PHOENIX -- As the A's wrapped up seven weeks in Arizona on Wednesday, longer to prepare for a season than at any time in recent memory due to the World Baseball Classic, they seemed confident they had done what was needed to defend their American League West title.
"To get back to the Bay Area will be good," manager Bob Melvin said. "It's been a little bit of a lengthy camp, and other than Grant, we dodged injuries until the last couple of days."
Closer Grant Balfour had arthroscopic knee surgery at the beginning of spring training, but he's throwing well enough now to be ready when the A's play their season opener Monday against the Seattle Mariners at the Coliseum.
One of the recent injuries Melvin was referring to is second base candidate Adam Rosales, who suffered a rib injury earlier in the week that could keep him out until mid-April, or longer.
Also, Hiroyuka Nakajima, the Japanese import who was expected to be the opening day shortstop, is sidelined by a strained left hamstring that has been made more painful by his .167 batting average in Cactus League play. A decision will be made later in the week about whether he starts the season on the disabled list.
Jed Lowrie, acquired from Houston last month, has stepped in to fill the A's vacant shortstop job. While Nakajima has struggled, Lowrie is hitting for power and average. Neither player is Gold Glove material, but if Oakland can get average defensive work at shortstop, it'll be happy. The A's also believe Nakajima, a career .302 hitter in Japan, will eventually get the bat going.
Lowrie is one of several affordable veterans the A's added after their gut-wrenching Game 5 loss to the Detroit Tigers in the A.L. playoffs. Chris Young, another veteran addition who was acquired from Arizona, has had to learn to patrol left and right fields after having played center for his entire career.
Catcher John Jaso, whom the A's got from Seattle, has spent his spring learning a new pitching staff for the third year in a row as he was in Tampa Bay in 2011 and with the Mariners last year. How much progress he made this spring in handling the A's staff will determine his playing time, because Derek Norris has been as hot as the Arizona sunshine.
The A's rotation of Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily hasn't put up particularly good numbers this spring, but pitching coach Curt Young said he's not worried.
"The weather here isn't good for pitchers," he said. "The ball has been flying here. Just look around the league. Everybody is getting roughed up a bit. Once we get into the season, things will be fine."
Oakland's bullpen is the best in the A.L., according to some scouts. They have a seasoned closer in Balfour, hard throwers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook setting up, and quality arms throughout the bullpen.
The A's didn't play great baseball this spring, but they won more than they lost (15-12), including a five-game win streak to finish the Cactus League.
A lawyer for Cespedes says the amount owed is closer to $2 million. But Cristian Martinez told The Associated Press his side is still studying the court order and deciding whether it can appeal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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