A minor storyline to watch this spring in A’s camp, is what appears to be a three man race to fill a spot on the bench as the utility infielder. Granted, this may not be the most glamorous of positions to hold on the 25 man roster the position can still hold a great amount of value to a winning team. Barring anymore acquisitions, the challengers are the monocled Eric Sogard, the incumbent yet often injured Adam Rosales, and the lifetime minor leaguer Wes Timmons. Not exactly a marquee bunch, but let us be reminded that very few A’s fans knew anything about Marco Scutaro before he was given a chance to fill the same role at the start of the 2004 season.
Eric Sogard is a 25 year old infielder, who after a brief September call up the year prior played sparingly for Oakland last season in the absence of Rosales. Although the former Arizona Sun Devil did enjoy hitting his first home run he failed to impress on variety of fronts. Most disturbing was a mental lapse in Seattle, that will in all likelihood be appearing on blooper reels for years to come. While filling in for Cliff Pennington at shortstop during a game last August 2nd, Sogard made a fine play to stop a sharply hit ball in the hole off the bat of Brandon Ryan. Assuming the play was over, he hung his head in dismay as Ryan beat his throw to first. Ryan would keep running and take second uncontested after third basemen in progress Scott Sizemore would fail to cover the bag in time. With Sogard slowly retreating back to his position at short, Ryan made a sudden break for third easily making it without a throw. Cue the calliope music because this would go into the books as an infield triple. To his credit, Sogard has put together two strong seasons in Sacramento hitting at a .300 clip and has shown the virtue of patience walking more than he has struck out throughout his entire minor league career. In all regards, Sogard has a solid if unspectacular skill set and his versatility makes him a strong contender for the spot. Provided of course, he remembers to cover all of his bases.
It’s no stretch to say that 28 year old Adam Rosales had the worst year of his professional career in 2011. Suffering the effects of a broken foot that kept him sidelined into early June, Rosales was demoted to Sacramento twice during his shortened season. Without a full spring training, Rosales was never able to find his stroke as he put up a meager splits of .098/.162/.197 in only 68 plate appearances. Although Rosales will never be an All Star, he proved in 2010 that he can be a serviceable fill in starter and a valuable member of the bench. Thrust into a primary role in his first season with the A’s, Rosales thrilled A’s fans with his speedy home run trot and displayed the hustle which earned him the nickname “Pete Rosales” in Cincinnati. He added 7 home runs in a mere 255 at bats and respectable splits of .271/.321/.400. To add to his value, he appeared at all four infield positions as well as a stint in left field. Rosales deserves a mulligan for last years debacle but he must prove he is fully healed and ready to contribute in 2012.
Wes Timmons is a 32 year old lifetime minor leaguer who has never done so much as sniff a major league uniform. That being said, he is the dark horse candidate of the bunch to make the A’s in 2012. Timmons enjoyed quite the odyssey in 2011, hitting at a blazing mark of .341 between the A’s Double-A and Triple-A teams. Due to a numbers crunch, Timmons was actually demoted in mid summer to Midland despite being amongst the leading hitters in Sacramento. Instead of sulking, he would take his frustrations out on the Texas League slashing his way to a .365 avg before returning to Sacramento for the playoff run. Timmons has never developed much power as his 8 home runs over 95 games was a season high for him last year. However, he did walk at nearly a 2 to 1 ratio which most likely contributed to the A’s resigning him to a minor league contract after last season. Timmons has been mainly relegated to the corner infield positions during his career, with the occasional appearance at shortstop. This is of some concern, since the A’s seemed to suffer last year defensively early in the season when Andy Laroche had to shift over to short when Cliff Pennington needed a break. In order for Timmons to trump the others and make the team he will have to show the A’s brass that he can competently fill in all over the diamond while retaining his offensive skills. The chances of him making the team may be slim, but if he does? Oh what a story that may be.