Programming note: For all of the latest A’s news from spring training watch SportsNet Central tonight at 6:00, 10:30 and midnight on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
PHOENIX -- A’s manager Bob Melvin says he works with the hand he’s dealt each season, and this year he’s got more speed on his roster than normal.
Therefore, the A’s might look to steal more bases and rev up their running game in general.
It makes sense given that Craig Gentry – one of the major league's fastest players -- was acquired from Texas to replace Seth Smith in the outfield mix. Leadoff man Coco Crisp said his legs are healthier this season and that he hopes to swipe more bags after notching just 21 steals last season, his lowest output since 2009, when he had 13 with Kansas City.
“Obviously with Gentry, that’s a different dynamic,” Melvin said Wednesday morning. “(Nick) Punto can run a little bit. You may even see a few more hit-and-runs out of us this year with some of the players we have.”
Of course, it all depends on how other offensive aspects are functioning. If the A’s are cranking balls over the fence with regularity, they figure to be more conservative on the bases to avoid running into outs and killing rallies.
Last season, the A’s ranked 11th out of 15 American League teams with 74 stolen bases. But they were third in both home runs (186) and runs scored (767).
See the contrast from just a few seasons ago. Oakland was woeful in the power department in 2010, hitting the second-fewest homers in the league (109). They ran much more that season and stole 156 bases, third-most in the A.L. Ideally, the A's would like to strike a balance between their bash and dash.
One speedster Melvin will be watching closely in camp – center fielder Billy Burns, acquired from Washington over the winter for reliever Jerry Blevins. The switch-hitting Burns doesn’t figure to make the big league club out of camp, but A’s officials see him as a future table-setter atop the lineup.
“He’s about as fast as they get,” Melvin said. “I think we’d have a nice little foot race with probably three or four guys in camp. Now, it doesn’t always come down to (pure) speed. Coco is one of a kind at being at top (speed) after a couple of strides. But from what I understand, we’ve got some guys that will be fun to watch on the bases.”