The Oakland A's may only be five games into MLB's 2014 spring training, but they've already provided plenty of excitement.
The team as a whole has three wins, one loss and a tie. Two of those three wins came at the hands of Bay Area rival San Francisco Giants. When it's all said and done, they'll play 29 more games including several split-squad games.
Only five players have played in all five games—none of which are starters. They include Michael Taylor, Billy Burns, Chris Gimenez, Shane Peterson and Addison Russell. Burns is hitting .308 so far while the rest are hitting at or below the Mendoza Line.
While those guys might not be uber exciting yet, the following have had a great week.
Again, it's early, but Derek Norris is showing some power already. He's 2-for-5, which is made up of one double and the only home run A's hitters have produced so far. That gives him a slugging percentage of 1.200 and an OPS of 1.600. Additionally, he's driven in two runs.
His home run couldn't have come at a better time, either.
Perhaps more head-turning than his play, Norris' beard and mullet combo has garnered plenty of talk of its own.
Used as a long reliever out of the bullpen in 2013, Jesse Chavez had the honor of starting the first spring training game of the 2014 season. At this point, he's started two games, the only A's pitcher to do so by this point and, obviously, has pitched more innings than any other pitcher—double the next guy.
But he's not mentioned just because of mere quantity. His pitching has been impressive as well.
In 4.2 innings, Chavez has allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out three batters. It's "just spring training," but Chavez should feel pretty good not allowing any runs and a couple of hits while other more notable starters such as Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone have had rocky beginnings.
Here's a glimpse of both of Chavez's starts in chronological order:
Norris' counterpart sure is making a case to receive the better end of a platoon. If things go as they did a season ago, Norris would see about 100 games behind the plate while Stephen Vogt (or John Jaso) would call the remaining 62. But if Vogt continues his phenomenal spring, that could change.
After one week, Vogt leads the team in batting average at .571 (4-for-7).
While Yoenis Cespedes is the Athletics' RBI leader at five, Vogt shares second place with Jed Lowrie at three. What's more impressive is one of Vogt's four hits is a triple. Read that again: Vogt hit a triple.
Vogt told 95.7 The Game's Guy Haberman and John Middlekauff "there's definitely a little more expectation on my own part for myself this year." Though he acknowledged the competition and a desire to win the job, he said all A's catchers have the same goal: for the team to win the World Series.
The talk of A's spring training so far has been all about Josh Reddick's amazing game against the Giants in which he robbed Michael Morse of a home run—twice. It evoked a pretty positive response from fans:
If you haven't seen the Reddick catches, here they are:
Now, if you don't like that, then you don't like Major League Baseball.
But we knew Reddick plays Gold Glove defense. It's his hitting that most were concerned about heading into spring. Well, worry no more; he's healthy and hitting. Reddick is 3-for-7 with a double and one RBI in three games thus far.
Reddick told MLB.com's Jane Lee:
I still don't blame everything on [the wrist injury]. There were times my confidence was so low I went up to the plate wondering how the heck I was even going to touch the baseball. There were a lot of things going on—injury, mental strength. You can't really separate them because it's all kind of connected in some way.
Now he's rested, he's coming off successful surgery on the wrist and he's hitting well in the first five games of spring training. His health has returned—his confidence should follow.
The right fielder is all but guaranteed a spot in the starting lineup, but the others don't know for certain what their role will be. Norris and Vogt may platoon again, especially if Vogt continues to hit as he is. But Vogt may very well earn manager Bob Melvin's higher vote of confidence when it comes to who gets more time behind the plate.
Now it also looks as if Jaso is no longer in the plans to DH.
This means the competition Vogt spoke about with Haberman and Middlekauff just grew even more intense. The loser could report to Triple-A, be traded or designated for assignment. Without one being used as a DH, there isn't much need for three catchers on the 25-man roster.
Lastly, Chavez is one of nearly a dozen pitchers aiming to capture a coveted bullpen spot. There's no better way to make the case for yourself than to lead the team—besting all two dozen or more pitchers—in efficiency.
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