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Melvin has mid-March target date for A’s to settle on second base/shortstop combination

Shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima

PHOENIX – The A’s could be settled on a starting shortstop/second base combination by mid-March.

Manager Bob Melvin said Saturday that in an ideal world, the congestion up the middle would be cleared out with about two weeks left in the A’s spring training season.

That would give presumed shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima a fortnight in which to create a comfort zone with whichever of the five second base candidates wins the job.

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Josh Donaldson hasn’t locked down A’s third base job yet

With the A’s season opener eight days away, their third base job is still up for grabs. Josh Donaldson has gotten the majority of starts in exhibitions, but manager Bob Melvin said Eric Sogard is still being considered as well.

“The decision is a work in progress,” Melvin said. “… I’m not saying that Donaldson is not starting opening day. I’m just not announcing an opening day starter there (yet).”

Does “work in progress” mean the A’s are considering acquiring a third baseman? Tough to tell, but I’d be surprised if they weren’t keeping all options open. The problem is, there aren’t any real attractive free agent options and trading for an established third baseman would be costly.

Sogard, who has served as a utility infielder in his big league time, has played his way into consideration by hitting .366 in 17 games. Donaldson, who moved from catcher to third base full time after Scott Sizemore was lost to a season-ending knee injury, is hitting .240 and is still going through some growing pains defensively.

Melvin said he was evaluating things “all the way around” before settling on a starter for the March 28 opener against the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo. The A’s could choose to platoon Donaldson and Sogard, since Donaldson hits right-handed and Sogard left-handed.

–Sizemore underwent surgery in Scottsdale on Wednesday morning to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, and the A’s believe it’s realistic he could return by the start of next spring training. He also had a torn meniscus repaired. The procedure was done by Dr. Doug Freedberg.

–Coco Crisp will play left field in a minor league game Wednesday instead of starting against the Kansas City Royals as originally planned. A few A’s regulars will play in the same minor league game.

–So who have been the camp surprises that have impressed Melvin? He mentioned relievers Travis Schlichting and Evan Scribner, infielder Wes Timmons and first baseman Kila Ka’aihue. Ka’aihue’s play, in particular, is noteworthy as he’s competing for the starting first base job with Brandon Allen and Daric Barton. Melvin likes what he’s seen from Ka’aihue defensively as well. He’s made two strong throws across the diamond in games to nail base runners trying to advance to third.

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Opportunity could knock for Josh Donaldson at third base

The latest from Papago …

Josh Donaldson is a player who might factor largely in the A’s third base picture if Scott Sizemore misses significant time with a knee injury. Sizemore was scheduled for an MRI on his left knee at 9:30 a.m. (MT) Monday, and manager Bob Melvin said he wasn’t expecting results until later in the afternoon. But the A’s are preparing alternative options at third, and Donaldson, a catcher who has been getting increased time at third early in camp, has caught Melvin’s eye.

Adam Rosales and Eric Sogard – the other logical third base options – will continue working all over the infield as utility men. Donaldson will focus solely on third. “Everybody likes his actions,” Melvin said. “He worked double-time yesterday and was already doing some early work today. You can tell he’s got a little different pep in his step right now. Guys sense an opportunity and I like to see that. Yesterday just looked like a day where he sensed a hole.”

The A’s acquired Donaldson, 26, during the 2008 season from the Chicago Cubs as part of a four-player package for Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin. At that time, a few scouts told me they thought Donaldson might be a hidden gem in that deal. But his only big league time so far came in 2010, when he got in 14 games at catcher and hit .156 with a homer and four RBIs.

One player who won’t be playing any third right now is Grant Green, the 2009 first-round pick who the A’s converted from shortstop to center field last season. Some scouts projected Green as an eventual third baseman when he was drafted out of USC, but the A’s want him focusing solely on learning center. That makes sense to me. There’s no use throwing another major switch at the guy, although I do wonder what the addition of Yoenis Cespedes (another center field option) means for Green long-term. I think the A’s would like Green and Michael Choice to be as ready as possible to play center and then switch them to a corner spot if roster needs call for it.

More to come on Sizemore later in the day …

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Scott Sizemore’s MRI gets pushed back to Monday

There’s still no further word on third baseman Scott Sizemore’s knee injury. The MRI that was originally thought to take place Saturday won’t happen until Monday, according to manager Bob Melvin. “It’s just tough to find a place where you know you’re going to find a good image,” Melvin said. The A’s want Sizemore to see a specialist rather than get an MRI at a hospital, which sometimes doesn’t provide as good of a read on an injury. Melvin talked with Sizemore on Saturday night. “He’s a little down, but we’re holding out hope for good news. If ever there was a time to have that happen, it’s early in camp so there’s time to recover.”

Not a whole lot else to report this morning. Outfield prospect Jermaine Mitchell, a player the A’s are high on but who is coming off knee surgery, told me earlier in camp that he’s full strength with no restrictions. But Melvin says he expects Mitchell to miss the first week of exhibitions.

