PHOENIX -- Nearly a month after sustaining a lower back strain, A's outfielder Craig Gentry was finally cleared for all baseball activity Monday morning. Still, the club is unsure whether it will have him for Opening Day in two weeks.
It's likely the A's will ease Gentry into game action by playing him in a simulated game before a Cactus League game. Either way, he won't get much more than a week's worth of at-bats, whereas most of his teammates have seen live pitching for almost three weeks.
As a part-time player, Gentry doesn't necessarily need a full complement of at-bats, but keeping him on the disabled list for at least the first week of the season could be beneficial. Notably, this would allow the A's to put Sam Fuld on their Opening Day roster.
Fuld has an opt-out date of March 31, and the A's don't want to lose him. He entered the day batting .282 with a .349 on-base percentage in 14 games this spring.
Then there's Gentry's competition: Michael Taylor, who is out of options and hitting .310 with a .396 on-base percentage and three home runs. If he's not traded by spring's end, the A's would most certainly lose him on waivers.
"Obviously, both of them sense the situation," said manager Bob Melvin. "Now, Sam signed here for a reason and saw the potential numbers leading up into it, so we were lucky to get him, and we're always looking for depth. I know he has an out at the end of spring, so he came here for a reason but also has some options potentially.
"Taylor, as well, being out of options, now it's all about showing what you got and letting the numbers take care of themselves. For Sam, it's a little bit different. There are a lot of things that come into play -- Michael's option, Sam's out, then who can potentially play off the bench, what pitchers we're going to see early in the season."
Despite Taylor's impressive spring performance, Fuld has the edge, given his experience in a part-time role. Taylor, in contrast, has typically only succeeded when playing every day. Fuld can play all three outfield positions; Taylor only plays the corners. And it's center field, where Gentry excels, that's most important to the A's, who are looking to rest Coco Crisp's legs this year.
The A's are expected to carry only four outfielders, so Gentry's progress in the next week will ultimately decide Fuld's and Taylor's futures.