OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Athletics head into spring training next weekend with a deep, strong starting rotation but without a proven No. 1 guy.
Jarrod Parker is the leading candidate to emerge as the opening-day starter March 31, when the Athletics begin the 2014 season with a game against the Cleveland Indians.
But newly-acquired left-hander Scott Kazmir or returnees including A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily could get the call. Those four, plus Tommy Milone, Sonny Gray and Drew Pomeranz, will give manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young a solid crop from which to choose a first five.
And that could all be for the best.
"I think that sometimes that's a good situation for a pitching staff," A's legend Vida Blue said Saturday at the club's annual FanFest. "When you don't have one proven No. 1 guy, you've got five guys pushing to prove that they should be the No. 1. And that makes everyone better."
Melvin, who got the sold-out FanFest crowd fired up by saying, "We won the (A.L. West) division last year, we won it the year before, and we have higher expectations this year," is on the same page as Blue.
He said he's more than happy with his projected rotation and isn't concerned about naming a starter for the opener.
"Here we can send out a guy every day we know who has a good chance to win," Melvin said. "We can run any of six guys out there on opening day and feel good about it. That's the most important thing. Having depth allows you to get through the season.
"I was in Arizona as a coach, and we had Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling 1-2, but there was a falloff after that. Here, if someone gets hurt, we have the depth to pick up for him."
Parker won 13 games in 2012 and another dozen in 2013, but he was at his best in the heat of the pennant race last year. From May 28-Sept. 10, he went 9-0 with a 2.61 ERA in 19 starts. But while that gives him a leg up for the No. 1 job, he says he's lost exactly zero sleep over it.
"Opening day isn't something I'm concerned with at all," Parker said Saturday. "I want to be pitching in September and October. And we've got talent here.
"It's not just that we have a lot of talent in the rotation. But in addition to physical talent, there's mental talent, too. This is a strong staff mentally. It's a bulldog staff."
Elbow soreness plagued Parker the second half of the season, after which doctors advised rest. That seems to have done the trick as Parker said he's ready to go without reservation when the club reports to Phoenix next weekend.
"I've thrown six bullpen sessions throwing about 40 pitches, and everything feels fine," Parker said. "I'm feeling a lot better than I did at the end of the season. My weight's up where I want it to be (200 pounds), so I'm good to go."
-- The rainy weather didn't seem to impact the FanFest crowd, which was lined up outside the Coliseum for more than an hour in the miserable conditions waiting for the chance to get in. Once the doors opened, all the activities were out of the rain.
-- The A's had hoped to have right fielder Josh Reddick on hand for FanFest, but they learned Friday that he wasn't going to be able to make it. Reddick is the club's only remaining arbitration-eligible player, but general manager Billy Beane said he expects a deal to be worked out.
-- Shortstop Addison Russell has a big fan in Beane. "I've been here a long time, and we're as excited about Addison as anybody," Beane said. "He's got a chance to be a very good player." Russell will be in spring training and could be in the big leagues to stay by 2015.
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