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It’s down to Balfour and Fuentes to be A’s closer, but other roster questions remain

There are lots of roster unknowns with the A’s right now, but we can narrow the focus a bit regarding the closer spot. Manager Bob Melvin said Monday that Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes are the two clear front runners for that spot. Yes, we were assuming that already, but it was the first time Melvin has declared it’s not a four-man race (with Fautino De Los Santos and Joey Devine being the other two possibilities). Asked specifically about De Los Santos, Melvin replied: “He’s a guy that has a ceiling to close at some point. I don’t know if it’s now.” Again, more clarity than we’ve gotten before. Joey Devine’s name did not come up in the discussion. And Melvin reiterated that if he were to use Fuentes as closer, he would want a second lefty in the bullpen. He labeled Jerry Blevins the leading candidate for that second lefty spot, but also said he’s been impressed with Jordan Norberto and Pedro Figueroa.

As for the other roster battles — first base, third base, DH and the three open rotation spots — Melvin said the competition could go through the Japan series against the Mariners. Brandon Allen is getting the start today at first base, and Melvin said he likes what he’s seen from Allen. I have him as my favorite for that spot, although Melvin doesn’t count out Kila Ka’aihue or Chris Carter. And the A’s brass clearly isn’t throwing in the towel on Daric Barton at first base, although time is short for him to claim the job this spring given how much time he’s missed. GM Billy Beane talked up Barton’s defensive play, though I think we have to remember that Barton did make eight errors in just 67 games last season.

I gotta get on the road to Glendale, but here’s the A’s lineup against the White Sox:

Weeks 2B, Barton DH, Crisp CF, Reddick RF, Suzuki C, Allen 1B, Sogard 3B, Cowgill LF, Rosales SS; Ross RHP.

Joe Stiglich