many runners will get from first to third on a lot of singles no matter who is playing center. And there’s no guarantee that runners wouldn’t challenge Crisp’s arm in left field and still advance from first to third depending on where the ball is hit.

It certainly makes sense to play Cespedes where he’s most comfortable, which may benefit his hitting too. But if Cespedes shows good ability in right field and has a strong enough arm for it, it might make sense to play him there and keep Crisp in center to maximize Crisp’s defensive value. In that case, Josh Reddick or whoever that third outfielder will be can play left (although Reddick may prove to be a very capable right fielder himself).

Crisp went out of his way to say he’s excited about Cespedes’ addition as a potential impact bat in the middle of the order. He was also asked about the possibility of moving from center to make another player more comfortable, as opposed to flat-out being beaten for the job.

“Of course I could see that,” he said, “but I’m not going to be happy with that.”

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De Los Santos shapes up as key man in A’s bullpen

Three days until the A’s first full-squad workout. Here’s the morning update …

The bullpen holds some mystery for the A’s this spring, but manager Bob Melvin expects right-hander Fautino De Los Santos to play a key role one way or another. De Los Santos went 3-2 with a 4.32 ERA in 34 games as a rookie last season, notching 43 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings.

“This is a big year for him,” Melvin said. “We’re not targeting him (for a specific role yet) … But now there’s a little bit more of target on him in that we expect big things out of him.” De Los Santos primarily needs to continue developing his slider to complement a high-90s fastball, Melvin said. But De Los Santos also must cut down walks and hold runners better.

Another reliever in camp, lefty Jordan Norberto, could also land a spot in the bullpen. He was acquired last season from Arizona in the Brad Ziegler trade but struggled with his command. Norberto worked as a starter in the Dominican Winter League this past offseason but has primarily been a reliever since 2008. Melvin mentioned the possibility of experimenting with Norberto as a starter in the minors if he doesn’t make the big league club out of camp.

–As for the A’s rotation, it’s shaping up to be right-handed heavy no matter who the five starters are. If Dallas Braden were to begin the season on the disabled list, Tom Milone is the only left-handed starting candidate currently in camp. Melvin doesn’t see it as a big issue. He said the five best pitchers will land in the rotation, and if it’s five right-handers, so be it …

–Melvin likes what he sees so far from Sean Doolittle, the injury-riddled first baseman trying to make a comeback as a pitcher. Doolittle was a stellar pitcher/first baseman for the University of Virginia but the A’s converted him to a full-time position player upon drafting him. Melvin said he’s particularly impressed with how still Doolittle keeps his head through his delivery, which should help his command. “For a guy who hasn’t pitched a whole lot, that impressed me,” Melvin said.

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Brandon McCarthy on cover of ESPN The Magazine

If you pick up a copy of ESPN The Magazine’s latest issue that comes out Wednesday, you’ll find A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy and his wife, Amanda, on the cover. It looks to be a feature story on Brandon, but I’m not so sure he’ll be the one catching everyone’s attention on the cover. The article is sure to be entertaining though … check it out. McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) is definitely one of the wittier athletes on Twitter, and Amanda (@Mrs_McCarthy32) is a crack-up. I can’t wait to see what reaction he gets inside the A’s clubhouse.

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Lefty Tom Milone is making a good impression with A’s

Left-hander Tom Milone, one of four players the A’s obtained from Washington in the Gio Gonzalez trade, has earned good reviews early in spring training. Catcher Kurt Suzuki praised Milone’s command and compared his change-up to that of Dallas Braden. On Tuesday morning, A’s manager Bob Melvin noted that Milone’s fastball doesn’t jump out but it can be deceptive: “He definitely knows where the ball is going. If he stays at 86 or 87 (mph), he’s probably got 89 in his pocket when he needs it. It seems like he’s a polished guy.”

Milone is a candidate for one of at least two rotation spots that are available. If Dallas Braden doesn’t return by mid-April, there will be three spots open behind Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon. Jarrod Parker and Brad Peacock, also obtained in trades, and Tyson Ross and Graham Godfrey are all fighting for those spots as well.

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Manny Ramirez likely to assume Oakland A’s DH role when suspension ends

The update from manager Bob Melvin’s morning media briefing …

Expect Manny Ramirez to be inserted as the A’s designated hitter as soon as the slugger comes off suspension. Melvin said that’s a logical assumption given Ramirez’s prolific hitting career. “He could jump out of bed in December and hit.”

Ramirez agreed to a minor league deal with Oakland on Monday and Melvin expects him in camp Friday, which is the full-squad reporting deadline. Ramirez must serve a 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy, meaning he’s not eligible to play in a regular season game until May 30. Given that, Melvin said he won’t give Ramirez the majority of spring at-bats at DH, but will mix him into a rotation that will likely include Seth Smith, Jonny Gomes, Chris Carter and Kila Ka’aihue. Melvin added that he wouldn’t rule out giving Ramirez an occasional start in left field during the regular season.

Ramirez can play in a 10-game minor league assignment as his suspension nears an end. He’s likely to spend that period with Triple-A Sacramento, according to Melvin.

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What will Manny Ramirez’s impact be on the A’s?

Checking in from Phoenix, where the A’s just announced the signing of Manny Ramirez to a minor league contract.

