UTA ex Michael Choice along for A’s September ride

Posted Saturday, Sep. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The first rule for a major-league rookie is to get to the clubhouse early, really early, and Michael Choice was found Wednesday morning sitting at his temporary locker observing the get-there-early rule.

The Mansfield resident, Timberview graduate and former UT Arlington star is, as all rookies are, just happy to be there. His family made the trip from Tarrant County to baseball’s worst ballpark to enjoy his first few games in the majors.

It’s a scene that unfolds many times each year across the game, and each one is pretty neat. Next up for Choice is making sure he gets a permanent spot in the Oakland A’s clubhouse in 2014.

“I hope so,” said Choice, who batted .302 with 14 homers and 89 RBIs in Triple A. “That’s the plan.”

But he looks around the clubhouse and sees a crowded outfield. That’s a problem for an outfielder looking to become a major-league fixture.

Choice, though, has been a top A’s prospect since they took him 10th overall in the 2010 draft. The A’s love his tools, especially the power and the speed, and they also like how he made more contact this season and drew more walks.

He also will be drawing the league minimum the next three seasons for a budget-conscious team. There’s no way the A’s pick up the $11 million option on Chris Young, who is hitting below .200, but the $7.5 million option for Coco Crisp needs to be exercised.

Yoenis Cespedes is locked up through 2015, and Josh Reddick is eligible for arbitration for the first time. Giving up on him via a non-tender would seem a little premature even though his production this season has taken a significant drop from his breakthrough 2012.

The best hope for Choice is to see Seth Smith not tendered a contract and manager Bob Melvin swing Choice through the outfield and at designated hitter to get him enough at-bats to not stunt his development.

Choice was thrown into the pennant race last week against the Rangers, starting the first two games against lefties Derek Holland and Martin Perez. Smith and Moss, a pair of left-handed-hitting stretch-run veteran outfielders who get their share of DH time, watched from the bench.

“It shows that Bob Melvin has confidence in me, and I want to go out there and make an impact,” he said. “I felt comfortable where I left off at Triple A. I just want to make it translate the same way.”

But don’t look for Choice in the box score every day the rest of the season.

Teams in the postseason hunt play their veterans, and September call-ups play mostly in mop-up time. Choice might be an option again as a right-handed hitter against lefty pitchers until the injured Reddick is able to reclaim his spot in right field.

Reddick was part of the overachieving A’s title surge last season, along with, oh, the majority of their club. Things haven’t changed all that much this year.

Choice might have too much talent for these A’s.

Oakland’s big deal at the trade deadline was for Alberto Callaspo, and, naturally, he has made a difference. The catching situation was in such dire straits that Kurt Suzuki had to be brought back from Washington.

Billy Beane should have gone for a reliever at the deadline, because hard-throwing lefty Sean Doolittle appears to be running on fumes. In the rotation, Jarrod Parker and Bartolo Colon have been rocks, but the rest of the rotation feels like a grab-bag of No. 4 and No. 5 starters.

But the A’s, with exactly one winning team on the rest of their schedule, are still thriving and are threatening to relegate the Rangers to wild-card status for the second consecutive year.

That’s not a bad thing at all for baseball, seeing a financially strapped little guy make things uncomfortable for clubs with twice the payroll, though the Rangers and their fans might heartily disagree.

Choice will be around at least until Sept. 29, when the season winds to a close, and might get to hang around the club if it advances to the postseason and needs an extra outfielder at some point.

And, as a rookie, he’ll in the clubhouse early every day.

“We’re going for that playoff push,” he said. “My job is to help the team win. And make sure I’m here early. That definitely is a rule.”

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