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It’s official — Yoenis Cespedes to start season as A’s center fielder, Coco Crisp will play left

A’s manager Bob Melvin made it official Monday that Yoenis Cespedes will start the season as his center fielder and that Coco Crisp will move to left field. Crisp will debut in left in Tuesday’s exhibition against the Cubs, in preparation for the A’s playing their season opener March 28 against the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo.

It’s also the first definitive confirmation Melvin gave that Cespedes, who joined the A’s on a four-year $36 million contract part way through spring training, will travel to Japan and be on the team’s opening day roster. But that’s hardly a shock given the hype surrounding him and the money he’s making.

Melvin stressed that the outfield isn’t set in stone past Japan — the A’s will keep evaluating Cespedes in center once the team returns to the Bay Area and plays four exhibitions before resuming the regular season April 6. But there’s no reason to believe Cespedes won’t stay in center if he plays capably and adjusts well to major league pitching. Josh Reddick is slated to start in right field.

“I think Cespedes is more comfortable in center, Reddick is more comfortable in right,” Melvin said. “To maneuver that all around would be difficult. With Coco, his versatility probably works against him in this respect. Yet I still feel like Coco is one of the best center fielders in the game.”

Immediately after Cespedes agreed to a contract in early February, Crisp was outspoken in his desire to hold on to the center field job. Crisp also made it clear when he reported to camp that he feels like he’s the team’s best option in center. But Melvin said Crisp handled the news well when he talked to him Monday morning. Crisp was on the field and unavailable when Melvin made the announcement.

“He was a pro about it,” Melvin said. “He certainly wants to play center field. Pride does factor in for a guy like that, and I don’t blame him for being a little disappointed.”

Melvin also said every infielder currently in camp will make the Japan trip, though they won’t necessarily be on the 25-man roster for both regular-season games. That group includes utility infielders Adam Rosales, Eric Sogard and Wes Timmons. Were Timmons to be on the active roster against the Mariners, it mark his first major league regular season game after 10 seasons in the minors.

–You can also read my online story, which has some of same info but also includes updates on this morning’s other A’s roster moves.

Joe Stiglich