A's Send Nine To Papago; Roster Taking Shape

The Oakland A's took another big step towards setting their Opening Day roster, sending nine players down to minor league camp. The team now has 39 players in major league camp, 35 from the team's 40-man roster. We take a closer look at the moves inside...

The Oakland A's sent out nine players to minor league camp on Sunday, relievers Marcus McBeth, Lenny DiNardo and Fernando Hernandez, catcher Josh Donaldson, infielders Adrian Cardenas, Gregorio Petit and Eric Sogard and outfielders Corey Brown and Matt Carson. The team now has 39 players in camp vying to open the season on the team's 25-man roster.

The moves on Sunday put some clarity on the competition for the team's back-up infielder job and the middle relief positions. With Sogard, Cardenas and Petit heading to minor league camp, the A's have only middle infielders on their 40-man roster left in camp competing for a spot: Adam Rosales, Cliff Pennington, Steven Tolleson and Eric Patterson.

Patterson has been given the most at-bats of any A's player this spring, as the team tries to decide if the speedy and versatile left-handed hitter fits in their Opening Day roster. Patterson has seen time at second and in centerfield. In 14 games, he is batting .256 with a .326 OBP and three stolen bases. He has struck-out only four times. Patterson is out of options, so the A's will have to keep him on the 25-man roster or risk exposing him to waivers. They may also look to trade Patterson and having him play as often as he has this spring has given the rest of the league a good look at the former Chicago Cubs' top prospect.

Pennington began camp as the odds-on favorite to be the A's starting shortstop this season and he has done nothing to lose his hold on that position. In 10 games, he is batting .320 with a .429 OBP and three stolen bases. He has walked seven times against only three strike-outs and has two triples and a double. Pennington has past experience at second and third base, but he has played exclusively at shortstop this spring.

Pennington's biggest challenger at shortstop thus far has been Rosales, who has acquitted himself well in his first camp as a member of the A's organization. In 31 at-bats, Rosales has hit .355 with a .444 OBP and a homerun. Rosales has played all over the infield and is making a strong push to be the team's main back-up infielder.

Tolleson, also in his first camp with the A's, hasn't seen nearly as much playing time as Rosales, Pennington or Patterson. In 12 games, Tolleson has received 15 at-bats. Like Rosales, Tolleson has played all over the infield. He is batting .267.

The battle for the A's back-up infield job could be impacted by the health of Eric Chavez, although Chavez has yet to play anything but first base in game play.

The infielders who were sent down to minor league camp played well for the A's this spring. Cardenas struggled defensively, but the top prospect hit .381 with a .435 OBP while playing at second and third base. He could make his major league debut this season. Petit, who was cut from the 40-man roster this off-season, hit well in limited chances, collecting six hits in 11 at-bats. Despite not being on the 40-man roster, Petit could be a fallback option for the A's in the infield should injuries strike. He has appeared in regular season games for the A's in each of the past two seasons. Sogard, in his first spring training with the A's, made a good first impression. He played at second and short and hit .313 with a .455 OBP in 16 at-bats. Sogard will be competing in minor league camp for a spot on the Triple-A Sacramento roster. He spent last season at Double-A in the Padres' organization.

The competition to be in the A's bullpen also became a little clearer with Sunday's moves. Despite having multiple expected Opening Day roster relievers dealing with injuries (Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow, Michael Wuertz and Joey Devine are all struggling with injuries) and learning that right-hander Jon Meloan, who pitched well last September for the A's, will miss the season, Oakland sent three relievers to minor league camp on Sunday.

Right-handers Fernando Hernandez and Marcus McBeth were signed to minor league contracts this off-season. Both pitched well at times this spring, although they both finished with ERAs above 5.00. They should play important roles in the River Cats' bullpen and could be called upon should the injuries in the A's bullpen continue to be a problem. Left-hander Lenny DiNardo was being stretched out as a starter/long-reliever in camp, but he didn't pitch well in either role allowing 11 runs (nine earned) in six innings. DiNardo will likely serve as a starter for Sacramento. He pitched for the A's in 2007 and 2008 and was with Kansas City last season.

Remaining in camp in competition for an Opening Day bullpen spot is non-roster reliever Jason Jennings (who is also being used as a starter), and roster players Brad Kilby, Jerry Blevins and Henry Rodriguez. The chances of Kilby, Blevins or Rodriguez making the Opening Day roster are dependent upon the health of Bailey, Breslow, Wuertz and Devine. Before Saturday, Rodriguez was having the best spring of the three, although he was hit around against the Cubs, while Blevins and Kilby each put together strong two-inning outings. Jennings was battered by the Cleveland Indians as a starter on Saturday, but the A's may turn to him on Opening Day regardless to fill the long relief role in their bullpen. Jennings is a veteran and a former NL Rookie of the Year as a starter.

The only non-roster pitcher still in camp with the A's is right-hander Tyson Ross, who is having a spectacular spring. The A's top starting pitching prospect and former Cal star has a 2.70 ERA in 6.2 innings. He has struck-out 10 and walked only two. Ross isn't expected to compete for an Opening Day roster spot, but he could land in the River Cats' rotation if he continues to pitch as he has thus far this spring.

Outfielders Brown and Carson were both given a lot of playing time before being sent down to minor league camp. Brown, one of the A's top prospects, appeared in 11 games, collecting six hits in 23 at-bats. He had two doubles and two RBIs. Brown struggled with injuries last season, but played well when healthy for Double-A Midland. He will be battling in minor league camp for a spot in Sacramento. Carson was the River Cats' top outfielder last season, as he hit 25 homers and played solid defense in center. He also made his major league debut for the A's in September. He was dropped from the team's 40-man roster during the off-season, but he was given 16 at-bats in major league camp this spring. He hit only .188, but he should still start the season with Sacramento.

Top prospect Michael Taylor remains the only non-roster outfielder in camp. Taylor is competing with Travis Buck, Gabe Gross, Fox and Patterson for a spot in the A's outfield.

Donaldson's demotion to minor league camp leaves the A's with three catchers in camp, expected Opening Day roster members Kurt Suzuki and Landon Powell and non-roster invitee Anthony Recker. Recker has appeared in seven games this spring, collecting two hits in eight at-bats, including a homer. Utilityman Jake Fox has also seen time behind the plate and he remains in camp battling for an Opening Day roster spot. Fox, who is also out of options, is batting only .069 this spring in 29 at-bats. Donaldson, the A's top catching prospect in the upper levels of the minor leagues, had a strong spring, collecting three hits in nine at-bats.

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