MESA, Ariz. -- In pursuing Cliff Pennington this winter, the A's not only targeted depth and versatility from a player they drafted in the first round more than a decade ago, but a veteran voice that could reach a young infield group.:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::This
MESA, Ariz. -- In pursuing Cliff Pennington this winter, the A's not only targeted depth and versatility from a player they drafted in the first round more than a decade ago, but a veteran voice that could reach a young infield group.
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This isn't lost on Pennington, who has discovered meaning in leadership while mastering the job of a utility man.
"Obviously, everybody wants to play. You want to be on the field every day," Pennington said, "but it's been a role that I've been in for a little while, and I'm just trying to help the team win any way I can, and sometimes that's being a mentor or coach-type in the dugout or on the field or looking for anything I can to help that way. So, I embrace it and try to do the best I can with it."
"It's one of the reasons we brought him over," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Penny was always a guy kind of ahead of his years and kind of his knowledge of the game -- and his understanding, because certainly he knows how we do things here."
Pennington, whose presence helps alleviate the loss of Jed Lowrie's veteran leadership, arrived in A's camp Saturday after agreeing to a Minor League deal with the club the day before, reuniting with staff, coaches -- and a few players.
"Obviously, this is where it all started," he said, "so it's fun to come back in here and see some familiar faces."
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Pennington, 34, isn't the only returnee; A's pitchers Jerry Blevins and Brett Anderson, added in recent weeks, also donned green and gold in 2012, which marked Pennington's last season with the A's before he was traded to Arizona. He's since spent time with four other organizations -- the Blue Jays, Angels, Rangers and Reds -- while playing all over the field.
Pennington's resume includes every infield position, a little left field and even pitcher. He's essentially done everything but catch in his 11-year career -- making him a true asset for these A's, who will consider him as an alternate to super-sub Chad Pinder.
"He knows we value versatility. A guy that will do anything you ask him to do," Melvin said, "and he'll fit in really well with this group here."
"I love playing the game, but I also love helping out, so to come in here and get to talk to some guys and maybe giving them a few things I've learned over the years to a group that's already really good, that's always fun," Pennington said. "I'm excited about that."
Pennington, a .242 career hitter, had other options this offseason but was drawn to the familiarity of the A's, along with the presence of Melvin and hitting coach Darren Bush, who was instrumental in Pennington's grooming at the Class A Advanced and Double-A levels.
"Makes for an easy transition," he said. "It's a pretty awesome group here."
Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.