What to do about Russell?

PHOENIX — No one knows better than Jed Lowrie that the shortstop of the Oakland Athletics future is Addison Russell.

For that reason, current Oakland shortstop Lowrie can't say how long his stay in Oakland will be. He loves his teammates, he has a history in the Bay Area after playing college ball at Stanford, and he likes winning, so he's in no hurry to leave.

What to do about Russell? He's only played three games above Class-A, so the A's aren't going to rush him to the big leagues this year. Such is Russell's talent, however, that the 20-year-old could be forcing the issue 12 months from now.

"It's impossible to look at Addison and not see an awesome shortstop in the making," Lowrie said. "He has a chance to play at this level for a very long time."

If that's the case, the A's would seem to have two paths for Lowrie. They could move him to second base, which was the position the A's thought he'd probably play when they picked him up from Houston just before spring training a year ago. Or they could let him go to play somewhere else, either by trading him or by letting him go as a free agent when he becomes eligible after the season.

"The organization is really excited about Addison, and they should be." he said. "At some point we'll have to have some conversations about how I fit into their plans. This early, it's too hard to say.

"I love the guys in the clubhouse. The coaching staff, led by Bob (Melvin) is awesome. It's great here. I like playing here. The Coliseum has its set of challenges, but you make up for it with the guys and the coaching staff."

Lowrie, 29, wants to be a shortstop looking ahead. If there were teams that wanted him to play short and Oakland wanted to move him to second, that balancing act would be a major factor in his decision-making process. But he does have lots of loyalty to the A's, for whom he had a breakout season in 2013 with a .290 average, 45 doubles, 15 homers, and a career-best 154 games played.

He'd been an often-injured prospect in Boston, with a couple of fluke injuries keeping him out of the lineup for extended periods of time. He went to Houston and had a great half season in 2012, then another collision at second base ended his season. Playing a full season for the first time in 2013 was validation.

"Before last year, people saw my injuries, but they didn't dig down to learn how the injuries happened," he said. "People assumed I was injury-prone. I'm not; I just play hard. The injuries were all 'what-are-you-going-to-do?' things. To play last season injury free and to play for a team that won its division for the first time, those were great things for me."

As for the future?

"I'm not going to be doing any back flips," Lowrie said, grinning. It was a reference to the standing back flip Russell did in the A's talent show earlier this month. "Just looking at him doing that, you can tell what kind of athlete he is."


MANAGER BOB MELVIN isn't ready to make a call on his opening day starting pitcher, but that announcement could come by Monday. Friday night's starter, Sonny Gray is widely expected to get the call.


OUTFIELDER CRAIG GENTRY'S back problem survived his playing in a minor league game Thursday. The outfielder did a full workout Friday and had another minor league game Saturday. It's questionable if he'll be ready for opening day.


RYAN COOK, whose recovery from shoulder pain may keep him off the opening day roster, threw an inning in a minor league game Saturday.


FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ'S recovery from Tommy John surgery is coming along well. He threw an inning a minor league game Friday and needed just six pitches to get through it.

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