* Jose Pirela is "the best hitter in the entire organization," former non-middle-infielder Reggie Jackson declared. Reggie hasn't been a full-time coach since before some of my co-bloggers were born (last with the A's in 1991, I believe), so he's not one of the world's leading authorities on hitting. But I think this report is something more than nothing. For example, it's a hint that Pirela doesn't have the sort of too-long/too-ugly a swing to limit his ceiling to "quad-A guy." * Brendan Ryan wins the gallows humor award for noting that he's experiencing "Groundhog Spring," injuring his back in March for the second straight year. But last year, it wasn't crazy to have some hope he might (A) return to hitting at least baseline-competently and (B) retain his elite defense. This year, neither: (A) his last three years of OPS have been not only atrocious, but declining, to bad-hitting-pitcher level -- .555, .528, .413; and (B) both the stats and the eye test show that at age 32 (about to be 33 in 2 weeks, happy birthday buddy), he's no longer an elite defender. Brad half-jokingly tweeted, "Cito Culver basically is Brendan Ryan, right?" I say "half"-jokingly because (A) Culver actually is a worse hitter than Ryan, racking up barely-better stats in A-ball, but (B) Brad's point is strong -- Ryan is worse than any solid-defending early-20s SS who can OPS in the mid-high .600s at AAA.
* Rob Refsnyder's stats are 4 for 8, with 2BB & 2K; Stephen Drew is 1 for 7. Far too early to conclude anything real, but these few games are a tentative step toward answering "yes" to the big question about each: (a) is Ref looks ready to play in MLB? (b) does Drew still looks like the .100s hitter he was in 2014?
Overall, each of the above mini-facts modestly nudges toward the roster alignment I'm hoping for: release Ryan; give Ref a shot at winning the 2B job; give Pirela and Drew backup roles (Drew backing up SS/2B, Pirela more backing up 3B/1B/LF plus serving as a PH against LHP). So, a solid week for those of us who've stumped for Pirela (like Brad) or stumped for Refsnyder (like me).