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Josh Donaldson hasn’t locked down A’s third base job yet

With the A’s season opener eight days away, their third base job is still up for grabs. Josh Donaldson has gotten the majority of starts in exhibitions, but manager Bob Melvin said Eric Sogard is still being considered as well.

“The decision is a work in progress,” Melvin said. “… I’m not saying that Donaldson is not starting opening day. I’m just not announcing an opening day starter there (yet).”

Does “work in progress” mean the A’s are considering acquiring a third baseman? Tough to tell, but I’d be surprised if they weren’t keeping all options open. The problem is, there aren’t any real attractive free agent options and trading for an established third baseman would be costly.

Sogard, who has served as a utility infielder in his big league time, has played his way into consideration by hitting .366 in 17 games. Donaldson, who moved from catcher to third base full time after Scott Sizemore was lost to a season-ending knee injury, is hitting .240 and is still going through some growing pains defensively.

Melvin said he was evaluating things “all the way around” before settling on a starter for the March 28 opener against the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo. The A’s could choose to platoon Donaldson and Sogard, since Donaldson hits right-handed and Sogard left-handed.

–Sizemore underwent surgery in Scottsdale on Wednesday morning to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, and the A’s believe it’s realistic he could return by the start of next spring training. He also had a torn meniscus repaired. The procedure was done by Dr. Doug Freedberg.

–Coco Crisp will play left field in a minor league game Wednesday instead of starting against the Kansas City Royals as originally planned. A few A’s regulars will play in the same minor league game.

–So who have been the camp surprises that have impressed Melvin? He mentioned relievers Travis Schlichting and Evan Scribner, infielder Wes Timmons and first baseman Kila Ka’aihue. Ka’aihue’s play, in particular, is noteworthy as he’s competing for the starting first base job with Brandon Allen and Daric Barton. Melvin likes what he’s seen from Ka’aihue defensively as well. He’s made two strong throws across the diamond in games to nail base runners trying to advance to third.

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Brad Peacock optioned to the minors

Right-hander Brad Peacock was optioned to the minors Tuesday, and Graham Godfrey will start in his place in Wednesday’s exhibition against Kansas City. No big surprise here. Peacock has a 12.86 ERA in three appearances (two starts). That’s a small body of work, but bottom line is he didn’t turn heads like he needed to break camp with the team. As is the case with Jarrod Parker, manager Bob Melvin said Peacock will remain in contention for the fifth starter’s spot even as he works in the minors. The A’s don’t need a fifth starter until April 17.

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Grant Balfour named A’s closer

The A’s roster continues to take shape … Grant Balfour will be the team’s closer, manager Bob Melvin said Tuesday. It came down to Balfour and Brian Fuentes, and Fuentes will serve as a lefty setup man. “I had a pretty good idea what we wanted to do coming in,” Melvin said. “I think it’s just based on results last year. You look at the numbers and what (Balfour) accomplished, and he deserves a chance to close.”

But Balfour never has been a regular closer in his seven-plus major league seasons. This could be a year we see a few different pitchers (think Fuentes, Fautino De Los Santos, Joey Devine) get a crack in the ninth inning.

It’s tough to predict the makeup of the A’s bullpen right now, since they can bring so many relievers to Japan. They don’t have to cut down to a seven-man ‘pen until they get back to the Bay Area. The A’s will carry at least two lefties (Fuentes and Jerry Blevins) and Melvin didn’t close the door on keeping three. Jordan Norberto has looked sharp this spring, so he’s a possibility. Bottom line, there won’t be a shortage of relievers among the 30 players the A’s take to Japan. And we may find out who the full 30 are by the end of today.

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A’s send Jarrod Parker to minors

Right-hander Jarrod Parker was sent to the minors Monday, shortly after allowing seven walks in the A’s 6-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“It’s pretty obvious I need to fine-tune some things,” Parker said while packing his belongings inside the clubhouse at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

Parker is rated the A’s top pitching prospect by Baseball America, and his raw stuff received rave reviews from within the organization during camp. He entered Monday with a 1-1 record and 2.45 ERA in three spring starts, with nine strikeouts but also six walks in 7 1/3 innings.

He lost his handle on the strike zone Monday – though he allowed just two runs – and he admitted he was trying a little too hard against his former team. The A’s acquired Parker from the Diamondbacks as the centerpiece of the Trevor Cahill trade in December.

With Parker out of the mix and Brad Peacock also having struggled, the A’s starting rotation could go Brandon McCarthy, Bartolo Colon, Tom Milone, Tyson Ross and Graham Godfrey.

A’s manager Bob Melvin hasn’t announced his starters beyond McCarthy and Colon.

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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.

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A’s update w/quotes from Kurt Suzuki, Trevor Cahill

I had to make the long walk to the A’s clubhouse as the game was resuming after a 36-minute rain delay, so here’s your overdue update. Oakland leads Arizona 7-2 in the top of the seventh.

There was some good give-and-take between Trevor Cahill and Kurt Suzuki after Suzuki took his ex-teammate deep for a two-run homer. “He kinda gave me a little stare coming off the field,” Suzuki said. “I was just laughing at him.” Suzuki was expecting Cahill to throw him sliders since that’s a pitch Suzuki never called for Cahill during their time playing together. But when Cahill fell behind 3-1, he was expecting Suzuki to anticipate sinker. “I threw him a four-seamer — and that didn’t work out.”

Suzuki was very impressed with A’s starter Tyson Ross, who tossed three shutout innings and is making his move for a rotation spot. “When he throws that ball over the plate, hitters don’t wanna face that,” Suzuki said. “Tyson is 6-6 on the mound. He’s slinging that ball in there 94, 95. That’s not a comfortable at-bat.”

