Photo credit: @Athletics
By Jerry Feitelberg
The Oakland A’s, who surprised all of baseball in 2018 by winning 97 games and making the playoffs, have their home opener at the Oakland Coliseum against the Angels on Thursday.
The A’s, skippered by Bob Melvin, return most of the players that helped the club last season. They lost two key players, the second baseman Jed Lowrie, and catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Lowrie went to the Mets, and Lucroy will be in Oakland Thursday as an Angel.
The A’s starting rotation was hard hit by injuries. Several pitchers had Tommy John surgery, and Sean Manaea was lost for the season with a shoulder issue. The A’s obtained Marco Estrada from Toronto to fill one of the holes in the rotation. The A’s did not sign Edwin Jackson, who performed very well in Oakland last year. He is still available and may sign with the A’s later in the year. The A’s starting rotation this year will feature Mike Fiers, Estrada, Brett Anderson, Frankie Montas, and Aaron Brooks. Brooks performed well in spring training and in his last outing, Tuesday night against the San Francisco Giants threw 5 1/3 innings allowing five hits and one run.
The A’s first baseman, Matt Olson, suffered a hand injury in spring training and is out for six to eight weeks. Jurickson Profar will move over to first in his absence. Mark Canha can also place first. The rest of the infield is set with Matt Chapman at third base, Marcus Semien at shortstop, and either Franklin Barreto or Chad Pinder will play second. Canha and Pinder can also play in the outfield. The A’s plan to use Robbie Grossman in left field and as the leadoff hitter. Grossman, formerly with the Minnesota Twins, is a switch hitter. Ramon Laureano will be in center field, and Stephen Piscotty will be in right field.
The catching chores will be handled by Josh Phegley and former Giant Nick Hundley. The A’s have their eyes on catcher Sean Murphy, who will start the season with Triple-A Las Vegas.
The A’s bullpen will be strong again this season. Ryan Buchter is the sole left-handed pitcher in the pen. The A’s will have Yusmeiro Petit, Fernando Rodney, Joakim Soria, Lou Trivino, J.B. Wendelken, and closer Blake Treinen ready to shut down the opposition. The bullpen was a big reason for the A’s success in 2018.
The Angels’ longtime manager Mike Scioscia left the club after the 2018 season His replacement is Brad Ausmusm who had managed the Tigers for several seasons.
The Angels’ pitching staff also saw several pitchers have Tommy John surgery. They have revamped their starting rotation. Former A’s starter, Trevor Cahill, signed with the Angels in the off-season and will start Thursday against Oakland, Cahill pitched very well at the Coliseum but did not do well on the road. The Angels acquired Matt Harvey from the Reds. Harvey, who starred with the Mets before going to the Reds, had a record of 7-9 and a 4.94 ERA. He will be pitching on Friday and making his AL debut. Tyler Skaggs and Felix Pena will see action against the A’s this weekend. The Angels acquired Chris Stratton from the Giants, and he will make his Angel debut next week
The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, was the AL Rookie of the Year, is on the injured list. Ohtani also had Tommy John surgery and will not pitch again until 2020. However, he will be able to hit and will rejoin the club in a couple of months. When he arrives, he will be the DH and Albert Pujols will play first base.
The Angels will use Justin Bour at first base when Pujols is the DH. Tommy LaStella will be at second base. La Stella played with the Cubs last year. Andrelton Simmons will be the shortstop. Zack Cozart, Caleb Cowart, and Taylor Ward will play third base or fill in at the other infield positions if needed.
The Angels with have Kole Calhoun play right field. Mike Trout will be in center field once again. Justin Upton will start the season on the injured list. His spot in left field will be taken by Peter Bourjos.
The A’s hope to bounce back from the two losses they suffered at the hands of the Mariners. They have 160 games left and the A’s know they can no longer be taken lightly. They expect to go to the playoffs again this season. The road to the playoffs begins now.