Feb. 17, 2011
PHOENIX -- If things go as planned, there won't be much competition for starting jobs in the everyday lineup at A's camp this spring. It's pretty clear who's pegged to play where on Opening Day.The competition for backup roles on the infield, however, is wide open.Oakland manager Bob Geren acknowledged as much Friday morning at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, where he expects to see quite a few players battle it out for the right to serve as understudies to second baseman Mark Ellis, shortstop Cliff Pennington and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.Were Adam Rosales healthy, he'd be a lock for the top utility role, but despite an encouraging visit to his doctor Thursday, he's likely out for the first month of the regular season. More than two months out from foot surgery, Rosales was granted permission to ditch his crutches, but he'll remain in a walking boot for at another two weeks, making early March the earliest he'll be allowed to start baseball activities.Thus, it'll be up to a hodgepodge of relative unknowns, non-roster pickups and prospects to find a way to impress Geren and his staff once Cactus League play opens Saturday, March 26.RELATED: A's Cactus League schedule
Shortstop is an area of particular concern, with Pennington expected to miss the first week of games while continuing to strengthen his surgically repaired left shoulder."You're going to see a lot of different guys playing shortstop this spring," Geren said.Among them will be Josh Horton, Steve Tolleson, Eric Sogard, Grant Green and Andy LaRoche, with Sogard the only candidate currently on Oakland's 40-man roster.Geren said roster status will have nothing to do with his decision-making on the matter: "The best guys will be on the team."Horton, who played Double-A ball last season, is probably the best pure shortstop of the bunch.LaRoche, who has the most big-league experience and track record of moderate success despite a down year in 2010, has seen most of his playing time at third base.Sogard, who batted .300 at Triple-A Sacramento last season, played all three positions with the RiverCats but saw the majority of his action at second base.Tolleson, who played in 11 games at shortstop for the A's last season after tearing up Triple-A pitching to the tune of a .332 batting average and .915 on-base-plug-slugging percentage, also can play second and third and a little bit of outfield.Green, the 13th overall pick in the 2009 draft, might be the shortstop of the future for the A's -- "He's definitely one of the top prospects in the organization," Geren said -- but he's not yet played beyond A-ball and is the darkest of horses in the race."We don't have a clear frontrunner," Geren said. "Everyone in camp is going to get a pretty good look."