A's fourth outfielder competition heating up in Arizona

A's fourth outfielder competition heating up in Arizona
March 17, 2014, 4:30 pm
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Michael Taylor has played in 26 career Major League games. While Sam Fuld has played in 366 career games. (AP)

PHOENIX – One is making a nice first impression with the A’s. The other knows this might be his last chance.

Sam Fuld and Michael Taylor have traveled different roads, but they’re aiming for the same goal: Make Oakland’s 25-man roster as the fourth outfielder if Craig Gentry starts the season on the disabled list.

Gentry, acquired from Texas in the offseason, has yet to play in a game this spring because of a strained lower back. He did full baseball activity before Monday’s 6-2 victory against the Chicago Cubs, but unless he starts getting game at-bats soon, he’s bound for the D.L.

So Fuld and Taylor are playing lots of Cactus League innings and making the most of it. Fuld is hitting .282 and was a spark plug atop the batting order in early exhibitions. Taylor is batting .302 and threw out a runner at home plate Sunday against Cincinnati.

“I think obviously both of them sense (an opportunity),” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.

Taylor has entered past springs carrying the pressure of being a top prospect. Acquired from Toronto back in December 2009, he’s played in just 26 major league games and hit .135 with one homer, which is also his only RBI. Now he’s out of minor league options, which means Taylor must be exposed to waivers (where other teams can claim him) before the A’s can send him down again.

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“I wanted to mentally be freer, have more fun and showcase what I’ve worked on,” Taylor said.

Fuld signed this offseason and was a non-roster invitee to spring training. He can exercise an opt-out clause either on March 26 or June 1 if he isn’t on the major league roster. So if Fuld doesn’t stick with the A’s, he’d like to catch the attention of other clubs that might need an outfielder.

He’s grateful for the playing time he’s gotten this spring, though he didn’t want it to come at a teammate’s injury expense.

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“You can never anticipate those things,” Fuld said. “The only thing predictable is the umpredictable. It’s nice that I’ve been able to get a lot of time out there, that’s all you can ask for."

One factor might tip the scale in Fuld’s favor. Melvin says he’d like the fourth outfielder to be someone who can play center field to spell Coco Crisp, and Fuld is an excellent defender with much more experience than Taylor in center.

In other news, Melvin sounded doubtful that Scott Kazmir would start Tuesday even if he reported to the clubhouse feeling good.The lefty was scratched fromMonday’s start due to triceps stiffness.

Reliever Ryan Cook will test his shoulder in a simulated game Wednesday. But Melvin wouldn’t speculate on when Cook and Gentry might appear in an exhibition, so the chances are increasing that both players will open the season on the D.L.

With additional bullpen spots open with Jesse Chavez in the rotation and Cook possibly headed for the D.L.,Melvin said Evan Scribner is “at the forefront” for one of those spots.

Melvin said third baseman Josh Donaldson (right calf tightness) wants to play Tuesday but will be held out until Wednesday.

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