March 8, 2011RATTO ARCHIVE
A'S PAGE A'S VIDEORay RattoCSNBayArea.com
As spring training conundra go, backup shortstop ranks right up there with sixth-inning reliever, bullpen catcher, and weekend color analyst.But both the Giants and As are looking for someone to break up the every-day monotony of being the most important infielder, and the As need is even more acute.Enter Andy LaRoche, driving his third home run of the spring well over the left field wall against Tim Stauffer in Oaklands 6-3 win over San Diego.RELATED: Cahill strong for four innings, A's beat Padres
LaRoche signed with As after struggling to find a place in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, and understood immediately that he would be responsible for learning whatever tasks he was put to if he wanted to hold a place on the 25-man roster.RELATED: A's roster
Im just here to do whatever they want me to do, he said. Ive played more third base than anywhere else in the past, but I have to go where the opening is.The opening here is at shortstop, where incumbent Cliff Pennington is coming back from shoulder surgery, and backup Adam Rosales isnt due back from his injury until May. LaRoche, who isnt a shortstop by nature, is about to play one on TV.We obviously have a need for that job, manager Bob Geren said of the backup infielder role, and I want to give everyone a chance to win that job.But LaRoche has the most imposing bat of the candidates, who also include Eric Sogard and Steve Tolleson. Also the greatest urgency, as he has been stuck behind circumstances in his prior stops, never breaking through in L.A. and getting stuck behind Pedro Alvarez in Pittsburgh after being shipped there.I came here because Billy (Beane) had been after me for awhile, he said, and because this looked like a good place for a job. He also said he talked with Daric Barton and Kurt Suzuki for their imprimaturs, though the need probably superseded the selling.That said, LaRoche isnt just going to be a shortstop if he survives the cuts. He does daily work at all four infield positions, because the art of kicking obstacles out of the way starts with getting your foot in the door.Shortstop, though, is probably the way he will be graded here. As Beane said, Im not big on speculating on anything this early in the spring, but I will say the ability to play shortstop will enhance his opportunity.Also hitting 415-foot homers, he might have added.What'syour take? Email Rayand let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag. Follow Ray on Twitter at @RattoCSN.