The Oakland A's biggest goal this spring was to get through spring training in one piece. After two consecutive years of injuries gutting the roster, the A's were hoping for a season without any major injuries. Unfortunately for the A's, that dream ended even before the team reached the halfway point in their spring schedule.
Mark Kotsay, who has fought major back problems since joining the team in 2004, will miss at least the first two months of the season after announcing that he will undergo arthroscopic back surgery on Thursday. According to the Associated Press, the surgery will aim to correct a troublesome herinated disk.
Kotsay is coming off of a poor offensive season in 2006, where he managed only seven homeruns. He missed a significant portion of the second half of the season with back problems.
Despite Kotsay's back problems, he had perhaps the most memorable dash around the bases for the A's all season when he hit an inside-the-park homerun versus the Minnesota Twins in Game Two of the 2006 ALDS.
In his stead, right-fielder Milton Bradley will move to centerfield and first-baseman Nick Swisher will likely shift to right. Ryan Goleski, Shannon Stewart and Bobby Kielty will continue to compete for the starting left-field slot. Kielty is also battling injury problems of his own. He underwent knee surgery last week and is expected to be out at least two more weeks.
Goleski had been hitless in spring game action until Wednesday, when he collected a double and a single. Stewart has been starting a number of the A's games out in left or as the DH. He has been running without restrictions, although he is coming off of an injury-plagued season of his own, when he played in only 44 games due to foot problems.
With Kotsay on the shelf, the A's are suddenly thin in centerfield. Bradley is the only other member of the 40-man roster to have logged a significant amount of time in center, and he has a big injury history of his own. Kotsay's injury could open the door for Hiram Bocachica or Charles Thomas to re-join the A's 40-man roster. Both were removed from the roster right before camp and both have major league experience in center. The A's could also add a back-up centerfielder through a trade.
Kotsay's injury also opens up a bigger opportunity for Dan Johnson and Erubiel Durazo, either of whom could be the A's everday first baseman now that Swisher will likely see the majority of his playing time in right-field.
Rule 5 Update
Both of the A's Rule 5 picks saw game action against the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday. Marshall threw 1.1 innings. His first inning went one-two-three. However, his defense betrayed him in his second frame. The inning began when Antonio Perez committed an error on a groundball. The next batter then reached on an infield hit when Donnie Murphy couldn't make a clean play on a grounder at third. Marshall then sandwiched two run-scoring singles around a fly-out before giving way to Connor Robertson. Robertson struck out the next two batters to keep the damage at two runs (one earned). Up until Tuesday, Marshall had worked two scoreless frames.
Ryan Goleski entered the game late, but he still managed to receive three at-bats in a game that saw the A's collect 12 hits, 10 walks and be hit by a pitch. After going hitless the first week of camp, Goleski redeemed himself a bit on Tuesday, collecting a double and a single. His single ended up being the final play of the game, as Charles Thomas was thrown out at home trying to score on Goleski's single from second in the ninth inning. The A's lost 9-8.
Jared Burton, a Rule 5 pick of the Cincinnati Reds out of the A's organization, made his spring debut for the Reds on Tuesday. Burton, who had worked only in "B" games up to that point, threw a scoreless inning versus the Yankees. He struck out two and walked one. Burton will need to remain on the Reds roster all season or be offered back to Oakland for $25,000.