Oakland A's 25-Man Roster Analysis

OAKLAND – The Oakland A's finished off their spring training schedule with a win and then wasted no time in announcing their 25-man roster. Although the roster is official, don't expect it to remain unchanged for long.<br><br> Since spring training began, A's manager Ken Macha has hinted that Oakland would carry 12 pitchers for the first time in a number of years. The reasoning behind that decision was that the A's would want to carry an extra reliever to aid the A's young starting rotation.

Yet when the A's announced their Opening Day 25-man roster, it included only 11 pitchers. So does this signal a change in the A's philosophy of carrying 12 pitchers?

Not necessarily. Upon closer inspection of the A's roster, one quickly notices that it doesn't include a fifth starter. Consequently, it is clear that the A's will be making an early season adjustment to the roster when the fifth starter's spot comes up in the rotation.

That fifth starter spot may be coming up quicker than most expect. Although the A's won't technically need a fifth starter until April 13, the A's may call on their fifth starter as soon as April 6. Oakland's number two starter, Rich Harden, is questionable for his Wednesday start with a blister on his pitching hand. He and the A's will determine on Monday whether or not he can go on Wednesday. If he can't go Wednesday, Harden will likely be pushed back into the weekend series against Tampa Bay or the home opening series against Toronto.

On the A's current 25-man roster, Oakland is carrying four starting pitchers (Barry Zito, Harden, Dan Haren and Joe Blanton) and seven relievers (Justin Duchscherer, Ricardo Rincon, Juan Cruz, Kiko Calero, Keiichi Yabu, Octavio Dotel and rookie Huston Street). The A's are also carrying 14 position players – five outfielders (rookie Nick Swisher, Charles Thomas, Mark Kotsay, Bobby Kielty and Eric Byrnes), two catchers (Jason Kendall and Adam Melhuse) and seven infielders (Eric Chavez, Bobby Crosby, Mark Ellis, Keith Ginter, Scott Hatteberg, Erubiel Durazo and Marco Scutaro).

It is Scutaro's spot on the roster that is most likely to be short-lived. The A's don't really need four middle infielders, but are carrying Scutaro early in part to protect against wear and tear on starting shortstop Bobby Crosby, who bruised his left wrist last Wednesday. Scutaro, who was the A's starting second baseman for much of last season, had a nice spring, but lost out to Ellis and Ginter at the second base battle this spring.

The fifth starter spot hasn't been officially named, but it is very likely Kirk Saarloos will be the fifth starter. Saarloos wasn't on the 40-man roster, so the A's didn't have to make a roster move with him this spring. That means that he can be recalled at any time this week to join the 25-man roster. The A's opened a spot on the 40-man roster on Saturday when they designated Tim Harikkala for assignment to AAA-Sacramento. Seth Etherton, the other pitcher competing for the fifth spot, was sent down to AAA on Saturday, meaning that he can't rejoin the team for at least 10 days unless someone is put on the disabled list. Saarloos finished off his spring with two straight five-inning, shut-out outings and that -- combined with his experience in the A's rotation last season -- is likely what won the spot for him.

Oakland will be carrying four rookies on their Opening Day roster: Swisher, Blanton, Street and Yabu. Swisher, Blanton and Yabu were virtual locks to make the roster when spring training began. Street, however, was a long-shot to make the team due to his relative inexperience in professional baseball (he was a 2004 draft pick). He impressed everyone with his poise on the mound and his ability to pitch to both sides of the plate. He will likely be eased into major league pitching by appearing mostly in low-pressure situations to start the season.

In addition to designating Harikkala for assignment and optioning Etherton to AAA, Oakland also reassigned Jermaine Clark, Hiram Bocachica, Saarloos and Britt Reames to minor league camp. Chad Bradford was officially placed on the 15-day disabled list, as he recovers from back surgery. Bradford isn't expected back until June at the earliest.

As mentioned earlier, Saarloos will likely be added to the roster when the A's first need a fifth starter. Utilitymen Clark and Bocachica had outstanding springs and both players put themselves in good position to be recalled during the season if the A's lose a position player to injury. Bocachica, of course, will be rehabbing from his own injury over the next six weeks, as he recovers from a fractured right wrist. Both Clark and Bocachica received high praise from A's infield coach Ron Washington on Robert Buan's "Extra Innings" radio program on Saturday for their great play and excellent work ethic.

Reames will be returning to Sacramento for his second stint with the River Cats. He had a nice spring and will bring veteran depth to the River Cats' bullpen. Harikkala will also bring major league experience to Sacramento if he chooses to accept his assignment. Both could be candidates to join the A's bullpen if anyone gets injured or falters during the season.

Game Notes:

The A's defeated the San Francisco Giants to even the Bay Bridge Series at 3 games a piece. The A's won a well-pitched game 3-1. Dan Haren was brilliant, allowing only one run and three hits in six innings worked. He was under 70 pitches when he left the game. Justin Duchscherer, Ricardo Rincon, Kiko Calero and Octavio Dotel combined to toss three shut-out innings to end the game. Dotel reached 94 MPH with his fastball on Saturday and he retired the side in order to end the game.

Eric Chavez, Scott Hatteberg and Charles Thomas all chipped in with RBI singles and Eric Byrnes added a double and a run-scored. Bobby Crosby started the game and played all nine innings. He should be ready to go on Monday despite his bruised wrist.

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