PEORIA, Ariz. -– Always game for trying a new position, Mark Canha is getting quite the test Wednesday night against the Seattle Mariners.
He’s drawing a start at center field for the A’s, and Canha says it’s a first for his entire baseball career.
“It’ll be a fun little test for me, and I’m embracing it,” Canha said.
A’s manager Bob Melvin floated the idea by Canha earlier this spring about giving center field a try.
If it leads to his name getting in the lineup, Canha is all for it. A first baseman and left fielder by trade, Canha voluntarily started taking grounders at third base during spring training last season, and he eventually wound up making an appearance there in an April game against the Angels.
It may be tricky for Melvin to find Canha consistent at-bats as the roster stands. Yonder Alonso is slated to play first base against right-handed pitchers, and the A’s have a surplus of outfield options too. But with Sam Fuld slated to begin the season on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, Melvin said Canha could be a valuable fallback option in center should something happen to Billy Burns or Coco Crisp. Utility man Chris Coghlan also has logged some time in center.
Canha has worked out at the position for the past couple days, reading fly balls off the bat in batting practice and putting in individual time with A’s outfield coach Mike Aldrete.
“He runs well and he works hard, so he will get the reps in,” Aldrete said. “From that standpoint, it’s just a matter of time. It’s going to take some adjusting, but I don’t think it’s an adjustment he can’t make.”
Aldrete spent most of his 10-year Major League career playing first base and the corner outfield spots. He did log 20 games in center, and joked that if he could do it, Canha also can handle the position.
“As a guy who probably should not have played center field, I did play center field a handful of times, and I thought it was much easier than the corners,” Aldrete said. “Now, physically, there were some things I just couldn’t do, which is why they didn’t put me out there (often). But as far as seeing the field and reading balls, it’s way (easier).”
Check back with Canha on that after Wednesday night, when the wind was whipping the flags at Peoria Sports Complex shortly before first pitch.
Melvin could sense Canha’s enthusiasm about seeing his name penciled in at center – and in the cleanup spot – Wednesday. Hitting fourth is not completely foreign territory for Canha, but he’s dipping his toes in new waters defensively.
“I know he’s excited about it,” Melvin said. “He feels like he’s ready for it.”