Geren Talks Young A's At Winter Meetings

The baseball world is currently convened in Indianapolis for MLB's annual winter meetings. Oakland A's manager Bob Geren spoke with the media on Tuesday about his young team. Here are some of his thoughts on his young players and the team's 2010 plans...

On team's needs, signing veterans: Well, we have real good, young starting pitching. I thought we had one of the better bullpens in baseball last year. Our offense was down towards the bottom. But the second half we really used speed to increase our run production. You know, if you could add another bat or two into the lineup somewhere to add some more power, it would definitely help, because anybody would like to have good power and speed, and we were looking a bit in power last year.

We're open to any kind of possibilities. We're open to -- if we need a veteran to kind of fill in the spot for a year or two, then that would be fine. If we could find somebody that we could keep long-term that would be a great situation because we want to try to keep the core group of these young players, a lot of them arrive at the same time together for a long time. Our goal is not just to try to build a winner in the short-term but for the long-term, and you do that by keeping guys as long as you can. So somebody could fit in for a long-term, be it a trade or a free agent, we'd be all for that.

On Jake Fox: Well, he's going to obviously come to Kemp, compete for a job. Obviously we like his offense, his right-handed power, and I'm going to take a look at him in positions and see how it all fits in.

He's a tough guy, likes to catch. He's played third, played left field. All the reports on his defense is more kind of an average defender. I don't think there's one specific position where he stands out defensively, but he doesn't necessarily have any bad deficiencies anywhere defensively. He's really known for his offense and his versatility.

On whether Fox would play third base next season: If Eric [Chavez] was healthy and played every day, that would be great. That's what we all want. If not, {Fox]'d be a candidate for that position. There's always competition at first base. You have the outfield situation where last year we were very left-handed heavy and then we became right-handed at the end, so that could work itself out, too. As you say, he'll be given an opportunity to earn playing time like a lot of these guys. It depends how the roster shapes up. I think in Spring Training, I'd like to look at him at all the positions to see what he can do and how the roster might shape up, where he'd fit in.

On the DH situation: Well, last season our season ended with Jack Cust as our DH, and he had a good year for us. As of right now, that's -- there's really no change at this point. I mean, Jake Fox is a guy that obviously we like -- we talked about him earlier, we like his bat. He could move in and take some at-bats in that there, too. It's really early in the process being December. We have a lot of time to get everything, the roster, all situated. Come Spring Training, I think we're going to have a pretty young team, but we're going to have some talent. It's going to be a fun team to watch. On the first base competition: I thought Daric Barton on had a great second half of the year. He had an 820 OPS the second half of the year. We didn't have anybody on the team at 820 for the year, so if he can maintain that type of production, that's what we envisioned him all along as being that type of hitter where you have a high on-base and he can drive the ball in the gaps and hit an occasional home run. He did do that the second half of the year last year. And he's very, very young. Without a doubt [he's a front-runner for the job].

We have some first basemen in the fold, that's for sure, with Chris Carter coming along and Sean Doolittle and Fox. So there's plenty of first base production on its way. On Chris Carter: You know, in a perfect world he could get some more Triple-A at-bats and kind of dominate that league like he's dominated every other league he's been in. When he goes to Triple-A and dominates, then what are you going to say? He's absolutely fantastic in the California League and the Texas League MVP and goes to Triple-A and does that again, then you have to say he's ready. Ready for a shot anyway.

On Brett Wallace: I'm sorry, when we were talking first basemen, I totally missed on Brett. Brett is a third baseman right now, but he could end up being a first baseman someday also. He has the ability to play both. When we got him in a trade, obviously we were very happy with that acquisition. He was a guy at Arizona State that we thought highly of, and our scouting heads, the top guys in scouting, say he's one of the best pure hitters to come along in a long time. He's definitely -- he's also a local guy in the area, from the Bay Area, so that adds a little extra.

