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Finding playing time in the outfield could be tough

There’s no crunch for playing time in Oakland. Yet.

Bob Melvin, the A’s manager, has been good at keeping the peace in the clubhouse by making sure everyone plays.

At the start of the 2013 season, however, there are early indications it’s not going to be easy for Melvin to get his five outfielders the playing time he anticipates.

    Chris Young is the early odd man out. He’ll be in the lineup Wednesday, but that’s only a small consolation for having missed out on starts in Games 1 and 2.

Young, picked up from Arizona as Oakland looked to increase its roster depth, didn’t get off the bench in Game 1 and wasn’t in the starting lineup for Game 2 against Seattle, either.

Asked about it in the A’s clubhouse before Tuesday’s game, Young just shook his shoulders in a “what are you going to do?’’ pose.

“It’s unusual, that’s for sure,’’ said Young, who averaged 156 games a season in 2010-11 before injuries struck him down last year with Arizona.

Young is right-handed, and with the A’s facing back-to-back right-handed starters from the A’s in Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, left-hander Seth Smith got the call.

The question for the A’s is just how much it’s going to happen this year. Melvin and general manager Billy Beane both have been upfront in saying there will be plenty of at-bats for everybody. Two days into the season is an extremely small sample size, to be sure, but it raises the question of how many at-bats will be enough.

Melvin, in particular, never raised the specter of a platoon for Smith and Young, and the manager would undoubtedly like to stay away from a platoon system if he could. The reality is, however, that in Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick, the A’s have outfielders who don’t want to come out of the lineup ever.

Playing time is not a problem now, but it could be one unless Melvin plays the most astute of juggling acts.

The manager has shown himself adept at that in the past. He went through 130 different lineups last season while 50 different players graced the Oakland roster. On Tuesday, however, he admitted opening the season with the same lineup on consecutive games was a little bit of a walk on the weird side.

“My pen was shaking,’’ Melvin said of the duplication. “We’re going with one lineup against right-handers. Tomorrow with a left-hander (Joe Saunders) going, there will be significant differences.’’

It’s likely that the four position players who have yet to grace a starting lineup – Young, catcher Derek Norris, second baseman Scott Sizemore and first baseman Nate Freiman – all could be in the Wednesday lineup against Saunders.

 

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John Hickey

Returning to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.