Mengden to start A's rotation battle in opener

Blackburn, Pagan, Dull also in line to pitch against Angels

February 22nd, 2018

MESA, Ariz. -- A handful of Opening Day roster candidates will be on display when the A's begin Cactus League play against the Angels at Hohokam Stadium on Friday.

Two pitchers in battle for a rotation spot will get an early look, with right-hander getting the nod to start the 12:05 p.m. PT contest (watch live on MLB.TV) and in line to follow. Offseason acquisition is also scheduled to pitch in the game, along with .

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Manager Bob Melvin's lineup will feature several regulars, including first baseman , shortstop and new outfielder . Top prospect is penciled in at second base, with behind the plate.

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will be stationed in left field, while Matt Joyce gets a day at DH. Elsewhere, -- out of options -- will play third, while another player on the bubble, Jake Smolinski, handles center field.

Smolinski, who missed nearly all of last season after undergoing right shoulder surgery during Spring Training, is under consideration for a backup outfield job alongside . In contrast to another candidate, , both present right-handed alternatives to , who is expected to be the primary center fielder barring any setbacks with his surgically repaired right knee.

"Even in spring, we're not going to be running him out there every day, and being that he's a left-handed bat, hasn't played in a while, it would be nice to potentially be able to team that up," Melvin said. "It's one of the reasons we're looking at 'Smo' pretty hard in that spot, and certainly Canha has played there too."

Smolinski, 29, is a career .299 hitter against lefties.

"We feel like there's a significant talent level with him," Melvin said. "You watch his swing, and really if you're trying to teach a swing, mechanics, he's got that. He's had times where he's done really well, he's had times where he hasn't, and then he's had injured times. We feel like there's more in there, it's just about trying to keep him on the field and we feel like if he's able to stay on the field, who knows? It's one of those guys that could gain some confidence and, at his age, still has the ability to be a really good big league player."