A First For Green
Although Oakland A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman recently told OaklandClubhouse.com that A's 2009 first-round pick Grant Green had found a home at second base, it appears that Green may still be visiting other positions from time-to-time this season. One of those other positions will be first base, a spot Green hasn't previously played with any regularity.
Green got the start at first in the second of the two scrimmages between the Oakland A's High-A and Triple-A affiliates this week. Before the game, Green received instruction from coaches on fielding the position. He looked natural getting to the bag and made a couple of stretches to record outs at first. The A's are no stranger to converting players to first base on the fly. Current A's first baseman Brandon Moss was moved from the outfield to first during the middle of last season.
Position changes are nothing new for Green, who has seen his defensive home shift from shortstop to centerfield to left field to third base to second base since midway through the 2011 season. While Green expects he will see time at first for the Sacramento River Cats this season, he still views himself as a second baseman primarily.
The River Cats have a need for Green to play first base on occasion, as they are carrying no true first baseman on their Opening Day roster (Scott Moore, Shane Peterson and Luke Montz are the three players with the most first base experience, but all three have other primary defensive positions) and they have several players who will need time at second (Green and Jemile Weeks, in particular, and Andy Parrino, Conner Crumbliss and Moore occasionally). Green understands the need for him to be able to get time at first in order to be in the line-up everyday.
"I think it is that [getting him and Weeks into the line-up at the same time] and I'm sure that at some point one of us will be DHing too," Green said. "But it's a way for them to get both of us in the line-up and still have someone else have a day to DH."
Getting Green in at first may primarily be intended to help spread out at-bats in Sacramento, but it may also give the A's some flexibility later this season at the major league level. Oakland recently acquired first baseman Nate Freiman to be their right-handed platoon-mate with Moss. Freiman was a Rule 5 pick from the San Diego Padres that the A's claimed off of waivers from the Houston Astros. Should Freiman struggle at the big league level, the A's could turn to Green to serve as a right-handed platoon with Moss (with the added benefit of Green being able to play second base, as well).
Green could also factor in the A's second base picture before the end of the season. He came into camp as one of the players expected to compete for the A's starting spot during spring training, but Green received only 22 at-bats in big league camp and was sent out fairly early despite hitting .409/.409/.636. Despite the disappointment of not being one of the finalists for the second base job, Green says he had a productive spring at the plate and in the field.
"I felt like I made huge strides at second. The swing felt really good when I got in there," Green said. "I didn't have as many reps as I wanted, but it is understandable with them trying to figure out things with Weeks and Sizemore and then who was going to be the utility guy between Sogie [Eric Sogard], Rosales and all of them. I understood it. Did I want more reps? Of course, but stuff happens."
The A's second base picture is far from settled. Eric Sogard and Scott Sizemore made the Opening Day roster as the team's second base platoon, but the A's also have two middle infielders (Adam Rosales and Hiroyuki Nakajima) on the disabled list and Sogard and Sizemore could be in danger of losing their roster spots to Rosales and Nakajima when those two are healthy. If no one takes control of the second base position from a production stand-point by midseason, the A's could look to Sacramento to see whether Green, Weeks or Parrino could fill that void.
Because of all of that uncertainty, Green's path to the big leagues could come in several different ways. Until then, he is going to continue to put time in working defensively wherever the A's ask him to.
"You never know what will happen [up in the leagues]," Green said.
The normally clean-shaven Green was sporting a thin beard on Tuesday night, but he isn't a threat to grow-out his beard to the length's of A's right-fielder Josh Reddick.
"No, I can't," Green said laughing when asked if he could grow his beard to match Reddick's. "I tried in the spring and it gets really patchy. I've got no shot."
Crumbliss Ready For The Leap
Conner Crumbliss was one of a handful of A"s minor leaguers invited to the team's spring mini-camp, so his spring training experience was just as long as those who went to major league camp. Despite being at the mini-camp, Crumbliss didn't spend much time with the big league club during Cactus League play.
Although he wasn't a big-league camp regular, Crumbliss was given the honor of joining the A's during their three-game Bay Bridge Series exhibition with the San Francisco Giants. Crumbliss got a chance to play in the first game of the series in San Francisco.
"It was great to get to the Bay Area and experience those two ballparks. It was my first time in each," Crumbliss said. "I've never played before more than 10,000 people before, so to play before sellout crowds there was amazing. Just to get to go our home park in Oakland was awesome. I had never seen it in person."
Crumbliss will begin the 2013 regular season with Triple-A Sacramento. It will be his first season at the Triple-A level and will continue a career-long trend that has seen him move up a level at the start of each season. Last year with Double-A Midland, Crumbliss led all minor leaguers in walks with 120. It was the second time in three years that Crumbliss was the minor-league walk leader and the third straight year he had eclipsed the 95-walk mark.
Crumbliss had a team-best .414 OBP for the RockHounds last season and he also led the team in runs scored and established a career-high for homers with 10. The Texas League can be a tough hitting environment because of the winds and a grind mentally because of the long bus rides and constant night games. Although Crumbliss won't miss those aspects of the Texas League, he will miss being closer to his home in Emporia, Kansas.
"Definitely glad to get out of that wind in Texas, but it's kind of bittersweet because I live closer to there and a lot more family is able to visit," Crumbliss said. "It's a little harder to get out here, but I'm really looking forward to the Triple-A schedule and getting adjusted to the league."
Where Crumbliss fits into the River Cats' line-up both offensively and defensively remains to be seen. He has been a lead-off hitter for most of his career, but he will be sharing time at the top of the order with Jemile Weeks and Grant Green. Defensively, Crumbliss will be sharing time in the outfield with 40-man roster members Michael Choice, Shane Peterson and Michael Taylor. Crumbliss' other position – second base – is also crowded. Crumbliss played in left field on Tuesday night in Stockton.
Crumbliss isn't worried about where he will get his at-bats, however. He is excited to play for manager Steve Scarsone, who was the manager at Double-A Midland last season.
"Nobody has told me anything [about roles]. I'm just going to take it day-by-day and try to do what Scars asks me to do and just try to get better," Crumbliss said.
"Scars is an awesome manager. Just having that familiarity is great. He's just awesome. He's fun to play for."
Hassebrock Excited For Second Season In Stockton
The 2012 season didn't go how Blake Hassebrock had envisioned it, but he has firmly put that behind him and he is ready for a bounceback 2013 campaign. The hard-throwing right-hander spent the spring working on his change-up and he is pleased with the results."It got better and better as the spring went on. I'm really excited about it. I have been using it [in games]," Hassebrock said on Tuesday.
In 77.2 innings split between High-A Stockton and Low-A Burlington last season, Hassebrock had a 6.72 ERA in an injury-plagued campaign. Hassebrock is ready to erase the memory of last season, starting on Friday when he takes the mound versus Bakersfield.
"I'm just focused on each pitch and going one-by-one. I'm not focused on the future or thinking about last year or even yesterday," Hassebrock said. "Just staying in the moment. The most important part is finding a rhythm and being able to relax and let your training take over."
Reunited with his pitching coach from 2011 Jimmy Escalante, Hassebrock enters the 2013 season with confidence.
"I was with Jimmy my first full year in Burlington and we clicked quite well together. Both of us are pretty laid back," Hassebrock said.
Opening Day Notes
- Opening Day for all four A's full-season affiliates is on Thursday night. The starting pitchers on Opening Day will be as follows: Sacramento – Andrew Werner; Midland – Murphy Smith; Stockton – Drew Granier; Beloit – Raul Alcantara.