OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Last one on the team bus from hotel to the ballpark, center fielder Coco Crisp made his way to a seat and did a quick count of the faces he played with last season.
“It was eight or nine,” joked reliever Dan Otero, one of those on that list.
The Oakland Athletics, like no other team in baseball, were in dire need of a meet-and-greet session before spring training.
Reliever Sean Doolittle noted that “it’s great that we have names on the back of our jerseys but we kind of need names on the front, too.”
Manager Bob Melvin looked carefully to read the backs of his players’ green shirts Sunday as he began to learn his new roster.
“I’m waiting for them to turn around to see the names on their backs,” Melvin said before his team’s FanFest on a rainy Bay Area day.
“I have to keep a cheat list in my back pocket to keep track of who everybody is,” acknowledged first base coach Tye Waller.
All of this reaction is understandable after an offseason of unprecedented moves even for an Oakland organization known for trading away its stars.
Nine trades in total involving 27 players by general manager Billy Beane and the brass.
“It was the marketing department’s idea to make all these trades because we would sell more shirt jerseys,” Beane cracked. “I know it’s frustrating at times, even for my own kids. They have to go to school, too. … Listen, if it doesn’t work, we’ll make other moves. This is what we do.”
Crisp wondered what to think about everything initially as he watched star player after star player depart, including a trio of All-Stars in third baseman Josh Donaldson, outfielder Brandon Moss and catcher Derek Norris.
Now, the team looks drastically different from the club that reached the playoffs the past three seasons. The A’s lost the one-game AL wild card at Kansas City 9-8 in 12 innings.
“It was tough to see a lot of our best players be traded away or leave,” Crisp said. “At the end, as things progressed and they continued to make moves, I started to have more uplifting feelings about our ballclub. But initially, in all honesty, it was like, ‘Come on, for real, what’s going on?’ Billy did a good job of continuing to make the finishing touches.”
New designated hitter Billy Butler, accustomed to turnover with low-budget Kansas City, knows he’s hardly the only new guy around here. As Otero noted, there’s a group of former Blue Jays and another of ex-White Sox.
“It makes it a little bit easier. There’s been a lot of change around here,” Butler said. “It just shows you the roster overhaul. The expectations are to win, and to win now.”
Otero had said hello to all but three teammates, though he was still trying to figure out how to pronounce infielder Mark Canha’s last name. Otero looked forward to getting to know some more new teammates at a dinner Saturday night, then a luncheon Monday before players go their separate ways for another week or so before reuniting at spring training in Mesa, Arizona.
“We’ll figure it out. We’ve got time,” Otero said. “It’s unique. I don’t think many teams have taken turnover like this.”
Beane has said he realized major changes were needed from last year’s roster that he didn’t think would be able to close the gap in the talented AL West after an 88-win 2014 record for second place in the division 10 games behind the Angels.
Now, Oakland has depth and versatility at all spots, including in the starting rotation and bullpen.
“The term ‘rebuild,’ we don’t try to use it around our office too often,” Beane said. “We’ve tried to win every single game every single year I’ve been here.”
NOTES: Assistant GM David Forst said there’s no timetable for the return of starting pitchers A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker, both coming back from elbow-ligament replacement surgery, but the hope is around June. The A’s will be more cautious with Parker given he had his second Tommy John surgery. … C Stephen Vogt might not catch the first couple of games when the Cactus League schedule opens in early March following offseason foot surgery, Melvin said. … Closer Doolittle, unlikely to be ready for opening day, is three weeks out from a platelet-rich plasma injection for a slight tear to the rotator cuff in his left shoulder to decrease the inflammation and irritation. He’s beginning the strengthening phase. “Everything so far has gone really smooth,” Doolittle said. “We’re optimistic but we haven’t set a timetable.”