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It’s never too early to begin the spring training speculation.
The A’s have decisions to make at the back of their starting rotation, and though several relievers seem assured of roster spots, there are at least a couple jobs open in the bullpen too.
With pitchers and catchers beginning workouts Saturday, here’s an early stab at what Oakland’s 12-man pitching staff will look like come Opening Night. We’re assuming, of course, that the A’s will indeed carry 12 pitchers. It seems a good bet they will considering they open the regular season with 16 games in 17 days. Fresh arms will be needed.
Here’s some predictions, knowing full well that lots can change before the March 31 opener against the Cleveland Indians …
--Jarrod Parker: Entering his third full major league season, the right-hander will be counted on to solidify the front of the rotation. He stepped up his offseason conditioning, hoping to avoid the late-season fatigue that hindered him in 2013.
--Sonny Gray: Fans have every right to be excited based on the sample we saw last year. Just realize there could be growing pains in his first full season. But given how good Gray’s stuff is, he could hit a speed bump or two and still be very, very effective.
--Scott Kazmir: You read about him all offseason. Now it will be fun to watch what this lefty brings to the mound for Oakland. He just turned 30, which is senior citizen status in this rotation.
--A.J. Griffin: A lot gets made of the number of homers Griffin allows. Bottom line, this guy won 14 games and posted a 3.83 ERA last season. That warrants a starting slot in 2014.
--Dan Straily: He led American League rookies in games started (27), innings pitched (152 1/3) and strikeouts (124) last season. Tommy Milone could get the nod if the A’s want a second left-hander in the rotation, but we’ll give the edge to Straily entering camp.
--Jim Johnson: He’ll deliver fewer strikeouts and fewer cuss words than his predecessor, Grant Balfour. But Bob Melvin raves about the preparation and study that his new closer applies to the craft.
--Ryan Cook: He hit turbulence late in 2013 due to some mechanical issues, but when he’s right, he’s nasty.
--Sean Doolittle: If he can continue honing a consistent secondary pitch to complement his fastball, this lefty is a closer-in-the-making.
--Luke Gregerson: The Illinois native spent the winter working out in Chicago with a group of fellow big leaguers that included Giants reliever George Kontos, Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson and White Sox infielder Gordon Beckham.
--Dan Otero: Claimed off waivers from the Yankees last spring, he blossomed in Green and Gold, posting 1.38 ERA in 33 games last season.
--Fernando Abad: His career numbers to date (1-14, 4.56 ERA) hardly impress, but the A’s see upside in this lefty, who they acquired from Washington over the winter. He’s out of minor league options, which means the A’s risk losing him if they don’t keep him on the 25-man roster.
--Jesse Chavez: Evan Scribner will also get consideration as the final right-hander in the bullpen. Both are out of options, and both have contributed for the A’s in the past.