Spring Scouting Report: Mark Ellis

One of the biggest questions surrounding the Oakland A's this spring is the health of second baseman Mark Ellis. The defensive wizard is coming off of a dislocated shoulder and a torn right labrum. OaklandClubhouse.com's Casey Pratt was recently in Phoenix and observed Ellis' play in spring training camp. Here is his report on the health of Mark Ellis.

Ah, the smell of fresh cut grass, hot dogs and draft beer, the chatter of excited fans filing to thier seats, and the pop of a high velocity baseball crashing snug into a leather glove. Baseball is back!

Upon reflection I realize that the last ball thrown had some good heat on it. Quickly, I look to see which Oakland A's young hurler is warming up with some long toss. After studying the player, I realize that hurler standing in shallow center just past second base has too small of a build to be a pitcher.

Then it hits me.

It is Mark Ellis.

Mark Ellis is back and looking healthy as ever. Once again he has added muscle in the offseason and looks like he is in top playing condition. Yet I keep hearing from the A's coaching staff that they aren't sure he will be ready to go by opening day this season. In addition, Mychael Urban of Oakland Athletics.com has stated that Ellis' cut-off throws have looked weak in drills.

Ellis hasn't played in a regular season game since October of 2003, after tearing the labrum in his right shoulder resulting from a spring training collision with A's shortstop and Rookie of the Year Bobby Crosby.

I put all that aside and watched him closely on the field that day. His throws looked crisp, on target, and fast. He looked nimble on defense, and at the plate he is up to the old tricks that made him one of the best contact hitters on the A's roster.

If it was my call, Ellis would be the starting second baseman for the 2005 Oakland Athletics. That is coming from someone who was excited about seeing Keith Ginter compete for a spot at second base.

Ellis went on to go 3 for 3 in the game that day against the Brewers, and recorded no errors on defense. Just two days later, he went 2 for 3 against the Diamondbacks.

He is ready to go.

The question in my mind, however, is how long will he be able to play pain-free. Troy Glaus suffered a similar injury in the 2003 season and decided not to have surgery. After missing extensive playing time, he came back the next season, only to have it re-injured again. He missed almost all of the 2004 season for the Angels electing to have surgery to fix the problem. Richie Sexson suffered a similar fate in 2004. After separating his shoulder early last season, he came back a few weeks later from the disabled list only to miss the rest of the season by re-injuring his shoulder attempting to check-swing in one of his at-bats.

The track record for players who have elected to let their labrum injuries heal naturally and not have surgery shows that they usually experience a re-occurance of the same injury. Ellis is one of the best defensive players in a position that requires many diving stops and swift throws. One hard fall, awkward dive, or even a check swing, as we found out last season, can shelve him for the rest of the year.

Worries aside, A's fans will be happy to hear that right now Ellis looks healthy as ever. He is playing extremely well, but only time will tell if he will suffer a serious set back much like Glaus and Sexson did last season.

Maybe A's management is pretending not to see Ellis' progress to keep him motivated. However, with his stellar play on both sides of the ball this spring, the starting second base job is his to lose with Keith Ginter (.262 AVG/ 19 HR/.333 OBP) and Marco Scutaro (.273 AVG/7 HR/.297 OPS) fighting to put their name on that 2005 opening day roster. At least A's fans can say that this year, unlike last, the A's aren't short on options at second base.

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