LaRoche, Cramer Make The Cut For A's

The Oakland A's set their Opening Day roster after the completion of their 2011 spring training schedule.

In 2010, the announcement of the Oakland A's Opening Day roster sent shockwaves around baseball when the team's 2009 leading homerun hitter Jack Cust failed to make the roster. This year's version contained far fewer surprises. The A's announced that non-roster player Andy LaRoche had won the back-up infielder job - at least until Adam Rosales returns from a broken foot - and that Bobby Cramer and Jerry Blevins would fill the last two spots in the A's bullpen - at least until Andrew Bailey and Rich Harden return from injury.

The rest of the A's roster unfolded as planned from the outset of spring training. Despite struggling this spring, Conor Jackson made the A's roster as a back-up corner outfielder and first-baseman. Landon Powell regained his role as the back-up catcher to Kurt Suzuki, a role he lost temporarily last Opening Day to Jake Fox.

The A's will open the season with 12 pitchers - five starters and seven relievers. Three of the A's starters and four of their relievers are left-handed. Oakland will carry only five true infielders, although Jackson will spent time both at first and in the outfield.

The A's projected starting line-up will feature two switch-hitters (Coco Crisp and Cliff Pennington), three left-handed hitters (Daric Barton, David DeJesus and Hideki Matsui) and four right-handers (Kurt Suzuki, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Josh Willingham and Mark Ellis).

Oakland didn't play all that well this spring, finishing with only 12 wins and a six-game losing streak. However, there is optimism surrounding the team, which has added offensive punch and bullpen depth to a stacked starting pitching rotation and solid defense.

The A's finished the spring relatively healthy. Three players will start the year on the disabled list - Andrew Bailey, Rich Harden and Adam Rosales. Bailey isn't expected to miss more than a few weeks, while Harden's timetable will be determined more by what role the A's decide he should take, either as a starter or a reliever. Rosales came into camp in a walking boot and was expected to start the year on the DL. He was placed on the 60-day disabled list, so he won't be eligible to return to the A's roster until June 1.

Sent down to Triple-A Sacramento were right-hander Tyson Ross, infielders Eric Sogard and Wes Timmons, catcher Josh Donaldson and outfielder Matt Carson. Ross was in contention both for the A's fifth starter spot and the final bullpen spot. He pitched well this spring but lost the fifth starter battle to Brandon McCarthy and the A's decided that his future would be better served serving as a starting pitcher in Sacramento than as a longman in the Oakland bullpen, as he was at the start of last season.

Sogard started camp as the favorite to replace Rosales as the back-up infielder at the start of the season, but lost out on that role to LaRoche, who was one of the A's best hitters in camp, with four homers and a .333 average. LaRoche has more than 1000 at-bats in the major leagues and was a top prospect not that long ago, but has struggled to stick in the bigs. He will be given an opportunity to make his mark with Oakland as a bench player to start the year.

Cramer had an forgettable final spring outing - allowing two runs and earning the loss against the Giants - but an unforgettable day as he made his first big league Opening Day roster. He will be a reliever after making four starts for the A's last September in his major league debut as a 31-year-old rookie.

Donaldson hit .273 this spring and showed improvement on defense behind the plate, but he will get more regular playing time as the starting catcher in Sacramento.

Non-roster invitees Timmons and Carson had solid springs and they, along with Ross, Donaldson and Sogard, have positioned themselves to be first options for the A's should injuries strike the team's major league roster during the season.

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