Bay Area Baseball

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March 7, 2013
With A's, Young and Lowrie adapting to new roles

PHOENIX -- Before the A's played the Seattle Mariners on Thursday, Jed Lowrie hadn't played third base in a major league game since 2011. And Chris Young had never played left field.

"In any game," Young said. "At any level."

But that's where each found himself on manager Bob Melvin's lineup card. Both players, acquired by the A's this winter, may be asked to play multiple positions this season. So Lowrie, a natural shortstop, and Young, a former All-Star center fielder, are using spring to acquaint themselves with different surroundings.

Both fared well Thursday. Lowrie made a diving play on a grounder to his left in the first inning and battled a tough sun to catch a pop-up in the second. Young made all plays that came his way, including a shallow fly ball in the third that he caught on a run.

"That's a tough read, especially with the sun," Melvin said of Young's play. "I don't think actually playing those outfield positions is going to be the problem for him. He's a good outfielder no matter where he is."

Coco Crisp will likely start out getting the bulk of playing time in center, with Yoenis Céspedes and Josh Reddick in the corner outfield spots. With the DH role and Young and Seth Smith available, the A's figure to have five outfielders sharing time at four spots.

Young has played one game this spring in right field and said his first time in left was "different for sure."

"It felt extremely awkward the first few innings," he said. "But I think it went good. After I got a ball hit to me I felt a lot more comfortable. I got three or four balls out there in the outfield, felt like I made the right reads. So positive day for sure."

Young, an All Star in 2010 with Arizona, said he doesn't know where he'll play most often during the season. He's still doing most of his pre-game work in center and hoping to learn the corner spots through game experience.

"I'm sure I'll make mistakes at some point, but that's the only way I'm going to figure it out," he said. "But like I said, I felt good out there. Coco helped me out just making sure my positioning was correct. Dealing with the sun, I felt good with that today.

"Nobody hit me a hard line drive over my head yet. Everything was more like a soft fly ball. So I'm sure I'll get a few more reps with different types of balls."

Asked if he welcomes the role, Young answered, "You do what you have to do. That's how it's been since I've gotten over here. I understand it's going to be a little different so as a professional you just try to make the necessary adjustment.

"It's not about if you like it or not. It's wherever you are, you try to do the best you can to help the team."

Similarly, Lowrie said he's still getting the majority of his work at shortstop and views himself as "an everyday shortstop that can play other positions." But he knows his role in Oakland may be different. Hiroyuki Nakajima is starting out getting the bulk of playing time at shortstop, where Lowrie played last season with Houston.

Lowrie has also played 83 career games at third base and 34 at second. He finds more similarities between shortstop and second because of the similar reaction time to ground balls. Third base, where reaction time is more of "a step and a dive," is probably his least comfortable position of the three.

"But I don't feel uncomfortable at third," he said.

How did it feel Thursday?

"Fine," he said with a shrug. "No complaints."

The A's have not had Lowrie get working at first base, where left-handed hitting Brandon Moss returns. Lowrie said it hasn't even come up with Melvin, and he doesn't have a first baseman's glove. Melvin, though, said today he expects that to happen "at some point."

"Lowrie's handled every position beautifully," Melvin said. "Second, third and short don't seem to be a problem for him."

Melvin acknowledged that there's "definitely some pride involved" for both players relinquishing their primary roles, and that it's probably easier to sell players on being flexible after the A's used frequent platoons to win the A.L. West last year.

"That's been what I've heard from them, too, is they just want to come in and keep things going in the direction that we're going and help the team win," Melvin said. "And that's all you can ask for."

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Email: mkawahara@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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