MESA, Ariz. — Jaycob Brugman was among four roster cuts the A’s made Monday morning, thinning out the outfield competition with about three weeks of spring training left.
His demotion points to the strong impression non-roster invitee Alejandro De Aza has made in his bid to make the club as an extra outfielder.
There’s still lots of moving parts in how Oakland’s Opening Night roster could look, and one unresolved issue is whether the A’s keep four or five outfielders.
Khris Davis, Rajai Davis and Matt Joyce are locks for the roster, with Mark Canha a strong bet to platoon with Joyce in right field. De Aza and Jake Smolinski are the top contenders for a fifth outfielder spot, but Smolinski has yet to play defense in a game this spring because of a nagging right shoulder injury.
De Aza, a nine-year veteran who spent last season with the New York Mets, has earned praise from manager Bob Melvin all spring, and he threw out a runner at third Sunday against the Cubs after entering the game in center. He also handles the corner spots well.
“That’s not the first guy he’s thrown out,” Melvin said of De Aza, who throws and bats left-handed. “He keeps the ball down and hits the cutoff man, so even if there’s not a play at the base he’s throwing to, it can be redirected. He’s a veteran guy, a pro, and he knows how to play the positions.”
The other three players optioned to Triple-A Nashville along with Brugman were right-hander Paul Blackburn, reliever Bobby Wahl and infielder Yairo Munoz. Blackburn, an Antioch native who was acquired from Seattle for Danny Valencia, entered camp on the fringe of the battle to make the A’s rotation.
He figures to begin the season in Nashville’s rotation, and Melvin had good things to say about the 23-year-old despite a rough outing Friday against Kansas City when he allowed five runs.
“He’s got a full four-pitch complement,” Melvin said of Blackburn. “I think the curve ball’s gonna be an important pitch for him. I know in the past, it was really good and then he kind of went away from it. His changeup’s good, he’s got subtle movement to all his pitches.”
Asked whether he could envision Blackburn getting a call-up at some point this season, Melvin replied: “It wouldn’t surprise me at all. And depending on how the bullpen shakes out over the course of the season, he’s potentially a length guy as well.”
Jesse Hahn, Andrew Triggs and Raul Alcantara are the leading candidates for two open rotation spots behind Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton (Sonny Gray will begin the season on the disabled list with a lat injury).
Minor league right-hander Daniel Gossett also remains in camp and Melvin has talked highly of him too.
Stephen Vogt hasn't played since Thursday because of a right heel issue, but Melvin said the veteran would DH on Tuesday and get back behind the plate Thursday, following the A's day off Wednesday.