MESA, Ariz. -- Oakland A's outfielder Coco Crisp has struggled mightily with injuries over the last two seasons, but manager Bob Melvin said the 36-year-old is "as healthy as we've seen him the last couple years" prior to Sunday's Cactus League game against the White Sox.
After enjoying a career year in 2013, he suffered a serious neck injury in 2014 and only played 126 games. He followed that up last year by appearing in only 33 contests thanks to elbow surgery (bone chips) as well as a recurrence of the now-chronic neck injury that can only be fully resolved with career-ending surgery. He struggled to a .175 average and .474 OPS in his limited playing time and was visibly hampered.
However, he has looked healthy so far this spring, and Melvin's report backs up that eyeball assertion. Granted, that doesn't mean he looks like his old self -- he's clearly in the decline phase of his career and is no longer showing 100% of the power and speed that he once possessed. But he's made some good plays on both sides of the ball, and so far he's staying healthy enough that he can contribute whatever is still left in the tank.
As for his role on the team in 2016, Melvin had this to say: "(An) everyday role for him right now would probably be a little too much. ... At his age, the prudent thing to do is not run him out there every day."
With so many outfield options, it should be easy to give Coco regular time off. Khris Davis, Billy Burns, Chris Coghlan, and Mark Canha, among others, all figure to get time in either LF or CF, and Sam Fuld is still in the running for a spot as well (with Jake Smolinski, Andrew Lambo, and Tyler Ladendorf seeming likely to open in Triple-A as depth options). One possibility could have Davis, Burns, and Josh Reddick as the regular starters, but with Coco rotating in on something like an every-other-day basis to give Davis and Burns regular rest (with some DH time mixed in for Coco as well). At the beginning of the spring, Joe Stiglich of CSN reported that the team planned to give Burns more off-days this year after the long 2015 season took its toll on his legs. Said Melvin, via Stiglich:
"(Burns) was a little banged up late in the season, and really, the last month he wasn't even in position leg-wise where he could steal," Melvin said. "Nobody knew that. He was banged up and still playing, but he didn't have his legs like early in the season. So it's our job too to give him some time off so we don't get to that point again."
As I was writing this, Coco was removed from Sunday's game after two innings and replaced in center field by Tyler Ladendorf. I don't know if there was a reason for that switch, or if it was pre-planned, but it seems worth noting. Monitoring Coco's health will be a daily task this year even when he looks perfectly fine.
The A's say Coco left the game early for non-medical reasons.— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) March 20, 2016
Since Crisp played 7 innings yesterday, Melvin had plan to just get him 2 AB's today and give him rest of game off. #Athletics— Joe Stiglich (@JoeStiglichCSN) March 20, 2016