Introducing Jermaine Clark

Nick Swisher's shoulder injury created a spot on the Oakland A's 25-man roster on Monday and the A's gave utilityman Jermaine Clark the nod to fill that spot. Clark has spent parts of three seasons in the major leagues, but isn't exactly a household name. Here is an introduction to the A's newest player.

Jermaine Clark's career has been a story of perseverance. After starring at Will C. Wood High School in Vacaville, CA, Clark had to wait until the 44th round before he was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Clark decided to forgo that selection and head to college, where he improved his standing tremendously after a standout career at the University of San Francisco. After finishing his career with the Dons, Clark jumped up the draft board and was selected in the fifth round by the Seattle Mariners in the 1997 amateur draft.

Clark's minor league career started out strong, as he hit over .300 in each of his first three minor league seasons. By age 23, Clark was at AA and he made himself a legitimate prospect when he hit .293 with a .411 on-base percentage and 38 stolen bases. Clark appeared on the fast track to the major leagues when he was taken by the Detroit Tigers in the Rule V draft. He made it through spring training on the Tigers' roster and managed to appear in three games for Detroit. He recorded his first major league hit, but was returned to the Seattle organization a mere three weeks into the season.

Clark's career stalled. He hit only .250 in 76 games for AAA-Tacoma after rejoining the Seattle organization. He returned to Tacoma in 2002 and hit .266 with a .370 on-base percentage in 108 games before being traded to the Texas organization with Derrick Van Dusen for trade deadline acquisition Ismael Valdez. It was with Texas that Clark would next make the major leagues, although it wouldn't be until 2003.

2003 was a yo-yo season for Clark. He began the year with Texas and appeared in 10 games for the Rangers before being out-righted to AAA. Clark was claimed on waivers by the San Diego Padres and, after a stop at AAA-Portland, Clark was recalled to San Diego. His stay with the Padres was short, as he appeared in only one game. Clark was sent back to AAA and was later shipped back to Texas for future considerations. At the tail-end of the 2003 season, Clark had his longest stint in the majors, appearing in 26 games for the Rangers. He was unable to get his bat going during that time, however, hitting only .174. He did walk more times than he struck out (6 to 4), but it was an otherwise forgettable stretch of playing time.

Clark was granted free agency after the 2003 season and he signed on with the Cincinnati Reds. He had a strong spring training, but was unable to secure a spot on the Reds' roster. After Clark hit .284 with an 808 OPS for AAA-Chattanooga, he was a late season call-up to the Reds. He again struggled at the plate, managing only four hits in 30 at-bats. Still the A's liked what the saw in the balance of Clark's minor league career, and they moved quickly to sign him in the off-season.

What Oakland liked about Clark was his versatility, his patience at the plate and his ability to add speed on the base-paths. Clark demonstrated all of those skills during spring training, where he hit .289 and slugged an impressive .526. He also showed that he could handle himself both in the infield and the outfield, drawing praise both from Manager Ken Macha and infield coach Ron Washington.

The East Bay native isn't expected to get a lot of starts during what is likely to be only a two to three week stint. However, Clark could steal some at-bats, as the A's have been struggling to find offensive production out of their left-fielders and may give Clark a chance to start a game or two to see if he could be the answer in left. At the very least, he should see time late in games as a pinch-runner and defensive substitution. He will give the A's some added flexibility that their roster hasn't seen in some time.

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