By Jason Wojciechowski on April 2, 2007 at 9:53 PM
Oakland's roster for Opening Day wound up including a couple of surprises. With Esteban Loaiza going on the DL to start the year, a spot was opened up for Travis Buck to make the team. Buck will start in right field for Oakland this very night, allowing Nick Swisher to play first. Bobby Kielty is on the Opening Day roster, but will apparently not be the starter. I'm really quite shocked that Buck will start over Kielty, but that is the A's way, I guess: play the kids as soon as they're ready. Don't bring them up and waste cheap years with them sitting on the bench. So if Buck was going to make this team, it only makes sense that it'd be as the starter.
Chad Gaudin will get the starts while Loaiza is out. Officially, it seems to be Joe Blanton taking Loaiza's starts (as the #2 guy), with Gaudin pitching as the #4 man. I'm cautiously optimistic about Gaudin. He was surprisingly good out of the pen last year, but he walked a few more guys than you'd like to see, particularly out of a starter who's supposed to be going six or seven innings. That need for innings is exacerbated by the fact that Gaudin himself is a good guy to depend on being able to throw some bridge innings (fifth, sixth, seventh) if a starter can't make it. Take him out of the bullpen and I think Lenny DiNardo (see below) becomes that bridge guy.
Lenny DiNardo and Jay Marshall both made the team as lefties out of the bullpen. DiNardo had the best spring of any of the guys who were competing for the fifth starter spot, and Marshall opened a lot of eyes, so he's here, hopefully, as I said before, not as a LOOGY, but as more of a Mike Neu-style mopup guy.
Todd Walker also made the team as the utility guy, squeezing out Antonio Perez. Walker will apparently play first base when Nick Swisher has to play the outfield.
Apparently this all means that Erubiel Durazo didn't make the team. Google News tells me that he was offered a minor league spot, but that he's not likely to accept, and might actually retire. It's quite a fall for a guy who was a pretty good hitter just a few short years ago (and was supposed to be far more than a pretty good hitter, besides).
Also not making the team was Rule 5 pick Ryan Goleski. Google News tells me that the A's apparently weren't able to work out a deal to keep him, as he's been taken back by the Indians. I guess there's nothing to prevent the A's from trading for him later, but at the point where the Indians have already reclaimed him, that seems unlikely.
So, recapping, here's the situation as I see it:
- Catcher: Jason Kendall, with a tiny pinch of Adam Melhuse
- First: Nick Swisher, with Todd Walker filling in when Milton Bradley is hurt (pushing Swisher to center)
- Second: Mark Ellis, Todd Walker backing him up
- Short: Bobby Crosby, Marco Scutaro backing him up, Todd Walker also available
- Third: Eric Chavez, Marco Scutaro backing him up, Todd Walker also available (Walker might be the primary backup here?)
- Left: Shannon Stewart, Bobby Kielty backing him up
- Center: Milton Bradley, Nick Swisher backing him up
- Right: Travis Buck, Bobby Kielty against a lot of lefties
- DH: Mike Piazza
- SP1: Dan Haren
- SP2: Joe Blanton
- SP3: Rich Harden
- SP4: Chad Gaudin
- SP5: Joe Kennedy
- CL: Huston Street
- Setup: Justin Duchscherer, Kiko Calero
- Middle relief: Lenny DiNardo, Alan Embree
- Mopup: Jay Witasick, Jay Marshall
You tell me exactly what purpose Jay Witasick serves. I'd rather have kept Goleski or Durazo than this guy, especially since there are five relievers better than him on the team as it stands, and it's not like he can make a start if he needs to. Hopefully he's the guy that gets dumped when Loaiza comes back, pushing Gaudin back to the bullpen. Instead, I'm afraid it'll be DiNardo.
In any case, the reliever situation could work out differently than I hope it would, with the lefties, DiNardo and especially Embree, getting "setup" innings that I'd rather see go to Duchscherer and Calero, regardless of whether there're right- or left-handed batters coming up. On the other hand, I don't anticipate Embree being too bad, so it wouldn't be a tragedy to see him take some high-leverage innings. All told, having more quality relievers than a team needs is a good problem to have, particularly if the starting pitching looks a little thin and you're likely to have to get some starts from Jason Windsor or Shane Komine at some point during the year.