Zobrist may yet wind up in right field for the A’s

When Ben Zobrist came to the A’s, it was with the understanding that he would be Oakland’s starting second baseman.

But Zobrist, who played in the outfield nearly as much as the infield in helping build Tampa Bay into a power, including 47 outfield starts in 2014, may be asked to put that versatility on display again as the opening day right fielder.

The A’s will almost certainly start the season with right fielder Josh Reddick on the disabled list after he came down with a right oblique strain late last week. That being the case, manager Bob Melvin is looking for options, and the versatile Zobrist is at or near the top of the list.

“I think Zobrist enjoys moving around some,’’ Melvin said. “But you never get as comfortable as possible moving positions. This team is built around depth and versatility, and he is a big part of that.’’

Zobrist has not played right field this spring, and in the day-ahead lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Diamondbacks, he’s listed as being the second baseman. But he carries two gloves with him at all times and it’s likely he’ll be in right field before too much longer.

There are, of course, other options. Melvin said that Mark Canha, the Rule 5 first baseman/outfielder, is one if he makes the roster. Craig Gentry, who is down to split time in center fielder with Sam Fuld, is another.

And look for first baseman Ike Davis to get some work in the outfield before too much more of the spring has passed. He could be freed to go out to right field by having current DH Billy Butler play at first base.


Freiman won’t blame weight room work for his back injury

Nate Freiman will miss a couple of weeks with a back strain, setting back his chances of making the A's roster out of spring training.

Nate Freiman will miss a couple of weeks with a back strain, setting back his chances of making the A’s roster out of spring training.

First baseman Nate Freiman said that he injured his back lifting weights this off-season, and even while the resultant muscle strain is causing him to miss a couple of weeks of Cactus League work, he defends against the suggestion that too much work in the weight room is bad for a baseball player.

“Respectfully, I have to disagree with that. I think work in the weight room is very important,’’ Freiman said. “The benefits enormously outweigh the risks.

“I think for every injury you see coming out of the weight room, there are many more injuries on the field that don’t happen because players who work with weights are in such good shape.’’

Freiman does admit this is a major setback to his hopes of making the A’s 25-man roster coming out of spring training. He was going to be hard-pressed to win a job with the A’s having a Rule 5 first baseman, Mark Canha, in camp who has to make the roster or be offered back to the Marlins.

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Zito, Crisp take center stage today for A’s vs. Cubs

Barry Zito's gets his first Cactus League start Thursday against the Cubs.

Barry Zito’s gets his first Cactus League start Thursday against the Cubs.

It’s a quiet morning in Mesa with only a little bit of news coming out of A’s camp

That figures to change this afternoon as former Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito makes his fist Cactus League start of the spring in what he hopes will be a first step toward winning a job in the A’s rotation.

And Coco Crisp will start in left field, marking his move there from center field, his home for most of his big league career.

Zito has a long road to go to make the A’s rotation. The A’s have three spots open behind Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir, but the club is leaning toward giving Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz the first shots at two of those jobs, and Oakland went out and got handful of not-quite-ready-for-primetime pitchers for the fifth spot, including Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman and Chris Bassitt.

It’s a virtual certainty that one of those last three makes the rotation, and two of them making it isn’t out of the question.

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Knee injury will keep Korach off A’s early spring broadcasts

Ken Korach, the longtime voice of the A’s radio broadcasts, will not be in Arizona for at least the first few weekend radio games on 95.7 The Game due to a knee injury.

It’s problematic when Korach will be able to make it to Arizona as he recovers from what he terms a “significant’’ knee injury on his left knee, which he had replaced in 2012.

Vince Cotroneo and Ray Fosse will handle the broadcasts in Korach’s stead.

Here’s the text of the letter Korach sent out through the A’s Wednesday morning:

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Gentry out of the gate quickly as he puts 2014 behind him

Craig Gentry (3) is off to a far better start this spring than last for A's.

Craig Gentry (3) is off to a far better start this spring than last for A’s.

Craig Gentry is already way ahead of the game, even if the A’s are just one game into spring training.

The Oakland outfielder singled in each of his first two at-bats, stole a base and scored a couple of runs as the A’s beat the Giants 9-4 to open Cactus League play Tuesday.

That’s one more game than Gentry played for the A’s last spring. He came over in a trade from the Rangers, but injured his back before reporting to camp. He went on the disabled list before the spring was out, and missed the entire first homestand of the regular season.

