A'S ROSTER BREAKDOWN
The A's rotation got better after Colon was suspended Aug. 22, and after Brandon McCarthy was knocked out by a concussion Sept. 5. Parker, Milone, Anderson, Griffin and Straily went 20-5 from Aug. 16 until the end of the season. Even so, one of those five likely will have to make room for Colon, whose suspension is up after the first five games in April. Regardless, the A's rotation is solid. And in the background, ready if needed, is LHP Travis Blackley, who can start but figures to be the long man in the bullpen at season's start.
The A's enter the spring figuring if they can get the same production from the bullpen that they got last year, they'll be in excellent shape. Balfour had 24 saves and 15 holds, and Cook had 14 saves and 21 holds. It's a bullpen with power and finesse, and it's young enough to believe a repeat is possible.
The A's have had a complete makeover behind the plate in the last eight months. Norris was the regular after coming up in June, and the A's pitchers adapted well to him. Jaso was the surprise of Seattle last season, donating as many clutch at-bats to the Mariners' cause as anyone. But he was squeezed out over the winter by roster pressures, and his arrival in Oakland means he and Norris could make a good left-right platoon. Third baseman Josh Donaldson has experience behind the plate and could fit there if needed.
Moss has first base to himself with the trade of Chris Carter. Donaldson has only 71 big league games at third, but the A's like what they saw of him enough that he's the heavy favorite to come out of spring training as the starter. The real battles will be at the middle infield positions. Nakajima was signed out of Japan, where he was a career .300 hitter with moderate power, to be the starting shortstop. But the late addition of Lowrie, the starter with the Astros for the first half of the 2012 season, means Nakajima will be pushed. At second base, Weeks lost his job last year at midseason but seems primed for a comeback. Sizemore missed all of 2012 with injuries but is ready now.
Things are more and less settled this spring. Cespedes is the left fielder, and Crisp is the center fielder. But the addition of Young could push Crisp out of center as the season moves along. Reddick is a fixture in right. With an open DH spot, all five figure to get their opportunities.
-- JOHN HICKEY