PHOENIX -- Friday was the second day of full team workouts for the A's, but third baseman Josh Donaldson, even at this early date, can't help but think ahead.

To October.

After making it to the playoffs the last two seasons and coming up short in five games against the Detroit Tigers, Donaldson said there is a sense of unfulfillment.

"We've got more to do here," he said Friday. "I wouldn't mind seeing Detroit again in the playoffs, but this time in the ALCS."

The American League Championship Series lasts seven games instead of the five games for the Division Series. A longer series would perhaps decrease the importance of a dominant starting pitcher, or even two. The Tigers won Game 5 last year with ace Justin Verlander dominating after Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer won Game 4 in relief.

But that's an issue for later. First, the A's have to get to the playoffs. The A.L. West is loaded once again, but Donaldson figures the two-time champs are the team to beat.

"We've been to the top of the mountain the last two years," Donaldson said in looking ahead to the divisional race. "We're not saying it won't be tough. We're going to have a target on our backs. But we know what it takes."

The second full day of team workouts is a day that has a special meaning to Donaldson. It was two years ago that Donaldson, struggling to make the A's as a backup catcher, was pulled aside by manager Bob Melvin and told he was now a third baseman.

Starting third baseman Scott Sizemore had wrecked his knee, and Donaldson, who had experience at the hot corner, was needed there.

"At the time I was trying to make it as a backup catcher to Kurt Suzuki," Donaldson said Friday. "Then Bob came and told me to put away my catching gear. That changed everything for me."

In two years since, Donaldson has developed into a very good defensive third baseman and one of the pillars of the A's offense. He finished fourth in the MVP voting last year after hitting .301 with 37 doubles, 24 homers and 93 RBIs. He led the A's in average and RBIs.

"My expectations two years ago today were to be the best catcher I could be and do the best I could to make the team," Donaldson said. "My expectations now are to do everything I can to get this team into the playoffs and the World Series."

Donaldson's evolution from aspiring catcher to top-flight third baseman and middle-of-the-lineup hitter has directly paralleled the A's rise to prominence in the A.L. West.

"He's one of the keys to what we're trying to do," Melvin said. "I don't have to tell him anymore that he's not going to catch. He knows what he has to do. He's someone we depend on a lot."

  • Outfielder Craig Gentry was sent to have an MRI as he continues to experience pain in his lower back. The club doesn't believe it's anything serious, and it might be a result of Gentry's drive to Arizona. "He's had it a couple of days," Melvin said. "We've been holding him back a bit."

  • The A's dipped back to their 2008 season-opening trip to Japan Friday to break out side-by-side batting cages with a left-handed curve-throwing machine and a right-handed one giving everybody a good look. In Japan they double up for space. Here, Melvin said the A's did it to double the amount of work being done and to shorten workouts. Hitters gave the move a thumb's-up, and the A's will probably do it again this spring.

  • Melvin had a long look at Jim Johnson as the A's new closer pitched to hitters Friday. The session reinforced Melvin's belief that Johnson throws one of the dominant sinkers in the game. The manager also liked what he saw from youngsters Michael Ynoa and Raul Alcantara.

  • Reporting to camp on Friday was infielder Jose Martinez, who finally got his visa problems ironed out. Still to come is fellow Venezuelan infielder Darwin Perez, who is having trouble getting out of the country.

    For more on the A's, see John Hickey's Insider at blogs.ibabuzz.com/athletics. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JHickey3.