PHOENIX -- The A's aren't shy about their vision of left-hander Jordan Norberto as a starter. But they're going to give him every chance to break camp with the club this year as a reliever.
"With his stuff and the amount of starters we have, if he's going to make an impact, it's going to be in the bullpen," manager Bob Melvin said. "It's up to him to be able to go out there and calm down a little bit, think a little bit slower."
Norberto, 25, was acquired along with Brandon Allen in the trade that sent Brad Ziegler to Arizona. He has struggled with his command since arriving, but showed signs of improvement while pitching for Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League as a starter, the role he assumed during the first three years of his Minor League career.
"We've talked about him a little bit in a starting role," Melvin said. "That way he's able to ease into some things, because he's a jumpy, high-strung kid. The trick for him coming out of the bullpen is going to be throwing the ball over the plate early. If you're coming in and facing one left-handed hitter in a specialist role, you have no room to settle in."
His versatility could ultimately lead to a job as the club's long-relief man, though that role could also be handed to one of the rotation candidates who isn't a member of the starting five come Opening Day.
De Los Santos has the heat, but needs control
PHOENIX -- Right-hander Fautino De Los Santos' plus-plus fastball could very well turn him into one of the game's elite closers some day.
"Typically," A's manager Bob Melvin said, "closers have one special pitch. [Mariano] Rivera has the cutter, [Trevor] Hoffman had the changeup, and for him it's the exploding fastball."
De Los Santos, whose fastball velocity can reach up to 99 miles per hour, has been mentioned often as a possible successor to departed closer Andrew Bailey. But continued development with his slider may have to come first. Melvin is also looking for the reliever to be quicker to the plate and to limit the walks.
"He has to concentrate on getting ahead of hitters, making sure two of the first three pitches are strikes," Melvin said. "Where that 1-1 count goes ... it's something we're going to stress once we lead into games."
The first pitch may prove of even more significance for De Los Santos, who saw opponents go 5-for-10 (.500) against him when pitching with a 1-0 count, compared to a 1-for-7 (.143) showing when 0-1.
The 26-year-old power pitcher has just 34 games of big league experience under his belt, and he's posted a 4.32 ERA. And while he offered up too many free passes in that span, walking 17 in 33 1/3 innings, he also fanned 43 for a strikeout ratio of 11.6 per nine innings -- a number closely resembling the 11.7 mark he posted in his Minor League career.
"He's a guy for us now, so this is a big year for him," Melvin said. "He goes from a guy that was kind of a surprise last year and worked his way up really without the spotlight on him ... and now there's a little bit more of a target on him and we expect big things out of him. I think consistency with his breaking ball will be key."
A's right-hander and likely Opening Day starter Brandon McCarthy has garnered himself some national attention, joining wife Amanda on the cover of ESPN The Magazine's first Analytics Issue that's set to hit newsstands Friday.
McCarthy made use of advanced analytics to turn his career around, and manager Bob Melvin is happy to see his pitcher be recognized for the results that have transpired.
"I think he certainly deserves it," he said. "He's a humble guy. He's not looking for that kind of exposure, but to get it is always a feather in the cap. There are a lot of different scribes out there, a lot of different people, looking to ask him how it was done, and he's got quite a story on top of it."
Nearly every position player is in camp, even though official reporting day isn't until Friday. Seth Smith was the most recent to show up Wednesday, joining the likes of Jemile Weeks, Cliff Pennington, Scott Sizemore and Jonny Gomes, among others.