Programming note: A’s Insider Joe Stiglich is in Arizona; check back for his coverage throughout spring training and watch SportsNet Central nightly at 6 and 10:30 p.m. for all the day’s MLB news.
PHOENIX – When the lights come on and the Oakland A’s play their first night game of spring training, there’s always a regular-season feel in the air.
Fittingly, Thursday night’s game against the Colorado Rockies features an A’s lineup that we could see again when the games start to count.
The projected lineup that was posted a day in advance:
Coco Crisp CF
Josh Donaldson 3B
Jed Lowrie SS
Yoenis Cespedes LF
Brandon Moss 1B
Josh Reddick RF
Alberto Callaspo DH
Stephen Vogt C
Nick Punto 2B
A.J. Griffin RHP
It’s doubtful that this exact starting nine will take the field in the March 31 opener against the Cleveland Indians. But it’s easy to envision manager Bob Melvin penciling in those top six hitters in the order that they’ll appear Thursday night.
[RELATED: Joe Stiglich's A's chat transcript (3.12.14)]
Coco Crisp is the unquestioned leadoff man, charged with jump-starting the offense. Melvin has indicated that Josh Donaldson will bat second, a spot in which both he and the team seemed to thrive late in the 2013 season.
Jed Lowrie drew more starts in the No. 3 hole last season than anywhere else and hit .290 overall with 75 RBI and 45 doubles. Yoenis Cespedes needs to cut down his strikeouts and be more consistent, but he’s the A’s most dangerous hitter and is a natural for the cleanup spot. Brandon Moss would follow, giving Melvin a righty-lefty power combo in the 4-5 spots. And Josh Reddick would get some RBI opportunities as the sixth hitter.
As for the rest of Thursday’s lineup, Alberto Callaspo is a decent option as a designated hitter, though John Jaso figures to get considerable time there if the A’s keep three catchers. Stephen Vogt might very well platoon behind the plate with Derek Norris, and Nick Punto appears slated for platoon duty with Eric Sogard at second base.
Obviously the A’s didn’t do much in the way of offseason moves to shake up their offense. After finishing fourth in the majors in runs last season, the front office didn’t see the need to pursue a free agent hitter such as Nelson Cruz or Kendrys Morales.
But it’s critical for Oakland to get similar production as last season from Donaldson, Lowrie and Moss. Crisp likely won’t hit 22 home runs again, but he’ll need to get on base and be the catalyst. And, as it’s been well-documented this spring, Cespedes and Reddick need to return to their 2012 form after disappointing seasons at the plate last year.
Tonight's 7:05 p.m. game will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet California.