The depth the A’s pride themselves on building will be put to the test immediately this season. The A’s will be without two-thirds of their starting outfield on Opening Day and miss Coco Crisp for longer after learning the left fielder and leadoff hitter needs surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow.
Crisp is scheduled to have the chips removed Friday and initial estimates were his return could take six to eight weeks. Crisp said he is hopiong he can return faster and that he and the A’s should have a better idea of his recovery time after the procedure.
“He had a CAT scan (Thursday), so we know exactly what we’re dealing with as far as the spur and the chips that are in there,” manager Bob Melvin said. “So hopefully, as far as procedures go, it’s not that involved, and we’ll get him back sooner than later.”
Still, it means the A’s will start the season without their two corner outfielders, with Josh Reddick still recovering from an oblique strain. The A’s hope to have Reddick back for the sixth game of the season.
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Left field will require a longer-term replacement, and Melvin said the A’s “feel like we have the pieces here” to manage the outfield until the starters return. Craig Gentry and Sam Fuld were expected to platoon in center field, but the A’s could put both in the lineup with one playing a corner spot.
Ben Zobrist, who was acquired this offseason to play second base, has plenty of outfield experience and was expected to play right field until Reddick’s return. Zobrist could also see time in left after Reddick comes back – especially against right-handed pitching, with Eric Sogard playing second base – while Rule 5 pick Mark Canha could play left against left-handed pitching.
Crisp’s starting the season on the disabled list also opens a potential Opening Day roster spot for Billy Burns, the switch-hitting outfielder who left Arizona batting .397 in Cactus League play. Melvin said the A’s will “see how he does here in the last few days” but that Burns has shown all-around improvement during a “great spring.”
While bad for the A’s, the timing of Crisp’s injury is just as frustrating for Crisp himself. Crisp spent the offseason rehabbing from neck problems that limited him last season and felt he’d resolved that issue when he arrived in spring training, only to have the elbow pain surface in his first Cactus League at-bat. Crisp said the elbow periodically “locked up” on him afterward, and he didn’t want that to be an ongoing issue during the season.
“I wanted to be healthy and I was, and then after the first at-bat I’m not,” Crisp said. “The key is just coming back and trying to be healthy to start the season. That’s what I’m looking forward to, is to actually be healthy and get past this.”
A’s notes – Melvin officially announced the A’s starting rotation to begin the season: Sonny Gray, Jesse Hahn, Scott Kazmir, Kendall Graveman and Drew Pomeranz.
The makeup was not a surprise. Hahn and Graveman, both acquired in offseason trades, distinguished themselves with strong spring springs. Melvin said slotting Hahn ahead of Kazmir was a product of having both pitchers stay on regular schedules coming out of spring.
Kazmir allowed one run over six innings Thursday night, and Billy Butler homered as the A’s beat the 8-2 in the first game of the Bay Bridge Series.
Pomeranz was chosen for the fifth spot over Jesse Chavez, who will remain the long man in the A’s bullpen. Melvin said understood the decision was disappointing for Chavez, but that the A’s feel they’re better having Chavez’s versatility in the bullpen and that that versatility probably worked against the right-hander.
Giants notes – Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he considers left fielder Nori Aoki the team’s leadoff hitter, with Angel Pagan likely to bat either in the No. 3 or 5 spot to begin the season.
▪ The Giants have a couple of roster decisions to make that could partly be influenced by whether Travis Ishikawa (back) needs to start the season on the DL. The Giants could then keep three backup infielders (Matt Duffy, Joaquin Arias and Ehire Adrianza) or pick two and go with 13 pitchers. Bochy said Ishikawa going to the DL is “50-50.”