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Barton forces way onto A’s roster with a good spring

The A’s lineup heading into spring training pivoted around one person – first baseman Daric Barton.

If he made the team, the lineup would structure one way. If he didn’t make the team, it would structure quite another.

Barton has had a nice spring offensively. Heading into Monday’s game in Surprise against the Rangers, he carried a .298 batting average, but with no extra-base hits. He also had nine walks and had been hit by a pitch, leading to a .486 on-base percentage, which is something the A’s value highly.

So heading into Monday’s season opener, unless the A’s pull off an unexpected switch, you can figure on Barton being at first base with last year’s first baseman, Brandon Moss, serving as the DH. (Both men are likely to be on the bench when left-handed pitchers start).

If Barton hadn’t made the team, the DH would have been catcher John Jaso, also left-handed, with Stephen Vogt and Derek Norris sharing the catching. There are those in the A’s organization who see having three catchers as a possibility at some point later this season, but not now.

This level of success is a major about-face for Barton, who was repeatedly designated for assignment last year when it seemed his career in Oakland had been played out. But injuries in the outfield and behind the plate led to Moss moving to the outfield for a while and Jaso missing the last two months, and Barton thrived.

Called up for the final week of August, Barton hit .301 the rest of the way while posting a .381 on-base percentage. He’s always been more of an on-base machine than a run producer, but over those 29 games he actually had more RBIs (13) than walks (12).

The knock on him in the past was that he was too passive at the plate, too willing to wait for walks and not going to the plate with the idea of driving in runs, but he showed new aggression last September. It’s carried over to this year.

“I came here this spring to have fun, and I’ve done that,’’ Barton said. “I’m more aggressive now. When they throw a strike, I’m swinging.’’

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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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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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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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A day of firsts goes well for Callaspo on the A’s infield

Alberto Callaspo is wearing a new glove for A's these days

Alberto Callaspo is wearing a new glove for A’s these days

Alberto Callaspo is just 5-foot-9, about a foot shorter than Oakland’s tallest first baseman, Nate Freiman.

The A’s reminded him of that Friday.

When they took the field for drills, there was a bucket of baseballs, about two feet deep, with a Callaspo jersey wrapped around it.

Callaspo smiled, then went about his day, which included for the first time in his life playing five innings at first base. He caught five throws, none of them with difficulty.

“It was easy today, let’s see what happens,’’ he said, acknowledging that it will get more difficult as he warms to the new position.

Because Callaspo presents a much different target than the run-of-the-mill first baseman, A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson said “ the infielders are going to have to keep our throws down.’’

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Jaso’s not a DH, so he and Vogt will battle at catcher; that means Moss now most likely to get majority of DH at-bats

There’s been plenty of talk about John Jaso moving from catcher to DH for the A’s this year.

It may have been nothing more than just talk.

A’s manager Bob Melvin went out of his way Saturday to stress that as long as Jaso’s health is such that he can get behind the plate, he will.

“As long as he’s healthy and can catch,’’ Melvin said, “he’ll be a catcher.’’

That says two important things about the A’s roster moving forward.

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Humber perfect no more, but hopes to help A’s; Melvin likes what he sees from Scribner, Lindblom, and Nieve; and notes

If you were in Safeco Field on April 21, 2012, you may have thought, as Philip Humber did, that he had it all going.

Humber, then starting for the White Sox, threw a perfect game against Seattle in his second start of the season

“I thought, `Is this really happening?’ ’’ Humber said. “Then I thought I can continue to dominate in this league.’’

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9×9: Non-tender deadline could reshape A’s

The A’s have some serious decisions to make before the evening is over.

The club has nine men on the roster who are arbitration eligible and by 9 p.m. this evening Oakland must decide which of the nine will be tendered contracts.

The group includes pitchers Jerry Blevins, Jesse Chavez and Fernando Rodriguez, catcher John Jaso, first basemen Daric Barton and Brandon Moss, shortstop Jed Lowrie and outfielders Josh Reddick and Seth Smith.

Those players who are tendered contracts are those the club is willing to go to salary arbitration with, although typically the A’s like to avoid arbitration whenever possible. Non-tendered players become free agents.

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ALDS Game 1 wrapup: Reddick earns his pay with bullet throw; A’s looking at lineup change at first base; Moss says Scherzer the best club has seen

When Josh Reddick doesn’t hit – and too often this year that’s been an ongoing story – there are questions that A’s manager Bob Melvin gets as to why Reddick is in the lineup.

Friday should have dispelled some of those questions. For the fifth time in his last eight games, the rifle-armed Reddick threw out a runner, this time preventing Detroit from scoring a fourth run and potentially blowing open Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

With slow-footed Victor Martinez on second base, Omar Infante sliced a single past first baseman Daric Barton. Martinez got a good jump, but as we say, isn’t fast. Still Reddick came up throwing to catcher Stephen Vogt to get the out and keep the A’s deficit at the time at 3-0.

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Game 160 wrapup: Cespedes shoulder trouble an issue for A’s; Norris homer-or-nothing in pinch; Cook getting back to form out of the bullpen

The A’s started Friday with a good idea of how they’d be structuring their starting lineup in the playoffs.

Then they played the first game of their final series with the Mariners and things changed dramatically.

The idea was that Yoenis Cespedes, who hadn’t been in left field since Sept. 13, was once again healthy, able to throw and ready to man his position. He’d play all three games in left this weekend to get himself ready for the playoffs.

That meant the resurrected Daric Barton was ready to play first base and Brandon Moss, who can play both first base and the outfield, was going to be the designated hitter. He was in Friday’s lineup as the DH, the first time all season that’s happened.

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