A’s start 2020 season at Coliseum against Angels Friday

Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin pulls Mike Fiers in the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s game against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park the final pre season game for 2020 (mercurynews.com photo) 

By Jerry Feitelberg

OAKLAND–The Oakland A’s are looking forward to the four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels starting Friday night at the Oakland Coliseum. It has been a very long wait to start the season. The season has been delayed due to pandemic caused by the coronavirus. Many changes have been made in order to get things going.

The teams will have 30 players on the roster for the first two weeks of the season. The roster will be reduced to 28 players for the next two weeks and then down to 26 for the rest of the year. The Designated Hitter will be universal. It will be the first time the DH will be used in the National League’s home parks.

The teams will play 60 games. Forty of the games will be played against the A’s Western Division rivals. The other 20 games will be played against the National League Western Division teams. In order to speed up the games, MLB has a new rule for extra-inning contests. The league has mandate that a runner will placed at second base to start the 10th inning. The rule will not be in effect for the playoffs.

The A’s feel that they have an excellent chance to go all the way to the World Series this year. A’s manager, Bob Melvin, in his 10th year at the helm, knows he has the talent to get there. The A’s won 97 games in 2018 and 2019.

They have a good solid nucleus of All-Star caliber players. The team has a lineup that can strike fear into opposing pitchers. There are no easy outs in the lineup. The infield is good defensively, too. Big Matt Olson will be back at first, Matt Chapman at third, Marcus Semien at shortstop.

Semien came in third in in last year’s vote for Most Valuable Player. The only question mark will be at second base. The A’s traded last year’s second baseman Jurickson Profar to the San Diego Padres for catcher Austin Allen. Franklin Barreto, who is out of options, will be in a fight with Tony Kemp and Chad Pinder for the job.

The A’s outfield is also solid. All three outfielders are good defensively and they are all capable of sending the baseball flying out of the park. Mark Canha, who played so well last year in centerfield, will start the season in left. Ramon Laureano will be back in center, and Stephen Piscotty, who missed playing time last year due to injury, will patrol right field. The A’s will use Sean Murphy as the everyday catcher. Austin Allen or Jonah Hiem will be the backups.

The A’s lost three pitchers from last years rotation. Homer Bailey, Brett Anderson, and Tanner Roark all have found new homes. The A’s rotation will feature Frankie Montas, Mike Fiers, Sean Manaea, Chris Bassitt, and Daniel Mengden to start the season. Montas will start against the Angels Friday night.

Montas was on his way to being the ace of the staff last year until he was suspended for 80 games for use of an illegal substance.The A’s were hoping to use lefties Jesus Luzardo and A.J.Puk as starters. Luzardo is recovering from a bout with Covid-19. Puk, who had Tommy John surgery last year, is experiencing some shoulder pain and is on the Injured List. He is visiting an orthopedic surgeon in Los Angeles for a consultation.

The A’s bullpen is also very good. Liam Hendriks is the A’s closer. Hendriks was an All-Star last season. The setup men will be Yusmeiro Petit, Joakim Soria, Lou Trivino, Jake Diekman, T,J,McFarland and J.B. Wendelken.

The A’s will use Robbie Grossman and Chad Pinder as backups. Grossman is a switch-hitter and can fill in for Canha. Pinder can play both in the infield and outfield. Another play the ‘s will be keeping is Rule-5 selection Vimael Machin. He is an infielder and the A’s may use him if Barreto or Kemp don’t wor out at second base.

The A’s main challenger for the top spot in the West will be the Houston Astros. Even though the Astros lost Geritt Cole to the Yankees and Will Harris to the Nationals, they still are powerful club. They made it to the World Series twice in the last three year. They won it in 2017 and lost to the Nationals last year.

The club has been in turmoil since they were caught stealing signs. The Astros replaced their manager A.J.Hinch with Dusty Baker. Baker, known as a players’ manager, has the tools to make sure the Astros are competitive.

The A’s know they have to get off to a good start. They know that a slow start can doom their chances of winning the division. They made the playoffs in 2018 and 2019 as a wildcard. They lost each time in the one-game playoff format. If they win the division, they will escape the win or go home syndrome. The time has come to play games that count. Let’s play ball.

Jerry Feitelberg is a beat writer for the Oakland A’s on http://www.sportsradioservice.com

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