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Optimism about the A’s

Don’t go off the deep end just yet, but as the spring progresses, it appears more and more as if the A’s might not be the miserable wretches they were expected to be. Not only that, there are signs their division could be interesting. Among them:

1) The Angels starting pitching is in tatters. John Lackey will join Kelvim Escobar on the shelf, and that’s going to put more onus on the Angels’ offense, at least initially. Torii Hunter has had a huge spring, and Vladimir Guerrero is Vladimir Guerrero, so perhaps they will. But for now, the Angels don’t look like juggernauts, and that means …

2) The Seattle Mariners appear to be the AL West’s best team. Seattle has loads of pitching with Erik Bedard, Felix Hernandez and Carlos Silva. But veteran observers think they’ll struggle to score runs, and there is some question as to how some key bullpen members — J.J. Putz and Cal product Brandon Morrow chief among them _ will bounce back from some heavy work a year ago. Thus …

3) The  A’s may well stick around the race for a bit. Rich Harden must stay healthy, of course (and everybody knows what a huge question that is) and Justin Duchscherer must stay healthy and prove he can be a starter. Huge questions also linger about Bobby Crosby and Eric Chavez, too, and the A’s must sort out their outfield situation. 

Still, they’ve done quite a bit of winning in the Cactus League, and that’s usually indicative of quality play from young guys, and it’s become clear that tossing in the towel on Opening Day (as was the conventional wisdom) is not necessary.

On the bad news front for the A’s, the breaks have evened out regarding their trip to Japan.