Oakland A's Spring Q&A: Chris Denorfia

One of the most interesting battles this spring will be for the fourth and fifth outfielder spots on the Oakland A's roster. Chris Denorfia is one of the candidates to land one of those spots. We spoke to Denorfia from spring training to get his sense on his chances of making the roster, competing in the upcoming WBC and more…

The last two seasons have been strange ones for Chris Denorfia. The centerfielder established himself as a major league player in 2006 with the Cincinnati Reds and he entered spring training in 2007 with a strong shot at being on the Reds' Opening Day roster. Denorfia, who is a career .297 hitter in the minor leagues, worked his way up from being a 19th round draft choice in 2002 to a big league player.

Denorfia played a solid centerfield for Sacramento last season.
Unfortunately for Denorfia, his career arc hit a speed-bump in the spring of 2007 when he injured his elbow. He wound-up having Tommy John surgery and was sidelined for the year. His 2007 season became even stranger in late April when he was traded to the A's despite being on the disabled list.

After a long and grueling rehab, Denorfia made the A's Opening Day roster in 2008. He drove-in a run in the A's win during the series versus Boston in Japan. He appeared in 24 games for the A's before landing on the disabled list in early May with an injured back. It took six weeks of rehab before Denorfia was back on the field on an everyday basis in July. By the time Denorfia was healthy, however, the A's had promoted Carlos Gonzalez to the major leagues and acquired Rajai Davis off of waivers and Denorfia's roster spot had disappeared.

He spent the last seven weeks of the regular season and the first part of September playing for the Sacramento River Cats. Denorfia was instrumental in the River Cats' late-season surge into the post-season. In 35 games, he hit .324 with an 825 OPS for Sacramento. He tore through the post-season, batting .486 with a 1412 OPS and four homers in only eight games and helped to lead the River Cats to their second consecutive PCL and Bricktown Showdown titles. He carried over that hot streak into a late-September call-up with the A's, collecting five hits (including a double and a homer) in 12 late season at-bats.

Denorfia is entering spring training hopeful that the strong impression he made on the A's will help him earn a spot behind the A's expected everyday outfield of Matt Holliday, Ryan Sweeney and Jack Cust. He will be away from the team for part of the spring, as he will be competing in the World Baseball Classic as part of Team Italy. He joins Brad Ziegler as the only two A's players to be participating in the WBC this season.

We caught-up with Denorfia from spring training to find out his thoughts on the looming spring roster battle, playing in the WBC and more…

OaklandClubhouse: How are your back and elbow feeling? Are you entering spring training at 100 percent?

Denorfia hit .302 for Sacramento last season.
Chris Denorfia: Definitely. I feel great. This is the best that I have felt in a couple of years now, so I am really excited to get going.

OC: In terms of the back injury that you sustained last year, how have you rehabbed it?

CD: It was a learning process last year kind of coming to grips with it. But I finally got on not only a good strength program, but a good warm-up program that ensured that I was ready to go out and play everyday. I think that combined with some overall maintenance in the training room has definitely helped out.

OC: You finished up the season swinging the bat really well, both with Sacramento and with the A's in September. How important was it for you to finish up the year on a strong note?

CD: For myself, it was very important just to let myself know that I could still compete at that level. From an organizational standpoint, I hope they look at it as something that is important and will give me a leg up to start the season.

OC: How are you feeling about your chances to be on the Opening Day roster this year. Are you feeling pretty confident about that?

CD: It's pretty crowded out there. We've picked up a couple of outfielders, so it's going to be a battle, that's for sure. I'm not taking it for granted. Right now, I'm just going out there and getting everything ready and hopefully I can put together a number of good at-bats this year.

OC: I read that you are going to be a part of Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic. What drew you to that tournament and what are you looking forward to most about the experience?

Denorfia scored 12 runs in eight post-season games.
CD: I just remember watching the first one that they had and seeing how much fun the guys were having. When the Italian team approached me about playing, it was not only an honor to be chosen, but also it is sort of an unbelievable thing to be able to play for another country. We started looking at my heritage and everything and it works out. I'm really excited about playing.

OC: Last year was your first season with the A's while you were playing. Was that a tough transition after playing with Cincinnati for your entire career, or was it easy to feel comfortable in the clubhouse?

CD: Clubhouse-wise, the guys were great. It was definitely tough leaving a comfort zone. When you come up with a team, they have a good idea of who you are not only on the field, but off the field as a person. It kind of felt like I had to start from ground zero. I had to build up my reputation all over again. It was kind of unfortunate that I got hurt, but hopefully I proved that I can persevere and hopefully I showed some of my better characteristics.

OC: You were part of the Sacramento team that won the PCL Championship and the Bricktown Showdown. Was that a fun experience, or is it hard once you've played in the big leagues to get into minor league playoff races?

CD: I've said before in interviews that that month-long stretch of baseball that we had was probably some of the most fun I've had playing, ever. The group of guys we had there, the coaching staff, it got to the point that we would go to the field everyday and we just knew that we wouldn't lose. It's a very rare thing to feel when you are playing. We had a really great time. I don't think I ever laughed so much or enjoyed playing so much as that.

OC: Have the position player workouts begun?

CD: We had our first organized day today. This has been a pretty rare spring in that most of the position players have been here for at least a week, so we've already been getting after it. Today was just sort of a first official day for position players, so we went after it.

OC: When this off-season did you start swinging in a cage and throwing and that sort of stuff?

CD: I took a month off after the season. Then I started lifting again right away. I was down in Florida, and we started hitting and throwing again in the beginning of December.

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