A’s forced to make tough roster decisions
First baseman Daric Barton and outfielder Sam Fuld have made the A’s Opening Day roster. Catcher Stephen Vogt will begin the season at Triple-A Sacramento, and Michael Taylor, one of the club’s former top prospects, was designated for assignment.
Those were just a handful of announcements made Saturday my manager Bob Melvin, who has also elected to start the season with a bullpen that will include lefties Drew Pomeranz and Fernando Abad and right-hander Evan Scribner. His other four relievers — Jim Johnson, Sean Doolittle, Luke Gregerson, Dan Otero — were already locks.
As expected, righty Ryan Cook (shoulder) will begin the season on the disabled list, as will outfielder Craig Gentry (back). Both are expected to be back when eligible April 5.
Lefty Joe Savery, who was in battle for a bullpen spot, will pitch in relief for Sacramento.
“Certain times you look at Spring Training numbers and sometimes you don’t, and when you’re competing for jobs you do,” said Melvin. “Pomeranz and Abad had terrific springs, and we do need the length option. We feel like Pomeranz and Scribner give us that, and Abad gives us that lefty matchup we were looking for, and deservingly so.”
Melvin’s most difficult conversation Saturday came with Vogt, who hit .364 with three homers this spring, after enjoying a breakout stint with the A’s last year and collecting the walk-off hit in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.
The A’s very much expect Vogt back in the big leagues this year, but they’ve opted to begin the year with only two catchers — Derek Norris and John Jaso — to ensure roster room for Barton, who will be entering his eighth season in Oakland.
Barton will start at first base against most right-handers, while the A’s other left handed-hitting first baseman, Brandon Moss, sees more time at designated hitter. Alberto Callaspo will start at first base against lefties.
“I went about my business all spring as if I was going to make the team,” said an emotional Vogt. “Obviously you never want to believe it until it happens. I believe in myself and I know at some point this year I’ll be back to help. It’s still a tough day to get that news.
“This is such a great team, a fun team, and it’s just hard to not necessarily be a physical part of it at the beginning of the year. I think that’s the hardest part for me. I love these guys.”
“That was maybe the most difficult one I’ve had to do,” said Melvin. “Not only what he’s meant to this team in the time he’s been here, but he comes into spring trying to make the team and proving he belongs here and he did. That’s a tough one on everybody, not only myself but the front office, the coaches, certainly him. Now, is he going to be here at some point in time this year? I don’t see how he can’t be.”
Emotions also ran high for Taylor, who spent four years in the organization, the bulk of it at Triple-A. He hit just .135 in 74 at-bats at the big league level but excelled this spring, batting .274 with three home runs.
“I’m obviously a little sad because I’ll be missing some of the guys I’ve grown up with in this game,” said Taylor. “I know they’ll have a great season. Now, for me, it’s just seeing what the next step is for me and my family.
“I think I have a lot to offer as a player. It didn’t really come out here at the big league level. I’ll just continue to work hard and hopefully, at some point, I get the opportunity to break through and stick.”
The A’s have 10 days to trade, release or pass Taylor through waivers to keep him in the system, though that’s not likely to happen, with outside interest thought to be high for the outfielder.
“I can’t imagine that it’s not better than it’s ever been for him,” said Melvin. “When you’re getting as much playing time as he had, all the big league scouts are watching at that particular time, and he really impressed and performed well, not only offensively, but defensively. As an organization, certainly we’d like to keep him. But as a human being, you want the best to happen for him.”
For Fuld, his place on the A’s roster could be a temporary one, since Gentry is anticipated back during the team’s first homestand. But considering he had an opt-out date March 26, the A’s are fortunate to ensure more time with him.
Fuld can play all three outfield spots “plus-plus,” said Melvin, and “deserved to make the team,” after batting .271 with six extra-base hits, including four triples, this spring.
“Obviously I’m really excited,” Fuld said. “All you can ask for when you come into a situation like I did is an opportunity, and I got a good opportunity to play, and I’m generally pretty happy with how I played.
“This is an easy place to feel comfortable. It seems like whether you’re Josh Donaldson or the 25th man, everybody has a role here. I feel like everyone is going to have an opportunity to contribute, and that’s great.”
Speedster Billy Burns, acquired in the offseason from Washington for lefty Jerry Blevins, will begin the season at Double-A Midland, according to Melvin, after totaling a team-high 22 hits in 72 spring at-bats.
“He was very appreciative of the opportunity, and from what we’ve seen,” said Melvin, “he’ll be a big leaguer at some point, I believe.”