Night baseball is back in Oakland! Well, Las Vegas but that's close enough. For those sports fans in Las Vegas not watching the PAC 12, WAC, or WCC basketball tournaments going on in Vegas, the A's and Cubs will be stepping away from their normal Cactus League slate to play a split squad exhibition under the lights at Cashman Field.
According to FanGraph's 2015 full season prediction, the Cubs are projected to finish at 84-78 while the A's are projected at 83-79.
Two similar records means two similar teams right?
The Cubs and A's both took completely different paths to end up where they are at the moment, though their paths did briefly intersperse at a critical point in the middle of last year, which influenced several key decisions that I will get to later on.
For the Cubs, they took the 76ers route as Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer completely gutted the roster, turning to minor league talent in order to manufacture high draft picks and top minor league talent. The memories of high priced talents like Kerry Wood, Aramis Ramirez, and Alfonso Soriano, who formed the core for their 2007-2008 back to back division title runs have been replaced with Jon Lester, Javier Baez, Starlin Castro and many more top minor league prospects, knocking on the doors of the big leagues, ready to rewrite history and bring a World Series back to Chicago.
Meanwhile, back in the confines of O.Co, not even the depths of our foul territory can swallow up the misery of last season. Billy Beane made a necessary gamble that unfortunately backfired.
After three postseason trips, it was clear that the current core was good but not great so Beane did what he does best: Rebuild on the fly. Rather than tear down the way the Cubs did, Beane found a way to keep the A's competitive for the umpteenth season in a row.
As we've seen, Marcus Semien seems to have some power, Joey Wendle has been swinging a hot bat, Ben Zobrist has been his usual solid self, Josh Phegley seems to be establishing a good rapport with the pitchers, and the battle for the last two spots in the rotation between the dizzying array of quality arms has proved two things: The Nashville Sounds rotation will be better than Minnesota's and Billy Beane's offseason moves look promising.
Starting for the Cubs tonight is Jake Arrieta (No, not Jake from State Farm). Arrieta went 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA with the Cubs last year, realizing the potential that made him the Orioles opening day starter in 2011 and 2012. He normally goes with a four pitch array of a fastball, sinker, slider, and curve with his fastball sitting around 93-95 MPH.
Starting for the A's is Drew Pomeranz. The only thing that stood between him and a full breakout last year was a chair. As A's fans know, the once highly touted Pomeranz, who was taken 5th overall by the Indians in 2010, has operated exclusively from the stretch under the tutelage of Curt Young. He throws in the low 90s and uses a simplified three pitch arsenal consisting of a fastball, sinker and curveball. Pomeranz figures to break camp in the A's rotation to see if he can build off of a strong but short 2014.
Here's your Starting Lineups for tonight:
This is a chance to watch Matt Olson and Renato Nunez, who could be the future at first and third base respectively. Of all the players in the lineup, only Vogt, Gentry (Depending on platoon) Semien are locks to make the opening day lineup
Cubs 1. Fowler CF 2. Rizzo 1B 3.Soler RF 4. Montero C 5. Baez 2B 6. Bryant DH 7. Lake LF 8. La Stella 3B 9. Russell SS
Looks like the Cubs brought the prospect brigade with them in Baez, Soler, Russell, and Bryant.
Injury Updates: - Jarrod Parker is scheduled to throw a bullpen session today, which is encouraging news. Parker's deadly fastball-change up combo would be a welcome addition to the staff. If he returns to health, the trio of Kazmir, Gray, and Parker could be potentially lethal when the stretch run arrives. - The great Rickey Henderson will be in camp to help the A's for the next two weeks. With the new lineup, power could become a problem, making base running, Henderson's specialty, extremely crucial. - 1B Ike Davis is day to day with back stiffness while 1B Rangel Ravelo will have right wrist surgery today, sidelining him for an indefinite amount of time. With two first basemen sidelined, expect to see Billy Butler get extended time at first base this weekend.
Stats taken from Brooks Baseball and FanGraphs