Coming off of back-to-back American League West Divisional Titles is nothing to scoff at, but the Oakland Athletics are looking for more going into the 2014 season.
Just a few days away from Opening Day, then the green and gold host the Cleveland Indians the A’s are still trying to finalize their 25-man roster. While the same core of players will be returning to the field for what the Oakland franchise hopes in their third consecutive season with a postseason berth, injuries are already taking their toll on what was supposed to be a very deep team.
The most notable injury comes to that of Jarrod Parker, who was lined up to be the ace of the staff this year. Parker’s injury requires tommy john surgery, so he will be out for the season, meaning the depth of the starting rotation has already been compromised. But there is more bad news for the pitching staff.
Other starters AJ Griffin, and off season acquisition Scott Kazmir are also expected to be sidelined for Opening Day, although their estimated returns are expected be come as their spots in the rotation are called on once the regular season starts.
Reliever Ryan Cook, who was going to be an integral part of the "strongest bullpen in the MLB" as many have noted, will start the season sidelined with should inflammation, though he is expected to return on April 4.
The injuries were not just localized to the pitching staff of the reigning AL West champs, it also hit the position players, as off-season acquisition Craig Gentry, who looked to fill in for the departed Chris Young and Seth Smith, will also start the season sidelined due to lower back strain he suffered in February.
|Coco Crisp (center) will look to provide the Oakland Athletics a spark from the lead off spot again this year. // Courtesy Neville Guard|
With the injuries suddenly riddling the Oakland clubhouse, one wonders if the A’s made enough moves in the off-season to stay ahead of their divisional competition. But one thing is certain, that if the A’s look to contend again in 2014 they will need some serious contributions from major figures in the dugout.
The players I look at to have an impact season for the green and gold offensively are Josh Donaldson, who hit .301 with 24 home runs and 93 RBIs last season, Yoenis Cespedes, who hit .240 with 26 home runs and 80 RBIs last season and Coco Crisp, the A’s leadoff man who hit .261 with 22 home runs and 66 RBIs last season. If these guys get their bats going early, the A’s should have no problems getting runs on the board early and often.
|Oakland Athletics first baseman Brandon Moss (left) hit 30 home runs in 145 games last year will look to have repeat success this year. // Courtesy Neville Guard.|
But the entire load shouldn’t be shouldered by these three, as Brandon Moss will look to continue his success and Josh Reddick will look to have a bounce back season, to that of 2012 when he hit .242 with 32 home runs and 85 RBIs in 156 games.
|Oakland Athletics 2014 Opening Day starter Sonny Gray. // Courtesy Neville Guard|
As for the pitching staff, Sonny Gray, who came up last season and provided a much needed spark for the A’s, will have to anchor the pitching staff. Gray who started 10 games last year went 5-3 with a 3.35 ERA in 64 innings pitched. Gray will have to prove his can post those numbers over the whole season.
Along side of Gray is Kazmir, who is looking to resurrect his career much in the same way Bartolo Colon did the past two seasons. Kazmir is expected to face his former club the Indians on April 1, the second game of the season for both squads.
The Oakland Athletics will look to have the same type of success they had the past two seasons with Bob Melvin at the helm as they look for their third consecutive AL West title. The "Green Collar" Opening Day comes on March 31 where the A’s will look to win their first Opening Day since 2004 when they beat the Texas Rangers 5-4. Overall the Oakland Athletics are 53-60 in Opening Day contests since 1901.