As Spring Training winds to a close, with only about 10 games remaining on the Cactus League schedule, the Oakland Athletics have already begun trimming their roster down to the required 25-men they plan to open the season with.
A few roster battles still remain, leaving a few roster spots in question. Likewise, a few injuries have popped up, which will provide opportunities to a few players who otherwise may have seen them ticketed for Minor League Spring Training and a trip to the minors.
Oakland pitchers who have secured a job on the 25-man roster: Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Braden, Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes, Michael Wuertz, Craig Breslow, Jerry Blevins and Brad Ziegler.
The absence of Andrew Bailey’s name is an indication that he likely will not be ready to return to game action on Opening Day and will likely start the season on the 15-Day Disabled List. The A’s will go with a closer-by-committee approach during his absence, likely led by four-time former All Star closer Brian Fuentes.
Athletics position players who are assured of an opening day roster spot include: Kurt Suzuki, Daric Barton, Mark Ellis, Cliff Pennington, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, Hideki Matsui and Ryan Sweeney.
A roster spot is reserved for Oakland super-sub Adam Rosales as well, however, like closer Andrew Bailey; Rosales will open the season on the disabled list allowing for an opportunity for another A’s prospect to break camp with the big league club.
This leaves 20 spots taken with five left to fill.
Who will be the last five players to make the team, and who will be the last five cut?
Last Five In:
Brandon McCarthy: McCarthy’s 3.29 ERA in 13 innings pitched this spring are enough to win him a roster spot either as the fifth starter or long reliever out of the bullpen. McCarthy has been the lone Oakland pitcher returning from injury who has been able to put together a consistently impressive spring showing.
Tyson Ross: Ross will also make the roster, and will compete down to the wire with McCarthy for the fifth starter position. Ross has a perfect 0.00 ERA this spring in 9 2/3 innings pitched. Ross is deserving of the fifth rotation spot, however, if he loses out due to experience, he will at least be rewarded with a roster spot in the bullpen.
Landon Powell: Powell retains his job as the backup catcher to Kurt Suzuki, and Dallas Braden’s personal catcher. Despite receiving competition from Josh Donaldson, who actually posted better numbers, Powell will be able to hang onto his position.
Conor Jackson: Jackson did not exactly do anything to win the fifth outfield spot; his competitors just did not do anything to steal it away from him. Jackson is hitting .146/.205/.195 through 41 at-bats this spring. He walks away from this spring with a roster spot thanks to the lack of production from his competitors.
Andy LaRoche: While he started out as a non-roster invitee, LaRoche will make the club as the utility infielder and primary backup to Kevin Kouzmanoff during Adam Rosales' absence. LaRoche has received playing time at both third base and shortstop this spring, and is currently batting .308 through 39 at-bats. His status after Rosales returns is questionable, but he at least should earn the nod coming out of Spring Training.
Last Five Out:
Bobby Cramer: Cramer put up a good battle for the fifth starter position, but ultimately will lose out to Brandon McCarthy and Tyson Ross. Cramer was roughed up in his last start, likely sending him to Sacramento to start the season.
Trystan Magnusun: Magnusun never really had a chance to crack the A’s bullpen, however, the A’s did add nice minor league depth by acquiring him in the Rajai Davis trade.
Josh Donaldson: Donaldson gave Landon Powell good competition for the backup catcher position, but ultimately experience will win. Powell will head back to Sacramento and continue getting regular playing time and consistent at-bats. Don't be surprised to see him in Oakland at some point this season as the primary backup to Kurt Suzuki.
Michael Taylor: Taylor had an opportunity to steal the fifth outfield position away from Conor Jackson this spring. Jackson did not do anything to deserve the position, but unfortunately for Taylor, he did nothing to earn it either.
Chris Carter: Carter clearly needs additional time to learn the outfield before he can be a major league regular. The Athletics may be shorting themselves of the power Carter provides by sending him to Sacramento to start the season, but he is blocked at every position on the A’s roster and would benefit greater from regular at-bats and playing time until a position opens up for him in Oakland.
Ticketed for Extended Spring Training:
Rich Harden: Harden has not been able to put together even a live batting practice session so far this spring due to an extended recovery from a strained lat muscle. The A’s will almost definitely decide to keep Harden behind at extended Spring Training and eventually send him out for a series of rehab appearances with either Stockton or Sacramento before ultimately deciding on a role for him in Oakland.
Joey Devine: Devine was determined to earn a spot in the Oakland bullpen. Devine’s return from Tommy John surgery has not been as seamless as he had hoped it would be. Devine will not be able to crack the Opening Day Roster with the Athletics and will likely be held behind to continue working on his control and mechanics in extended Spring Training before heading to Sacramento to get game experience. He’ll eventually be back in Oakland at some point during the 2011 season.