Spring Training Game #5: Oakland Athletics at San Diego Padres

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Much like Winter itself, Sunday afternoons during the baseball offseason can be barren, frigid, and devoid of joy and meaning. When baseball usually comes out to play, it is instead holed up inside, trapped in a blizzard of heavily debated projections and player awards, with only small seasonal joys like the GM meetings to break up the monetany. Much like Spring itself, Sunday afternoons during the baseball preseason can be fresh, welcoming, and full of newborn expectations and sights. It makes us both excited for the long sustained life of baseball to come as well as reminds us of what made us love the sport so much in the first place. This is the first Sunday afternoon baseball game of many to come with a long Summer ahead, and it should certainly be a cause for celebration until the Autumn of our days (and beyond).

It is a beautiful day in Peoria, the home of the Padres during Spring Training. It is expected to be partly-cloudy and in the high 70’s, low 80’s, absolutely perfect weather to play a (mostly) meaningless game of baseball, but baseball nevertheless. For what it's worth, the visiting A’s are currently 1-2-1 with both losses coming on the road, and the Padres are 1-3 and playing a split squad game today, meaning they will only be at half strength as the rest of their team will be taking on the White Sox. Chris Bassitt will be making his first start of the Spring for the A’s, and opposing him will be James Shields.

Oakland’s Tentative Starting Lineup is: 1- Burns (8), 2- Semien (6), 3- Coghlan (9), 4- Davis (7), 5- Alonso (3), 6- Lambo (DH), 7- Nunez (5), 8- Wendle (4), 9- Maxwell (2)

San Diego’s Tentative Starting Lineup is: 1- Jay (8), 2- Spangenberg (4), 3- Kemp (9), 4- Solarte (5), 5- Norris (2), 6- Wallace (3), 7- Margot (7), 8- Bethancourt (DH), 9- Rosales (6)

Similarly to the A’s, the San Diego Padres underwent a fairly massive roster reconstruction the offseason before this one. The expectation was that the boring, not-good not-awful Padre teams of the last decade would be a thing of the past and that the Padres could force open a new window of contention under new General Manager AJ Preller, with moves such as adding Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and Craig Kimbrel. However, similarly to the A’s , the Padres were conspicuous underachievers as they toiled through another season of unexciting mediocrity in 2015. However, whereas the A’s have more or less placed themselves in a position where the team may be few pieces away from contention, but still has the potential for significant growth, the Padres find themselves in a more in flux and transitive state.

This is a Spring Training game, so ultimately the key to the game is keeping everyone healthy, however, there are a few other important factors to keep an eye on for both teams.

For the A’s, look for Chris Bassitt to throw a lot of strikes. Bassitt’s journey has been more than well documented here, particularly by Alex Hall and Tim Eckert-Fong. When the A’s acquired Bassitt, it appeared that he couldn’t succeed as a starting pitcher because of his inability to consistently retire left-handed hitters, but due to a few different adjustments in his approach to left-handers and a better ability to suppress walks, Bassitt surprised most everyone with stretches of dominance as a starting pitcher last season. This offseason, Bassitt has been working out with everyone’s favorite oxymoron Sonny Gray, and has changed his delivery to resemble something of a permanent simple stretch, as opposed to his semi-jerky motion from last season, in an attempt to be more consistent and throw more strikes during the next season. Bassitt somewhat lived and died by his ability to not walk hitters last year, and if he could limit his free passes next season, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to believe Bassitt could take another step forward in his development.

On a more minor note, the A’s are unsurprisingly continuing to take their time with injured players like Stephen Vogt, who DH’d yesterday, as well as Mark Canha, so this is the best time to see what most of the youngest prospects can do before they are shipped off to minor league camp to make space for starting players. The young guys had a bit of an off day yesterday, but overall have been showing very encouraging signs in the early days of Spring Training.

For the Padres, Gaslamp Ball does a nice job outlining the most important factors of the Padres’ spring training, most notably the lack of certainty surrounding 2nd base, Left and Center field, backup catcher, the backend of the rotation, and nearly the entire bullpen. It is at these positions that players have the most to prove, and will undoubtedly be under the most scrutiny from the Padres’ side of the bench.

Old Friends: Drew Pomeranz, Derek Norris, Tyson Ross, Brett Wallace, Jose Torres, and oh so very briefly, Jabari Blash, are all former A’s who are now on the Padres’ 40-Man roster. Adam Rosales is a non-roster invitee.

This is just Spring Training, so now moreso than ever, winning or losing is fairly secondary as opposed to how the team wins or loses. I’m mostly just elated the godforsaken Winter is finally over. Go A's!

Oakland Athletics | Gaslamp Ball