Versatility could help Wendle in crowded A's infield

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Versatility could help Wendle in crowded A's infield

MESA, Ariz. — He committed to winter ball for the opportunity to play third base. Instead, Joey Wendle wound up playing lots of shortstop for Yaquis de Obregon in the Mexican League.

It all served the same purpose — make the A’s second baseman more versatile for an organization that values versatility more than ever.

A glance at the numbers shows Wendle faces an uphill battle to make the 25-man roster. Oakland has veteran Jed Lowrie slated to start at second base, and Adam Rosales was brought on board to be the utility infielder. But Wendle made a strong impression in September during his first major league call-up, and he’ll fight to make the A’s infield roster decision a tough one.

“It’s the same approach I’ve always kept,” Wendle said Friday morning. “Just continue focusing on what I can do and playing my game. That’s really all I can control. Everything else is up to the front office and coaching staff. If I do what I feel I’m capable of, I think I’ll put myself in a good position to help the team out at some point this year.”

The A’s like the strides the 26-year-old Wendle has made defensively at second since being acquired from Cleveland in December 2014. He hit .260 with one homer and 11 RBI in 28 games in September, serving as a leadoff man for much of that time.

Manager Bob Melvin likes the fact that Wendle got experience over the winter playing on the left side of the diamond. Wendle found out when he arrived in Mexico that a shortstop originally slated to play for Obregon didn’t pan out, so he got substantial time at short over the course of his 34 games.

“I think just playing the position, understanding what the shortstop has to go through as a second baseman helps you,” Melvin said. “Seeing the game from the other side of the diamond, having to make different throws. He’s a pretty athletic guy.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if he could do it. And if you’re keeping one extra infielder and now you can add the position to your repertoire, it gives you another chance to stay at the big league level.”

Wendle took only four or five days off at the end of last season before heading to Mexico, so his 2016 season essentially stretched into late November. He and his wife, Lindsey, lounged on a beach near Obregon to celebrate their second anniversary, but by the time he finished winter ball, Wendle was “pretty fried” in his words.

But he arrived at camp refreshed and ready to compete for a roster spot.

“Until a player makes it to the major leagues, there’s a big question mark in his head as to whether he can do it or not,” Wendle said. “(The September call-up) was big for me. I think I proved to myself to an extent that at least I’m capable of playing at that level. Obviously, it’s a game of adjustments, so the ability to do that is going to be huge if I get another opportunity up there.”

Rajai Davis hitting leadoff in A's exhibition opener Saturday

Rajai Davis hitting leadoff in A's exhibition opener Saturday

MESA, Ariz. — A’s manager Bob Melvin announced his lineup for Saturday’s exhibition opener against the Chicago Cubs, and at least the top of the order has an Opening Day look to it.

Rajai Davis will lead off and handle center field, and that’s the role Melvin envisioned for him when he was signed in the winter as a free agent. Marcus Semien will bat second, a spot that could also potentially be occupied by Jed Lowrie were he in the lineup at second base.

The heart of the order features new right fielder Matt Joyce hitting third, Mark Canha handling left field and batting cleanup and designated hitter Stephen Vogt hitting fifth. On Opening Night, obviously, Khris Davis will play left and likely bat cleanup, but it’s quite possible Melvin sticks with the left-handed hitting Joyce and Vogt sandwiching the right-handed Davis.

Though Trevor Plouffe projects as the everyday third baseman, prospect Matt Chapman gets the start Saturday against the defending World Series champs, and there was thought behind that as Melvin wants the highly regarded Chapman to experience what should be a raucous atmosphere at Sloan Park in Mesa. It’s the Cubs first game of any kind since winning their first Series since 1906, and the intensity should be cranked up from that of a typical Cactus League opener.

“It’s one of the reasons a guy like Matt Chapman is in the lineup,” Melvin said. “I want (young players) to see what is going on over there.”

He mentioned the A’s other top-rated position player prospect, Franklin Barreto, will get time at shortstop Saturday.

Right-hander Jesse Hahn will make the start on the mound, and he’ll face a Cubs split-squad lineup that includes Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jason Hayward, Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell. The Cubs have crammed more than 15,000 fans into Sloan Park before, and it won’t be a surprise to see the ballpark at capacity.

“For me, it’s just the first game of the year, so it’s exciting for me no matter who it is,” Hahn said. “I mean, it’s a plus to go over there in that stadium. Everybody knows how electric that stadium is.”

Here’s the A’s full lineup Saturday:

R. Davis CF

Semien SS

Joyce RF

Canha LF

Vogt DH

Chapman 3B

Alonso 1B

Rosales 2B

Maxwell C

Hahn RHP