With only 10 days remaining before A's pitchers and catchers report, plenty of questions surround the green and gold. That much is certain by a filled Inbox this week, although there is always room for more. So send in your questions, and if it's one to which an answer hasn't already been provided elsewhere on oaklandathletics.com, there's a chance it will be selected among the hundreds of queries that come in.
Who do you see as locks as relievers for Opening Day, and who is competing for how many open slots?
-- Mike P., Manhattan, Kan.
With every key member of a bullpen that compiled an American League-best 3.46 ERA last season under club control for 2010, you can expect to see many of the same faces. Manager Bob Geren likes to carry seven relievers, and there's not much guessing who those lucky seven might be, so don't anticipate hearing about any tense relief competition this spring.
That said, expect to see right-handers Andrew Bailey, Michael Wuertz, Brad Ziegler and a recovering Joey Devine join lefties Craig Breslow, Jerry Blevins and Brad Kilby to form one of the league's more enviable units.
As a side note to consider, though, Geren said this week he could possibly use a starting candidate in the bullpen for long relief, so that could come into play and jeopardize a roster spot for Blevins, Kilby or even Devine, who has yet to prove his health since undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. However, the only way I see that happening is if that guy is Gio Gonzalez, for reasons being he has bullpen experience and is a southpaw -- something the A's could use to diversify their relief corps even more.
Maybe I'm out of the loop, but any news on the young pitching phenom Michael Ynoa?
-- Jaime R., Oakland
It's safe to say the A's are taking it slow with the 18-year-old Ynoa, which is understandable considering the $4.25 million signing bonus he was awarded in 2008. You probably haven't heard much about him lately, though, because he was shut down due to elbow soreness last year before he even made his professional debut. That time will hopefully come in a few months after Ynoa participates in Minor League Spring Training and, presumably, extended Spring Training in April. If Ynoa then receives a clean bill of health, he'll get playing time with either the A's Arizona Rookie League team or at Class A Vancouver.
When do you think we can expect to see Chris Carter and Michael Taylor make their big league debuts? Both appear ready, but will they start the year at Triple-A?
-- Trevor H., Reno, Nev.
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I've received some form of this question multiple times, so A's fans need listen carefully, although you'll probably hear a lot more about them once Spring Training commences. The A's brass has made it clear that, while both Carter and Taylor represent large pieces of the club's future, they would ideally like to start the rising duo at Triple-A to not only preserve their Major League service time, but to give them a little more seasoning. The organization also wants to make certain that Carter and Taylor are here to stay once handed their tickets to The Show.
Carter has only 13 games of Triple-A experience under his belt, so the current plan is to give the more experienced, but still unproven, Daric Barton full-time responsibilities at first base in Oakland. Meanwhile, Taylor has played in only 30 games at the Triple-A level, giving the A's no reason to rush him when an already well-stocked defensive outfield is in tow. Thus, the club is interested in evaluating how both will perform with the big boys this spring. Geren, for one, can't wait to see if Taylor is the real deal. The A's skipper has only seen video of the outfielder, but said a couple weeks ago that he looked like "a man among boys."
The A's seem to be placing a strong bet on young Cliff Pennington at shortstop with only another inexperienced backup in Adam Rosales. What do you think is their rationale?
-- Jon D.W., Oakland
If you haven't noticed, the A's are going young in a lot of ways. With Bobby Crosby completely out of the picture now, the club sees great potential in Pennington while 2009 first-round pick Grant Green -- considered the team's shortstop of the future -- gets groomed in the Minors.
Pennington was essentially handed the starting job after Orlando Cabrera was dealt midseason, and he did extremely well under the circumstances, batting .279 while providing aggressive baserunning and other little things that make for good offensive ball -- especially for a team that can't rely on power. His defense was slightly shaky and not even close to perfect, but he displayed a cannon of an arm and turned in some impressive plays. If Pennington can work on his footwork this spring, he could enter the season as an above-average defender.
As for Rosales, the guy has been compared to Eric Byrnes, which should be enough to excite you. Furthermore, he has a career .945 fielding percentage at third base to go along with a perfect record at all other infield positions.
How come the A's didn't get a bigger bat that produces more home runs and RBIs? Why not go after Vladimir Guerrero, Jermaine Dye or Jim Thome?
-- Joseph N., Hayward, Calif.
The A's are simply not interested in taking another stab at a declining performer in his mid- to late-30s. Neither of the above mentioned are cheap, either. The same can be said for the still available Carlos Delgado. I'm guessing this inquiry is somewhat tied to the neverending Jack Cust debate. If you take a look at last year's stats, all three guys in question actually produced similar home run and RBI numbers as Cust.
What can we expect with our infielders this year, and who will start where in the infield?
-- Mikey A., Chicago
You can expect a pretty darn good defense and an average offensive showing from your 2010 infielders. The projected diamond will have Kurt Suzuki behind the plate, Barton at first, Mark Ellis manning second base, Pennington holding down shortstop and the newly acquired Kevin Kouzmanoff at the hot corner. Suzuki and Kouzmanoff are expected to make some noise in the middle of the lineup, and you really never know what to get from the streaky Ellis. The long-tenured second baseman, however, makes up for any offensive weakness with his always consistent glove. As for Barton, he could finally have a breakout year at the plate, but I also thought that last year.
I can't find any mention of a FanFest or Fan Appreciation Day. It seems like every other ballclub is having one, so why not the green and gold?
-- Chris D., Santa Barbara, Calif.
Sorry, Chris, no FanFest for the second year in a row. After hearing from some A's executives on this matter, though, I can tell you that the club is pleased to offer A's fans a preseason treat in the form of a Fan Appreciation Tailgate, which will be held prior to the team's final exhibition game against the Giants on April 3 at the Coliseum.
According to Jim Leahey, vice president of sales and marketing for the A's, the organization wanted to try something new last year. He says the field is not in baseball configuration and there is more risk to weather when holding a FanFest in January. An April event, however, gives fans what he says is a real feeling that the season is launching.
Also taken into consideration was the fact that FanFest was used in part to kick off the A's ticket sales for the upcoming season and they now do a majority of sales online. Furthermore, Leahey is big on value for fans and wants to put an emphasis on the fact that April's event will offer free admission, autographs, photos and the like -- which was not always the case with FanFest.
For more information on April's event, you can click here.
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.