Reinvention defines A's at start of spring camp
New faces permeate team as it tries to build on postseason shortcomings
MESA, Ariz. -- The A's are more than ready to spring into action. They've been idle since walking off the field at Kauffman Stadium, a heart-wrenching, 12-inning loss to the Royals in the 2014 American League Wild Card Game behind them.
They're eager for more, having been prematurely bounced from postseason play in each of the last three years, and they've brought in a slew of new faces to help them achieve this.
A's general manager Billy Beane orchestrated nine trades involving 27 players this past offseason, reconstructing his roster with an influx of youth and depth. Soon, he'll see the pieces come together on the field.
"Our organization does a great job of targeting the type of players that we want," said manager Bob Melvin. "We evaluate things maybe a little differently than most teams, but we're really excited about the group that we have here."
Oakland pitchers and catchers reported to their new Spring Training facilities on Thursday, and their first official workout is scheduled for Friday at the Minor League complex, Fitch Park. Position players will arrive soon after, reporting to camp on Tuesday. The club's first full-squad workout is on tap for Wednesday.
The A's open the Cactus League season March 3 against the defending World Series champion Giants with a 12:05 p.m. PT start at their new Spring Training home, the newly renovated Hohokam Park in Mesa. They spent the previous 33 years playing in Phoenix.
Camp will feature competition at several positions, notably in the starting rotation. Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir are the only locks, leaving as many as seven pitchers in the hunt for three open spots. That group includes a pair of familiar faces in Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz, some new ones -- Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt, Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin -- and one that hasn't donned an A's uniform since 2006: Barry Zito, who is joining the club in camp on a Minor League deal.
In the bullpen, newcomer Tyler Clippard is expected to be in a battle for the closer's job with Ryan Cook and Eric O'Flaherty while Sean Doolittle rehabs a left shoulder injury.
Oakland's infield is an entirely new entity. Brett Lawrie, acquired from the Blue Jays in the Josh Donaldson trade, will take over at third base, and Marcus Semien, a product of the Jeff Samardzija deal, will join Lawrie on the left side of the infield at shortstop, taking over for Jed Lowrie. Ben Zobrist, one of the A's biggest acquisitions of the winter, is expected to assume everyday second-base duties, and first base will showcase newbies Billy Butler and Ike Davis, with Nate Freiman and Mark Canha also in the mix.
Canha also will join a crowded left-field crop that also includes Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry, who could enter the season in a platoon next to center fielder Coco Crisp and right fielder Josh Reddick.
A healthy Stephen Vogt will return to man behind the plate, and Josh Phegley -- also brought in via the Samardzija trade -- is in line to be his backup.
With so many new players -- 16 on the 40-man roster, to be exact -- and so many new parts, though, there are many unknowns this spring, except one: The A's believe they can contend again.