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Daric Barton could be crowded out with Athletics

PHOENIX -- What is Daric Barton doing in the Oakland Athletics' camp?

Taunting history, that's what.

History would suggest that Barton should be anywhere but in the clubhouse at Phoenix Municipal Stadium with the Athletics. But history doesn't know everything.

Barton, the team's regular first baseman from 2008-10 before ultimately being supplanted by Brandon Moss in 2012, wasn't offered a Major League contract at the end of last season. He agreed to a minor league deal.

He was called up briefly in May, hit .143, and was designated for assignment. Barton wasn't claimed by any of the other 29 teams and re-signed with the A's, going to Triple-A Sacramento.

He was recalled on Aug. 26, when Josh Reddick went on the disabled list. Moss moved to right field, and Barton hit .301 while starting 24 of the A's final 33 games at first. And now he's back this spring with a chance to win the same job he had down the stretch.

"I don't think about anything but the last couple of months, how good that was, and going to the playoffs," Barton said. "I'm not focused on anything but spring training and continuing to contribute here."

The trouble is, the A's are loaded at first. Moss hit a team-leading 30 homers last season and was second to Josh Donaldson with 87 RBIs. He's been the A's primary first baseman for the last year and a half, though he's versatile enough to play a corner outfield, as he showed last season.

But with Reddick healthy again, and Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes firmly planted in center and left, respectively, that's not an issue now.

The A's are fond of using platoons, but Moss and Barton both hit left-handed. So there only would seem to be room for Moss or Barton unless one moves to DH, where John Jaso could be the leading candidate.

"We'll have to see how it plays out," manager Bob Melvin said.

For his part, Moss said the only thing that matters to him is being in the lineup. He started his career as an outfielder, so he's not wedded to first base.

A's general manager Billy Beane is wedded to on-base percentage, so Barton, whose career .360 on-base percentage is 110 points above his lifetime .250 batting average, has that going for him.

But Barton has 30 career homers, so this is a decision that could have a lot of ramifications.

-- On their first official day in camp, most of the hitters, including Crisp and Cespedes, tracked pitches without swinging.

-- Athletics catcher Luke Montz won't be able to get behind the plate in Cactus League games this spring. Montz, who spent the month of May with the A's last year before being sent down and ultimately injuring his shoulder, is recovering from surgery. Melvin said Montz will be limited to DH and first base for now. -- Asked about starting pitcher A.J. Griffin's almost shoulder-length ponytail, Melvin said the club was pretty open about such things. And while adding that Griffin won't have hair down to his belt, Melvin said, "we don't want to cut Sampson's locks."

(c)2014 Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

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