Melvin, Beane already thinking about 2012
Manager will address coaching staff, visit Arizona Fall League
OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin wasted little time making plans for Spring Training. He started thinking about it on the plane trip home from Seattle on Wednesday night following Oakland's 2-0 win over the Mariners.
"I was thinking about our routine, how many fields we would use and what we'd do on those fields," said Melvin, who has a 47-52 mark as the A's manager, including a 35-35 record after the All-Star break.
There are several items to settle between now and the day that pitchers and catchers are expected to report. The first priority for Melvin is to establish his coaching staff.
"The staff is very important to a manager," Melvin said. "You want guys you feel close around you. I expect there will be some changes."
Melvin anticipates something happening soon. Bench coach Joel Skinner was the only staff member with whom Melvin was familiar when he took over from Bob Geren on June 9.
Melvin brought in former big league manager Phil Garner for the final month of the season, possibly to entice him to stick around next year. Melvin has repeatedly said that Garner was his most important influence.
A's general manager Billy Beane has a different set of priorities. The potential wholesale change in the outfield appears to be the most pressing.
Josh Willingham, who recorded career highs with 29 home runs and 98 RBIs, is a free agent along with fellow outfielders Coco Crisp (a career-high 48 stolen bases), David DeJesus and Hideki Matsui. Ryan Sweeney is arbitration-eligible.
"The outfield is our biggest concern," Beane said. "Potentially that will be our biggest hole. Josh will be an attractive guy to a lot of teams. Finding a guy who can hit close to 30 home runs is not easy."
Both Melvin and Beane said they would like to have them all back, but that the market will dictate whether the A's will be able to compete for their free agents.
Matsui, after a sluggish start, came on in the second half of next season. He hit .295 after the All-Star break compared to .209 before it.
Chris Carter and Michael Taylor may be given every opportunity to break camp with the A's next spring, especially with the uncertainty of the outfield situation.
"I do feel good long-term about our infield," Beane said. "Scott Sizemore came in and did a terrific job, switching positions."
Cliff Pennington owns the shortstop position and Jemile Weeks, at second base, has already made people forget about the popular Mark Ellis, who was traded to the Colorado Rockies.
"We've always had high hopes for him," Beane said. "I didn't think he'd be here until next year. You can see what he did, arriving a half-year before anyone thought he would be ready. He's a dynamic player. He was a bright spot for us."
Beane also said he feels comfortable with Kurt Suzuki and whoever wins the backup catching job.
"The club's strength is going to be pitching as we move forward," Beane said. "This club was built on pitching and defense. We had it at the beginning. Then we lost a few of the pitchers and it started to snowball when the pitching started to crumble."
Oakland lost starters Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and Tyson Ross. Josh Outman is just returning from major surgery. Anderson won't be back until the second half of the season.
Guillermo Moscoso and Brandon McCarthy endeared themselves to the organization.
"When we traded for Moscoso, we hoped he would provide depth initially," Beane said. "He took it further. Where he fits into the rotation we'll know next year. He proved he fits into the rotation. As we found out this year, having too much pitching depth is not a problem."
Melvin made defense a priority almost from the moment he took the field for the first time as the A's manager. It will remain a priority in spring training. Oakland led the American League with 124 errors, and was second most (to the Chicago Cubs' 134) in the Majors.
"There will be serious emphasis on that," Melvin said. "We've talked at length about defense and the guys know what to expect."
Melvin, who signed a three-year contract with the team, figures to spend plenty of time getting to know the personnel. He'll be a regular visitor to the Arizona Fall League and will be on the telephone getting to know as many players as he may bring into camp.
"I feel lucky to have the kind of pitching depth we have here," Melvin said. "Moscoso has certainly pitched himself into the conversation for a starting job."
The A's and Mariners will open the season with a two-game series in Japan on March 28-29, 2012. Melvin doesn't think it will be much of a problem.
"Spring Training is lengthy, especially for the position players," Melvin said. "You just want to make sure your starting pitchers are on schedule."
Beane has been told several times that a decision regarding the A's potential move to San Jose will be announced shortly.
"This time I believe them," he said.
Moving forward with stadium plans would impact the A's on several levels.
"The key to having a successful opening stadium is to have a good team," Beane said. "The Cleveland Indians in the early '90s is a perfect model. We would follow something similar."
Beane called 2011 "a tale of two seasons," though it could just as easily be termed a tale of two managing styles, with Melvin finding the right touch as the team made improvements in the second half.
"Its been an interesting season for a number of reasons," Beane said. "Every year you don't make the playoffs you're drained. I love doing this job despite the challenge. If you don't win this year, you go to work trying to win next year."
Rick Eymer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.