A’s and Angels continue series Saturday at Coliseum; Fujinami makes his MLB debut

If you missed Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani on the mound on Thursday you’ll have a chance to see him as designated hitter all weekend against the Oakland A’s at the Oakland Coliseum Sat Apr 1 and Sun Apr 2. (AP News photo)

By Jerry Feitrelberg

OAKLAND–Thursday, March 30th,2023, was the first day of the 2023 baseball season. Baseball fans, as well as the players, were eager to have baseball return. In 2022, the A’s and their fans suffered 102 losses. The guys in Green and Gold won just 60 games last year.

The fans were dismayed when the team traded away stalwarts like Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Sean Manaea, and Chris Bassitt. Ownership continued threatening to move the team to Las Vegas if a stadium could not be built in Oakland. The fans stayed away in droves as the A’s had the worst attendance of any team in Major League baseball.

Late last year’s season, the A’s made a trade, sending Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino to the New York Yankees for two lefties, Ken Waldichuk, and J.P.Sears. In the off-season, the A’s traded catcher Sean Murphy to the Atlanta Braves. The A’s acquired lefty Kyle Muller, who had been Atlanta’s number one prospect.

Muller started the season opener on Thursday for Oakland and did well. He went five innings and allowed four hits and one run. The A’s signed a right-handed pitcher who starred in the Japanese league, Shintaro Fujinami. Fujinami will pitch against the Angels on Saturday.

The A’s made a couple of key moves to strengthen the bullpen. They signed Trevor May and Jeurys Familia to go along with relievers Zach Jackson, Domingo Acevedo, and Dany Jimenez.

Other new faces that we’ll see playing this year include rookie Esteury Ruiz. Ruiz made a sensational catch in last night’s opener when he robbed Mike Trout of a potential extra-base hit. Aledmys Diaz was signed to a two-year contract. Diaz won a World Series ring last year with the Houston Astros—the A’s love his versatility, as Diaz can play three infield positions.

Another new player is first baseman Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar played for Miami and Baltimore last year. His batting average was .236, and he had 16 home runs. His best year was in 2018 with Milwaukee. He smoked 35 dingers that season. The A’s hope that Aguilar can add some power to the lineup. The A’s signed another former Milwaukee Brewer, Jace Peterson, to play third base.

The A’s have two more games with the Angels this weekend. The Angels have two players on the club that are MVPs. Mike Trout won the award three times, and two-way player Shohei Ohtani won the award in 2021. Ohtani could win another MVP and a Cy Young award as a pitcher.

The Angels, who have not been to the playoffs since 2014, have revamped their lineup, too. Their left fielder, Taylor Ward, has a lot of pop in his bat. Hunter Renfroe has sent quite a few baseballs over the fences in his days with Boston and Milwaukee. Brandon Drury is another power hitter. The Angels have former Yankee Gio Urshela as the shortstop. Another new face is catcher Logan O’Hoppe.

In his first full season as skipper, Angels manager Phil Nevin will send lefty Patrick Sandoval to the mound on Saturday to face the A’s. Fujinami will make his first start and Major League debut against the A’s. On Sunday, it will be a battle of lefties. Ken Waldichuk goes for Oakland, and the Angels will have Tyler Anderson on the mound.

One game doesn’t make a season. There is a long way to go. Most baseball pundits have picked Oakland to finish last in the AL West. The A’s are in the second year of a rebuild. This writer thinks the A’s can win about 75 games this season. Their pitching, starting rotation, and bullpen are improved.

They have veteran players like Tony Kemp. Ramon Laureano and Seth Brown have contributed in the past. If the new players have good seasons, the team should be better. Will the new rules help the A’s? No one knows yet, but many think the fans and the players will like the changes.

Thursday night’s game was played in two hours and 30 minutes. There should be more stolen bases, and more hits up the middle, and more hit-and-run plays. The A’s are tied for first place in the AL West. The fans should enjoy this while they can.

Join Jerry Feitelberg for the Oakland A’s podcasts Thursdays at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

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