PHOENIX -- Oakland's once-hyped outfield prospect is suddenly 28 years old with only 59 days of Major League service time on his side.
This isn't quite how Michael Taylor envisioned his career path, yet here he is again, back for his fifth big league camp. Taylor's never made an Opening Day roster, and the chances of it happening this year remain slim, even though he is out of options. Sam Fuld is ahead of him on the depth chart, and even Fuld might not make the team if the A's choose to stick with only four outfielders.
Taylor knows this, but is motivated as ever to make a mark on an organization that gave up former first-round Draft pick Brett Wallace for him. Both were considered some of the game's best hitting prospects at the time of their 2009 trade but neither has panned out.
Taylor isn't done writing his story, though.
"You know what? Mike I think has got a different outlook this year," said manager Bob Melvin. "He's kind of been a little bit back of the pack for us. I mean, he's gotten some opportunities but never the type of opportunity that would potentially allow him to make a team. I know it doesn't look like he's at the forefront, but he is out of options and we do value him.
"You look at the numbers he puts up in Triple-A, and it would suggest that he can contribute here. So he's going to get quite a few at-bats this spring, as he is now, and my feeling is we're going to see a different guy, I really do."
Hours after Melvin said this, Taylor had himself a three-hit day.
"I have to give Bob a lot of credit," said Taylor, a .292 career hitter in the Minors but just 10-for-74 in the big leagues. "He actually called me in today and talked to me about just playing. He was right. I can't really worry about my situation or what's going on, or thinking about a thousand different situations that could come up. I just have to play and enjoy it, and he kind of gave me a vote of confidence and it relaxed me a bit. I kind of just felt free to play, and that's when I'm at my best."
"He has the ability to do that every day," said Melvin. "Hopefully this is a springboard for him, getting three good at-bats like that. This should give him some confidence."
Taylor has been tinkering with his swing since the offseason, mostly trying to use his legs more, and on Tuesday he featured a swing he said resembled one "somewhere in between some of the things I've worked on this offseason and how I've always been."
"Today is probably as good as it has felt all spring," he continued. "Yesterday, I hit about 250 balls by myself at the end of the day and this morning got in there with Chili Davis in the cages.
"Today I was able to refocus on what's important. I'm fortunate enough to still have a job and that I can play baseball. This is my eighth year in pro ball. I'm just going to go out and enjoy these days and not think about all the external factors around the game."
Straily has work to do after first outing
PHOENIX -- Dan Straily wasn't so sharp in his Cactus League debut against the Brewers on Tuesday, but he now has a to-do list in advance of his next start.
The A's right-hander retired each of his first four batters but boarded six of his next eight on a pair of walks and four hits and was tagged for three runs in two-plus innings.
"It was nice to get out there and kinda knock the rust off," said Straily. "I know where I stand and what things I need to work on. We can take the side sessions to work on finishing hitters. That was the only thing kinda missing today.
"Nothing really devastating and it's not like I was all over the place. It's not like I'm trying to walk leadoff hitters or anything, but I was just missing, and I'm ready to work on it and finish hitters."
"He was all right," said manager Bob Melvin. "He had trouble putting some guys away on two-strike pitches and got some balls up late in the counts. He'll probably get a little more refined the next time out."
Straily threw 40 pitches on the day, making use of his entire repertoire. His place in the A's rotation is his to lose, after he moved ahead of Tommy Milone on the depth chart last year, but it's for others to talk about, he insists.
"That's way above my pay grade," he said. "I'm just out there getting ready for the season. That's not even a question for me. "
Just one bullpen job appears to be open
PHOENIX -- Tough decisions have to be made at every camp this time of year, and the A's have no shortage of them to sort through right now.
Oakland has four catchers and four first basemen in camp, and too many relievers to count.
From the start, closer Jim Johnson and setup men Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, Luke Gregerson and Dan Otero have been guaranteed jobs based on past performances. Long reliever Jesse Chavez, who has totaled 4 2/3 scoreless innings in two appearances this spring, also appears to be a lock.
That was made clear Tuesday morning when manager Bob Melvin suggested he only sees one bullpen job, not two, up for grabs.
"I think six of them could be fairly obvious, and then there's that seventh spot, and you always want that kind of competition," Melvin said. "You don't want to come in with no jobs available, even though I do tell these guys, just because you don't start with us doesn't mean you can't be a big piece for us, based on the amount of players we used the last couple of years."
Evan Scribner is a leading candidate, though at a disadvantage as a righty if the A's decide they want to carry a second left-hander to make up for the loss of Jerry Blevins. However, Scribner is also out of options, which could play in his favor, and he's pitched two perfect innings with three strikeouts this spring.
From the left side, Fernando Abad and waiver claim Joe Savery are the two to watch. Abad, acquired from the Nationals early in the offseason, has greatly impressed, allowing just one hit with no walks and four strikeouts in three shutout innings. Savery has only made one appearance, giving up two hits with one walk and one strikeout in 1 1/3 innings.
Because of their depth in this area, the A's are unlikely to consider any of their leftover starters for a bullpen spot. This means Tommy Milone, Josh Lindblom and Drew Pomeranz are likely to be stretched out and begin the season at Triple-A Sacramento, barring injury this spring to Oakland's expected five starters: Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily.
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.