The As are really high on Dustin Fowler and fully expect him to be their starting center fielder for years to come, but hell be starting out the regular season in the minor leagues.
In a move likely to get Fowler a little more comfortable at the plate as he returns from a devastating knee injury sustained last June, the As announced the outfielder would begin the year in Triple-A Nashville. Fowler played in 19 games this spring, batting .222 in 45 at-bats.
Manager Bob Melvin had been pleased with the way Fowler was swinging the bat, especially in the final few games of the spring.
Hes really starting to swing the bat well and as you see him hit the ball the other way hard, I think thats important for him, Melvin said Saturday before the teams final game in Arizona. Especially for a lefty and as a guy that is gonna be able to use his legs some to use the whole field. Those are the type of things that were gonna need him to do.
Boog Powell, who performed as the primary center fielder in the second half of the season last year after he was acquired in a trade for Yonder Alonso, made the 25-man roster and will likely get the Opening Day start.
In what was a highly-competitive battle for the fourth outfield spot, Jake Smolinski ended up getting the job over Mark Canha. Despite Canhas .362 batting average this spring, Smolinskis superior experience patrolling center field put him over the top. Canha will join Fowler in Triple-A.
After missing the majority of last season as he recovered from surgery on his right shoulder, Smolinski impressed the club by hitting .265 with four home runs. More importantly, he showed no signs of lingering issues from the injury.
Hes had a great spring and hes really well-liked here by the team and coaching staff, Melvin said. He plays hard and you really pull for a guy like that. He came in here with the intent of making the team and playing well, and hes done that. You get the versatility in the outfield at all three positions and he hits left-handed pitching well.
Right-handed pitcher Raul Alcantara, who is out of options, was a candidate to make the bullpen as a long-relief man to provide aid to an ailing pitching staff that is down to five healthy starters. But after struggling a bit this spring with a 6.23 ERA, Alcantara cleared waivers and was sent to Triple-A Nashville.