I have a couple different thoughts on this: First of all, spring training just got very interesting. I expect that Ramirez will attract a throng of national media when he arrives at camp, which is expected to be by the end of this week. He might be arriving right around the same time that Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes checks into camp. Cespedes’ four-year, $36 million deal should be finalized soon. But Ramirez should bring a circus-like atmosphere that’s all his own, thanks to his nutty personality as well as his reported performance-enhancing drug use. For a team that has lacked star power in recent years, this is quite a publicity boost and raises the A’s national profile. And if it boosts ticket sales, that’s a great thing for a club that ranked last in the major leagues in home attendance last season.

However … what will Ramirez’s real impact be on the field? He must serve a 50-game suspension, meaning he’ll miss more than one-quarter of the season by the time he’s eligible May 30. By that time, where will the A’s be in the standings? Will they be so far back that his addition won’t mean much? Or what if the other likely DH candidates (think Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes) really tear it up over those first 50 games. Do they stick in the lineup and does Ramirez get unceremoniously released? It’s worth pondering, but for now, the A’s will bask in the national spotlight a bit. And how often have we said that for a topic non San Jose ballpark-related?

Let’s hear some reaction to the Ramirez signing. Are you counting the days until May 30? Or do you hope that the A’s are hitting so much that adding Ramirez seems unneeded?

Sound off …

3

Brandon McCarthy throws first bullpen session; rotation candidate Tom Milone impresses

Likely opening day starter Brandon McCarthy was among the A’s pitchers throwing bullpen sessions Sunday during the team’s first workout of the season. McCarthy said he felt good — nothing extraordinary in his mind — and added that he should be ready in plenty of time should he get the call for the opening day start March 28 against the Mariners in Tokyo. A’s manager Bob Melvin has hinted strongly that McCarthy will pitch that game.

Newcomers Tom Milone, Brad Peacock and Ryan Cook also threw from the mound, as did 2011 first-round pick Sonny Gray. Catcher Kurt Suzuki was particularly impressed with Milone, who along with Peacock is competing for a rotation spot. “For the first day of camp, to start spotting up like he was today is pretty impressive,” Suzuki said.

The left-handed Milone is no flame thrower — his strength is his ability to locate his fastball, cutter, curve and changeup. Suzuki said Milone has a terrific changeup, describing it as “Dallas-like,” in reference to fellow A’s lefty Dallas Braden.

Melvin, who took over the club from Bob Geren last June, is in his first spring with the A’s. Early impression: The man is everywhere. Melvin shifted all around the six pitching mounds at the team’s practice facility, getting a look at as many pitchers as he could. A short time later, he was back at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, wandering the infield as position players took batting practice. The A’s have a condensed spring to prepare for their early season opener, and Oakland has more new faces than usual after making several offseason trades. Melvin is trying to familiarize himself with the entire roster. “I’ll look up some bio stuff (on different players) and try to have a conversation on a personal level, and I think that makes them more comfortable,” he said.

There were overcast skies in the morning, but that cleared up and the A’s first workout took place on a sunny afternoon fit for a postcard.

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A’s manager Bob Melvin talks pitcher/catcher relationship, and the search for a closer

On the first day that pitchers and catchers worked out, A’s manager Bob Melvin had a predictable topic in his team meeting Sunday. “The message today was about the pitcher/catcher relationship, we’re trying to cultivate that,” said Melvin, a former catcher with the Giants. “The catchers are an extension of the pitchers. We want our guys to feel like when the pitcher gives up a run, that’s their run. That’s their ERA.”

The A’s had an opportunity to begin camp about a week earlier than they did, due to their early season opener against Seattle on March 28 in Tokyo. The Mariners opted to take advantage of that time and report earlier. Melvin defended the A’s decision not to, saying there’s sufficient time to get everyone ready. “You can do all the work like this to get their arms ready and so forth, but it’s when you get into games that you really start to find out about people,” he said. “We didn’t feel like we needed to go too early. We’re talking about two regular-season games (in Japan).”

And Melvin was asked again about the closer’s position, which is sure to be a hot topic in coming weeks. The A’s need to identify a ninth-inning man since Andrew Bailey was traded in the winter. “The obvious choices are (Grant) Balfour and (Brian) Fuentes,” Melvin said. “Those are guys in the past that we’ve used to get key outs in earlier innings, too. We do have talented guys like (Joey) Devine and (Fautino) De Los Santos. We have several guys capable of doing it, but we’ll take our time choosing that guy.”

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Bob Melvin talks pitcher/catcher relationship, and the search for a closer

On the first day that pitchers and catchers worked out, A’s manager Bob Melvin had a predictable topic in his team meeting Sunday. “The message today was about the pitcher/catcher relationship, we’re trying to cultivate that,” said Melvin, a former catcher with the Giants. “The catchers are an extension of the pitchers. We want our guys to feel like when the pitcher gives up a run, that’s their run. That’s their ERA.”

The A’s had an opportunity to begin camp about a week earlier than they did, due to their early season opener against Seattle on March 28 in Tokyo. The Mariners opted to take advantage of that time and report earlier. Melvin defended the A’s decision not to, saying there’s sufficient time to get everyone ready. “You can do all the work like this to get their arms ready and so forth, but it’s when you get into games that you really start to find out about people,” he said. “We didn’t feel like we needed to go too early. We’re talking about two regular-season games (in Japan).”

And Melvin was asked again about the closer’s position, which is sure to be a hot topic in coming weeks. The A’s need to identify a ninth-inning man since Andrew Bailey was traded in the winter. “The obvious choices are (Grant) Balfour and (Brian) Fuentes,” Melvin said. “Those are guys in the past that we’ve used to get key outs in earlier innings, too. We do have talented guys like (Joey) Devine and (Fautino) De Los Santos. We have several guys capable of doing it, but we’ll take our time choosing that guy.”