PHOENIX – It’s too much to say that baseball becomes real Saturday with the start of the Cactus League for the A’s.
It’s not too much to say that the level of baseball gets pushed up several notches, however, as the competition for regular season jobs begins in earnest with a road game in Maryvale against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Will the opening day lineup have Jemile Weeks and Hiroyuki Nakajima up the middle and at the top of the lineup the way this lineup does?
Will John Jaso be the starting catcher?
Will Scott Sizemore have many chances as the DH after doing it Saturday?
Will anyone supplant Brandon Moss at first base and Josh Donaldson at third base?
These questions and more will play out over the course of the next five weeks in the leadup to the regular season.
“Don’t play too much into this lineup,’’ manager Bob Melvin said Friday. “You’ve got to stagger it, have at least four starters in every game.’’
What Melvin wants to do is to turn his players loose, at least to some degree, and have them show what they do best and don’t do best.
“You try to put guys in situations to see what they can do, especially guys you don’t know,’’ Melvin said.
Among those will be Nakajima, new to North American after a career in Japan, Jaso, who was with Seattle in 2012, and Jed Lowrie, a shortstop who has played in Boston and Houston and who is now being asked to play second base and third base in addition to short.
Second base will be the most hotly contested position with Weeks, Lowrie, Sizemore, Adam Rosales and Eric Sogard all looking to catch Melvin’s eye.
“Performance in games is all you have to go on,’’ the manager said. “Sure, some have track records, but now you get a chance to see guys when they know they’re in competition.’’
The opening day lineup: Jemile Weeks 2B, Hiroyuki Nakajima SS, Josh Reddick RF, Brandon Moss 1B, Seth Smith LF, Chris Young CF, John Jaso C, Josh Donaldson 3B, Scott Sizemore DH.