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A’s: Gentry, Crisp prove speed doesn’t take a day off

Coco Crisp and Craig Gentry combined their speed skills to run down Giants Monday.

Coco Crisp and Craig Gentry combined their speed skills to run down Giants Monday.

The focus in Oakland almost always on the offense, which has scored the most runs (444) or on the pitching, which has the second-best ERA in the majors (3.11).

The thing is, the A’s can do more. And they did more Monday in the opener against the Giants, a team they will play three more times this week.

The A’s first run came in the fifth inning off Giants’ starter Ryan Vogelsong, who hit Craig Gentry with a pitch. Gentry then stole second and took third as Coco Crisp dropped down a brilliant bunt down the first base line, beating it out with a speed show of his own.

“It’s a good combination when they’re both on,’’ manager bob Melvin said. “there’s the dynamic where (the pitcher) has to be quick to the plate.’’

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Moss a first baseman, but still armed and able in outfield

After catching a strong throw from Brandon Moss, Derek Norris tagged Orioles Nick Markasis at plate to extend Friday's game to 11th inning, when A's won, 4-3

After catching a strong throw from Brandon Moss, Derek Norris tagged Orioles Nick Markasis at plate to extend Friday’s game to 11th inning, when A’s won, 4-3

On the All-Star ballot, Brandon Moss is listed as a designated hitter.

On the A’s lineup card most days, Moss is listed as a first baseman.

So it’s easy to forget that Moss began his baseball life as an outfielder.

The Baltimore Orioles won’t soon forget, not after Friday night, when Moss threw a bullet from right field to the plate, enabling Derek Norris to tag out the sliding Nick Markakis, thereby denying the Orioles a 10th inning win.

The A’s went on to win the game 4-3 in the 11th, when Moss, as he does from time to time, struck out.

“I’m not a great outfielder as far as range and stuff,’’ Moss said. “But people don’t remember that I have a real good arm. That’s really my only defensive tool, but I’ve always had a real good arm. And when you don’t play the outfield a lot, and you play first base, people don’t remember.’’

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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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Regardless of numbers, it’s a stretch for Taylor with A’s

The A’s backup outfield job was originally supposed to go to Craig Gentry, and while Gentry had a full workout Monday, things have changed because Gentry’s ongoing recovery from back pain may well keep him from starting the season on the roster.

The options then for the A’s are Sam Fuld, signed as a free agent, or Michael Taylor, who is out of options after playing his entire career in the A’s minor league system.

Taylor’s having a big sprint with a .310 average and just Sunday threw out a runner at the plate from right field. And while the A’s like to hold on to players who are out of options, it’s difficult seeing how Taylor makes the team no matter how good his spring is.

Because both Brandon Moss and Daric Barton seem locked in at first base/DH, there are only four open outfield spots on the roster. And manager Bob Melvin Monday said that the ability to play center field is a major factor in the decision-making process for someone to play behind Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick.

Gentry can play center. And so can Fuld, who has a deal in his contract that he can walk as a free agent later this month if he’s not on the roster. Taylor is seen as a corner outfielder only.

Now since Gentry is likely back in early April, the A’s could go for a week or two with Taylor and without a true backup center fielder, knowing they could shove Cespedes into the role for a game or two if needed. Moss can move to left, freeing up Cespedes, if needed.

But if they stick to their center field predilection, it seems that Fuld’s the guy over Taylor, if for no other reason than the club might be able to hold onto him for the season.

That being the case, it would make sense for the A’s to try and trade Taylor in the next week or so because they risk losing him now that he’s out of options and is unlikely to make the roster.

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Lindblom, Pomeranz get second shot at A’s bullpen

The A’s have talked plenty in the last 36 hours about the depth of their pitching.

And while it’s true that they can promote someone like Jesse Chavez to fill in as a member of the rotation to start the season, that kind of move necessarily weakens them in the bullpen.

Chavez has only made two big league starts in 191 career games. The A’s have never seen him go more than 5.2 innings, and that was in relief in an 18-inning game. He was terrific in that one, throwing scoreless relief and getting the win.

Chavez, at least early on, can’t be expected to go more than five innings in starts because he doesn’t have the track record. If it was any other pitcher, the A’s could weather that, because they’d have Chavez in the bullpen to come in the game in the fifth or sixth inning.

With Chavez in the rotation, that luxury is gone unless they can come up with Chavez Lite.

So for the final couple of weeks, the A’s may stretch out Josh Lindblom and Drew Pomeranz with the idea that one of them will take Chavez’s role as the man who eats innings in the bullpen.

Lindblom, acquired from Texas in the Michael Choice deal that brought outfielder Craig Gentry to Oakland, could have a chance to make the opening day roster now that wasn’t there just a couple of days ago. The Rangers started him five times last year, but they seemed to have liked him in bullpen. His overall numbers weren’t great (1-3, 5.46 ERA overall, but he allowed no runs in 4.1 innings in three games of relief.

Pomeranz, a lefty picked up from Colorado in the Brett Anderson trade, falls into much of that same situation. He pitched in eight games for the Rockies last year, starting four. He had an 8.10 ERA as a starter, but in five innings of relief over four games, he, too, didn’t allow a run.

Until this week, both men seemed likely to be heading to Triple-A Sacramento. Now, with injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin opening up jobs, they have a chance to start in Sacramento.

To this point, Lindblom seems to have the edge. Both have pitched in four games, but Lindblom’s 3.32 ERA is about half of Pomeranz’s 6.23. But Pomeranz is scheduled to pitch in relief today in Scottsdale against the Giants, so he has a chance to bridge the gap.

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A’s Jaso has put concussion issues behind him; Melvin will give him another shot behind the plate

You may have read that John Jaso will head into spring training as the leading contender for the A’s designated hitter chores this year.

Jaso has read it, over and over again. Such is the power of the internet.

But the veteran catcher, whose contract with Oakland for the 2014 season was just finalized, doesn’t take all that talk all that seriously.

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