Oakland A's Inside Pitch: Ellis A Keeper

In this edition of Oakland A's Inside Pitch, we find out about the Mark Ellis contract extension, who will be playing in the World Baseball Classic from the A's 25-man roster, what Keith Ginter's status is and more...

Mark Ellis' return from a potential career-ending injury was one of the best comeback stories of 2005, even if most of the national media gave it little attention and Major League Baseball didn't even include Ellis among the nominees for Comeback Player of the Year.

The A's were well aware of what a great story it was, however, and they rewarded Ellis with a two-year contract for $5.75 million with a $5 million option (or $250,000 buyout) for 2008.

The funny part about the multiyear contact is it only occurred because the A's and Ellis' agent couldn't agree on a one-year deal. The negotiations had stalled, neither side wanting to budge.

At that point, assistant general manager David Forst decided to propose a multiyear deal. Two phone calls later, a deal was done.

"We spent four weeks discussing a one-year deal and drawing lines in the sand," Forst said. "Then it took an hour to get a multiyear (deal) done."

Chances are high the leadoff hitter on Opening Day will be Ellis. Manager Ken Macha told the crowd at the team's annual Fanfest that Ellis would get first crack at the spot.

"I love the top of the order," Ellis said. "You're pretty much guaranteed four at-bats. The more times you can come up, the better. At the same time, just being out there every day is the main thing. We have a lot of interchangeable parts. There's no holes in the lineup. Wherever they put me is fine."

The contract capped the comeback story for Ellis, who overcame a potential career-ending shoulder injury from 2004 spring training, then had to win back his second base job twice last year (from Keith Ginter in the first half and Marco Scutaro in the second half).

Now the job clearly belongs to Ellis, who hit .344 with 38 RBIs and 57 runs after the All-Star break. He led the club in slugging (.477) and on-base percentage (.384), and his .316 average ranked fifth in the American League (based on 400 plate appearances).

"It's hard to deny how well he played in the second half," Forst said.

"He was, without question, our best hitter the last six weeks. It's certainly a tribute to how hard he worked to get back to being that kind of player."

Teammates clapped when he was introduced to the crowd and the contract was announced.

"Last year at this time, I didn't know what would happen," Ellis said. "I knew I had to show everybody what I could do. It was a long process. This was a much more relaxing winter. I was able to enjoy myself a lot more."

World Baseball Classic Updates

--RHP Esteban Loaiza will represent Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.

--3B Eric Chavez and RHP Huston Street could play for the U.S. team.

--RHP Dan Haren and RHP Kirk Saarloos were both listed on the preliminary WBC roster for The Netherlands, but they said they want to concentrate on the season and turned down the chance.

--LHP Barry Zito, a stickler on routine and preparation, doesn't want his spring training schedule to be compromised by the World Baseball Classic, either.

Ginter In Limbo

INF Keith Ginter is signed at $1.4 million guaranteed, but there's no place for him to play in Oakland, especially with the arrival of Antonio Perez. The A's tried to include him in the Milton Bradley deal, but his contract prevented that. He's off the 40-man roster and is likely to start the year in the minors.

BY THE NUMBERS: .630 -- Career winning percentage of Barry Zito, the fourth-best in Oakland history (minimum 50 decisions).

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