Melvin added that he might name his opening day starter “in a couple days,” and it’s assumed that Brandon McCarthy will take that honor. If McCarthy were to pitch one of the A’s first two Cactus League games — Friday or Saturday against the Mariners — he would be on a nice pattern to start the March 28 opener in Tokyo, also against Seattle. That’s assuming he starts every fifth day in Cactus League play.

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Scott Sizemore listed with sprained knee; MRI results unknown

The A’s are listing Scott Sizemore’s injury as a left knee sprain as they await the MRI results. Sizemore was on crutches in the A’s clubhouse and declined to discuss his injury with reporters through a team spokesman. “You don’t want something like that to happen on the first day,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “On top of that, he’s an integral player. You feel bad for him.”

As for third base alternatives if Sizemore is sidelined, Melvin mentioned Adam Rosales, Eric Sogard and catcher Josh Donaldson as the leading candidates. He considers non-roster invitee Wes Timmons in the mix too but added that “Donaldson is probably more of a bat.”

–Melvin had good things to say about Tyson Ross, who threw live batting practice to Manny Ramirez among other hitters. “His ball can disappear with a lot of velocity,” Melvin said. Ross admitted he was a bit nervous when Ramirez dug in — he bounced his first pitch — but Ramirez only made solid contact on one pitch. “I’ve pitched against him in video games, but this was the first time live,” Ross said.

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Speculating on the A’s potential lineup

Just for kicks, here’s my guess at the A’s Opening Day batting order w/the current roster (I’m including Coco Crisp, though his signing hasn’t been announced yet):

1. Weeks 2B
2. Sizemore 3B
3. Crisp CF
4. Allen 1B
5. Suzuki C
6. Reddick RF
7. Carter DH
8. Taylor/Cowgill LF
9. Pennington SS

I initially penciled in Crisp as the No. 2 hitter behind Weeks because it just seemed a natural fit. But I see him as the A’s most complete hitter as things stand, so I slotted him third, where a team’s best hitter usually bats. I’m hesitant putting Allen at cleanup considering his inexperience, but given the A’s current makeup, he offers some of the best run-producing potential. I could see him and Suzuki flip-flopping, though Suzuki is not an ideal cleanup man either. I have no idea where Reddick fits best, but I put him sixth to get a little left-right-left variation going in the 4-5-6 spots.

This batting order wouldn’t exactly make pitchers run the other way, no matter how you arrange it. I expect the A’s to add another hitter or two through free agency, though I’m not sure how much more formidable they will make the offense.

Give me some feedback. What adjustments would you make?

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C.J. Wilson’s comments catch A’s attention

We’re 3 for 3 on open-roof days here at the Rogers Center. Blue sky and sunshine, so it should be good baseball weather. …

The comments from Texas Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson, in which he bashed the Coliseum and A’s fans, should make for an interesting game Friday night. Wilson will pitch the opener of a three-game series against Brandon McCarthy, his former Rangers teammate. Check out Wilson’s comments if you haven’t seen them yet. “He said kind of what he wanted to say,” McCarthy said. “The people that should be angry should be the fans. They can choose to respond how they want.” Here’s Kurt Suzuki’s take on Wilson, a free agent after the season who says he would never play for the A’s: “He’s a good pitcher and he’s probably going to make a lot of money soon. We don’t have a stadium like the Rangers or Yankees, but we’re fortunate to play for the Oakland A’s and we’re proud of it.”

–Center fielder Coco Crisp is not playing today, and manager Bob Melvin is unsure of Crisp’s availability for the Rangers series. But he said the team will hold off until after the weekend to decide if Crisp will go on the DL for his strained right calf. “I think we’re prepared to go through the Texas series,” Melvin said. “We’re reluctant to DL him because he’s such an important cog.” But Melvin also said a calf injury is a big deal for a player such as Crisp, whose speed is so important to his game.

–Scott Sizemore makes a surprise appearance in the leadoff spot with Jemile Weeks getting a day off. Melvin likes Sizemore’s on-base percentage and he thinks Sizemore is swinging the bat a little better lately. Adam Rosales is playing second base. “We want to keep (Weeks) healthy,” Melvin said. “It looks to me like he’s wearing down some.”

–Michael Wuertz, on the DL with right thumb tendinitis, won’t throw until Monday, and Melvin says it’s likely that Wuertz wouldn’t return until September.

Today’s lineups:
A’s – Sizemore 3B, Pennington SS, Matsui DH, Willingham LF, Jackson 1B, DeJesus RF, Suzuki C, Sweeney CF, Rosales 2B; Moscoso RHP.

Jays – Escobar SS, Thames LF, Bautista RF, Lind DH, Encarnacion 1B, Rasmus CF, Hill 2B, Arencibia C, Lawrie 3B; Mills LHP.