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Chavez takes same approach in effort to win starter’s job

Jesse Chavez gets Wednesday's start, hoping to pitch his way back into the A's rotation.

Jesse Chavez gets Wednesday’s start, hoping to pitch his way back into the A’s rotation.

Jesse Chavez’s spring setup hasn’t changed, even if everything else has.

In the space of a year, the right-handed pitcher went from the A’s bullpen to the starting rotation, then back to the bullpen. He became a starter due to injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, lost his job after 21 starts when the A’s traded for Jon Lester, and now has a chance to start again.

Chavez, who starts Game 2 of the Cactus League season against the Giants Wednesday in Scottsdale, could have blamed the Lester trade for losing his job. He didn’t. He blamed himself.

“It wasn’t a case of the job being taken away,’’ he said. “It was a case of I didn’t hold it. I shouldn’t have put the team in a position to doubt me.’’

The A’s had no early doubt. In Chavez’s first 18 starts, Oakland went 13-5 and he was 7-5 with a 3.06 ERA with hitters averaging just .248 against him. Then came a three-game July stretch against the Mariners once and the Astros twice in which he went 1-2 with a 5.94 ERA while his opponents’ average leaped to .279. He also allowed four homers, three of those against the Astros in Houston on July 28. Three days later came the trade for Lester.

“I think it came down to those three starts, a couple of bad innings,’’ Chavez said. “The three homers against the Astros was the really bad one.’’

Mare than that, there was a belief that Chavez, who’d most been a reliever for the previous decade after signing with the Rangers, was wearing down. Twelve of his first 18 starts saw him go at least six innings. Only one of his last four met that standard.

“That was the problem,’’ he said. “I was going from getting us into the seventh inning to struggling to get into the sixth.’’

So Wednesday’s start is a new beginning, although as A’s manager Bob Melvin said, “whether he had a job locked up or he was trying to win one, Chavvy would have the same all-out approach.’’

“The chance to be a starter is there,’’ Chavez said. “For me, I just approach it like last year when I was trying to just win a spot on the staff. I’m always going to pitch like I’m pitching to win a job.’’


Parker adds curve as he gets closer to facing hitters

Jarrod Parker is getting closer to facing live hitters after adding a curve in bullpen session Tuesday.

Jarrod Parker is getting closer to facing live hitters after adding a curve in bullpen session Tuesday.

Jarrod Parker broke out his curve in one of his twice-weekly bullpen sessions Tuesday as he used his full repertoire for the first time since his Tommy John surgery 49 weeks ago.

Or at least as full a repertoire as he’s likely to throw this season as he gets over having the ligament replaced in his right arm.

“It was 43 pitches, fastballs, changeups and curves,’’ Parker said. “The slider? Not yet. If I wait it’ll come back. And it’s no big deal if I don’t throw it this year.’’

The slider takes more of a bite out of the arm as it heals, and Parker isn’t ready to go down that route. He’s had two Tommy John surgeries now, and caution is his byword.

“I’m going to be cautious with the slider; I’m more comfortable with the curve, the right-hander said. “There’s more of a hand motion in throwing the curve. The slider puts more strain (on the transplanted area).’’

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Hassan could make a nice addition for A’s moving forward

Alex Hassan has been an on-base machine in Red Sox's system, which is why A's wanted to give him a shot.

Alex Hassan has been an on-base machine in Red Sox’s system, which is why A’s wanted to give him a shot.


Alex Hassan stepped into the A’s lineup Sunday just hours after getting off a plane from Florida and walked twice in an intrasquad game.

“Two walks – he fits right in here,’’ manager Bob Melvin said.

Oakland has been certain for a while that Hassan would be a good fit in the A’s outfield plans. He can play the corners, and he also can play first base. Offensively, he’s something of an on-base machine with a .287 average last year in Triple-A with a .378 on-base percentage and a .426 slugging percentage.

For his six-year minor league career, the slash line is .291/.396/.436, so it’s small wonder the A’s went after him, claiming Hassan on waivers from the Red Sox on Nov. 17 after Boston ran into a roster crunch and had to put him on waivers.

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A’s hoping Crisp’s time out due to pinkeye will be short; Muncy’s RBI single drives in only run of intrasquad game

Coco Crisp will miss some time after coming down with conjunctivitis, also known as pinkeye.

Coco Crisp will miss some time after coming down with conjunctivitis, also known as pinkeye.

