A's 2013 roster breakdown: Third base

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A's 2013 roster breakdown: Third base

Editor's note: This is the fourth installment of the Oakland A's position-by-position offseason breakdown, teeing up the team's options for the 2013 season.The departure of Eric Chavez left the A's starting guys like Jack Hannahan, Adam Kennedy, and Kevin Kouzmanoff, and Oakland felt it had finally found its answer at third in Scott Sizemore. He smacked 11 homers and drove in 52 runs in 95 games with the A's in 2011, but in the first full squad workout in spring training, Sizemore tore the ACL in his left knee and was lost for the season. With Sizemore out for the year, the A's relied on catcher-turned-third baseman Josh Donaldson. He struggled to keep the job, though. Donaldson only hit .153 with one homer and seven RBIs in 28 games spanning two stints in the first half of the season. Without an answer at the hot corner, the A's added Brandon Inge. The veteran third baseman changed the chemistry of the A's clubhouse and crushed four home runs while driving in 16 runs over a stretch of five games shortly after being acquired. As Inge enjoyed a career renaissance with the A's, Donaldson worked hard in Triple-A. When Inge went on the DL in August, Donaldson took the job and ran with it. In Donaldson's final 47 games, he hit .290 with 11 doubles, eight home runs, and 26 RBIs. "It's safe to say the way Josh played, he's a guy we are thinking about over at third going forward," A's general manager Billy Beane said at the conclusion of the season. "He seemed to settle in when he played at third everyday. That's his natural position out of college. He played it great. He did everything that you would want a young third baseman to do.""He has a lot to be proud of going into next season," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Absolutely, he should be considered in the plans here."So, which Josh Donaldson will the A's get in 2013? The one that mashed and hit key home runs in the second half? Or the one that struggled in the first half? We just might find out. Donaldson is considered the favorite to win the third base job in 2013, especially because Sizemore will be moved back to second base. That's a huge vote of confidence from the front office. The A's should also consider bringing back Inge. The free agent market at third base is very thin this offseason. He is coming off season-ending shoulder surgery and could be affordable. The A's could really use some depth at third base. Inge, who was a finalist for a Rawlings Gold Glove award in 2012, would provide very capable defense and give the A's leadership presence in the clubhouse. Here in 2013:Josh Donaldson, 75 G, .241 AVG, .289 OBP, 9 HR, 33 RBI
Adam Rosales, 3 G
Grant Green, 11 G (AAA)
Eric Sogard, 14 G
Scott Sizemore, DNP

Free Agents:Brandon Inge
Biggest Question:Can Donaldson parlay his strong second half into full-time success at the hot corner?Analyst's Take -- Shooty Babitt:"They always talk about that sophomore jinx. I think Donaldson snuck up on a lot of people last year but he does have a chance to be a good Major League player. I don't think third base will have a lot of competition. That's his job to fall flat on his face or lose at this point." "The dude does have an incredible amount of confidence and if you talk to him, there's no way in the world to get him to believe he wasn't supposed to do the things that he did last year. He showed ability and confidence." Best Available (and possibly affordable)Brandon Inge, 36
Jack Hannahan, 32
Mark DeRosa, 38
Scott Rolen, 38
Eric Chavez, 35

A's spring training Day 38: Alonso's offense comes to life

A's spring training Day 38: Alonso's offense comes to life

MESA, Ariz. — Yonder Alonso’s value usually gets discussed in terms of his defense, but the A’s first baseman is putting together a very impressive spring with the bat.

The A’s poured it on the Milwaukee Brewers in a 15-5 rout Thursday, and Alonso led the parade with two homers and three RBI. Both shots came off Junior Guerra, and the first would have cleared the right field wall had it been pushed back 30 feet farther.

Alonso is hitting .382 with four homers in Cactus League play. He says the extra work he’s putting in with hitting coach Darren Bush is paying off, and manager Bob Melvin likes what he sees from a player who hit .253 last year and knocked just seven home runs for the entire regular season.

“He’s had a great approach from the minute he got here,” Melvin said. “He and Bushy had a plan. He’s using the whole field a little bit more, which keeps him on breaking balls, which allows him to track fastballs a little bit more. He’s hit a couple balls good to left-center as well.”