On whether Wallace should start at Triple-A or the big leagues: I'd like to see Eric [Chavez] come back in Spring Training and be ready to play every day and give these guys a little bit more time. When you can really hit like [Wallace] can, I hate to put a timetable on it. I'm anxious to see him play on a daily basis. He's going to be talked about the way he can hit the ball to all fields off lefties and righties and make it look real easy and natural. You don't see that come around very often. So I'm anxious to see that.

On Cliff Pennington: I saw him do a little bit of everything. I saw him struggle a little bit everywhere, too, and I think that's what you see in young players. He hasn't really established himself yet as an everyday Major League player yet, but he's shown flashes of what he can do. He's showed incredible range. Obviously we know about his arm strength, and he swung the bat pretty well at times. He did struggle at the end. Now, whether that's just a league adjusting to him or him getting a little bit tired towards the end or just a bad week, like can happen to anybody, that's still to be determined.

Yeah, he is [the starter at short], if we started tomorrow, definitely.

On Dallas Braden: The reports on him, just went and saw our medical people just recently, he's doing very well.

On the outfield competition: Well, I mean, right now you have Scott Hairston and Rajai Davis and Ryan Sweeney. Those guys all are talented players. What Rod did the second half was just phenomenal. The numbers he put on the board, he's played so well. And Ryan was one of our most consistent guys all year. And Hairston came over, was one of the top hitters for the Padres, their number three hitter, he hit over .300 in the National League. He came over and he had a couple of injuries late for us and missed some time, but you could see his talent level, too.

On Joey Devine: He just flew out to see our doctor about three or four days ago I talked to him, and he's doing great. He's been throwing, and he's up to a point where we actually want him to take a week off or just take a break. He's been following the program very hard. He's going and working out in the Atlanta area with two different people, one for physical therapy for his arm and throwing, and the other one for his body. He feels great. He's coming along perfectly. We came out just to give him like a little look, physical, the doctors flew out and the doctors gave him all thumbs up. Everything is really good.

On the team's young pitching: First, I'm very happy with the bullpen. If we could just equal that production from the bullpen, I don't really think we need much improvement there. They're very, very good. And getting Joey -- talking about Devine, getting him back adds another real good piece to that. But as far as rotation goes, Dallas Braden threw strikes all year. He's our best strike thrower, and we missed him a lot when he was injured in the second half. But as far as the young guys, Vince Mazzaro, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson, Anderson threw the most strikes, he was more aggressive in the strike zone, and he's coming around. He had an incredible year, really. If you think about a few breaks here or there, he could have been considered rookie of the year, also.

The other thing with Trevor and Vinny, they just need to throw more strikes. We tracked them from start to start and they did improve, but for them to reach their potential, they have to get their strike percentage higher.

Same [for Gio Gonzalez]. Gio we saw steady improvements like from Cahill as far as all year, just slow and steady. Gio was up and down. Gio would have a game where he didn't have any command, and then he'd have like the game in New York where he was just pounding strikes in the 70 percent range. So he was more of a hit or miss as far as his command from game to game. So it tells you what he can do when he does throw strikes. And with Trevor, you just saw him slowly get better throughout the year. I don't know which one is better to be honest with you. I know that if they keep improving, pretty soon they'll be pretty good.

On adding a veteran starter: We could definitely use some depth in that position. If we add another free agent, I mean, that would be one that would fit in real nice is another starting pitcher, because as you saw last year, it's almost -- it feels almost impossible to have too much depth in that position. But the young guys are going to get their chance to go out there every five days.

On Josh Outman: Josh is doing well, too. His surgery was in late May, early June. Yeah, he's questionable ready for Spring Training.

No [setbacks]. Now, whether we use him as a starter or reliever will depend on how quickly he can come back. You're talking about maybe a month difference if you're building him up for a starter. But he's got a great arm, too. You talk about all those guys, and he's actually a guy that might have had better numbers than all of them, had he not got hurt.

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