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Gray will start opener with Kazmir, Chavez, Straily, Milone also in rotation; Cook, Rodriguez, Gentry start season on DL

Sonny Gray is the last  man standing in drive to start opener for the A's

Sonny Gray is the last man standing in drive to start opener for the A’s

Sonny Gray got the job that just about everyone but Sonny Gray expected him to get when A’s manager Bob Melvin named him the opening day starter.

Gray will be followed in the rotation by Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, Dan Straily and Tommy Milone.

The opening day start was expected originally to go to Jarrod Parker, but the competition opened up when it was learned that Parker will miss the season and undergo tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery.

Even with Parker, Gray was considered a contender for the opening day assignment by manager Bob Melvin, who isn’t afraid of putting the 24-year-old in the spotlight.

Last year in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, Melvin went with Gray over 18-game winner Bartolo Colon, and while the A’s lost that game, it wasn’t because Gray didn’t pitch well.

“He’s very quickly become one of those guys,’’ Melvin said of Gray, who was 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA after his promotion to the big leagues last year and then pitched eight shutout innings in Game 2 of the playoffs against Detroit before taking the 3-0 loss in Game 5.

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Vogt continues to fight for a job that may not be there

It's been a hot spring for A's catcher Stephen Vogt

It’s been a hot spring for A’s Stephen Vogt

It doesn’t seem possible that there have been many players fight harder for a job than the A’s Stephen Vogt, especially when considering there doesn’t seem there’s a job available.

We’re a week away from the A’s having to finalize their roster, and it seems there is no way the club can work it to carry three catchers. And since the other two catchers don’t have options, it seems the A’s will opt to send Vogt to Triple-A Sacramento, keeping lefty John Jaso and right-hander Derek Norris to platoon at the big league level.

Vogt keeps putting pressure on the decision makers. He hit a homer foul with a man on base in the third inning, then came back later in the at-bat to hit the ball out again, this time in fair territory.

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Gray pleased to be able to mostly pitch around A’s errors

Sonny Gray came to the A’s as someone with an intricate knowledge of the strike zone.

He’s going to strike out a few, as was the case Friday in a 3-0 loss to the Giants in Scottsdale when he fanned seven in 5.2 innings and walked just one.

He could use a little more help from his defense when he doesn’t register the K. Three times A’s infielder butchered plays, one each by shortstop Jed Lowrie, second baseman Nick Punto and first baseman Brandon Moss.

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Freiman wears his loss to Burns in black and orange

Nate Freiman as Marge Simpson, 2013

Nate Freiman as Marge Simpson, 2013

Billy Burns is a true believer, Nate Freiman a true disbeliever.

That’s at least when the subject of the NCAA basketball tournament is involved. The alma maters of each played Friday morning, and Burns’ Mercer stunned Freiman’s Duke.

And stunned Freiman himself. He not only didn’t believe black-and-orange clad Mercer would beat the Blue Devils, one of the most storied teams in NCAA history, he didn’t believe they’d stay close.

So the two bet their team’s colors, Freiman giving the points. The loser had to wear the other team’s colors during workouts Friday afternoon before the A’s left Phoenix to pay a call on the Giants in Scottsdale.

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Nakajima creates a fan with post-game gift

Minor league infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima hopes for return to A's

Minor league infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima hopes for return to A’s

You don’t have to have a big league contract to make a big league impression.

Consider the case of A’s minor league infielder Hiro Nakajima. He played the final few innings at second base in the A’s 13-3 win over the Cleveland Indians Wednesday, drawing a walk and popping out.

Once the game was over, there was the usual group of attentive kids, mostly A’s fans from the look of it, behind the dugout looking for autographs from whatever player they could.

Nakajima stripped off his batting gloves and handed him to one of the kids, no doubt creating a fan for life.

There’s no telling when A’s fans may see Nakajima in Oakland, because he’s going to start the season where he ended it last year, playing for Triple-A Sacramento.

But he looked much more confident and self-assured Wednesday, no doubt in part to his two-for-two effort in a game in Glendale Tuesday against the White Sox.

Manager Bob Melvin certainly took notice, not only with the two hits Tuesday but with the way Nakajima handled himself at third base, a relatively new position for him, against the Sox.

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It’s no stretch to say Pomeranz making big impression

Drew Pomeranz is firing bullets for the A's these days.

Drew Pomeranz is firing bullets for the A’s these days.

Drew Pomeranz may not make the A’s pitching staff to start the season.

