The race for that fifth spot in the Oakland A’s rotation is coming down to a tight finish. Even with just five days remaining in camp, some spring training performances will be key in deciding who lands the spot for the regular season’s first two weeks, at least.

Jesús Luzardo will start a simulated game on Saturday, which means A.J. Puk will get the start against the Texas Rangers that day. How he fares could determine if the A’s are ready to boost the left-hander into the rotation come April 1.

Can Puk put in a solid four innings this weekend? Manager Bob Melvin said that’s the key question Puk must answer to give the coaching staff and front office some clarity on how to fill the role. And, yes, spring training performances matter a ton for a player like Puk, who is pitching for the first time since last March when a shoulder injury led to season-ending surgery.

“I had great showings in spring, too. And it can fool you, but in certain spots it’s all you have to go on,” Melvin said. “When you have competition in a certain spot, it’s going to be about spring training performance. Other things play into it as well, but it’s mostly performance-based and these guys are performing really well.”

With veteran Mike Fiers unable to pitch in any Cactus League games because of a back and hip injury, right-handed prospect Daulton Jefferies and left-handed acquisition Cole Irvin are the two other frontrunners to take the fifth starter job.

Irvin, who came to the A’s in a transaction this offseason, has allowed two runs over 12 innings in four games (two starts). Irvin had a rough big league career in two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, allowing seven runs over three games in 2019. But Irvin moved to the other side of the rubber on the mound, which allows him to use his sinker and changeup more effectively against right-handed hitters and get his slider glove-side.

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Jefferies has had a consistent and impressive spring. The 25-year-old Cal product is coming off his best outing yet, striking out seven batters in a scoreless four innings against the Colorado Rockies. That completed a 20-strikeout, two-run, three-walk spring over 13 innings in five games (three starts). That strikeout-to-walk ratio is a staple of Jefferies’ efficacy, and his slider integration with his curveball has been key along with his confidence boost. His four-inning outing Tuesday is a step in the right direction toward a regular-season role.

Rarely does a spring performance have this much implication on a big league roster, but Puk’s upcoming outing — particularly if he can put in four effective innings on Saturday — could tell the A’s how to fill the role

“It does factor in,” Melvin said of Puk’s upcoming outing. “We want to have somebody who can at least go out there for five innings come opening day. The first time around the rotation. It’s going to be a big start for him, not only to perform but to be economical with his pitches to where he can be out there for a number of innings. If he were to go out and give us four innings for us that’d be fine because the next time out we could up that.”

Puk, so far, has been inconsistent in his game appearances. Slow rolled coming off shoulder surgery, the 25-year-old made his Cactus League debut last week and allowed two runs over two innings. His command was off and his velocity a few ticks below its 97 mph average in 2019 in his second outing on Monday, where he allowed five runs in 1 2/3 innings.

The fifth starter will be crucial for the first two weeks of the season, too. The A’s won’t have a day off until April 11 — 10 games (and two full rotation turns) into the regular season.

One benefit of the tight No. 5 starter competition is it has revealed much-needed organizational depth.

“We’re happy with all these guys,” Melvin said. “It is nice to have that kind of depth depending on what goes on … We’re creating more depth with guys who’ve had good camps, whether it be in the rotation, whether it’s the bullpen and position players as well. I feel better depth-wise than I did when I first got to camp.”

Austin Allen is optioned; What it means for the back-up catcher spot

Catcher Austin Allen was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas on Wednesday morning. That narrows the backup catcher race down to Aramís Garcia and Carlos Perez. Melvin wouldn’t say who’s won the job.

“It means Austin Allen is being optioned right now,” Melvin said of the move. “We got to a point where we knew it would be one of the other two guys. Some of these guys aren’t getting at bats so we’re trying to streamline things.”

Garcia, 28, came to the A’s this offseason in the trade that sent Khris Davis and Jonah Heim to the Texas Rangers for shortstop Elvis Andrus and cash. He’s been solid this spring, showing his defensive acumen behind the plate. He’s caught a few runners stealing and demonstrated the pitch-framing abilities the A’s knew they’d be getting in the trade. Garcia needed camp to show he could produce at the plate — he’s 7-for-20 with three doubles and only has 37 big league games under his belt.

Perez, 30, has a bit more experience and, therefore, clubhouse presence. He is also having a solid spring, going 5-for-20. All singles. Though Garcia looks to be the frontrunner, Perez is very much still in the running. Melvin, who knows a quality catcher when he sees one, likes what he’s seen from Perez.

“He’s just a solid all-around player,” he said. “Not flashy, but has pretty consistent game and his leadership qualities are outstanding. He catches and throws well. He’s a guy that understands the role of a back-up catcher where you don’t get to play a lot.”