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Ramirez is no sure thing to crack A's roster when eligible

The SportsXchange

By the end of the month, the Oakland A's expect to welcome Manny Ramirez to the team after a 50-game suspension for violating baseball's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Ramirez is allowed to play in 10 minor league games beforehand, so he is likely to report to one of Oakland's minor league affiliates sometime after May 15, then join the A's in Minnesota on May 30.

The question then for Oakland will be the roster: The A's currently have not one, but two designated hitters, Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes. Gomes, like Ramirez, is right-handed, but Gomes also has been one of the team's more productive players when in the lineup, tied for the club lead in homers with five.

The A's do have two left-handed-hitting first baseman, but Daric Barton has started to swing the bat better recently, while Kila Ka'aihue has been consistently among the team's better hitters. He is out of options, unlike Barton, who went through a tough spell in the field recently, too, reviving memories of his subpar 2011 season, some of which was attributable to a shoulder injury that since has been fixed.

Oakland did have six outfielder/DHs to start the season, but if the A's want to keep both Ka'aihue and Barton around, someone would have to go from that mix. Oakland probably would entertain trade offers for Coco Crisp, but Crisp was ill much of the first month and is now on the disabled list, plus he is under contract for $6 million this year and $7 million next year.

If the A's are playing well and if Ramirez fares poorly in his minor league games, might they just leave him there until needed, say in the event of an injury or a trade? The team appears to be clicking after taking series at Boston and at Tampa Bay, and Ramirez is on a minor league deal with no guarantees.

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