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Oakland A's pitchers and catchers report: Beat writer roundup

The Oakland Athletics are looking for Sonny Gray to be a clubhouse leader by example, Henderson Alvarez is optimistic about when he'll be pitching again, Jarrod Parker still plans on starting, the A's catching situation, Sean Doolittle's new pitch, and more as pitchers and catchers report to, and beat writers report from, spring training in Mesa, Arizona.

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Oakland Athletics pitchers and catchers reported to the club's spring training facility in Mesa, Arizona on Saturday, and so did their beat reporters. First, just the headlines:

Stephen Vogt is on the mend, but A’s short in catching depth | San Francisco Chronicle

Sonny Gray now a mentor for young A's |

Adventures in babysitting with Sonny Gray & Stephen Vogt | Bay Area News Group

Parker takes care-free approach to latest comeback bid | CSN Bay Area

Sean Doolittle is in The Best Shape of His Life | HardballTalk

Face of the A’s franchise Sonny Gray wears it well | Bay Area News Group

Henderson Alvarez could be pitching for A’s sooner than expected | San Francisco Chronicle

A's Sean Doolittle working on new pitch |

Notes: Role of franchise star doesn’t come naturally for Gray | CSN Bay Area

Sonny Gray, face of the A's

Both John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group and Jane Lee of headlined their first day of reporting from A's spring training with quotes from players and Bob Melvin about Sonny Gray's leadership qualities. Jesse Hahn lauded Gray in Hickey's story, "He's very humble, but he carries himself well, and has good chemistry with everybody. He just gets it."

While Gray is a clubhouse leader by example, Bob Melvin wouldn't call him an enforcer. Jane Lee quotes Melvin, "That's not really his style. His style is just being more himself and keeping everyone loose and still being that guy you can kind of rib and joke with a little bit."

Henderson Alvarez very optimistic about his return

As baseball players are wont to do, Henderson Alvarez is extremely optimistic about when he'll be able to return from shoulder surgery, he tells the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser. While the A's front office has targeted an early June return date, Alvarez "believes that he could be throwing in games in April. He'll need a number of starts in the minors, of course; still, that means a potential May debut for Henderson with the A's." Slusser reported that Henderson threw from 135 feet on Friday.

Jarrod Parker still plans on starting

Coming off last year's broken elbow incurred while he was rehabbing from his second Tommy John Surgery, there are undoubtedly questions about whether Jarrod Parker would be a starting pitcher ever again. He recognizes the hurdles, and CSN California's Joe Stiglich dove into Parker's work routine as he tries to get back to starting.

"Physically I feel close," Parker said after taking his physical at Hohokam Stadium. "I finished a rehab throwing program toward the middle of November. I came in and prepared as if normal, which is what it is finally. So I'm happy about that."

Manager Bob Melvin says that Parker is "a full go" and they'll stretch him out slowly to start.

A's catching depth is short, but so is every other team's

The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser checks in with Stephen Vogt, who is coming off arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow. He took dry swings today and was catching bullpens in camp, though he had someone else throw the ball back for him. Bob Melvin says he'll be in games in the second week of March.

Slusser also ponders Oakland's catching depth situation, a topic Nico got into earlier this week. With just two catchers on the 40-man roster, and the A's trading away Jacob Nottingham (though he's only played up to High-A so far), are they in a bad situation? One AL executive Slusser spoke to says yes, but so does every other team:

"The state of catching in the whole industry is scary," one AL executive said. "It's unbelievable how few good catchers there are, everyone is concerned. Is Oakland in trouble? Sure they are. Is every else? Yes. It's not unique."

Doolittle learns split-changeup from Doolittle's Jane Lee says Sean Doolittle is trying to duplicate his brother Ryan's split-changeup. He threw it four times against the Seattle Mariners, he says, though I suspect he didn't quite have the grip right on one of those four:

Ryan is a non-roster invitee to camp with the A's after re-signing following a good Double-A campaign.

This and that

There's a lot of overlapping news and notes between beat writers HickeyLeeSlusser, and Stiglich:

  • Sonny Gray is in camp around 187 pounds, or five pounds heavier than last year, in an effort to improve his full-year stamina so as to not fade in September. He actually was a more muscular 205 in college, according to John Hickey. Hickey also said Gray spent part of Saturday trying on pants.

  • Gray will throw bullpens for the first week of games instead of appear in them, like last year.

  • Top pitching prospect Sean Manaea will probably make a start during one of Oakland's split-squad days. Oakland's first split-squad day will be on March 4, their other one is March 19.

  • Stephen Vogt eagerly accepted babysitting duties for Sonny Gray's son, Gunnar, when Sonny went out for Valentine's Day.

  • Marcus Semien was working hard with Ron Washington on defense again. "Watch him this year. He's going to be special," Washington said, according to Hickey.

  • Hickey reports other early position player arrivals included Danny Valencia, Marcus Semien, Mark Canha, Billy Burns, Jake Smolinski, Andrew Lambo, and Billy Butler.