Finalizing the A’s Opening Day roster on Saturday included what manager Bob Melvin termed “maybe the most difficult (cut) I’ve ever had to do” – telling catcher Stephen Vogt he’d been sent to Triple A.
The A’s opted to carry two left-handed-hitting first basemen in Brandon Moss and Daric Barton into the season, along with the catching platoon of Derek Norris and John Jaso. That left little room for Vogt, who, despite hitting .364 this spring and being a key player for the A’s in the second half last season, still had options and will begin the year in Sacramento.
“That’s a tough one on everybody – not only myself, but the front office, the coaches, certainly him,” Melvin said. “Is he going to be here at some point in time this year? I don’t see how he can’t be. But very difficult.”
Other decisions were more clear-cut. The A’s rounded out their bullpen with left-handers Fernando Abad and Drew Pomeranz and right-hander Evan Scribner, with Pomeranz claiming the final spot over fellow left-hander Joe Savery.
Pomeranz, acquired in the Brett Anderson trade with Colorado in the offseason, recorded a 2.84 ERA with 20 strikeouts and three walks in 122/3 innings this spring and, with Scribner, will be a long-relief option.
He also could be the first to go when setup man Ryan Cook is ready to rejoin the team. Cook will start the season on the disabled list but is eligible to come off Saturday, and Melvin has said Pomeranz could be stretched out as a starter in Triple A to provide the A’s with rotation depth.
Sam Fuld, a nonroster invitee to camp, made the team as a fourth outfielder with his ability to handle all three positions. Fuld, who hit .271 in the spring with four triples, also may be looking at a short stay as outfielder Craig Gentry also can return from the DL on Saturday and was acquired for the backup outfield job.
Having played college ball at Stanford, the 32-year-old Fuld said opening the season in Oakland is “a little bit” special.
“I used to come here on dollar hot dog nights,” he said. “Seems like a long time ago.”
His selection came at the expense of another former Cardinal in Michael Taylor, who was designated for assignment despite a strong spring. Taylor, who has spent most of the past four seasons with the River Cats and is out of options, hit .274 with three homers and 10 RBIs. Now he must wait to see whether he’ll be claimed by another team or traded, or if he’ll clear waivers and return to Sacramento.
Melvin said Taylor “really impressed” this spring, and that he “can’t imagine (interest in Taylor) is not better than it’s ever been for him. … As an organization, we’d like to keep him, but as a human being, you want the best to happen for him.”
Taylor was acquired by the A’s in 2009 and totaled 74 at-bats over the last three seasons in short call-ups to Oakland but hit .135.
“Obviously, I’m a little sad, because there are guys here that I’ve grown up with in the game,” he said. “(But) there just wasn’t room, and now you kind of get an opportunity to see where you stand. So that’s exciting.”
Vogt, meanwhile, took the news of his demotion solemnly. He quickly earned the trust of the A’s staff last season when called up to replace the injured Jaso and wound up catching all five games of the American League Division Series. He took some solace that “they are looking to get me back up here.”
“This is such a great team and a fun team, it’s just hard to not necessarily be a physical part of it at the beginning of the year,” Vogt said, with his voice cracking. “I think that’s the hardest part for me is just, I love these guys.”
It was the latest in a series of plumbing problems that have plagued the stadium, which opened in 1966.