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2/22/2014 5:12 P.M. ET

Melvin encouraged by Rodriguez's progress

PHOENIX -- A's manager Bob Melvin is extremely encouraged by Fernando Rodriguez's recovery from Tommy John surgery.

The right-handed reliever is nearly a year removed from the operation, and though he's not expected to get into any spring contests, he's already looking "like he could pitch in a game right now," said Melvin.

"We're going to be careful with the timeline on that. He realizes that too," he continued. "But he looks different to me."

Chalk it up to Rodriguez putting in overtime work last year, when his team was enjoying a second consecutive playoff run. The 29-year-old was seen in the clubhouse almost daily and stayed for most games.

"That was a year well spent, for a guy that had to sit there and watch," Melvin said. "He did it the right way. He studied different pitchers, he knew he was a little bit slow to the plate, and he's already combated that. His mechanics are tighter. He's throwing downhill better.

"And I complimented him on that during the season last year, because he wasn't just doing his rehab and going home. He was staying and watching and learning."

Rodriguez, acquired with Jed Lowrie from Houston last year, is out of options, but will likely remain on the disabled list at season's start so the A's can get him a handful of rehab appearances in Triple-A Sacramento. There's no rush for his return to the big league level, considering Oakland's extensive bullpen depth.

Gentry to sit out with lower back strain

PHOENIX -- Oakland's Craig Gentry will remain off the field for a few days after an MRI revealed a lower back strain.

The A's want to be extra cautious with their new outfielder, especially when considering his all-out style of play.

"We're just going to get ahead of this thing and keep him off the field for a few days," manager Bob Melvin said Saturday. "It'll be into next week some, but we're not sure how long. He's a pretty eager beaver. He wants to get out there and do his thing, especially with a new team. We all know what he's got, so we just have to make sure this completely goes away before we get him started here."

Gentry's back woes are believed to be the result of his drive from Texas to Arizona, made worse from batting practice. The 30-year-old clocked time on a stationary bike Saturday morning, but did little else, while his teammates shuttled to Papago Park for another round of workouts in advance of Wednesday's Cactus League opener against the host Giants.

It's unknown whether Gentry will be available for that game, but he'll have plenty time to catch up, and the A's are already more than familiar with the Rangers transplant.

"A key piece like that," Melvin said, "we're going to make sure he's completely healthy first.

"The way he plays, he's one of those guys, tell him to go 60 percent and he's not going to be able to do that is my guess."

Fuld's versatility may help him land spot on club

PHOENIX -- Sam Fuld is just a pest, Bob Melvin says.

That's why the A's made him theirs on a Minor League deal this month.

"He's a smart player who can play all the positions and knows how to play in a role-type position, so therefore was a target of ours," said Melvin. "As you've seen last year and even more so this year, depth is an important thing. You know that there are going to be some injuries, and to have a guy like that in your pocket is nice."

The 32-year-old outfielder profiles as a fourth or fifth outfielder. The A's already have four, with Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick and Craig Gentry, and likely won't carry another if they want to keep six infielders and three catchers in tow. But Fuld didn't come in expecting to be guaranteed a roster spot; only an opportunity.

Should injury open up an outfield spot this spring, Fuld could find himself in competition with another former Stanford Cardinal, Michael Taylor, who is out of options.

"You'll be rewarded if you perform," Fuld said. "That was one of the things they preached to me before signing. Anytime you hear that, that's uplifting as a player, especially someone coming in and not on the 40-man and getting on the older side."

Fuld appeared in 268 games with the Rays the past three years, batting .230 with five home runs, 21 doubles and 49 RBIs. He also legged out 10 triples.

But Fuld is primarily known for his defensive work, "even as a little kid," he said.

"He goes all-out, and we have a few of those guys," Melvin said. "The way we play, to bring in as many new guys who fit along that theme just adds to the success of how we play."

"He's one of the best defensive outfielders I've ever played with," said catcher Chris Gimenez, who also made the move from Tampa to Oakland this winter. "His nickname was 'Super Sam' in Tampa. He's not afraid to lay out, put his body in harm's way to make a play."

Worth noting

• Melvin will take part in a Monday workshop about instant replay procedures with other Cactus League managers at Salt River Fields. When the spring schedule opens, managers will be encouraged to test out this new system.

• Lefty Sean Doolittle, who last week suffered a setback with a mild calf issue, threw to hitters for the first time Saturday. All went well, according to Melvin, putting him back on the same schedule as other pitchers.

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.