As May turned to June, the A’s found themselves closer to the roster they thought they might have in April.
Sunday’s recall of catcher Stephen Vogt gives the club three catchers, meaning manager Bob Melvin can play two of them on any given day (one of them as the designated hitter) and still have the ability to pinch-run.
That’s the way things worked for much of the middle of the 2013 season before injuries got in the way.
More than that, having a three-catcher ensemble means Melvin doesn’t have to fret about the scenario of having to either give up the designated hitter or have third baseman Josh Donaldson, a former catcher, get back behind the plate.
And on Tuesday, the A’s will activate right-handed setup man Ryan Cook from the disabled list. After two stints on the disabled list to deal with shoulder issues and a right forearm strain, he seems to be healthy and ready for the four-month push to the finish in the American League West.
But there are some issues. How will the A’s get Cook on the roster? If he’d been activated Sunday instead of Vogt, it would have been the relatively simple matter of moving out one right-handed reliever, Fernando Rodriguez, to replace him with another, Cook.
But Rodriguez, who had pitched well (1-0, 1.13 ERA) in a limited role for the A’s, went down when Vogt was promoted. So now what?
The A’s could move the long man at the end of the bullpen, lefty Jeff Francis, but they just claimed Francis on waivers, they aren’t particularly anxious to go with a six-man bullpen just so they could carry five backup position players.
So a position player almost certainly has to go. The leading candidates seem to be backup first baseman Kyle Blanks, who just joined the team in a trade with the Padres on May 15. He gives the A’s a true right-handed first baseman, but the A’s could go back to using Alberto Callaspo, a converted second and third baseman, at first base without Blanks
The other option is to send down Eric Sogard. The starting second baseman has played good defense, but he hasn’t hit much all year. The A’s could use switch-hitters Callaspo and Nick Punto at second without Sogard, who came into Sunday with a .188 average.
But Sogard had three hits on the first day of June after a .158 May. A team built around pitching needs the best infield defense it can get, and Sogard is the best option as things stand now.
As for the three-catcher alignment, there’s no guarantee that it will be la lasting thing.
As Vogt said, “I hope that I’m here (for good). But it’s baseball; you don’t know.’’
And as a veteran scout said, “It would be odd for them to bring up Vogt, then not keep him around for a while.’’
The A’s are expected to announce their decision on the roster move Tuesday.