ANAHEIM – Derek Norris is ready for some first base duties if need be, but Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin hopes he doesn’t have to use his catcher there.
Norris took grounders and throws at first before Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels, as the A’s brainstorm a right-handed hitting option at that spot in case Nate Freiman’s abdominal strain keeps him out of the postseason.
“Sometimes you get into playoff baseball, some things could happen,” Norris said before Tuesday’s game. “I don’t think it’s a position where it would be a long-term thing. But sometimes crazy stuff happens. I think I’ll just be used as insurance.”
Norris has played first in just one professional game. That came back in 2007 while in rookie ball with the Washington Nationals. He did play third base throughout high school, and Melvin touts the overall athleticism of the stocky backstop.
“He’s a heck of a bowler, too,” Melvin noted with a smile. But asked how he views Norris possibly fitting in at first, Melvin responded:
“I hope he doesn’t have to factor into that position. But just based on the fact that Nate is not active for us right now, we’re just having someone else take some ground balls there.”
Freiman hasn’t played since Sept. 16. He feels the most discomfort when he swings the bat, but he was scheduled to hit off a tee either Tuesday or Wednesday, Melvin said. He’d been platooning with Brandon Moss for most of this season at first, but Daric Barton has seen the lion’s share of the time there since coming back from the minors Aug. 26, and Moss has played more outfield. Moss and Barton both hit left-handed.
If the A’s keep three catchers for the A.L.D.S., and Melvin said that’s a possibility, that situation would be more workable if one of them had the ability to play elsewhere.
Speaking of catchers, John Jaso got four at-bats in an Arizona instructional league game Tuesday. He hasn’t played a big league game since late July due to concussion-related symptoms. It still appears a long shot that Jaso could return to help the A’s in the playoffs, but Melvin said if he was activated, it would probably be strictly as a hitting option.
The A’s staff will continue to monitor Jaso during workouts next week at the Coliseum in advance of their A.L.D.S series, which will begin Oct. 4. Melvin said the A’s likely will take Monday off and begin workouts next Tuesday.
Melvin won’t announce his Game 1 starter until after the regular season wraps up Sunday in Seattle. That assignment is expected to go to Bartolo Colon, who makes his final regular season start Friday against the Mariners.