Now that recently-signed catcher Joel Galarraga has reported to Papago Park, the A's 2009 Spring Training contingent is now complete. With intra-squad games beginning on Tuesday and the Cactus League beginning of Wednesday, the battles for the few unsecured 25-man roster spots are just about beginning as we speak. Here's a brief rundown of the roster battles as I currently see them:
# 5 Starter: The first four spots in the 2009 rotation are all but secured for Duke, Eveland, Gallagher and Braden. Club officials and media reports indicate that lefties Gio Gonzalez and Josh Outman, non-roster righties Jerome Williams and Edgar Gonzalez and the MAC (Mazzaro, Anderson CAhill) will battle for the open number 5 slot. I predict that Gio will win the battle (based on upside and hopefully signs of maturity from the excitable guy), Outman will go back to AAA and Jerome and Edgar will join him there as long relievers/spot starters that could get some major league action if the typically health-challenged A's pitching staff breaks down at some point early in the season. The MAC will continue develop as starters in AAA rotation and hopefully won't be rushed to the majors.
5th Outfielder: We've talked on the site about the battle a-brewin' between Chris Denorfia and Rajai Davis for the 5th outfielder spot. I've waffled quite a bit myself about whom I'd rather see on the roster. At first, I gave the clear edge to Denorfia, because, after all, they guy has a track record of being able to hit for a little average and power and play a decent centerfield, while Rajai seems to have a very limited skill set. However, I'm starting to come around on the Rajai bandwagon. The guy's speed really is a difference maker both on the basepaths and in center field and I think with a whole off-season and Spring with one organization that values him, he might be able to tinker his swing a bit and become somewhat productive at the plate, at least against lefties. He's also out of options while Denorfia has one left (if I believe correctly) so I'm thinking Raj stays and Chris goes...unless, of course, Denorifa leads Team Italy to Wolrd Baseball Classic glory...
Backup Infielder(s): Recent indications are that the the A's are in "serious talks" about bringing in Nomar as a backup 1st baseman/3rd baseman. If that deal were to go through, then I anticipate that Jack Hannahan, Joe Dillon and Daric Barton would all be Sacramento-bound. While Nomar can "play" shortstop as well, the team would obviously need a backup middle-infielder to pair with Nomar due to the health concerns of Mark Ellis and the general ineffectivenenss/uncertainty of Bobby Crosby. With no O-Cab signing imminent, that leaves Cliff Pennington and Gregorio Petit as the viable choices for the middle-infield backup. Since the A's don't like Petit for some reason, Pennington would probably get the nod there...
Lefty Reliever: The A's are reportedly still in the running for Dennys Reyes, still continue to monitor Andrew Sisco for a possible minor league deal and Buster Olney recently quipped that Mark Mulder, when ready, would quite possibly like to reunite with the A's at some point this season. I believe that one of those three, most likely Reyes at this point, is likely to break camp with A's and fill-out the major league bullpen. If for some reason all three of those possibilities fall through, then I could see Josh Outman get a long early-season look in the major league bullpen.
Backup Catcher: Rob Bowen would appear to have this job all but locked-up. However, since he is a guy with a non-guaranteed contract, there is some chance that he could be released if someone really gave him a run for his money this Spring. Despite his numerous health problems, the team continues to have faith in former 1st round pick Landon Powell. The switch-hitting slugger reportedly came to camp in good shape and has always had the tools to be an asset behind the plate (provided he stays healthy). Recently signed Joel Galarraga is also thought of highly in the organization and might be major-league ready, at least with the bat, right now. It might be folly to bet on Powell with his health history, but I think it's a definite, but not highly probable, possibility that he beats out Bowen and claims the backup catcher job from him.
Any other battles worth mentioning out there...?