Linden has doubts about roster security
Outfielder voices concerns on opportunities with A's this spring
PHOENIX -- It wasn't supposed to be this way for Todd Linden, the former Giant who figured that he was a slam dunk to start in the A's outfield this season, considering their youth movement.But with 10 days before Oakland breaks camp and wings to Japan for the season-opening series against the Red Sox in Tokyo Dome on March 25-26, Linden's spot on the 25-man roster is hardly secure. "I was looking at what the A's had, and I was talking to a buddy and I said, 'If I looked at every roster in baseball and could pick one spot where I was sure I could make the team, it would be Oakland," said Linden, who signed a Minor League contract with the A's as a free agent this past Nov. 14. "Then I got here, and so far it hasn't worked out. "I had no doubt in my mind that I was going to make this team. But the vibe I'm getting, the feeling I'm getting, is that it's going to work out otherwise. I can only do so much. I don't make the decisions. It's out of my control." Until now, Linden hasn't been very verbal about his plight, although he's done a lot of talking with his bat. He's hitting .692 (9-for-13) with a double, triple and two runs batted in. Both of them came on Saturday in the ninth inning on a bases-loaded, two-out single in the last at-bat that won the game over the Cubs, 7-6. Linden started and played that entire split-squad contest, going 2-for-3. Linden said he's basing the assumption of his fate on the fact that he hasn't played more. A's manager Bob Geren has used him in nine games, but thus far he's had only 17 plate appearances. That compares favorably, though, with the plate appearances of his outfield competition: Chris Denorfia (23), Carlos Gonzalez (23), Travis Buck (21), Ryan Sweeney (21) and Emil Brown (18). Brown missed some action because of a bout with the flu and Sweeney was out for nearly a week with a banged-up knee, so that has to be taken into consideration. When asked what kind of shot Linden had of making the team, Geren said the switch-hitter's chances were as good as anybody's. "We're just resolved to giving everybody a good opportunity at this point," Geren said. "I don't want to handicap it. He's played well. He's had some good at-bats. He has as good a chance as anybody." Linden rolled his eyes when told about that assessment and perhaps that reaction is as much about the tough road he's traveled the last year as anything else. He was once one of San Francisco's brightest upcoming stars, but never received much of a chance in recent years behind the likes of veteran outfielders Barry Bonds, Randy Winn, Moises Alou and Dave Roberts -- just to name a few. Two years ago, then-manager Felipe Alou used Linden largely as Bonds' late inning legs in left field, and the now 27-year-old -- who was a compensatory first-round Giants pick in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft -- responded with some game-saving catches and timely hits, batting .273 in 61 games.
But when Bruce Bochy replaced Alou last season, he quickly soured on holdovers Linden and Jason Ellison, who were jettisoned from the organization. After hitting .182 (10-for-55) in 30 games, Linden was designated for assignment and claimed on waivers by the Marlins on May 18. He made the most of his 85 games for Florida, hitting .271.And then it was back to the San Francisco Bay Area. Linden said he signed early in the offseason with Oakland because the opportunity was there and promises were made. "They wanted me to be here," Linden said about his quick decision to sign with the A's. "They told that to me and my agent." After Linden signed, general manager Billy Beane decided to trade away three of his veteran players -- Dan Harden to Arizona, Nick Swisher to the White Sox and Mark Kotsay to Atlanta. The swap of Kotsay, the veteran center fielder, gave Linden even more hope that his decision to sign with Oakland was fortuitous, he said. "When that happened, I had no doubt I was making this ballclub," he said. "But the way they've played me for a guy with my experience, that's why I'm picking up that kind of vibe that it won't happen." Asked where he was picking up that vibe from, Linden added: "You can just see what's going on. I mean, it's all speculation. I could be completely wrong. But we'll see. All that I can worry about is doing what I can do. I know they want to look at other people, but I hope they know what I can do."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.