Happy Easter everyone! It's been a beautiful weekend so far, hasn't it? The weather was nice enough yesterday to induce me to do that most Bay Area of activities and take a trip to the farmers market with my girlfriend. This morning the birds have been chirping relentlessly and I can't help but notice it's to the familiar Dun-Dun-DUNDUNDUN rhythm of the "Let's Go Oakland!" chant. I'm not sure if that's me projecting my own desperation for the season to start, or whether I accidentally trained the birds to do it by watching too many games last year, but either way nature's on our side, so let's go A's!
The Athletics enter today’s game with a Spring Training record of 10-12-3, while the Royals sit at 12-16-0. In the interest of arbitrary sample sizes, though, in the last 4 games the A’s have yielded 40 runs, scored 19 (13 of those in one game vs. Seattle), and committed 8 errors. Things have been ugly, so today is a good opportunity to right the ship as we head into the last week before the regular season begins.
Taking the mound for the boys in green is Kendall Graveman. Graveman’s last start came in the 5-6 loss vs. the slegnA on Tuesday 3/22, where he went 5.1 innings, giving up 8 hits to the tune of 4 ER, along with 2 BB and 1 SO. Overall in Spring Training, Graveman has posted an 8/8 K/BB ratio, 1.70 WHIP, and 6.75 ERA. Graveman absolutely tore up the Cactus League last year before struggling in his first regular season outings, leading to a brief stint in AAA; let’s hope that his timeline has just moved up a few weeks this year and he’ll have this stuff ready come April 8.
Hurling for the Royals today is the generically-named Chris Young. Young has been solid in Spring Training, sporting a 4.38 ERA across 4 starts with a more than 2:1 SO/BB ratio. In Young’s last outing on 3/22, he kept the Dodgers hitless through 4.1 innings while K’ing 5.
Saturday’s game vs. Royals...could have gone better. Read wobbling's excellent recap here. The A’s couldn’t get anything going offensively, either against Royals starter Chien-Ming Wang or their bullpen. The A’s notched only 4 hits prior to the 9th inning, and at one point 12 Athletics in a row were retired by the Royals bullpen.
Just to reiterate what everyone is surely sick of hearing: Health is the #1 concern in Spring Training, and all of our starting pitchers appear to be healthy right now. There is some cause for concern, and there are theories that Hahn may be moved down to AAA to start the season and get his best stuff going. I know I'm starting to get nervous. But whatever ends up happening, let's focus on health first.
OAKLAND ATHLETICS LINEUP:
KANSAS CITY ROYALS LINEUP:
STORIES TO KEEP AN EYE ON:
- The A’s defense the last few days has been sloppy, to say the least. Marcus Semien made a nifty play Saturday, but had been looking yippy for a couple of days prior to that. We’ve seen numerous cut-off men missed and generally poor results from our OF arms, should-have-been-double-plays that fizzled out, TOOTBLANs, etc. Will we see another putrid (as Bob Melvin called it), error-filled day?
- Obviously, all eyes will be on Graveman to see whether he can overcome the command issues that have been troubling him (and indeed, pretty much the entire starting pitching staff) this Spring. Graveman has been working on a changeup, a new pitch for him to replace the cutter which has pretty much disappeared from his arsenal. Will it work for him today? Will he be able to battle command issues (and possibly the hot, dry air of Arizona) to get his pitches sinking and inducing ground ball outs? Longevity was also a concern for Graveman last season, who often looked like he was out of gas well before the 100-pitch mark. His 5.1 innings on 3/22 is, sadly, the current record for the A’s in ST (tied with Chris Bassitt). Can he return to being the Cactus League God of yesteryear, or at least go 6 innings?
- The A’s bullpen (the people who will be on the actual 25-man, at least) have generally been quite solid. Ryan Madson and his flawless teeth, as well as film aficionado John Axford, had a bit of trouble recently in a minor league outing, though neither has been scored upon in the Cactus League. Ryan Dull is on the outside looking in, but with the chaos of the current SP situation, a demotion for Graveman or Hahn could bump Felix Doubront from Long Man to #5 and open up a space on the 25-man roster for Dull. Dull, Madson, and Axford have yet to yield a run in the Cactus League, while Fernando Rodriguez has surrendered only 1 run in 10.1 IP.
- Sam Fuld had a baby! Congratulations to him and his wife Sarah on the birth of their fourth child, John Spencer (AKA Spencer).
- Henderson Alvarez’s rehab continues to progress nicely. On Saturday Alvarez threw a 40-pitch bullpen session which included breaking balls for the first time this Spring. No word on how that bullpen session went, but this is probably a case of no news being good news.
I know there’s been a lot of consternation about the status of the team writ large, and especially the rotation, as we enter the last week of Spring Training. As is always the case in life, I’m sure some of that anxiety is valid and some isn’t - I’ve certainly been feeling a bit uneasy. But with that said…