Barton will need a strong spring.
The Oakland A's still have numerous questions surrounding the team heading into spring training, and manager Bob Geren addressed those concerns at a media session recently.
One of the most obvious issues pertains to the lineup, where the A's have four players -- Daric Barton, Jason Giambi, Jack Cust and Travis Buck -- for three spots.
Giambi and Barton play first base, Cust and Giambi can be designated hitters, and Cust and Buck play in the outfield. Geren said he considers all four of them options.
Cust and Giambi are expected to be two of the team's biggest run producers, however, while Barton and Buck are coming off poor seasons. In addition, Barton had hip surgery in October and also had his tonsils out recently, and he "might be a touch behind" during spring training, according to Geren.
"He'll need to come in and have a nice spring and a good start to the season," Geren told reporters.
"The guys who are performing will play."
Geren said it is conceivable that the A's could take one of three highly rated pitching prospects with them at the end of the spring should any of Oakland's other starters incur injuries or fail to impress this spring.
Vince Mazzaro is likely the first consideration, with left-hander Brett Anderson right on his heels and right-hander Trevor Cahill behind him. Anderson and Cahill are Oakland's two most prized prospects.
Geren said that second baseman Mark Ellis, who had September shoulder surgery, will be close to ready by Opening Day and third baseman Eric Chavez, who had August shoulder surgery, is doing all baseball activity and looks great.
Starter Justin Duchscherer, who underwent hip surgery, will not be behind the rest of the starters this spring, Geren said.
Oakland A's Notes
--RHP Justin Duchscherer, the team's last remaining arbitration case, agreed to a one-year, $3.9 million contract. He had asked for $4.6 million, and the team countered at $3 million.
Duchscherer, 30, will not be limited at all this spring despite hip surgery in September, according to manager Bob Geren. Duchscherer is Oakland's No. 1 starter and if his health remains strong, the two-time All-Star is expected to be the club's Opening Day starter in Anaheim. He has been on the disabled list four times in the last three years.
--RHP Russ Springer is a free agent consideration for Oakland, according to two online reports. The A's have interest in adding a veteran for their young bullpen, and Springer is 40, which would make him the oldest player on the roster should the sides agree to terms. Right-handed hitters batted .176 against Springer last year.
--2B Mark Ellis, who had shoulder surgery in September, began to throw on Jan. 19 and is doing well, according to manager Bob Geren. Ellis will be "close to ready" by Opening Day, Geren told reporters at a media session.
BY THE NUMBERS: 21 -- The team-record number of rookies Oakland used in 2008. The A's could have few to none on the roster on Opening Day this year.
--RHP Brad Knox continues to shine in Venezuela. The former A's farmhand who is a minor league free agent won his third post-season game for Caracas. He allowed only two runs on four hits with no walks in 7.2 innings. He struck-out four. The win gave Caracas a 2-1 series lead over Aragua.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know I haven't had the best couple of years, I'm not blind to that, but I know I can still play well. I've had success at this level and it just takes a tweak here and there. I haven't played to what the fans think I should play to and I haven't played to what I think I should play to, so I'm excited to work on this new stuff." -- SS Bobby Crosby on working with Mark McGwire, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.