But it’s no stretch to say that he could do so, especially after his last two games, five innings of relief in which he’s struck out eight and allowed one hit. Three scoreless innings Wednesday gave him the win in the A’s 13-3 blowout of the Indians in Goodyear, Ariz.

And it’s his stretch that he credits with helping him get command of his 95-mph fastball and breaking pitches, all of which have looked dynamic in the last few days.

“I’m just here trying to pitch well,’’ Pomeranz said. “Lots of strikes.’’

He’s done that, opening eyes with both his fastball and his breaking pitches, all of which have been basically unhittable the last few days.

He came to the A’s as the big prize in the trade of left-handed starter Brett Anderson to the Rockies over the winter. When the A’s made the deal they were perhaps thinking of future potential, but Pomeranz’s time could be closer than you’d think.

“I wanted to simplify things for myself,’’ he said in explaining why he now throws exclusively from the stretch rather than going through a full windup.

“I did it at the end of last year (with the Rockies) and it seemed to work for me,’’ Pomeranz said. “And I’ve found that the simpler I can make it, the easier it is to pitch.’’

Pomeranz is making decision making tough on manager Bob Melvin, who’d’ been thinking that Pomeranz might be a good fit as the first starter recalled from Triple-A Sacramento. Now, the A’s have to consider if Pomeranz is instead the A’s best fit as the long man in the bullpen and spot starter.

“As long as he’s throwing the ball over the plate,’’ the manager said, “he’ll be fine.’’

The manager was impressed that Pomeranz went two innings the last time out and three innings this time. And the fact that he’s been dominating hasn’t hurt.

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Moss says Cespedes’s average is not a cause for concern

Brandon Moss is batting cleanup Wednesday, but he still has high hopes for regular cleanup man Yoenis Cespedes

Brandon Moss is batting cleanup today, but he has high hopes for regular cleanup man Yoenis Cespedes

Brandon Moss is the A’s cleanup hitter today against the Cleveland Indians in Goodyear, Ariz.

It’s one of a handful of times that Moss has hit cleanup this spring.

“I’ve done it before on days when (Yoenis) Cespedes hasn’t been in the lineup,’’ Moss said.

Today, Cespedes is in the lineup.

Manager Bob Melvin says there’s no reason to read too much into the lineup. He said he just wanted to have a left-handed bat between two right-handed hitters, Josh Donaldson and Cespedes. The implication was that Cespedes’ .128 average this spring had nothing to do with the move.

And Moss said that Cespedes’ average shouldn’t be a matter of great concern.

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Analyzing Parker’s chances of a good Tommy John outcome

I spent some time talking with an orthopedic surgeon and came out of feeling a little less confident about the chances of a full recovery for Jarrod Parker when he undergoes Tommy John surgery next week.

At first it seemed to me that the chances for Parker to come back as good as new after what would be his second Tommy John surgery were a little more than 50-50.

But after my conversation with the surgeon, who has worked on pro, college and recreational athletes for years and who asked not to be named, it seems that maybe the chances are a little less than 50-50.

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Game 5 start in ALCS vs. Tigers put Gray in line for opener

Sonny Gray is the last  man standing in drive to start opener for the A's

Sonny Gray is the last man standing in drive to start opener for the A’s March 31.

Nothing is official, but the A’s have an opening day starting pitcher.

His name is Sonny Gray.

The 24-year-old, with just 10 big league starts to his name, was being considered for the job all along, but it seemed likely the call would go to Jarrod Parker or, perhaps, newcomer Scott Kazmir.

Parker is out for the season with the news that he needs a second Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery in his right elbow and forearm.

As for Kazmir, he was scratched from his start Monday because of triceps pain. He was pain-free Tuesday and wanted to pitch, but the A’s have decided that he’ll throw a bullpen session, probably Wednesday, then return to the starting rotation Saturday.

That rules him out for the opener, because to get to March 31 against the Indians, he’d either have to pitch on long rest or on short rest. The A’s aren’t going to have him do that for the sake of one game, so that leaves Gray to pitch the opener and Kazmir to follow him in Game 2 against Cleveland, the team for which he pitched last year.

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With options gone, Gimenez, Taylor may move on

With under two weeks to go in spring training, the A’s have more roster decisions to make before opening day than they would have believed even a few days ago, thanks to news that Jarrod Parker (Tommy John surgery) and A.J. Griffin (elbow/forearm) won’t be available when the Indians come to town March 31.

It’s not all about the pitching, however, even if it seems like it sometimes.

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