Oakland A's

Five questions for the Oakland A’s entering spring training

1. How will the rotation round out?

The A’s biggest unknown is what their starting rotation will look like on Opening Day. Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir are locks, but the departure of Jon Lester and Jason Hammel in free agency and Jeff Samardzija via trade leaves three rotation spots open. Drew Pomeranz and Jesse Chavez likely have the inside track after starting for the A’s for stretches last season. But young acquisitions Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin, Jesse Hahn and Chris Bassitt – none of whom has more than 14 appearances in the majors – also could push for immediate roles. If nothing else, they create a logjam for the fifth spot, which pitching coach Curt Young earlier this month termed “a good problem to have.”

2. Can Semien seize the shortstop role?

Marcus Semien was a spectator to his own busy offseason. First, the Chicago White Sox traded him to the A’s, who said he’d get a shot at the everyday shortstop job. Then the A’s traded for shortstop Yunel Escobar, relegating Semien to a utility role – before dealing Escobar away days later. Now, manager Bob Melvin said Semien will have “every opportunity” this spring to replace Jed Lowrie at the most demanding position in the infield. The A’s see Semien as an everyday player with 20-homer potential, but the 24-year-old has displayed neither in his brief time in the majors. Semien has 300 big-league at-bats and has played in just six games at shortstop, but he said shortstop is his natural position and he’s eager for the opportunity.

3. Who’s the fill-in closer?

A shoulder injury will keep closer Sean Doolittle sidelined at least through Opening Day. Fortunately for the A’s, they have one of the deepest relief corps in the league and several options. Ryan Cook has closed for Oakland before, Dan Otero finished 14 games last season and Eric O’Flaherty provides a left-handed option with some closing experience. But the job might go to the newest member of the A’s bullpen, right-hander Tyler Clippard, acquired in a trade with the Washington Nationals. Clippard had 32 saves as the Nationals’ closer in 2012, and last year he had a 2.18 ERA in 75 appearances as a setup man. “Hitters just hate facing him,” Otero said at FanFest. “He has a changeup that comes out of the same (arm) slot as his fastball. They say it’s just like a Bugs Bunny changeup.”

4. Did the A’s invest wisely at the corners?

Reprising the roles of All-Stars Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss in the A’s infield: third baseman Brett Lawrie and first baseman Ike Davis, both coming off disappointing seasons in 2014. Davis hit 32 home runs for the New York Mets in 2012, but he hit .205 the next season, leading the Mets to demote him and in 2014 trade him to Pittsburgh, where he batted .235 with just 10 homers in 131 games. Lawrie played in just 70 games last year because of injuries. He thinks the artificial turf in Toronto may have contributed to those injuries – something that will not be a factor at O.co Coliseum. Despite his abbreviated season, Lawrie hit a career-high 12 home runs in 2014.

5. How quickly can roster become a team?

The A’s roster underwent mind-boggling turnover this winter, with the front office making nine trades involving 27 players, overhauling the infield and assembling a team that spent most of FanFest trying to get to know each other. Many players cited team chemistry as a major factor in the A’s success the past three seasons, when much of the roster had come up together. The A’s 40-man roster now includes only four players who were developed by the organization. Melvin’s platoon-and-matchup system works when players are flexible and OK with being cogs in the machine. It will be something else for the A’s offseason acquisitions to get used to in Arizona.

A’S AT A GLANCE

2014: 88-74, second place in A.L. West

Departures: C Derek Norris, 1B Brandon Moss, SS Jed Lowrie, 3B Josh Donaldson, C John Jaso, INF Alberto Callaspo, SP Jeff Samardzija, SP Jon Lester, SP Jason Hammel

Arrivals: C Josh Phegley, 1B Ike Davis, 2B Ben Zobrist, SS Marcus Semien, 3B Brett Lawrie, DH Billy Butler, SP Chris Bassitt, SP Kendall Graveman, RP Tyler Clippard

Pitchers/catchers report: Thursday

Full squad reports: Feb. 24

First spring-training game: March 3 vs. Giants in Mesa, Ariz, 12:05 p.m.

Spring home: Hohokam Stadium, Mesa, Ariz.

More information: oaklandathletics.com/spring

PROJECTED LINEUP

C: Josh Phegley/Stephen Vogt

1B: Ike Davis/Billy Butler

2B: Ben Zobrist

SS: Marcus Semien

3B: Brett Lawrie

LF: Sam Fuld/Craig Gentry

CF: Coco Crisp

RF: Josh Reddick

DH: Rotating

PROJECTED ROTATION

RHP Sonny Gray

LHP Scott Kazmir

LHP Drew Pomeranz

RHP Jesse Chavez

TBA

Matt Kawahara

SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

March

Date

Opponent

Time

3

Giants

12:05 p.m.

4

Giants

12:05 p.m.

5

Chicago Cubs

12:05 p.m.

6

Arizona

12:10 p.m.

7

L.A. Angels

12:05 p.m.

8

Chicago White Sox

1:05 p.m.

9

Texas

1:05 p.m.

10

Arizona

1:05 p.m.

11

Cleveland

1:05 p.m.

12

Seattle

1:05 p.m.

13

Kansas City (ss)

11:05 p.m.

13

x–Chicago Cubs (ss)

5:05 p.m.

14

x–Chicago Cubs (ss)

12:05 p.m.

14

Giants (ss)

1:05 p.m.

15

Milwaukee

1:05 p.m.

16

L.A. Dodgers

1:05 p.m.

17

San Diego

1:05 p.m.

18

Seattle

1:05 p.m.

20

L.A. Dodgers (ss)

1:05 p.m.

20

Colorado (ss)

1:10 p.m.

21

Cincinnati

1:05 p.m.

22

Cincinnati

1:05 p.m.

23

Cleveland

1:05 p.m.

24

Chicago Cubs

1:05 p.m.

25

Milwaukee

1:05 p.m.

26

Giants

7:05 p.m.

27

Texas

1:05 p.m.

28

Chicago White Sox

1:05 p.m.

29

Milwaukee

1:05 p.m.

30

Colorado

1:05 p.m.

31

L.A. Angels

1:10 p.m.

x–In Las Vegas

April

Date

Opponent

Time

1

L.A. Angels

12:05 p.m.

2

at Giants

7:15 p.m.

3

at Giants

7:15 p.m.

4

vs. Giants

1:05 p.m.

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