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OAKLAND – Stephen Vogt was aware of the decision that might come down Saturday, but that didn’t make it any easier for the Oakland A’s catcher to digest the news.
Vogt was among the final cuts as the A’s trimmed down to their official 25-man roster, and the longtime minor league journeyman nearly broke down as he addressed reporters in the clubhouse.
“This is such a great team, a fun team,” Vogt said, his eyes watering and voice cracking. “It’s just hard to not necessarily be a physical part of it. I think that’s the hardest part for me. I love these guys.”
Entering spring training, it seemed the A’s might carry three catchers. But it became apparent as camp wore on that the team’s brain trust was leaning toward keeping Daric Barton as an extra first baseman, which left room for only two catchers.
John Jaso and Derek Norris will form a platoon behind the plate. Vogt, who had minor league options remaining, will start the season in Triple-A Sacramento despite hitting .364 this spring.
None of the A’s roster decisions held much surprise. The three open bullpen spots went to lefties Fernando Abad and Drew Pomeranz, and righty Evan Scribner. They join Jim Johnson, Sean Doolittle, Luke Gregerson and Dan Otero in what should be a very strong bullpen despite setup man Ryan Cook beginning the season on the 15-day disabled list.
With Craig Gentry officially placed on the D.L., non-roster invitee Sam Fuld got the nod as the fourth outfielder over Michael Taylor, who was designated for assignment and has likely played his last game for the A’s.
If it was tough for Vogt to receive the news of his demotion, delivering it was no joy for manager Bob Melvin either. Vogt got his first extended major league action last year as a 28-year-old rookie and quickly became a clubhouse favorite. He delivered the game-winning hit in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, a storybook moment for a player who spent most of the previous six seasons knocking around the minors.
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“That was maybe the most difficult (discussion) I’ve ever had to do” as a manager, Melvin said. “Not only what he has meant to the team, but proving he belongs here, and he did. That’s a tough one on everybody.”
Melvin said Vogt is likely to be called upon at some point this season. But at least early on, the A’s prefer the defensive skill and on-base percentage of Barton at first base over keeping a third catcher. When Barton plays first base against right-handed pitchers, Brandon Moss will slide over to designated hitter.
Melvin envisions Pomeranz and Scribner being able to team up on a long-relief role that was held by Jesse Chavez until injuries forced Chavez into the rotation. Abad and Pomeranz represent two lefties who were acquired in offseason trades who won their way on to the roster with impressive springs.
“Pomeranz and Abad had terrific springs,” Melvin said. “We do need the (long relief) option. We feel like Pomeranz and Scribner give us that, and Abad gives us that lefty matchup we were looking for.”
Outfielder Billy Burns, the speedy spring sensation, will begin the season with Double-A Midland.
“We felt good about him coming over here (in a December trade), and we feel better about it now,” Melvin said. “From everything we’ve seen, he’ll be big leaguer at some point, I believe.”
Reliever Joe Savery and infielder Jake Elmore were optioned to Sacramento along with Vogt. Joining Cook and Gentry on the 15-day D.L. are right-hander A.J. Griffin (elbow strain) and reliever Fernando Rodriguez, who is nearing a comeback from Tommy John surgery. Cook and Gentry are expected to return right around their eligibility date of April 5, while Griffin will be sidelined most if not all of April.
In another move, the A’s added infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima to the 40-man roster but he’ll remain with Sacramento.
Here's a breakdown of who makes up the A's 25-man roster to start the regular season: