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Athletics host rival Angels to start season Monday night


    Oakland Athletics’ Matt Joyce swings for a two-run double off San Francisco Giants’ Tyler Beede in the third inning of an exhibition baseball game Saturday, April 1, 2017, in Oakland, Calif.

OAKLAND, Calif. >> Bob Melvin emphatically made his point. Twice.

What decisions did the Oakland Athletics still have ahead before opening day?

“Stay healthy.”

How about any tough roster choices?

“Stay healthy.”

Year after year, that’s always a tough task for his injury-prone A’s. The Los Angeles Angels understand, as they’re already down key reliever Huston Street.

With Oakland ace right-hander Sonny Gray nursing a lat injury, he will miss his second straight scheduled start on opening day. Kendall Graveman, a 10-game winner a year ago, takes the ball for the A’s opposing right-hander Ricky Nolasco in Monday night’s opener against Los Angeles at the snazzed-up Coliseum.

Gray had food poisoning last year and was scratched.

Street is sidelined with a strained back he sustained two batters into his first spring outing last month.

Neither Melvin nor Angels manager Mike Scioscia has named a set closer — something each knows might develop early in the season.

“We have some good arms we think are going to help us in high-leverage situations,” Scioscia said. “We need that depth and hopefully continuing to have that depth grow. … You manage your bullpen to the talent level. If it means one guy evolves into that closer, now you’re just worried about the seventh and eighth inning. There are a number of ways we can work things. If roles develop, great. If they don’t, we’re going to have an effective bullpen with matching up.”

The A’s are facing the AL West in six of their initial seven series covering the month of April, so Melvin is hopeful his club starts fast.

Oh, and stays healthy, of course.

“We’re in it right away with the division. We play everybody it seems like. I don’t know what the number is,” Melvin said. “You’d like to get off to a good start in your division and the Angels present many challenges. They have some very high-profile guys, they like to move around a little bit, hit and run, and create some action, so we have to be ready for that kind of thing. They always have the potential to be a very good team, especially with guys like Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. They’ve added to their roster, added a little more speed and athleticism. So it’s going to be a very good team we have to deal with.”

It’s the first time since 2009 the A’s and Angels meet opening day.

Beforehand, Oakland will dedicate Rickey Henderson Field, named for the Hall of Famer who will be in attendance.

With Coliseum upgrades and the “Rooted In Oakland” theme as the NFL Raiders and NBA Golden State Warriors each plan to depart the East Bay in coming years, the A’s are ready to be this city’s team that stays.

Photos of old greats and current players line the ballpark walls where players go to work each day, with food truck options for fans available outside.

“It kind of makes it a different feel in our clubhouse, which is nice,” Melvin said. “Kind of spruced up a little bit. It does feel like the theme of what’s been talked about leading up to the season is also kind of filtering into our clubhouse.”

From old — and also new faces — like center fielder Rajai Davis, reliever Santiago Casilla and infielder Adam Rosales beginning second stints with the club and several other offseason additions such as Matt Joyce and Trevor Plouffe, Melvin likes his roster.

Even if the A’s have finished in last place among the AL West the past two years. They lost their final six spring games, too.

“You see it every year, sometimes the team that finishes at the top of the standings is the worst in baseball and vice versa,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “We’re playing well. I think we’re having good at-bats up and down the lineup. Our pitching has been good and our defense has been really, really good.”

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