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Lowell Cohn: Can A's make a name for themselves?

  • Oakland Athletics pitcher Scott Kazmir, center right, motions to throw without a ball during spring training baseball practice Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Scottsdale, Ariz. Kazmir signed a two-year, $22 million contract with the Athletics as a free agent during the offseason. Teammate pitcher Eric O'Flaherty, left, looks on. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The A's have won back-to-back American League West titles. They are a good team that's probably getting better. They have a young roster, an inexpensive roster that plays with passion. They platoon players all over the place and sometimes it's impossible to predict who's on first — literally.

For an excellent team, their roster can seem somewhat anonymous because people come and go so quickly around there — general manager Billy Beane is addicted to making roster moves, but he always makes the team better.

Here are five things we want to know.

Does the pitching staff have a true ace?

The A's have a very good starting rotation and a lights-out bullpen, but is there a true ace in the sense Dave Stewart was an ace? An ace is a guy who wins the big game, ends losing streaks, scares the pants off the other team and pitches opening day. With the A's this is open to interpretation.

They lost Bartolo Colon, their ace, after last season. Colon won 18 games, but the A's did not let him pitch the final game of the year, a 3-0 loss to Detroit in the American League Division series. A season-ender. They had Sonny Gray pitch that game, even though Gray was a rookie and currently has, get this, 61 days of major-league service. Gray pitched well, but not well enough. He lasted five-plus innings and gave up all three Detroit runs.

This is no knock on Gray, a vastly talented pitcher. But it is difficult to project him as the ace. He is 24. In place of Colon, the A's picked up Scott Kazmir. Kazmir was basically out of the majors for two years, 2011 and 2012 because of nagging injuries and poor performance. He was with the Indians last year and had a decent season — his record was 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA. The A's signed him for two years, but he is a question mark.

The ace is probably Jarrod Parker, 25, who did not lose a game in 19 straight starts from May 28 to Sept. 10, the longest streak of its kind in Oakland history. His record was 12-8 with a 3.97 ERA. He is the closest the A's have to an ace and likely will claim that honor/responsibility in the upcoming season.

Will right fielder Josh Reddick have a bounce-back year?

Reddick was a phenomenon in 2012. He crushed 32 home runs — a very big number — and drove in 85. The A's expected big things from him in 2013, but he fizzled. He batted a paltry .226 with 12 homers and 56 RBIs. His hitting fell off the cliff.

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