A's face 3 key questions to start Spring Training
Closer's job, three rotation spots and left field situation need to be addressed in camp
A long, wacky offseason is nearing its end. A's pitchers and catchers report to the A's new Spring Training complex in Mesa, Ariz., on Thursday, with the first workout scheduled for the following day.
Already, through a series of previews leading up to this week, MLB.com has taken a look at players on the rebound, players new to the 40-man roster and prospects to watch, along with a projected lineup.
Now, we examine questions the A's need to answer in Spring Training. There are no shortage of them, coming off such a wild winter that resulted in nine trades involving 27 players.
These are the three most important ones:
1. Who will join Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir in the rotation?
Gray and Kazmir are at the forefront of a rotation overflowing with depth. At least six candidates will contend for the final three spots in the coming weeks. Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz are the perceived front-runners for two of them, considering the work they did in the A's rotation last year. But several pitchers acquired in trades this winter will all get an equal chance: right-handers Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt and Kendall Graveman, and lefty Sean Nolin. That group doesn't even include southpaw Barry Zito, who recently signed a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite in hopes of resurrecting his career.
2. Who enters the season as the closer?
All-Star closer Sean Doolittle is expected to miss the start of the regular season as he recovers from a left shoulder injury, paving the way for a closer's competition in camp. Recently acquired reliever Tyler Clippard is seemingly the favorite for the job. The right-hander compiled 32 saves for the Nationals in 2012. Fellow righty Ryan Cook will also be under consideration, as will lefty Eric O'Flaherty.
3. What happens in left field?
The A's could very well enter the season with a platoon of Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry in left field, but they also have several other moving parts that could impact this position. For instance, Ben Zobrist could find his way to left field should the club bring in another second baseman. The A's have been keeping tabs on Cuban infielder Hector Olivera, who is considered Major League ready. Rule 5 infielder/outfielder Mark Canha could also work his way into the picture with a strong spring.