The A’s love the defense they get from Alonso at first, but getting more thump from him offensively would be a boost for Oakland, which finished last in the American League in runs last season. His on-base percentage dropped to .316 last season, well below his career average of .334. That’s where a more patient approach could pay off, and that’s another focus with Alonso this season.

Right now, the plan is for the left-handed hitting Alonso to platoon at first with Ryon Healy, who will also see time at DH and third base.

“I think every day I’m coming in with a plan,” Alonso said. “Mentally and physically I feel fine. I’m ready to roll. I’m ready to continue to battle and continue to grind and have solid at-bats.”

CAMP BATTLE: A day after Andrew Triggs looked very sharp, another rotation candidate responded with his best start of the spring. Raul Alcantara gave up two runs over 5 1/3 innings against the Brewers, very much keeping his hopes alive for one of Oakland’s two open rotation spots. His outing was easy to overlook on a day the A’s hit four home runs and collected 18 hits total. But it was a timely effort for Alcantara, who is batting Triggs and Jesse Hahn for rotation jobs. Hahn’s next start is Saturday.

“His breaking ball, he struggled throwing it for strikes early and then found it, which is an attribute you want to see,” Melvin said of Alcantara. “It ended up being his best outing for us.”

Melvin said he thinks the battle for the Nos. 4 and 5 starter spots will go down to the wire.

NOTEWORTHY: Lefty Daniel Coulombe, trying to nail down a spot in the bullpen, threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings. After surrendering at least one run in each of his first five appearances, Coulombe has held opponents without a run in each of his last two outings (4 1/3 IP).

ODDS AND ENDS: Trevor Plouffe and Max Schrock hit the A’s other home runs along with Alonso’s two shots. Plouffe’s was an opposite-field blast to right. He’s hitting .361. Schrock was borrowed from minor league camp and went deep to right-center. … Ross Detwiler couldn’t shut the door in the ninth, retiring just two of the eight hitters he faced and allowing two walks and three runs. … Second baseman Joey Wendle, sidelined by a sore right shoulder, was scheduled to play catch for the first time in more than a week Thursday. He underwent an MRI a week ago that he said showed no significant damage. … Outfielder Jaff Decker (oblique) did all activity except take full batting practice. He seems to be progressing well and may still have a chance to battle for a roster spot.

Graveman takes to leadership role while Gray is sidelined

Graveman takes to leadership role while Gray is sidelined

MESA, Ariz. — Kendall Graveman feels comfortable with the leadership role that comes with being the A’s Opening Night starter, but he pointed out how all the starters will carry the load together.

“I told BoMel this morning when he told me, I said ‘I’m the No. 1 starter for Opening Night, but then whoever is the second guy is the No. 1 starter for us the next night,’ and that’s the way we have to go about it to be successful,” Graveman said Thursday afternoon.

That’s a message that Graveman says he’s already trying to spread to Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton, the starters who will follow him in the rotation. Oakland’s final two rotation spots are up for grabs.

With Sonny Gray sidelined by injury for what’s expected to be most of April, Graveman — with all of 52 major league starts under his belt — becomes the veteran leader of the A’s staff in the interim. Manager Bob Melvin gave Graveman the official word Thursday morning that he would take the ball April 3 against the Angels at the Coliseum. But shortly after Gray went down with a strained lat muscle March 7, Melvin approached Graveman about being his likely Opening Night guy.

It’s a natural fit. Graveman went 10-11 with a 4.11 ERA last season, and while those aren’t eye-catching numbers, they don’t tell the story of how valuable he was as the A’s lost starter after starter to injury.

Graveman has improved his mental preparation and his physical conditioning since coming over from Toronto in the Josh Donaldson trade. He’s become a meticulous studier to get ready for his starts. He’s picked the brain of veterans such as Gray and Barry Zito, who he played alongside with Triple-A Nashville for part of 2015.

And, not to be overlooked, his stuff and pitch arsenal have improved since he first arrived to the A’s. Though he’s a sinkerballer who relies more on location than velocity, the A’s clocked Graveman as high as 98 miles per hour on the radar gun in his last start.

“He’s kind of on a mission to be one of those guys that pitches at top of the rotation for many years to come,” Melvin said.