During the final week of Spring Training, first-year A's manager Bob Geren took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to chat with MLB.com about his first camp as a skipper and the upcoming season. What follows is a transcript of the conversation.
MLB.com: What's been the most pleasant surprise of camp?
Geren: The most pleasant thing has been the attitude of the players and the support that they've given me. They've done everything I've asked. Everything's just gone so smooth. I can't imagine it going any better. It's been better than I expected. I figured there's be some things that pop up to kind of knock us off track, but there really hasn't. Mark Kotsay's back surgery obviously falls into the category a little bit, but we're covered there pretty well, so I've also been extremely pleased with the overall health of the club.
MLB.com: In addition to having a new manager, your team has a new bench coach, a new hitting coach and a new outfield/first base coach. How has the transition been for the coaching staff as a whole?
Geren: We needed all six weeks of Spring Training for that, definitely, for the staff to gel together both personally and on the business side of it, establishing what roles guys are going to have and what jobs they're going to do. As far as how we're going to coordinate things and work together, we've needed the entire spring. But now I think everybody's comfortable. We're still ironing out the bugs, but I think the players have gotten to know the new coaches and vice versa. It's been great. I'm very confident that we not only made the right choices with the staff, but also in the way we've organized everything.
MLB.com: Has a clear-cut strength of the team been identified?
Geren: No. Not yet. Pitching and defense has always been the strength here, and the starting pitching this spring hasn't been as consistent as we'd like. The relief pitching has been what we'd expect or even better, and our defense has been good, too. The offense has been better than I anticipated, too. We hit over .300 as a team and were over .400 with on-base percentage. So other than the starting pitching being a tick below where we'd like it to be, I'd say it's a pretty good team all the way around, so it's hard to say we're stronger in one single area. Maybe balance and versatility; that's our strength.
MLB.com: Which position players have been the most impressive this spring?
Geren: A lot of 'em. Mike Piazza really stood out. Milton Bradley had a great spring. And even though he didn't play as much as the other guys, I'm real excited about Bobby Crosby. I'm just so happy that it looks like he's going to be in the Opening Day lineup, because we all didn't know that for sure coming into camp. So that's a big thrill for me. Antonio Perez has shown us that he's a very versatile player after having an off season last year, and Dan Johnson has answered a lot of questions this spring with the way he's really starting to come around. Marco Scutaro was hot early. Who am I missing? Nick Swisher has swung the bat really well, and he's taking his need for improvement with runners in scoring position very seriously. He knew he needed to improve that, and we told him that, and he's done a great job with it. It's hard to single guys out, but I think that's a good sign for the season. We had a lot of standouts, and if they carry that over, we're going to be a very good club.
MLB.com: Last question. Now that you've had six weeks to check out the top prospects in the organization, how do you feel about the next wave of Athletics?
Geren: The next wave, in my opinion, would be [catcher] Kurt Suzuki, [outfielder] Travis Buck and [first baseman] Daric Barton. And Mike Mitchell in the bullpen; I'd throw him into that group. I think those are the guys you'll see making their debuts here pretty soon, possibly really soon. And the only reason I don't include [righty starter] Jason Windsor in that group is because he's already been up in the big leagues a couple times. We've seen Travis Buck the most, and obviously he's made quite an impression. You could make the case that he's ready right now, but it'd be nice to see how he does at Triple-A. And the other guys are right there behind him. I feel really good about the future, particularly as far as position players go. I'm looking forward to seeing them up here with us.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.