2013 A's roster breakdown: Catchers

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2013 A's roster breakdown: Catchers

Editor's note: This is the second installment of the Oakland A's position-by-position offseason breakdown, teeing up the team's options for the 2013 season.The A's will enter 2013 without a veteran option at catcher. They don't seem too concerned by that fact. Derek Norris and George Kottaras are set to take the reigns in Oakland next season."We're comfortable with both of those guys," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Absolutely."Norris seems to be the logical choice to be the starting catcher for the A's next season. He was recalled on Aug. 21, and ended up taking over a bulk of the catching duty from veteran leader Kurt Suzuki. At one point in July the A's won 13 consecutive games started by Norris. He played well enough that Oakland felt comfortable trading Suzuki to the Washington Nationals. After Suzuki was traded there was a lot of concern about what would happen to the A's pitching staff. Norris proved he could handle the A's talented young pitchers.
It isn't a perfect statistic, but with Norris behind the plate, A's pitchers had a 3.08 ERA -- the lowest for a catcher in the American League with 50 or more innings caught. Despite the staff's confidence in him, Norris was only able to throw out 26 percent of would-be base stealers, which was third worst in the league. He will have to work hard in the offseason to improve that percentage.Norris, 23, only hit .201 in 2012, but he hit .339 with runners in scoring position, and four of his seven home runs came with a runner on. Kottaras also came through in big situations for the A's. He hit .293 with six of his nine homers coming with runners on base, and hit .368 with runners in scoring position. Norris is a right-handed hitter and Kottaras bats left-handed. That gives Melvin the opportunity to platoon the two catchers.Here in 2013:Derek Norris
George Kottaras
On the Farm:Jason Jaramillo
Blake Lalli
Max Stassi
Free Agents:NoneBiggest Question:Can Norris and Kottaras improve defensively?Analyst's Take -- Greg Cadaret:"I think Norris has the tools to be a good major league catcher. I think Kottaras is a major league backup. If you are splitting them 5050 I think you are weak there. Norris will improve once he gets the pressure off and stops trying to hit too many home runs. He has a tendency to let the frontside fly open and try and hook everything."I think he'll throw alright. I think he tried to be too fast sometimes. He showed the capability to block a ball, good hands, and the ability to call a game. A couple times he got lazy blocking balls and let a couple get away from him, but he looked like a guy that has some pop. He'll be a good major league catcher once he understands he doesn't have to try to do too much."Best Available (and possibly affordable):Mike Napoli, 31 (Not likely affordable)
Russell Martin, 30
A.J. Pierzynski, 36

A's spring training Day 7: Rosales readies himself everywhere

A's spring training Day 7: Rosales readies himself everywhere

MESA, Ariz. — Adam Rosales has a real simple plan for which infield position he chooses to try to get work at.

“Wherever there’s less guys, I go over there,” he explained with a smile.

The sun came out and the A’s finally got on the field for their first full-squad workout Monday after being rained out Sunday. That meant Rosales, back for his second go-round as an Athletic, got his first chance to prepare for what figures to be a super-utility role, which is how he’s carved out a nine-year major league career.

All indications are that he’ll be the primary backup infielder, capable of spelling Jed Lowrie at second base, Marcus Semien at shortstop, Trevor Plouffe at third and even fill in at first base or left field in a pinch.

Though Rosales, who spent 2010-12 with Oakland and re-signed in January on a one-year $1.25 million deal, is well-versed in preparing himself all over the diamond, one position in particular is one that he says is most difficult to master in limited time.

“Shortstop,” he offered without hesitation. “There’s a lot more going on there, a lot less room for error. At shortstop, especially with a guy like Mike Trout running, you’ve got to be in good rhythm, good timing, get rid of the ball and make an accurate throw.”

Depending on how the A’s prioritize their 25-man roster, Rosales could very well be the only backup infielder. That means fellow infielders Joey Wendle and Chad Pinder would start in the minors if the A’s were to keep a fifth outfielder or third catcher. But because the A’s have some players who can fill in at multiple spots, there’s numerous ways they can choose to configure the roster when it comes time to pare it down.

Rosales, 33, said walking back into the A’s clubhouse for the first time made him “feel like I’m back home.” So much of the support staff — equipment guys, clubhouse guys — are the same as when he was here before. He was also happy to see former infield mate Mark Ellis walk through the door Sunday. He says Ellis, a teammate from 2010-11, instilled in him the importance of being a great defender. Ellis is working as a part-time spring instructor.

