It’s difficult to say how long Billy Burns, seen here scoring in the first inning Tuesday, remains with the team, but he survived the first cut Wednesday.
While the A’s brought Coco Crisp off the disabled list, sent a surprised Craig Gentry to Triple-A Nashville and kept an equally surprised Billy Burns on the roster and in the lineup Wednesday, don’t think for a minute that Oakland’s outfield roulette is done.
The only thing secure in the A’s outfield is right fielder Josh Reddick, who doubled Wednesday night and who is hitting .406 in his last nine games.
The A’s have four other outfield candidates for the two remaining starting berths – Crisp, who will only play left fielder, Burns, who can play any outfield spot, Mark Canha, who can play left or right in addition to first base and third base, and Sam Fuld, who, like Burns, can play any of the outfield slots.
Burns has been hot – 7-for-19 before Wednesday when he went hitless in five at-bats. Canha has been warm – 7-for-22 with seven RBIs and five runs scored in his last seven games. Fuld has been ice cold – 1-for-30 after grounding out in a pinch-hitting appearance Wednesday.
And then there is Crisp, the anchor of the outfield for many years but at the moment the wild card in all this.
Manager Bob Melvin will not play him every day, including Thursday, the idea being it’s better to ease the 35-year-old back into the lineup considering he’s only played in two injury rehabilitation assignment games in the last six weeks before Wednesday’s debut.
For the moment, that means that there will be opportunities in left field. Fuld will be in the lineup Thursday, probably in left field, but he could be in center if Burns gets the day off. And that would mean Canha, who has been one of the A’s prime run producers with 14 RBIs, could play.
But the more Crisp plays as he gets into the daily routine, the fewer of those games will be.
Melvin hinted that, as well as Burns has played, there is the possibility that keeping him in Oakland might be a short-term prospect. The A’s want burns to be playing every day, the better to hone his skills, and the way the Oakland outfield sets up, as long as Fuld (and Gentry, assuming he returns) are around, Burns’ best shot at playing time will be at Triple-A.
Offensively, the A’s need to get Canha’s bat in the line four or five or more times a week. He can play first base against left-handed pitchers with Ike Davis getting the day off, but he’s hit right handers (.286) well enough and has all four of his homers and 11 of his 14 RBIs against right-handed pitching.
To get that in the game with any kind of regularity, it’s going to be hard to get the speed game that Burns brings in at the same time. Burns can be sent down. Canha, a Rule 5 player, can’t be.
So sometime in the next week or 10 days, there’s a fair chance Burns will be on a flight to Nashville.