The Oakland A’s full squad reported to Phoenix, Arizona for spring training a little more than a week ago and much has happened as they have begun practicing and playing. There have been surprise standout players, position changes, and some injuries. Let’s review what has gone down during the first week of spring training.
First, I have to talk about Josh Reddick. After coming off a pretty bad year in 2013, Reddick expressed his desire to do better in 2014. With only a week of training and one spring training game under his belt, he has already shown that he has worked hard during the offseason to prepare for 2014.
On Wednesday, during the Cactus League opener against the San Francisco Giants, Reddick made an amazing catch in right field and many are already saying it will be the catch of the year. Reddick told the press that he was even surprised by his own agility when he watched the replay of himself scaling a chain linked fence like Spiderman and catching what should have been a home run. If his defense stays this excellent and he is able to improve on his batting skills, Reddick’s 2014 season will look much different from 2013.
A’s pitchers have been in AZ for a little over two weeks now, and the starting pitching rotation for 2014 is already taking a definitive shape. When looking at the pitching schedule for spring training, it seems as though Jarrod Parker will be well rested in order to pitch on Opening Day. After that, it will be Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, A.J. Griffin, and Dan Straily. Don’t count out Tommy Milone who can easily fill in or replace someone on the backend of the rotation. Unless one of them gets injured between now and the start of the season, this will be the A’s starting pitching rotation for 2014.
While the starting pitching rotation is pretty much set for the season, the infield positions are all up in the air. The most apparent change is that Alberto Callaspo has been assigned to learn how to play defense at first base. Last season, Callaspo shared second base with Eric Sogard, but with Nick Punto now in the mix, it seems as though Callaspo has been bumped to first. The A’s already have a lot of depth at first base, which includes Brandon Moss, Daric Barton, and Nate Freiman, so it is not likely that Callaspo will play at first more than a handful of times throughout the regular season unless one of these first basemen is designated for assignment.
There also has been no clear indication as to who will start at second base and shortstop, which has always been a problem area for the Athletics. The players vying for these two positions are Jed Lowrie, Nick Punto, and Eric Sogard. During the Cactus league games, Sogard and Punto have played at second base while Punto has also been placed at shortstop along with Jed Lowrie. It seems as though they are trying to figure out the best position for Punto to play while Lowrie stays at shortstop and Sogard at second.
As far as injuries go, there have been some minor injuries effecting the Oakland A’s but nothing to make Bob Melvin overly concerned. Relievers Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle had small injuries due to tightness and strains at the beginning of spring training however these issues have already been resolved. Additionally, backup outfielder Craig Gentry strained his lower back, but said to be better after a week and half of rest. Lastly, left-handed pitcher Eric O’Flaherty is still recovering from Tommy John’s surgery that he underwent last May. His recovery seems to be on track and he is not expected to be pitching any games until after the season starts.
Overall, the Oakland A’s are looking pretty solid during spring training. No major injuries have been incurred, and every Athletic is working hard to prepare for the regular season. Since Parker started in the game against the San Francisco Giants on Friday, the Athletics will begin to get into a pitching rotation groove as they work their way toward opening day. Let’s just hope the A’s are able to figure out the infield positions soon, so that they can be fully practiced in time for the regular season.