1. Who can carry this lineup?
The A’s have said in recent seasons that anybody can be the offensive hero on a given day. But that was when they had Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes, who could get hot and carry the team for a week or so. Ben Zobrist might be the A’s best hitter now, but he’s not really a power threat. Billy Butler (29) and Ike Davis (32) hit lots of home runs in 2012, but they haven’t come near that since. In recent years, the A’s had hitters who could alter a game with one swing. Can they find that this season?
2. Will these starters stick?
It appears the A’s rotation will include two starters (Jesse Hahn and Kendall Graveman) coming off their first taste of the majors in 2014 and a third (Drew Pomeranz) who threw just 69 innings last season in relief and spot-starting duties. If any stumble out of the gate, it will be interesting to see how quickly the A’s tap into their starting pitching depth. Long reliever Jesse Chavez is an option, and Chris Bassitt will start in Triple-A to work out some kinks. There’s also the impending returns of Jarrod Parker and, later, A.J. Griffin from Tommy John surgery. The rotation might not look the same in June.
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3. Can Lawrie stay healthy?
Expectations have been high for Brett Lawrie since he debuted in 2011, but his problem has been staying on the field. Lawrie hasn’t played more than 125 games in a season (2012 with the Blue Jays) and said this offseason he believes the artificial turf in Toronto contributed to his injuries. If Lawrie can stay healthy for a full season, it may help A’s fans forgive the trade of Donaldson; the new third baseman already has impressed manager Bob Melvin and teammates with his energy and all-out playing style.
4. How will the A’s handle Crisp’s absence?
The A’s will be without Coco Crisp for at least a month after the left fielder and leadoff hitter had surgery Friday to remove bone chips from his right elbow. They have the pieces to fill in defensively – either Sam Fuld or Craig Gentry could shift to left, while Ben Zobrist and Mark Canha could also see time there. Of greater concern is the loss of the “spark plug” of the lineup. Crisp makes the offense go, and the A’s will need their interim leadoff hitter(s) to help generate runs in the same way.
5. When will we see Doolittle again?
Sean Doolittle, coming back from a slight rotator-cuff tear, started playing catch in the past week and will be with the A’s in Oakland as he continues rehab. But the A’s haven’t stated a target date for Doolittle’s return. He still has to throw from a mound and face live hitters after missing all of spring training. New acquisition Tyler Clippard will start the season as the A’s closer, a role he last had in Washington in 2012.