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03/11/12 10:18 PM ET

A's make first cuts, send down 12 players

PHOENIX -- The inevitable first round of cuts took place in A's camp on Sunday, with the club sending 12 big-league camp participants back to the Minors, including pitchers Sean Doolittle and Sonny Gray and outfielders Michael Choice, Grant Green and Jermaine Mitchell.

Doolittle and Mitchell, the only two represented on the 40-man roster, were optioned to Triple-A Sacramento, while the remaining 10 -- all non-roster invitees -- were simply reassigned to Minor League camp.

It's a familiar scene for the 25-year-old Doolittle, but he departs feeling more encouraged than perhaps any other year, given his successful progression as a converted first baseman. Manager Bob Melvin, in meeting with Doolittle on Sunday afternoon, relayed that he no longer thinks of him as "a converted guy" but as a pitcher.

"I really appreciated that," said Doolittle, who struck out three in 1 1/3 Cactus League innings. "That's something I kind of set out to do, to be looked at as a pitcher and not a converted guy. It's such a unique situation. It's a process, and the only way to get better is to face hitters in game situations, coming in with runners on base, facing lefties, that kind of stuff."

As is the case around this time of year, there are not enough innings for pitchers such as Doolittle, who will continue work as a reliever while developing a slider. Right-handers Edgar Gonzalez, Jim Miller and Merkin Valdez, and lefty Fabio Castro were also sent down.

Meanwhile, catcher Max Stassi and outfielders Cedric Hunter and Jason Pridie joined the list of position players to be moved Sunday, leaving the club with 46 players in camp. Among that group are 10 outfielders, making Choice and Green's demotions all the more understandable.

"I came in trying to elaborate on where I finished last season," said Choice, the A's 2010 first-round Draft pick. "Competition is definitely a beast up here ... I feel like I've done well against it. I just want to try to work on consistency."

Barton to make spring debut at DH

PHOENIX -- Confined to the sidelines for the past few weeks, Daric Barton will finally make his Cactus League debut on Monday, when he's scheduled to bat second as designated hitter in the A's road contest against the White Sox.

It marks a significant step for Barton, who has been nursing his surgically repaired right shoulder back to health in the backdrop of a first-base competition that includes Brandon Allen and Kila Ka'aihue. But he'll stick to DH duties until he's cleared to throw in a game, which may not happen for another week.

As a result, it may be too late for Barton to play catch-up and grab a roster spot by the time the club leaves for Japan on March 22. Though manager Bob Melvin is familiar with Barton's defensive skills, he would still like the infielder to get around 40 at-bats this spring -- a number that likely won't be reached by that time.

It would make sense, then, for Barton to stay behind and get those at-bats in Minor League camp and extended Spring Training without any added pressure, while either Allen or Ka'aihue get a shot at the everyday first-base job.

Three of Allen's four hits this spring have been for extra bases, and Ka'aihue flashed some power on Sunday, collecting his first home run of the spring against the Royals, his former team. He's 3-for-15 in seven games.

Worth noting

• Lefty Tommy Milone continued his bid for a rotation job in fine fashion Sunday, pitching into the fourth inning in his second start (third appearance). Aside from a two-run homer off the bat of Eric Hosmer, who launched a misplaced changeup over the right-field wall, Milone created little movement on the base paths. He walked none and struck out one, throwing 51 pitches total.

"He's certainly deep in the mix," Melvin said of Milone's chances at a rotation job. "He isn't hurting himself the way he's been pitching."

The A's manager acknowledged his decision on the three open rotation spots might not be made until Japan, since he can take 30 players on the trip and set a 28-man roster for each of the two regular-season games against the Mariners.

• Yoenis Cespedes, coming off his big debut that resulted in a home run and RBI single, went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout in Sunday's contest, while batting third at DH. He'll take Monday off and be back in the lineup on Tuesday.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.