ARLINGTON -- Ryan Sweeney isn't the oldest among Oakland's pack of promising young outfielders. He doesn't have the most Major League service time, either.

He is the most established among the group, though, and that's why he has something the others don't -- a starting job in 2009.

A's manager Bob Geren stops just short of making that proclamation, but virtually everyone else in the Oakland clubhouse is more than happy to verbally cement Sweeney's status as a starter.

Before suffering a season-ending injury, in fact, designated hitter Frank Thomas went so far as to label Sweeney a "future superstar."

Sweeney shrugs off such talk, but he certainly doesn't lack for confidence. He readily acknowledged Monday that he'll be counted on to emerge as a leader among his positional peers.

It might seem a bit much to ask of a 23-year-old rookie, but Sweeney thinks he's up for it.

"Yeah, hopefully," he said before the opener of a three-game series against the host Rangers. "We've got a good young group of guys here, and if they want any advice, I'll do whatever I can to help."

In addition to Sweeney, who entered the Rangers series with 142 big league games under his belt, the A's current crop of outfielders includes 24-year-old Travis Buck (114 games), 27-year-old Rajai Davis (208), and 22-year-olds Carlos Gonzalez (80) and Aaron Cunningham (18).

Aware that it might be a little awkward for him to approach, say, Buck or Davis with pointers, Sweeney suggested he'll slowly -- and quietly -- grow into a leadership role.

"I'm not really a guy who'll go up to someone and say, 'Hey, you need to do this or that,'" he said. "But if someone wants to ask me what I think or how I do something, I'll be there if they need me."