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Russell unlikely to open year in Majors

PHOENIX -- A's manager Bob Melvin is "as close as I can get" to ruling out top prospect Addison Russell as a player who could break camp with the big league club.

Oakland's future plans are very much dependent on its 2012 first-round Draft pick, but Russell, rated the No. 12 overall prospect by, will not be rushed to join a crowded 2014 roster, no matter how well the shortstop performs in his second big league camp.

The A's have a proven shortstop signed through year's end in Jed Lowrie, and they also brought in the versatile Nick Punto this winter. Eric Sogard can play the position, too.

That is why Melvin is not even considering Russell as a candidate for his Opening Day roster at the moment.

"You never say never, if you have a rash of injuries," he said, "but we don't want to rush someone like that, even if he had an eye-opening spring. I think he needs to go through the process, and we are deep at the position with Punto here now, and we have several guys who can play at the position."

Russell turned 20 just last month, and it makes sense that the A's would like to maximize the number of years he remains under their control. They would get an extra year of that just by delaying his arrival this year, but even that is not guaranteed.

Russell spent most of last year with high Class A Advanced Stockton, batting .275/.377/.508 with 17 home runs and 60 RBIs in 107 games for the Ports, before landing on Triple-A Sacramento's roster for three games at season's end.

He went 4-for-16 in six games in camp last year, not many months removed from his high school playing days, and he is expected to get an even longer look this time around.

"Last year it was designed to kind of get his feet wet and ease him in," Melvin said. "This year he's going to play some innings and get at-bats.

"We want him to just play. He's got the entire game, offensively, defensively, running. Just get the experience and just let him play. We're not going to try to throw too much at him. It's difficult enough when you're 20 years old, at big league camp, and then all of a sudden you get a little too much instruction. With him, we're just gonna let him play."

Jane Lee is a reporter for Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.
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