PHOENIX – The A’s could be settled on a starting shortstop/second base combination by mid-March.
Manager Bob Melvin said Saturday that in an ideal world, the congestion up the middle would be cleared out with about two weeks left in the A’s spring training season.
That would give presumed shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima a fortnight in which to create a comfort zone with whichever of the five second base candidates wins the job.
“I’d like to have it set with at least two weeks to go,’’ Melvin said. He then turned to the subject of Nakajima and said “he’s got to get used to everybody. That’s just the position we’re in.’’
That leaves the incoming shortstop from Japan with one of the most difficult jobs in A’s camp. He’s got to learn to the playing habits of five different second basemen, all of whom are bidding to be Nakajima’s partner up the middle on defense.
Jemile Weeks was the starter most of last year. Scott Sizemore was the third baseman two years ago, but after a year off due to injuries, he’s over at second again. Adam Rosales filled in capably last year. Jed Lowrie was the starting shortstop in Houston last year but has a chance to be the second baseman in Oakland in 2013. Add Eric Sogard to the mix and you have plenty for Nakajima to digest.
“It is what it is,’’ Melvin said. “It is a long spring, and he’ll be out there with different guys. So will Lowrie when he plays shortstop. “They both have to learn everybody.’’
It’s all about timing, about learning how much ground the other man can cover, about what angles he is likely to throw at and where he likes to catch the ball. Getting those habits down and committed to mind and muscle memory is crucial to giving the A’s pitching staff the best defense possible behind them.