A's pack up practice gear with first spring game in sight
Jaso set to make return behind plate for Cactus League opener against Giants
PHOENIX -- The A's said a final farewell to Papago Park on Tuesday afternoon, leaving behind their Spring Training workout facility for good in advance of Wednesday's Cactus League opener.
With games now occupying their schedule, the A's will stay put at Phoenix Municipal Stadium for morning workouts, rather than filing into buses for the five-minute drive to the Papago complex. Next year, they'll make a new home at Hohokam Park in neighboring Mesa.
"It's very scenic here, the location is terrific," manager Bob Melvin said, before departing the Papago complex, "but sometimes you just move on. Mesa is doing a lot of work to the place for us, and you see all the new bells and whistles in other places, whether it's over at Talking Stick or the new Cubs' place, and you're always looking to potentially upgrade. They're putting a lot of money into it over in Mesa for us."
In the meantime, the A's will enjoy one more month at Phoenix Muni, playing their first home game of the spring on Thursday against the Brewers. First, they head to Scottsdale Stadium on Wednesday to christen the Cactus League season against the Giants.
Long reliever Jesse Chavez gets the start, though most eyes will be on his batterymate. John Jaso is slated to make his first start behind the plate since July 24, when he suffered a season-ending concussion that prompted more than two months of treatment.
Symptom-free, Jaso is ready to get the first game behind him.
"I'm maybe a little more anxious for that first one than I normally would be, since I haven't caught since July," Jaso said. "I'm anxious to get out there and get it taken care of and out of the way. I know that question mark is still there next to my name. I'm confident, but I know some people are still wondering.
"I don't think I'm going to be flinchy. I think I'm going to be where I am at this time always during Spring Training. I'm a slow-goer as far as getting back into the rhythm of things, offensively and defensively. But that's just normal."
"First game, there's maybe some trepidation," Melvin said, "but I know he's eager to catch, and why not let him the first day?"
Jaso will bat seventh in the lineup against the Giants, one that also includes comeback-hopefuls Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes, who will be hitting third and fourth, respectively. It will mark Reddick's first game since he underwent offseason wrist surgery, a fix-all procedure Reddick believes will get his swing back to where it was in a 32-homer 2012 season. Cespedes, meanwhile, has shortened his swing to make better contact, after struggling to stay consistent last year.
Melvin will get an early look at several of his versatile infielders right away, too. Newcomer Nick Punto is batting behind leadoff man Sam Fuld and playing shortstop, where he could spell Jed Lowrie on occasion this year. Another possibility would be platooning at second base with Eric Sogard, who will be at the position Wednesday, though Alberto Callaspo remains in the mix.
Callaspo will play third base on Wednesday and also see time at first base this spring. If the A's like what they see, they may opt to platoon Callaspo with Brandon Moss, who is batting behind Cespedes for the spring opener and more than ready for games to begin.
"It seems like it's faster than it's ever been, but at the same time you can only do so much during these workout days," Moss said. "You look forward to them at the beginning, but then it's like, 'OK, I've had enough.' It becomes more like a regular season, and I like that. Plus we all want to see where we're at. You can only take BP a certain number of times."
Come Thursday, the A's will get a glimpse at rotation candidate Tommy Milone, who is looking to push his way into the mix with a standout spring. However, the club already appears to have a rotation in place, beginning with expected Opening Day starter Jarrod Parker. Parker will go Friday, and he'll be followed in order this spring by Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily.