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Oakland Athletics' Manny Ramirez (1) works on his timing during a spring training workout at their Papago Park baseball complex in Phoenix, Arizona, on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. (Anda Chu/Staff)

PHOENIX -- Manny Ramirez will serve as designated hitter and bat cleanup Friday for the A's, providing fans a tease in the team's exhibition opener against the Seattle Mariners.

Regardless of how Ramirez fares in Cactus League play, he will disappear from the spotlight once the regular season begins, when he serves a 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy.

But his presence adds some intrigue Friday, even if the final score is quickly forgotten as most spring training games are.

The A's lineup will include as many as eight players who could logically start the regular season opener March 28 against the Mariners, though manager Bob Melvin issued a caution.

"I would say don't look too much into (Friday's) lineup," he said.

The batting order: Jemile Weeks (2B), Cliff Pennington (SS), Coco Crisp (CF), Ramirez (DH), Seth Smith (LF), Josh Reddick (RF), Kurt Suzuki (C), Brandon Allen (1B), Josh Donaldson (3B), with right-hander Graham Godfrey making the start on the mound.

Batting Crisp third is an idea Melvin is flirting with for the regular season. But he's also said that if another No. 3 hitter emerges, his most effective lineup probably has the speedy combo of Weeks and Crisp hitting 1-2.

The A's have several roster issues to sort out over their 21 Cactus League games.

The rotation is unsettled, and they must find a closer. Godfrey and Tommy Milone, also slated to pitch Friday, are among those fighting to make the starting five.


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"When you're throwing bullpens, sure, you're trying to impress," Melvin said. "But you're not really going to evaluate until you get in games."

The A's need to identify starters at both corner infield spots, though Donaldson will get every chance to be the third baseman. He was the star of Thursday's intrasquad game.

The DH spot is up for grabs with Ramirez missing the first 50 games, and Melvin will try to strike a balance -- giving Ramirez enough at-bats to shake off rust while also evaluating candidates such as Jonny Gomes, Chris Carter, Kila Ka'aihue, Allen and Smith for the start of the regular season.

The outfield is unsettled until the A's gauge the readiness of Yoenis Cespedes, the Cuban free agent expected to arrive this weekend after clearing up visa issues.

  • Cespedes is known to be taking his physical Saturday in Phoenix, the final step before his four-year, $36 million contract is finalized. Therefore, it seems logical he might join the A's on Sunday.

    That would leave three-plus weeks until the season opener, and the question is whether Cespedes can be major league-ready in that time or whether he needs time in the minors.

    On Thursday, El Nuevo Herald newspaper reported that the A's had made a multiyear offer to another Cuban player, third baseman/outfielder Adonis Garcia. An A's source shot down that report, saying Garcia was not a target.

  • Donaldson, who switched from catcher to third base after Scott Sizemore's season-ending knee injury, belted a three-run homer off Jim Miller to highlight the intrasquad game.

    How he fares defensively at third is key to whether he wins the job. He made an error Thursday, letting Wes Timmons' grounder to his left get by him. Later, Donaldson made a nice backhanded stop and threw across the diamond to retire Carter, then leapt high to snare Landon Powell's liner.

    He was asked about starting Friday's exhibition opener.

    "I can't say that I'm not a little bit nervous, because I am," said Donaldson, who has played in just 14 big league games. "I mean, this is the major league team. Getting the opportunity, it's exciting."

  • Right-hander Sonny Gray, the A's first-round pick last June, threw a scoreless inning in the intrasquad game, allowing Eric Sogard's single but getting Carter swinging to end the inning.

    "He was able to use his off-speed pitches behind in the count," Melvin said. "It was a good showing for him."

    Catcher Derek Norris, acquired from Washington as part of the Gio Gonzalez trade, went 2 for 2 with a homer off Miller.

  • First base candidate Daric Barton received a cortisone shot in his surgically repaired throwing shoulder. The A's expect him to be able to DH in early exhibitions, but he won't play defense until later this month.