A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Dog days of winter

Nothing but puff pieces and unsubstantiated Eric Byrnes (Pirates interested?) rumors floating around these days, as we wait for spring training to start; A's pitchers and catchers report in 8 days. Even then, not much happens in spring training. What should you keep an eye on as an A's fan?

1) Rotation battles. Zito, Harden, and Haren will start barring injury. The remaining two spots are up for grabs between Blanton, Meyer, Yabu, and Etherton (long shot). I think these are the only guys who have a chance to be in the rotation unless the A's are forced into it by injuries (in which case Cruz and Duchscherer have a chance.) I think Blanton and Yabu are probably the favorites, with Meyer getting some more AAA seasoning and Etherton going to Sacramento, where he belongs.

2) Mark Ellis. Stats in spring training are pretty meaningless, but for a player coming back from injury, they can be a chance to reassert themselves. More important than the stats, though, is how Ellis looks on the field. If he is still a superlative second baseman on defense, he deserves to start. I wonder if the A's trust themselves to judge defense based on drills and spring training games.

3) Second-base battle. Ellis or Keith Ginter? Probably little that happens in the spring except for Ellis's health will impact the decision.

4) Who's the odd man out in the bullpen? Dotel, Cruz, Calero, Bradford, Rincon, and Duchscherer all seem assured of spots, but if Meyer grabs the 5th starter spot, that leaves Yabu with nowhere to go. Also, Huston Street could blow people away in camp; it would be awfully hard to option him back to Sacramento. It seems safe to say that Jairo Garcia will be back in Sac-town.

5) The outfield: it seems pretty certain that Byrnes-Kotsay-Swisher will be the Opening Day lineup, but Charles Thomas might have a shot at forcing a platoon with Byrnes, and Beane still seems fascinated with Kielty.

6) First base. This seems set, with Hatteberg still under contract, but if Dan Johnson has a monster spring he might make the team. Sadly, since he, Hatte, and Durazo all hit lefty, there are no platoon possibilities.

Everything else seems pretty set. The A's figure to open in Camden Yards against, uh, righty Sidney Ponson (??? -- the O's staff is a mess), with something like:

L Mark Kotsay, CF
R Jason Kendall, C
L Eric Chavez, 3B
L Erubiel Durazo, DH
B Nick Swisher, RF
L Scott Hatteberg, 1B
R Eric Byrnes, LF
R Bobby Crosby, SS
R Mark Ellis, 2B
L Barry Zito, SP

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