With just 6 days left until Opening Night, and Brandon McCarthy named 5th starter, I want to remind everyone that the A's might know how they want their roster to look April 10th -- and it might not look that way on April 1st.
Remember last year, when Landon Powell was sent down? He was the "Opening Day" backup catcher but the A's figured they wouldn't need one right away and Powell had an option left. So Jake Fox, who was out of options, served as the emergency backup catcher while the A's bought themselves more time to see Fox, Patterson, Chavez, and to see if an injury might make a decision for them before they needed to make one to get Powell back up.
The A's like to stall decisions as long as possible and for good reason -- injuries often don't announce themselves before they happen and premature decisions are often punished by unforeseen circumstance. How does that affect 2011? ...
This year, note that following their opening series with Seattle the A's have an off-day on Monday, April 4th. As a result they will not need a 5th starter until Sunday, April 10th. This means that the more "final" roster moves around Brandon McCarthy and Tyson Ross, both of whom have options, don't actually need to be made until then.
This creates a domino effect, as the A's could easily keep only 11 pitchers -- 4 starters, 6 short relievers, and either McCarthy or Ross, or even just a true "emergency mop up man" like Cramer or Moscoso -- and could thus keep an extra utility infielder, e.g., Eric Sogard and Andy LaRoche -- until forced on April 10th to make a roster move.
In baseball terms, April 10th is a long way from April 1st. I'm not saying the A's will play the system any different for having that April 4th off day, just that they can -- and historically have used those "buy a week" opportunities liberally to their advantage. So while it may be counter intuitive to think that Brandon McCarthy's status could impact Andy LaRoche's status, it could well be.
It could also well be that the A's try to bolster their short relief for the first 10 days. Remember that the A's enter the season with both Craig Breslow and Michael Wuertz struggling because both got a late start, and are now healthy but not yet effective. Putting Ross in the bullpen would help fortify the pen for the 10 days or so that Wuertz and Breslow have fallen behind pace.
In fact, that's probably how I'd play it if I were the A's. Even though he has won the 5th starter job, I'd open the season with McCarthy making one start at AAA (edit -- unless that would burn an option which would otherwise not be burned; this is unclear at the moment) and Ross in the bullpen to take pressure off of Wuertz and Breslow in the season's first week. On April 10th, I'd call up McCarthy to start and would option Ross to AAA to start every 5th day until needed -- unless one of the relievers got hurt between April 1st and April 10th, in which case you can keep Ross up. That actually makes more sense to me to any other option, and it's probably not the one most of us have considered. All thanks to no game on the season's fourth day.