I'm shamelessly tacking onto Nico's Spring Training observations, since we were technically at the same games this weekend. I feel like I learned more about the A's in four games than the previous month, and just in case you think Nico and I are at all alike; he did not heckle Kurt Suzuki as he struck out twice in a row with the same loopy swing on the same low pitch, looking for all the world like he thought it would be a swell idea to crack the door for Anthony Recker (and for you veteran AN'ers, when I say that Recker looks good behind the plate, I'm not just talking about baseball, and as a quick Internet search can show, I'm certainly not the only one who thinks so). Congratulations to him for making the team! Before you can send me hate mail, let me clarify; Suzuki calls a hell of a game; no one will be better with the
young new inexperienced pitching staff, but I would certainly like to know where his bat went. Of course, as I say this, I recognize that he finally hit a monster homerun in the last game I saw. I've been down on Suzuki for a season, and I hope I have the opportunity to be wrong in this season.
The other immediate observation was, of course, Chris Carter. I have never seen anyone walk up to an at-bat as dejected as that man. Carter was never going to get a hit, he knows he was never going to get a hit, and his entire body language was screaming for the A's to send him back to Triple-A; where he was optioned after the game. I don't think a sports psychologist is out of the question; Carter is so in his own head, he couldn't hit a Little League pitcher right now. Either get him some help, or have the A's tell him that he is the starting first baseman this year in Triple-A, no matter what, so forget everything else and get up to bat and hit. Stop dragging him up and down between the big leagues and AAA; give him one position, tell him to hit, and he'll be up in the bigs as the starting first baseman next year. Do something or he is seriously going to be out of baseball.
And you know what else? I really, really miss Scott Sizemore.
I mean no offense to Eric Sogard, Josh Donaldson or Adam Rosales, who are all busting their collective asses out on the field every day, but to know that we had a legitimate third baseman, who was probably going to have a career year, is more than a little disheartening. Instead of the "Who's the back-up" contest, we are looking at the "Who doesn't suck at third the most" contest, which isn't nearly as fun. If you are keeping tabs on the final 25-man roster (which will be announced after the Japan trip; the A's have already picked 30 players to travel, and can play 28 of them), it looks like two of the three (Sogard, Donaldson and Rosales) will make the team; one as the third-baseman, and one as the utility infielder. I don't really have a strong preference, but I will say that Adam Rosales has one of the best arms I've ever seen in person. I couldn't believe the cannon he was using; making plays deep in the hole. All three of these infielders (plus Pennington, Weeks and non-roster invitee Wes Timmons) will be going to Japan.
The second position fight is, of course, in the outfield, where Josh Reddick, Yoenis Céspedes, and Coco Crisp seem to have the starting jobs locked up. Seth Smith (who surprisingly, did not look anything like Jack Cust in the outfield) will be kept as a DH/outfielder; leaving Collin Cowgill ("We're 'Moo'ing, not 'Boo'ing") and Jonny Gomes as candidates for bench spots. Gomes mashes lefty pitching over the course of his career, something that our current lineup is lacking, so it would be hard to leave him behind, but no one has had a better Spring Training than Cowgill (he is currently tied for the most hits of any player in MLB this spring), who expects to get on base every at-bat. All six of the outfielders are going to Japan, and if it were up to me, I'd keep both Gomes and Cowgill, even at the expense of only keeping one first baseman. That being said, the only players I saw playing first were Daric Barton, Kila Ka’aihue, and Brandon Allen, so it's almost a sure thing that two will be kept.
Which brings us to the final position contest; who will play first base. I think the A's strength and depth is in the outfield, and not at this position, but due to logistics, I think the A's will likely keep both Barton (who was the only player left off the Japan trip that will likely make the 25 man) and Allen (who started most of the games I saw at first base). I was certainly more impressed with Allen so far this year than last; he had a pretty solid Spring. Even as I say this, though, I mourn Kila's ridiculous homeruns.
As for the A's pitching, I thought Jarrod Parker got squeezed a bit in the second inning of his last outing, which may have led to his control falling apart. I'm still not convinced that he can't be successful in the rotation; I think he has tremendous upside and there isn't much doubt about his stuff. Tyson Ross looked solid in his start and now has 1 ER allowed in his 10 spring innings), and I think he and Tommy Milone will round out the starting 4. The A's won't need a fifth starter until April 17th, so a lot can happen in a month. Did I mention that I love Balfour as the closer? The A's are taking McCarthy, Colon, Ross, and Milone to Japan, with the following relievers: Balfour, Blevins, Carignan, Cook, De Los Santos, Fuentes, Godfrey, Norberto, Schlichting, and Scribner. My best guess is that they will keep the four starters and seven relief pitchers for the actual 25 man roster and add an extra bench player, until the fifth man is needed.
And as a side note, Sonny Gray really, really looks like Tim Hudson when he pitches.