The Oakland A’s whittled down their big league camp to 36 players on Sunday when they sent five to minor league camp. Right-hander Chris Bassitt and outfielder Alex Hassan were optioned to Triple-A Nashville, while infielders Andy Parrino and Max Muncy and catcher Luke Carlin were re-assigned to minor league camp.
Although not a surprise, these moves confirm that Bassitt will not make the A’s Opening Day roster as either a starter or a reliever. Bassitt came into spring training with a shot to make the A’s rotation or latch on as a long reliever, but he struggled in his first spring with Oakland. In 13.1 innings, Bassitt had an 8.38 ERA and 19 hits allowed. He struggled with his fastball command, especially against left-handed hitters. With Bassitt now officially out of the running, the A’s final rotation spot is now a battle between Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz and Barry Zito. Chavez and Pomeranz are the odds-on favorites to make the A’s Opening Day roster out of the three.
Right-hander Kendall Graveman tightened his grasp on his spot in the rotation with another brilliant outing on Sunday. He threw 6.1 scoreless innings against a Milwaukee Brewers’ line-up that featured nearly all of their regulars except for Ryan Braun. Graveman allowed just three hits – all singles – and he walked none.
Hassan had a solid spring when he was healthy, but he missed valuable time with a hamstring injury that limited him to nine games and 18 at-bats. The outfielder hit .444 with a 974 OPS.
Parrino, like Hassan, came into camp with an outside chance of making the Opening Day roster. The versatile Parrino has appeared in big league games with the A’s each of the past two seasons. He has always impressed with the glove, but he struggled with the bat this spring, hitting just .191 in 47 at-bats. Fellow utilityman Tyler Ladendorf remains in big league camp and is a candidate to land on the Opening Day roster if Josh Reddick or Coco Crisp have to begin the season on the disabled list. Ladendorf is batting .296 this spring.
Reddick played in the A’s minor league intra-squad game on Sunday, batting in nearly every inning – including twice in one inning. He went 0-for-3 with a walk, but he tested his strained oblique on several occasions, checking his swing, pulling the ball and stealing a base. Reddick appeared to be moving and swinging without restriction. He walked in one at-bat, stole second and then came around to score on a single to centerfield by Melvin Mercedes.
Carlin made a strong impression in his first camp as a member of the A’s organization. It is likely that he will be the A’s first option behind the plate should either Stephen Vogt or Josh Phegley land on the DL this season. Carlin hit .273 with a .414 OBP and he handled the pitching staff well. He has been known for his defensive prowess throughout his long minor league career.
Muncy made one of the strongest impressions in big league camp this spring. Although he never had a real shot of making the big league roster, Muncy lasted until the final week of big league camp because of his quality at-bats and his surprisingly effective glove at third base. Muncy has been primarily a first baseman during his minor league career, but he showed promise at third base and figures to see a lot of time there this season. At the plate, Muncy hit .364/.463/.697 with five doubles, two long homeruns and 10 RBI.
Although Muncy has been in big league camp, his exploits have been well known in minor league camp. A’s minor league field coordinator (and Muncy’s 2014 manager with Double-A Midland) Aaron Nieckula says that Muncy “has definitely opened up some eyes in big league camp.”
“He’s made tremendous amounts of improvement [since spring 2014],” Nieckula said. “I haven’t had too much of an opportunity to see him in big league camp but the reports I have gotten have been very positive. Not just on the offensive side, but also on the defensive side at third base.
“He’s one of those guys who doesn’t necessarily have the greatest body when you look at him – and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way – but he is a very gifted and very talented athlete. He’s very athletic. He’s got quick feet. He’s got good hands. He moves well on the bases. He’s got a plus arm. It’s just a matter of getting more repetition on that side of the field.”
A’s minor league camp concludes with a 9am game on Saturday, so those five players re-assigned on Sunday will likely be quick to join the A’s minor league camp program. Nieckula knows the transition from big league camp to minor league camp can be difficult emotionally for some players, and the A’s minor league staff is always working on ways to make that transition easier for those players.
“It’s always difficult when guys get cut from major league camp,” Nieckula said. “It’s always disappointing and frustrating, although a lot of them understand that they maybe had an outside chance to make the major league roster. So it’s to be expected and is just a matter of when in big league camp they get sent down.
“I think the first thing minor league coaches and managers are instructed to do by Lipp [A’s Director of Player Developmen Keith Lieppman] is talk to them. Find out how they are feeling and how they are doing. Ask them questions. Just welcome them with open arms and integrate them into the program with everyone else. But it is frustrating and disappointing to be sent down from major league camp. We understand that.”