What's the plan for Travis Blackley? He was tremendous last year without really getting much attention. Will he start the year in the bullpen, or could we see him in the rotation again? Also, are you surprised the A's didn't go after more veteran pitchers?
-- Dennis G., Novato, Calif.
If all goes as planned in camp for the A's, they'll insert Blackley into the bullpen as a long-relief option and have him on speed dial for a spot start. His work did not go unnoticed by them last year, and he really proved to be one of their most valuable assets, with the ability to assume relief or starting duties -- he can stretch out quicker than most pitchers -- whenever asked.
As for your second question, I get it a lot, and I really can't say I'm surprised that the A's will enter camp without any more veteran starters than they already have -- a number that stands at one, with Bartolo Colon. There's simply no room for another, with Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone expected to steer the front end of the rotation with Colon, while A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily give them options in the fifth spot, and Blackley awaits in the bullpen as a swingman. Moreover, Sonny Gray will eagerly be awaiting a call at Triple-A. If I'm a veteran starter, I don't necessarily want to go to a place like Oakland, where I'll have to fight to make the team.
I didn't see Brett Anderson at FanFest. Is he still in our starting rotation, or is there an injury that will keep him from being ready at the start of Spring Training?
-- K. Hannaford, Sacramento, Calif.
Anderson wasn't at FanFest because he had a prior commitment. He's very much healthy and won't be on an innings limit in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, according to manager Bob Melvin.
Where will Michael Choice start the season? I know it's already a crowded outfield in Oakland, but do you think we could see him get the callup this year?
-- Brendan M., Fair Oaks, Calif.
Choice will likely start the year at Triple-A Sacramento, and I believe that's where he'll stay the entire season, without getting a callup. I only say this because the outfielder has been prone to slow starts and odds are he'll experience another. Consider that he'll not only be coming back from a lengthy layoff after suffering a broken hand in July, but also that he'll be forced to make a handful of adjustments at a new level. Hopefully he can put things together quickly, though, and force his way into the A's thoughts for 2014.
Does Daric Barton make the team, or have we seen the last of him?
-- Marc S., San Jose, Calif.
Barton has his work cut out for him in order to earn a roster spot, and with Brandon Moss standing in the way, it seems highly unlikely it will happen. Melvin, like most managers, constantly preaches that players make their own chances. While Barton will certainly be given a long look in camp, he really won't be considered for the Opening Day roster unless Moss is injured or regresses significantly. The A's can't keep three first basemen on their roster, and though Barton is the strongest defender of the bunch, his offensive skills are utterly overmatched. The case for Barton is also hurt by the fact his deal isn't guaranteed, meaning the A's could let him go during camp and only be responsible for a portion of his contract.