Spring Training Updates: Report From Arizona

The smell of hot-dogs and fountain beer is in the air. A sacred odor most baseball enthusiasts know all too well. That can only mean one thing. Spring Training is well under way. With it comes the excitement of competition, and the wonderful feeling that the new baseball season is almost here. Pitchers are starting to throw deeper into the games, and the hitters are almost done tuning up their swings.

The Oakland A's have two main opening day roster spots still up for grabs. Here we will update on the current roster competitions, as well as fill you in on a couple young players making a strong impression; and as always, the trade winds are constantly blowing, who could be moved next?

Position Battle Update: LF- The battle to decide who will be named the starting left fielder is still raging on. Eric Byrnes and Bobby Kielty have been posting very impressive and comparable numbers thus far in the spring, while impressing both fans and coaches with their dedication. Bobby Kielty finished the day today hitting .379 this spring, with 11 hits in 29 at bats while posting 4 RBIs. Eric Byrnes on the other hand has an average of .405 with 15 hits in 37 at bats while driving in 9 runs. Although Byrnes has slightly better numbers than Kielty at this point, this competition is still way too close to call, and will most definately go down to the wire.

The Last Open Roster Spot: Bullpen- The competition for the final roster spot is still up for grabs but the main line of competition has been whittled down to just two contenders. Justin Duchscherer and Chad Harville are the last men standing. Harville is currently looking like the early favorite to win the job. This spring he has posted a perfect ERA of 0.00, while giving up only 4 hits in 9 innings of work Harville has 7 strike outs and has only walked 3 batters. He has primarily been used in relief roles which could be a sign of things to come. Speculation says that if Rhodes fails as a closer or gets injured Harville could be the man to take the closers role.

Justin "The Duke" Duchscherer has been used as a starting pitcher and out of the pen this spring. He has appeared in a total of 3 games, while starting one. The Duke has a spring ERA of 2.57. He has pitched 7 innings and allowed only 2 earned runs, while striking out 4 and walking none. Migraine headaches had side lined him for a game but he returned to action filling in for Mark Mulder who had a sore back. The Duke has looked solid as well but seems more suited for the starting pitching role, a role that won him the honor of Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year.

Spring Cleaning: There have been several cuts thus far. Some of the more notable people cut include left handed pitcher John Rheinecker who hoped to vie for the last bull pen spot. Joining him are Lou Pote, Matt Watson, Eric Cammack, Ramon Castro, and Brian Sellier who happened to be batting .500 at the time of his departure.

Making A Strong Impression: Some of the young players making the most noise this spring include Esteban German, Bobby Crosby, and Mike Rouse. Esteban German has impressed A's management as well as the fans with his amazing defense. Spending his career as a second baseman German knew he had to be more versatile to have a shot at the back up infielder spot on the roster, so he began playing at third where he has looked very good so far. German has also had no trouble at the plate or on the basepaths. German has displayed great skill at getting on base. He is currently hitting for a .392 average, with 11 hits in 28 at bats. When on base this spring he has been a huge threat to score, crossing the plate 10 times in a total of 12 games. Having watched German run the bases a case could be made that he is the fastest player on the A's roster.

Bobby Crosby has eased the panic in Oakland a little this spring by showing up at spring training and tearing the cover off the ball. If he can perform in the regular season like he has so far this spring A's fans will probably forget about the former MVP that used to roam the infield at shortstop. Crosby has hit for a .333 average, with 3 doubles, 3 homeruns and leads the teams starters with 8 RBIs. Crosby actually hit two home runs in one inning against Padres starting pitcher Adam Eaton, one of which was a grandslam. His fielding skills have appeared a little shaky at times but definitely above average. This will be his first year in the big leagues and will most likely be a work in progress as he learns the ropes.

Other players to watch this spring include Mike Rouse who is a 3rd basemen in the A's minor league system. He has shown great glove work and hitting skills. Erubiel Durazo has looked very strong so far this spring as well. Eric Chavez also blasted a monstrous dinger in his first at bat since signing his 6yr $66 million dollar contract, which could be considered the start of a new era.

Rumor Mill: With a General Manager as crafty as Billy Beane and the departure of former Assistant GM Paul Depodesta to the Dodgers it looks like some moves will be eminent. Minor League Infielder Jose Flores has already departed to Los Angeles in exchange for cash. Also it appears that the Dodgers are very interested in PCL MVP First Basemen Graham Koonce. The Dodgers currently have a void at first base while the A's are over stocked at that position. Graham Koonce is ready to make his mark in the big leagues now, and it appears that wont be happening any time soon with Oakland. Rumor has it A's minor league outfielder, Jason Grabowski is another player who Dodgers G.M. Paul Depodesta has had his eye on, he may also be packaged into a deal for Koonce.

The Mets have expressed interest in utility man and wanna be comedian Frank Menechino, who has missed a lot of the spring with a strained calf muscle that he injured walking up the stairs to the dugout. Former A's skipper Art Howe has always thought favorably of the New York native, Menechino and is in need of some versatile infield help. Should Menechino leave for New York expect either Marco Scutaro or Esteban German to fill his roster spot. If Chad Harville wins the vacant bull pen roster spot it is also very possible Justin Duchscherer could be traded.

Words of Advice: If you are attending Spring Training at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the best seats in the house are located behind home plate in the upper section. They provide an excellent view and are the only seats that remain shaded throughout the whole ball game. If you are looking for autographs the best time to show up to the game is around 10:30 am. (Assuming they have a 1:05 pm start time) That is when the players begin practice. Sharpie pens and souvenir baseballs can be purchased at the team stores. Stand along the First base line and players will make their rounds signing autographs up until game time. Their practice area is located beyond right field, and the players will be walking back and forth from the field to the dug out providing many opportunities for souvenirs, photos, or a few quick words of encouragement.

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