Pitchers, catchers not only A's reporting right away
Tight-knit Oakland bunch amped up to continue progress made in 2012
PHOENIX -- The A's are gearing up this week to reignite the momentum that carried them through an inspiring 2012 campaign, as action resumes under manager Bob Melvin's watch at the club's Spring Training facilities.
Following Monday's mandatory report date, Oakland's pitchers and catchers will hold their first official workout on Tuesday. The position players are required to report on Saturday, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Sunday morning.
It wouldn't surprise Melvin, though, if his players requested that date be pushed up, considering Monday's turnout at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Along with 34 pitchers and catchers, a handful of position players popped into the clubhouse at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, clearly amped to continue what was started last year.
"Everyone's excited," Melvin said. "It's a group that showed last year early on that they get along well and are very comfortable around each other."
Prospect phenom Michael Ynoa was the only pitcher who didn't report on Monday, as the right-hander was still stationed in the Dominican Republic while dealing with chicken pox. He isn't expected for another 6 to 10 days, Melvin said, though the A's could receive an additional arm before then, with lefty Hideki Okajima's one-year Minor League deal with the club expected to be made official as soon as Tuesday.
Among the position players in attendance early were outfielders Coco Crisp and Chris Young and infielders Jemile Weeks, Scott Sizemore, Hiroyuki Nakajima, Brandon Moss, Daric Barton and Adam Rosales.
"I think we're all looking forward to going back on the field and getting a chance to play again, knowing it's another year," said closer Grant Balfour, fresh off a plane from his offseason home in Tampa. "From there, it's about working hard as a team. Everyone's got the same thing in their mind, and that's to go all the way.
"You start the year, you always come in with the goal that you want to win the World Series. That's the goal. It's tough, but we feel we have the team and we feel we have some good chemistry and all those things it takes to get there. I think we proved last year that we can definitely compete out there with the best of them."
Oakland's first Spring Training game is a matchup against the Brewers on Feb. 23 at Maryvale Baseball Park, where the A's will serve as the away team for a 12:05 p.m. PT matchup. On Feb. 25, the A's will play in their first home game of the preseason, welcoming the Indians to Phoenix Municipal Stadium for a 12:05 p.m. PT game.
Cactus League play will afford fans the chance to see just how primed the A's are to repeat the booming success that came out of 2012, when they defied all odds and took home the American League West Division crown. The club appears in good position to do just that, having retained much of the same roster.
The A's also made a handful of trades in an effort to fortify it.
In October, less than two weeks after their Game 5 loss to the Tigers in the AL Division Series, A's general manager Billy Beane came together with a familiar partner in D-backs GM and friend Kevin Towers to complete a three-team trade with Miami that brought Young to Oakland. The A's, in return, gave up shortstop Cliff Pennington to Arizona and highly regarded Minor League infielder Yordy Cabrera to the Marlins.
The addition of Young, who has averaged 24 home runs in his career, gives the A's five outfielders of the everyday type, next to Crisp, Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith. All are expected to garner equal playing time at season's start, though camp should offer more insight into how it will be allotted.
"That's why we have Spring Training," Melvin said, before offering a joke. "As far as formulas and so forth going into the season, it could be as easy as who gets to the ballpark first, who comes bearing gifts, along those lines. We'll figure it out."
Melvin's A's watched fan favorites Brandon McCarthy and Jonny Gomes depart as free agents following the acquisition of Young, with Stephen Drew ultimately leaving, as well, leaving fans a bit disappointed. But Oakland soon stepped up and brought in a face that should be just as popular in the likeable Nakajima, the Japanese shortstop who fortified the A's infield -- made even better by Jed Lowrie, acquired just last week in a five-player trade with the Astros.
Nakajima told reporters Monday that he's been stationed in Arizona for 10 days already, having already acclimated himself to his new teammates and the club's workout facilities.
"I just want to get everything started as soon as possible," Nakajima said through a translator.
Other newcomers include catcher John Jaso, an added offensive presence, and reliever Chris Resop, who joins an already solid bullpen core that features Balfour and setup men Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle, along with returning arms Jerry Blevins, Pat Neshek and Jordan Norberto.
Oakland's main competition this spring will come at second base, where Lowrie -- expected to play all over the infield but a natural at second and shortstop -- will fight for time with main contenders Weeks and Sizemore. Prospect Grant Green and utility infielder Adam Rosales are also expected to garner reps there.
The team's Cactus League schedule will wrap up in Arizona on March 27, after which the A's will travel back to the Bay for a trio of exhibition games against the Giants. All this leads up to April 1, when the A's will open the 2013 season with a 7:05 p.m. PT game against the Mariners at the Oakland Coliseum.