OAKLAND -- Gabe Gross paused and smiled when asked on Friday about his performance this season, knowing it's rather difficult to judge when playing time with the A's has been sparse and erratic. "I think up and down probably would be a good description," Gross said. "I think I've played really well at times, and there have been other times where I've felt I could have done a lot more, which is probably the attitude of almost every guy in this clubhouse." But Gross isn't like every guy in the clubhouse. He'll be 31 in October and has already played for four teams in seven Major League seasons. Nevertheless, he's been around the block and realizes his recent lack of playing time -- his Thursday start marked his third straight after going 24 games without one -- is partly the result of the A's wanting a look at the younger crowd.
"You've definitely seen that toward the end of the year, but at the same time I guess my job responsibility has been to remain ready, and I feel like I've done that," he said. "I feel like when there were long stretches where I wasn't playing and the opportunity popped up for me to play, I was prepared. The couple times I've been put in following those stretches, I think I've done my job well." Gross, signed by the A's as a free agent to a one-year contract in February, admits he didn't have many expectations heading into the year. He hit .278 with 12 RBIs in 24 Spring Training games and entered the season on the bench following a 2009 season with the Rays that saw him start 71 games while platooning with Gabe Kapler in right field much of the time. He came into Thursday's contest batting .167 (10-for-60) since the All-Star break after hitting .309 over his first 37 games. "I didn't really have any idea what this was going to hold," he said. "I didn't really know exactly the role I was going to play. I knew I wasn't coming into a situation where I was going to really get that chance to play every single day. I didn't know all they had going on. Looking back on it, it's been kind of a wild ride, so to speak. There's been stretches where I've played for a week straight or five days in a row, and then there have been stretches where I haven't played for three weeks at a time." Through it all, Gross admits he thought about the possibility of being moved or designated, but is thankful the club has "obviously kept me here for some reason." Thus, despite his looming free-agent status, he wouldn't mind returning to Oakland again next year. "Definitely," Gross said. "I don't know what's going to happen these last 10 games, but these guys, I think there's a good foundation here to win and contend for the playoffs next year. On top of that, I've enjoyed being around these guys. I kind of have my nose to the ground, trying to keep my head in these last games. But whatever happens in the offseason, I'll just deal with it when it gets here."
To land a spot on the 2011 roster, Gross will have to compete with guys like Chris Carter, Rajai Davis, Ryan Sweeney, Conor Jackson and possibly Coco Crisp, whose option for next season is likely to be picked up.