That’s the general sentiment in A’s camp — when Ross is throwing strikes, he’s incredibly tough to hit because of his downhill leverage and natural stuff. I’d say his odds of making the rotation are increasing …

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Joey Devine to begin season on DL; Daric Barton won’t go to Japan; reliever Erick Threets sent down

There is A’s roster news this morning as the team prepares to leave for Tokyo on Thursday …

Reliever Joey Devine will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list with a right biceps injury, meaning he will not go to Japan for the team’s season-opening series. Manager Bob Melvin also said Sunday that first baseman Daric Barton will not travel to Japan but that he remains on the roster and will rejoin the team for four Bay Area exhibitions to continue competing for the first base job. Barton was delayed this spring by complications as he returned from shoulder surgery. He played first base for the first time Saturday against the Giants, and Melvin has made it clear that Barton remains a legitimate contender to start at first base along with Brandon Allen and Kila Ka’aihue.

Devine hasn’t pitched since March 8 because of inflammation in his biceps. Because the A’s begin their season with an early March 28 opener, they are allowed to backdate Devine’s DL transaction to March 24. That means he could be activated as early as April 8. If that’s the case, he would miss just four regular-season games – two in Tokyo against Seattle and two more in Oakland on April 6-7 against the Mariners.
In his absence, Fautino De Los Santos figures to assume a more prominent late-inning relief role along with Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes. Either Balfour or Fuentes will serve as closer. With Devine to miss early games, the A’s could turn to right-handed relievers Andrew Carignan, Ryan Cook or Travis Schlichting to assume the innings Devine would have had. Left-handed relievers Pedro Figueroa or Jordan Norberto could have a better shot of making the roster as well.

Erick Threets, another lefty reliever, was sent down Sunday. Melvin said he was impressed with Threets, who is from Livermore, and said he could help the team at some point this season.

The A’s roster situation is a bit tricky to figure out for the Japan series. They are allowed to take 30 players on the trip, because they also play two exhibitions in Tokyo and need the extra manpower. They must get their official roster down to 28, and for the regular-season games against the Mariners, they must designate a 25-man roster of players eligible for those games. Confusing? You bet. The three extra players who make up the group of 28 have not been demoted to the minors. They remain in competition for the true 25-man roster once the team returns to the Bay Area and prepares to begin the regular season full bore on April 6. Barton, for instance, is one of those 28 players, even though he won’t even travel to Japan.

Another Japan roster tidbit: The 25-man roster that the A’s declare for the March 28 opener must stay the same for the March 29 game unless there is an injury and someone needs to be replaced.

–As for simpler baseball news, the A’s-Diamondbacks game in Scottsdale should begin at 1:05 p.m. as scheduled. We got some rain overnight and it’s supposed to come back again later in the afternoon. Who knows if they’ll get the entire game in, but at least A’s starter Tyson Ross should get his work in.

A’s lineup:
Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Smith RF, Cespedes CF, Ka’aihue 1B, Gomes LF, Barton DH, Suzuki C, Sogard 3B; Ross RHP.

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A’s preview their 2012 commercials

We just saw a media screening of the A’s 2012 commercials, and they’re well done as always. Among this year’s highlights:

Brandon McCarthy and Kurt Suzuki going through a session of couples therapy during a spot for “the pitcher/catcher relationship”; Dallas Braden showing off his Rollie Fingers tattoo — to Fingers himself; and Coco Crisp experimenting with the Shake Weight.

“Coco, he’s probably the best actor of anyone we’ve worked with the past three years,” said DJ O’Neill of Hub Strategy, the creative mind behind the team’s commercials. O’Neill also was impressed with Jemile Weeks, who was doing his first commercial shoot for the team. “Jemile Weeks strolls in his rookie year and nothing even fazes him,” O’Neill said. “He’s the same way as an actor.”

The commercials will be rolled out one by one over the course of the season as usual.

We also got a look at some of the promotional signs you’ll see on BART trains and elsewhere. The one promoting Rollie Fingers bobblehead day reads: “Your other bobbleheads are going to have mustache envy.”

The A’s are bringing back the “Green Collar Baseball” theme. That campaign won Best Television and Best Social Media honors at the National Sports Forum ADchievement Awards for 2011.

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A’s preview their 2012 commercials

We just saw a media screening of the A’s 2012 commercials, and they’re well done as always. Among this year’s highlights:

Brandon McCarthy and Kurt Suzuki going through a session of couples therapy during a spot for “the pitcher/catcher relationship”; Dallas Braden showing off his Rollie Fingers tattoo — to Fingers himself; and Coco Crisp experimenting with the Shake Weight.

“Coco, he’s probably the best actor of anyone we’ve worked with the past three years,” said DJ O’Neill of Hub Strategy, the creative mind behind the team’s commercials. O’Neill also was impressed with Jemile Weeks, who was doing his first commercial shoot for the team. “Jemile Weeks strolls in his rookie year and nothing even fazes him,” O’Neill said. “He’s the same way as an actor.”

The commercials will be rolled out one by one over the course of the season as usual.

We also got a look at some of the promotional signs you’ll see on BART trains and elsewhere. The one promoting Rollie Fingers bobblehead day reads: “Your other bobbleheads are going to have mustache envy.”

The A’s are bringing back the “Green Collar Baseball” theme. That campaign won Best Television and Best Social Media honors at the National Sports Forum ADchievement Awards for 2011.