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A's take cautious optimism to spring camp

Potent lineup, fortified bullpen fuel hope in talent-laden AL West
MLB.com @JaneMLB

OAKLAND -- The A's have been busy plotting for the future, retooling their roster and hoping that the work pays off sooner than later. But as soon as this season? Players and fans are cautiously optimistic, but competing in a formidable American League West will be no easy venture.

That's why A's manager Bob Melvin, whose actions at the helm breed confidence and courage in his players, is remaining cautiously optimistic while admittedly keeping his focus on short-term goals with such a young group.

OAKLAND -- The A's have been busy plotting for the future, retooling their roster and hoping that the work pays off sooner than later. But as soon as this season? Players and fans are cautiously optimistic, but competing in a formidable American League West will be no easy venture.

That's why A's manager Bob Melvin, whose actions at the helm breed confidence and courage in his players, is remaining cautiously optimistic while admittedly keeping his focus on short-term goals with such a young group.

"The Astros are going to come to camp and say, 'We're looking toward September and we expect to win the World Series,'" Melvin said recently. "Ours is going to be more month to month, and if we can create some momentum, then maybe our goals change as the season goes along. But we just want to get the right 25 to start the season, prepare to where we expect to get off to a good start and kind of implement our goals as the season goes along."

Spring Training info | Schedule

Melvin's bosses have done their part to help make that easier, executing a series of moves that fortified the club -- particularly the bullpen, thanks to the additions of right-handers Emilio Pagan and Yusmeiro Petit and left-hander Ryan Buchter. What was often a liability for the A's last year should now be a strength.

"It's a good, deep group," A's general manager David Forst said. "There are a lot of options. I think we know, through history, that we're going to need more than seven or eight guys, and hopefully we've built enough depth back there that the bullpen will really be a strength of this team throughout 2018."

Elsewhere, the A's strengthened their outfield by trading for Stephen Piscotty, a decision that allows them to utilize Khris Davis' power in the DH role on a mostly full-time basis. Power runs deep in this lineup: Davis, who hit 85 home runs in his first two seasons with the A's, has a slew of homer-happy hitters around him, including Matt Olson and Matt Chapman.

Video: Outlook: Olson could challenge 40-homer mark in '18

The offense has potential to wreak havoc on a regular basis, but there are plenty of questions surrounding an unproven starting staff that will have to hold its own if the A's want to bring winning baseball back to Oakland. They finished with the worst record in the AL West the past three seasons, a trend that prompted sweeping changes in the middle of 2017 and set forth a youth movement.

The baseball decision-makers, of course, would like their long-term plans to coincide with the opening of a new ballpark in Oakland, which would generate the kind of revenue that supports sustained success. But after coming up against a major roadblock in December that significantly hampers the A's goal of opening a stadium in 2023, the organization's baseball executives are left operating under familiar financial restraints for the time being.

Developing their homegrown players -- and somehow finding a way to keep them longer than a few years -- will be more important than ever. The A's will showcase many in a 2018 season that, at the very least, should be interesting.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB and listen to her podcast.

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