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A's to test versatile Canha in center field

MLB.com @JaneMLB

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's will experiment with Mark Canha in center field Friday, hoping to expand the slugger's already vast versatility.

"He's open to it. He's athletic. He's a versatile player as is," A's manager Bob Melvin said.

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's will experiment with Mark Canha in center field Friday, hoping to expand the slugger's already vast versatility.

"He's open to it. He's athletic. He's a versatile player as is," A's manager Bob Melvin said.

"He told me to be ready for that," Canha said, "and I'm always ready."

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Canha, who is usually seen manning one of the corner outfield positions, played in center field on two occasions last spring, but he was never called on to handle the job during the regular season, playing in just 16 games before undergoing season-ending hip surgery.

Now healthy, and "based on how he feels physically right now," Melvin said, "we feel he's up for the task."

Should Canha pass as a competent option at the position, the A's could potentially forgo carrying a fifth outfielder when the regular season opens, and rely on Canha as Rajai Davis' primary backup. Canha doesn't have Davis' speed, but he runs well enough and takes good angles.

Video: Lee discusses A's signings of Davis, Joyce

"When I played out there last spring, I went out with the attitude of, just go be aggressive and go for balls and don't be hesitant, and if you make a mistake and look stupid, who cares?" Canha said. "I think that's how you have to approach it. It's Spring Training, so now is the time to make those mistakes. I think I can definitely handle it."

Jake Smolinski was the presumed leading fifth-outfield candidate entering Spring Training, but he's been slowed by a shoulder injury and has yet to play in the field. Others include non-roster outfielder Alejandro De Aza and prospect Jaycob Brugman.

Canha, who can also play first and third base, will be on the roster regardless, with plans for him to platoon with Matt Joyce in right field. He totaled 16 home runs and 70 RBIs in 124 games as a rookie in 2015, and is more than pleased with the progress of his swing since completing his rehab.

"You're never quite sure coming off injury if that explosiveness is going to be there, but it's there," Canha said. "I was surprised at how comfortable I felt in the box when I got here. I think I've had a lot of time to think about approach and game plan, and I think everything is going to plan."

Worth noting

• The A's had a new leadoff man in place for Thursday's 12-5 win over the Reds: Joyce, who has started 34 games in his career at the top of the batting order. Davis, typically seen in this spot, hit ninth.

"Raj isn't going to play 162, so I told him yesterday it's going to be a little bit of a different look, and when he doesn't lead off we're going to have to find somebody who can," Melvin said. "You're always looking, in theory, to get your best on-base percentage guys early in the lineup, so therefore we'll try it out that way."

Joyce, who has a career .341 on-base percentage, reached base three times, as did No. 2 hitter Jed Lowrie.

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

Oakland Athletics, Mark Canha