The A’s are looking at being without Coco Crisp for Tuesday’s start of the Cactus League season after the center fielder missed Saturday’s workout having come down with a case of pinkeye.
“He wasn’t here today; we hope he’ll be here tomorrow, but we don’t know,’’ manager Bob Melvin said.
Crisp didn’t start for nine consecutive days from Sept. 19-27, 2012, with the same problem.
“We’re hoping we’ve caught it early,’’ Melvin said. “He came in with it yesterday and we’ve got him at home now hoping this resolves itself quickly.’’
Pinkeye, known medically as conjunctivitis, manifests itself in redness as swelling of the eyelid and eye surface, which becomes red and swollen. It’s a contagious affliction, but is usually not serious and goes away in 7-10 days without medical treatment.
Crisp, who was wearing sunglasses indoors Thursday, when he talked with the media about his new iPhone game app, Coco’s Fro Patrol, didn’t start a game from Sept. 19-27 in 2012 because of pinkeye as the A’s were in the middle of their dramatic rally to edge Texas on the season’s last day for the American League West title.
“We’re hoping very much that it’s not going to take him that long this time,’’ Melvin said. “But if it had to happen, this is a good time, with so much of the spring left.’’
Even before this, Melvin wasn’t planning on putting Crisp in center field in the early going of the Cactus League, which opens Tuesday with the A’s hosting the Giants with lefty Brad Mills on the mound.
Craig Gentry and Sam Fuld have plenty of experience in center field, but Melvin pointed to infielders Matt Olson, Tyler Ladendorf, Andy Parrino and Alden Carrithers as being likely to pick up playing time with Crisp out.
The manager said he felt Crisp, who has a history of being able to return to play quickly after being sidelined, would only need one or two nine-inning games to be ready to go for the season.
Crisp, 36, is the A’s leadoff hitter and the man who usually makes the offense go. Oakland is protective of his health, and the A’s would love to see him start more than the 126 games in which he played last year.
Since 2010, the A’s are 303-252 with Crisp in the lineup, a .546 winning percentage, and 130-125 without him, .510.

–Threatening skies held off Saturday morning and early afternoon as the A’s got in a four-inning intrasquad game.
Only one run was scored, that on an RBI single by minor league infielder Max Muncy, who drove in Billy Burns. Burns was hit by a Brock Huntzinger pitch in the second, took second on an Eric Sogard single and scored on Muncy’s one-out hit.
The game was played with particular attention to the new baseball rules on batters staying in the batter’s box between pitches if they don’t swing.
“We’re just trying to get a feel for the new rules,’’ Melvin said.
Fernando Rodriguez, who threw a scoreless second inning, was singled out by the manager for his performance, as was R.J. Alvarez, who walked the first two men he faced, then came back to strike out the next two before getting an inning-ending grounder.
And then there was switch pitcher Pat Venditte. He warmed up as a left-hander, then started the inning as a right-hander against right-hander Rangel Ravelo before moving back to the left side to close out the inning.
Melvin also singled out the defensive work of outfielders Gentry and Fuld and infielders Brett Lawrie and Marcus Semien.

–Chad Smith, claimed off waivers from the Tigers, reported to camp Saturday. The A’s will work him into the pitching mix in the next day or two.
“I’m excited to be here,’’ Smith said. “You really don’t expect to be traded. You think it will be the other guy. But I have some family in the Bay Area, which is nice.

–The A’s starters for the first three games of the Cactus League season will be lefty Brad Mills, right-hander Jesse Chavez and lefty Barry Zito.
–Ryan Doolittle, the right-handed brother of A’s lefty Sean Doolittle, pitched the final half inning Saturday and showed a lively fastball.
–Alex Hassan, picked up on a waiver claim from the Orioles, should be in the A’s camp Sunday


A’s lose Coco Crisp for the short term with case of pinkeye

Coco Crisp is out of action for the moment in spring training with a case of pinkeye.

Coco Crisp is out of action for the moment in spring training with a case of pinkeye.


The A’s were without Coco Crisp Saturday on photo day and the center fielder could miss a few more days of spring training after having come down with a case of pinkeye.

The hope is that Crisp, who missed more than a week down the stretch of the 2012 season with the same problem, won’t miss as much work this time around.

“We’re hoping we’ve caught it early,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “He came in with it yesterday and we’ve got him at home now hoping this resolves itself quickly.’’

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