Day 4: Who’s your utility guy?

rosales.jpgIt’s not fun being Adam Rosales these days. The normally energetic infielder has been hopping around on crutches off and on for much of the last five months. He was able to rid himself of the crutches when he visited the doctor on Thursday, but he’s still stuck in a walking boot for at least another two weeks. At what point thereafter he can begin baseball activity is unknown, but the A’s aren’t rushing him. That much was made clear when Bob Geren announced this morning that Rosales is unlikely to return before May 1. That leaves the club without a backup infielder for at least the first month of the season, so they’ll be looking at a variety of candidates to fill that role this spring.

Geren said “everyone” is a candidate, but we all know that doesn’t mean Chris Carter or Landon Powell will be filling in at shortstop or second base come April. The main candidates at this point appear to be familiar faces Eric Sogard and Steve Tolleson, along with newcomer Andy LaRoche and highly regarded Double A prospect Josh Horton. Top prospect Grant Green is sure to demand some attention from fans for the spot as well, but the A’s would like to start him in the Minors again this year so as to allow him time to continue improving defensively.

Geren mentioned Sogard, Tolleson and LaRoche will see the majority of action at shortstop this spring while Cliff Pennington, still recovering from left shoulder surgery, continues to rehab. Even when Pennington is in the mix, as he’s expected to be the second week of games, he won’t play every day so as not to push himself. In temporarily replacing Rosales, it seems the A’s would prefer a player with a good presence at shortstop considering Pennington’s status as a player coming off surgery. If the A’s choose to keep Horton in the Minors, it would seem Tolleson has the upper hand given the fact he’s not only spent more time at shortstop than any other position at Triple-A Sacramento, but he can play other infield positions as well. Sogard, on the other hand, gets rave reviews from Geren and Co. but is primarily a second baseman. And LaRoche, once a bigtime prospect, has seen most of his time come at third base.

Though this battle won’t get much attention as the fifth starter fight, it’s one worth watching, especially in the event Pennington isn’t geared to go come Opening Day. The A’s are fully expecting him to be ready, but there’s no health guarantees with anyone here.
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Among those to throw bullpens today were Josh Outman, Tyson Ross and Trevor Cahill. Geren was very impressed with Outman’s showing, and he noted that Ross demonstrated a “real good changeup.” Cahill, meanwhile, “obviously looked good,” he said.

Also around camp, Coco Crisp, Conor Jackson and Adrian Cardenas showed up today. (“Coco, of course, came with zero percent body fat,” Geren said with a smile.) Hideki Matsui was in the area, but he didn’t make it out to the ballpark. His father, Masao Matsui, was present here at Phoenix Muni, though. He met Geren and Kurt Suzuki, who said he didn’t realize it was Hideki’s father until mid-conversation. “He’s a really nice guy,” Suzuki said. There’s a possibility Matsui could be in camp tomorrow, though he could also wait until Sunday when all position players are expected to report.

One final note: Geren said he definitely considers the backup catching job to be open for competition. Landon Powell is seemingly the front runner because of past experience, but keep an eye out for Josh Donaldson, who enjoyed his first taste of the big leagues last season.

Rain is expected tomorrow, but that won’t stop Day 5 of camp to continue as planned… 

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