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No minor goal: Montz looks to stick with A's

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- The A's have made a habit out of collecting former Nationals catchers.

First they reeled in Derek Norris in the Gio Gonzalez deal and got another in non-roster invitee, David Freitas, when trading Kurt Suzuki to Washington. Then, in November, the A's agreed to a Minor League contract with backstop Luke Montz, who spent seven years in the Nationals' organization before latching on to the Mets for a year in 2010.

Montz has 10 professional seasons under his belt but only 10 Major League appearances, all with Washington back in 2008. He'll be 30 in July, his expiration date in the baseball realm seemingly around the corner should he remain in the Minors.

But a good showing in camp this spring should set Montz up for a potential big league opportunity in Oakland this year, with manager Bob Melvin deeming him the "priority" among third-catcher types. Should anything to happen to John Jaso or Derek Norris, Montz will get the first call.

"He's the next option behind those two," Melvin said. "You look at his numbers, he swings the bat pretty well and has some power. You know we like power around here."

Montz collected 29 home runs and 74 RBIs at Triple-A New Orleans in the Miami organization last year, after hitting 22 homers with 78 RBIs at Double-A Jacksonville the year before. Overall, he's a career .237 hitter with 139 home runs and 523 RBIs in 925 Minor League games between three different organizations.

He hasn't been behind the plate for all of them, though. Montz can also play first base, where he actually spent more time in 2012 with 52 starts, next to 40 at catcher, four in left field and 11 as a designated hitter. But catcher will be his primary position with the A's, who don't have much catching depth at the higher levels in the Minors.

Catchers Freitas, Ryan Ortiz and Beau Taylor, also in camp as non-roster players, have never played above Double-A, like Montz has.

"He's looked pretty good," Melvin said. "It's tough to tell in drills but he seems to catch the ball well, works very well with the pitchers and is in constant communication with them. He takes that part very seriously. He'll get quite a bit of playing time this camp."

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