Mailbag: Is it Opening Day yet?

Mailbag: Can Opening Day come sooner?

What, at this point, would you say is the strength of the team?
-- Richard H., Vallejo, Calif.

The bullpen. It's looked extremely strong all spring, and that includes a handful of prospects. If there's one area in which the A's are particularly well-equipped to weather an injury, it's the bullpen. There's a great mix of power and finesse, and closer Huston Street looks as sharp as I've seen him since the end of his rookie year.

How many open roster spots are there right now?
-- Frank M., Calabasas, Calif.

There's one in the bullpen, because the A's are going to carry 12 pitchers early in the season. And if Bobby Kielty isn't ready for Opening Day, there's a spot in the outfield to be had. If Kielty is ready, the bench will consist of Kielty, Marco Scutaro (assuming Bobby Crosby is ready), Adam Melhuse and Antonio Perez.

Shouldn't the A's be more concerned than they seem to be about Joe Kennedy's awful spring? And who would get the call if they dumped him from the rotation?
-- Samuel T., Pleasanton, Calif.

I think they are, whether they say it or not, and Kennedy knows it. He's got three starts left this spring, and if he doesn't turn things around fairly dramatically, he's going to have an awfully short leash come the regular season. Brad Halsey appears to be next in line, but he hasn't been very good, either. Jason Windsor, though, is making a strong case for himself. My guess is that Windsor would get the first crack at it if Kennedy falters.

It looks like Jason Kendall is going to be leading off again this year. Why not Shannon Stewart?
-- Diana J., Oakland

Manager Bob Geren is an if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it kind of guy, and the offense did very well after Kendall reclaimed the leadoff spot last season. Stewart will bat second, and that makes more sense than Kendall hitting there because Stewart has more pop.

Who will lead the team in home runs this year, and why?
-- Jeff N., Honolulu

My pick is Eric Chavez, and he's my pick for one simple reason: He has the most power. I say this is the year he tops 40.

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I loved the Q&A with A's owner Lew Wolff, but he seemed pretty vague on the Fremont deal. Do you think it'll happen?
-- Kenneth C., San Leandro, Calif.

He was a little vague, but I think at this point he has to be. So much red tape must be cut before the new stadium becomes a reality, and as a veteran businessman, he knows not to promise too much too soon in case the deal falls through. I do think it's going to happen, though. Whether it came through in print or not, I'm not sure, but he struck me as very, very confident about it.

What's gotten into Antonio Perez? He couldn't hit a lick last year, and now he's a Cactus League All-Star.
-- Carlos M., Fremont, Calif.

He's getting regular at-bats. He didn't get that last year during the regular season. It's not easy to sit for six or seven days, then jump in and produce. But Perez is a good hitter. If Geren figures out a way to get him in the lineup -- his willingness to play outfield will help -- a couple of times a week, I'm thinking he'll be a lot better than he was last season.

Who is the best player that won't make the team?
-- Betty K., Capitola, Calif.

Tie between Travis Buck and Daric Barton. Studs, both. You'll see them sooner rather than later.

If Rich Harden makes at least 32 starts this year, how many games do you think he'll win?
-- Ricardo G., Livermore, Calif.

Spring Training
News and features:
• Loaiza on being healthy:  350K
• Young on Harden's spring:  350K
• Huston Street on A's bullpen:  350K
• Crosby close to game action:  350K
• Stewart ready to play every day:  350K
Spring Training info: coverage  |  Schedule  |  Ballpark  |  Tickets

Tough question to answer. Defense, run support and the bullpen play so heavily into whether a pitcher wins or loses. But I'll go with 19. And he'll only lose seven, and his ERA will be under 3.00.

Jay Witasick looks sweet so far. Can he keep it up?
-- Alex R., Seattle, Wash.

When Witasick is getting ahead of hitters, as he's been doing here, he can dominate. That's the key for him. Some guys can get away with pitching from behind in the count, but he can't -- his fastball doesn't move much, and if a good hitter is looking for it, he'll rake it. If he can keep throwing early strikes and his ankle stays healthy, he'll have a very good year.

What's your favorite part of Spring Training?
-- Mitch S., Humboldt, Calif.

The end of it. I'm with Kendall: It could easily be two weeks shorter. Other than that, batting practice is the best. It's the best players in the world taking their hacks in a completely stress-free environment, and it's when they seem to be having the most fun. Very cool to stand off to the side of the cage and soak that in.

Mychael Urban is a national writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.