What happens to the bullpen? There are not nearly enough spots for everyone in camp competing for a job, and I'm curious to see what they decide to do.
-- John S., Sacramento, Calif.
This is by far the trickiest situation for the A's this spring. As difficult as the second-base decision seems, this trumps that, not only because of the sheer volume of pitchers fighting for a bullpen job, but also because many of them are out of options, which could force the club to leave certain guys off the roster who would maybe otherwise be locks in favor of those without options.
First, let's look at the so-called locks. Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle, in my opinion, are the only three that fall into this category. It's likely, then, that the four who are out of options -- Jerry Blevins, Travis Blackley, Pat Neshek and Chris Resop -- round out the relief corps. So that leaves Jordan Norberto, Evan Scribner, Fernando Rodriguez, Pedro Figueroa, Jesse Chavez and Andrew Werner out of the mix. Many of them made significant contributions to the club's run last year, particularly Norberto and Scribner, but having options left puts them at a disadvantage at this time.
Perhaps all of this doesn't sound as difficult as I projected, but then you bring non-roster veteran Hideki Okajima into the picture, and things suddenly get complicated. Okajima could be a strong piece, but allowing him to be means letting go one of the pitchers who are out of options. Resop is here to stay, and I would think Blevins is, too. Blackley is seemingly too versatile to let go, and Neshek is too good against right-handers to release. So perhaps keeping Okajima in the Minors, at least to start the year, is the best option. Then the club can let things play out with the other pieces.
How do you see the second-base competition ending? Can they keep both Jemile Weeks and Scott Sizemore on the roster and let it continue to play out into the regular season?
-- Nick B., Danville, Calif.
As much as the A's might want to keep both, as you suggested, they really don't have enough roster spots. I see them carrying both Jed Lowrie and Adam Rosales as extra-infielder types, so it seems likely that either Weeks or Sizemore will have to start the year at Triple-A. That being said, it's hard to say whether one has an edge, because the sample size is so small and the time left in camp so long. How each of them comes back from injury -- Weeks is dealing with a shoulder bone bruise, and Sizemore has a bone bruise in his hand -- and performs over the next three weeks will be pivotal to the club's decision.
Will the A's carry two first basemen? If so, does that mean Daric Barton really has a chance to make the team?
-- John L., Walnut Creek, Calif.
I don't foresee them carrying two true first basemen. Brandon Moss will make the roster, but they don't need Barton taking up a spot when both of their extra infielders, Lowrie and Rosales, can play first base. That's one of the main reasons you keep both of them on the roster. They can play all four infield positions well. Barton, unfortunately, is likely to be an odd man out no matter how well he keeps performing in camp. And, really, given everything he's been through in the past few years with this organization, it might be best for everyone involved if he seeks a fresh start and a new opportunity elsewhere.
Is there any way Michael Choice or Shane Peterson make the team out of camp? They've been our best hitters, and they're clearly ready to play in the big leagues.
-- Garrett W., Woodland Hills, Calif.
There's no denying the big impressions these two are making in camp, but there's no way either makes the roster out of camp, unless there are injuries to the crowded outfield. The A's have five proven outfielders -- Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Chris Young, Seth Smith -- on board, so Choice and Peterson will have to wait their turn, no matter how many more hits they keep tallying. The A's also want them to continue seeing at-bats at the Triple-A level. They both need to face better pitching for longer periods of time before they get called up. Still, I wouldn't rule out a promotion for either of them this year.
It seems like John Jaso has appeared in more games than Derek Norris this spring. Is this a sign of what's to come when the regular season starts?
-- Brent M., Turlock, Calif.
Not necessarily. Jaso's picked up slightly more at-bats, I'd say, because the A's are trying to give him every opportunity to acclimate to a new staff, one Norris already knows well. Once the regular season begins, I'd think their playing time will be determined by the opposing pitcher, as expected. Jaso will mostly face righties and Norris will start a lot against lefties.