“He told me, the No. 1 reason he was in the big leagues was because of this,” Rosales said, holding up his glove. “I was such a young player then. I’d always work with him, how to turn double plays. Just to have him around is awesome.”

NOTEWORTHY: Sonny Gray and Kendall Graveman were among the pitchers who faced hitters for the first time this season. Bruce Maxwell caught Gray, his first time behind the plate with Gray other than the one inning Gray threw in an abbreviated start at Anaheim toward the end of last season. Maxwell said Gray’s changeup in particular looked good.

Manager Bob Melvin has been very impressed early on with Graveman’s command. Graveman said he’s trying to improve his changeup, in an effort to induce weak contact from righties and get them on the their front foot, which could then make him more effective on the inside corner.

CAMP BATTLE: There could be a good fight for the seventh and final spot in the bullpen, and it would seem being left-handed could give someone an edge. Sean Doolittle is the only lefty currently projected among the A’s top six relievers. Melvin had good things to say about Daniel Coulombe, a lefty who made 35 appearances in relief last year and also saw a bit of time with Oakland in 2015. Coulombe posted a 4.53 ERA last season but struck out 54 in 47 2/3 innings.

A's spring training Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

A's spring training Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

MESA, Ariz. — Khris Davis enjoyed quite an offseason travel itinerary, checking out Toronto, taking in the beaches of Hawaii and dining on lobster in Belize.

However, it was the time spent in his adopted hometown of Oakland that most struck a chord with the A’s left fielder. After finishing his first season with the A’s, Davis followed through on his plan to make his offseason home in Oakland, and he was glad he did.

“I got to just feel the heart of the city,” he said upon arriving at camp Sunday. “That was basically the purpose of why I was there. … I wanted to feel Oakland. I love it, honestly. I love the city.”

He trained at Dogtown Athletic, a gym in West Oakland. He took part in the A’s holiday party for kids at the Oakland Zoo, joined by A’s Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who grew up in the city.

“Just to feel these kids’ happiness,” Davis said. “They didn’t look at me as a baseball player. They just looked at me as a role model kind of.”

It should be music to the ears of A’s fans that the team’s most dangerous hitter has a love affair with the city he plays in. If the A’s ever entertained the idea of trying to sign Davis to a multi-year extension, and that’s purely hypothetical here, it would help that Davis feels comfortable in his surroundings.

Even when he described Oakland in edgy terms, such as when he said it “has its dark side,” he seemed to find it endearing.

In return, Davis felt the love from the fan base in 2016, hitting a career-high 42 homers with a team-best 102 RBI. That was despite the awful start he got off to, hitting .143 and mustering just one RBI over his first 12 games.

Obviously, any chances the A’s have of improving last year’s American League-worst offense rely on the 29-year-old Davis having another big year. But over-analysis is one thing he tries to avoid.

“I don’t want to get caught up in last year — the slow start and the strong finish, whatever,” he said. “However it was, I’m just ready to do this year.”

Davis decided to back out of his plan to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, saying his main priority was preparing for his A’s season.

“My main focus is to perform for the organization,” he said. “I feel like I want to get off on the right foot this year.”

NOTEWORTHY: Heavy showers continued to pelt Mesa on Sunday, spoiling the A’s first full-squad workout. The hitters were relegated to swinging in the cages and playing catch, while pitchers were scheduled for a day off from throwing on the mound anyway.

“If ever there was a day, at least for the pitchers, that you don’t need to (work out), it’s today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But when you have everybody there on the first day, you wanna get out on the field and do everything. Hopefully we can incorporate everything tomorrow.”

The A’s have a whopping 70 players in camp, more than in any other spring Melvin can remember as a big league manager. He addressed the full team in a meeting Sunday morning.

His message?

“We’re gonna have to outwork, out-hustle everybody like we have in the past,” he said, “and get back to playing the game with the same tenacity that we did a couple years ago.”

FAMILIAR FACE: Longtime A’s second baseman Mark Ellis is back for the second year in a row as a spring infield instructor. The plan is for Ellis to spend a week with the team now, then another week later in camp.

“I’ll take Mark Ellis as many days as I can have him,” Melvin said.

LIGHTER SIDE: Nursing his broken right foot, starting pitcher Daniel Mengden has been making his way through the clubhouse on a knee scooter in order to keep pressure off his foot.

Apparently, it looks more fun than it really is.

“I contribute to society Friday, when I can start walking again,” Mengden quipped.