Gentry joins Crisp to yield speedy A's club

Gentry joins Crisp to yield speedy A's club

PHOENIX -- With additional speed on his versatile roster following the offseason acquisition of Craig Gentry, A's manager Bob Melvin expects to use the running game more this year.

"Potentially, yeah. Obviously with Gentry here, that's a different dynamic," Melvin said Wednesday. "[Nick] Punto can run a bit, too. You may even see some more hit-and-runs this year with some of the players we have."

Gentry stole 55 bases in 65 attempts in just 292 games for the Rangers in a part-time role the past three years, one of several reasons the A's were glad to get him out of Texas.

"He's fearless like Coco [Crisp]," Melvin said. "He has a good idea of when to go, knows the pitchers, studies their moves, all those things that allow him to be confident once he gets in the game. And usually that kind of confidence stems from someone who plays every day, but he prepares himself as such that he's ready for any portion of the game, or any time you need him."

Crisp remains just as important to these plans. Oakland's leadoff man said when agreeing to a two-year extension at the beginning of the month that his legs were healthier this year and he expected to swipe more bags after totaling only 21 in 2013. That was his lowest mark since 2009, when he stole 13 bases with Kansas City.

From 2010-12, Crisp went 120-for-136 in stolen base attempts, allowing the A's to rely greatly on the running game. Last year, they ranked near the bottom third of teams in stolen bases with 74 and 11th in the American League. In turn, they relied on power and still finished third in the AL in runs scored (767).

Having both in play will only further generate offensive output, of course.

Crisp and Gentry, Melvin said, could be put to the test this spring by outfield prospect Billy Burns. The 5-foot-9 speedster, acquired from the Nationals for lefty Jerry Blevins, compiled 74 stolen bases in 81 tries in the Minors last year. He has 125 steals over three professional seasons and has been caught just 17 times.

"He's about as fast as you get," Melvin said. "I think we could have a nice little foot race. We've got some guys that'll be fun to watch on the bases."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.