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MLB Opening Day 2016: Oakland A's vs. Chicago White Sox series preview

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The Athletics face the White Sox for four games, beginning with Monday night's Opening Day contest between Sonny Gray and Chris Sale.

Elbows shouldn't do that!
Elbows shouldn't do that!
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Opening Day brings potentially great pitching matchups to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum as the Oakland Athletics host the Chicago White Sox for four games to kick off the season. Everybody has a chance at this point, especially in the American League where it seems like you could just draw teams out of a hat and do as well as the prognosticators.

What the computer prognosticators say about the White Sox are generally more positive than their 76-86 result of last season. FanGraphs' Cool Standings pegs Chicago as a .500 team with a 27 percent chance of reaching the postseason while PECOTA projects an 84-78 result.

What am I looking forward to seeing in this White Sox series?

  • Monday: An amazing pitcher's duel.
  • Tuesday: A preliminary answer to wondering whether Rich Hill will put it together to assuage the doubts that arose in spring training.
  • Wednesday: How quickly Bob Melvin will start playing the hot hand in adjusting his lineup.
  • Thursday: Our first look at the primary lineup against right-handers.

Pitching matchups and TV schedule

Time (PT) TV Chicago White Sox Oakland A's
Mon. 7:05 PM CSNCA LHP Chris Sale (13-11, 3.41) RHP Sonny Gray (14-7, 2.73)
Tues. 7:05 PM MLBN LHP Jose Quintana (9-10, 3.36) LHP Rich Hill (2-1, 1.55)
Weds. 7:05 PM ESPN2 LHP Carlos Rodon (9-6, 3.75) RHP Chris Bassitt (1-8, 3.56)
Thurs. 12:35 PM CSNCA RHP Mat Latos (4-10, 4.95) RHP Kendall Graveman (6-9, 4.05)

You'll certainly see a lot of great pitching duels on Opening Day Monday, but the battle between Sonny Gray and Chris Sale, respectively 3rd and 4th in last year's Cy Young voting, is the best one in the majors today. Oakland's new lineup will get its first test against Chicago's trio of high-quality southpaws.

While the White Sox could have thrown four left-handers at the A's for this opening series, they've elected to have right-hander Mat Latos start Thursday instead of left-hander John Danks, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Latos steps into the rotation in place of free agent Jeff Samardzija.

White Sox lineup additions and subtractions

Chicago's Opening Day lineup will probably include at least five new faces. Jimmy Rollins takes over at shortstop, Todd Frazier at third base, Brett Lawrie at second, Austin Jackson in center field, and Alex Avila behind the plate. Other new options include catcher Dioner Navarro and first baseman-outfielder Jerry Sands. I'm particularly looking forward to seeing Brett Lawrie try to handle Rich Hill's ridiculous breaking stuff on Tuesday.

Gone is first baseman Adam LaRoche, who elected to retire over a dispute with the White Sox front office over the presence of LaRoche's son, Drake, in the clubhouse. Also gone are shortstop Alexei Ramirez, catcher Tyler Flowers, catcher Geovany Soto, and infielder Gordon Beckham.

Major returners are Adam Eaton, Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera, Avisail Garcia, Tyler Saladino, and J.B. Shuck.

Bullpen

The White Sox bullpen returns pretty much entirely intact from where it was at the end of last year, having finished 7th in the American League in ERA (3.67). David Robertson is still the closer after earning 34 saves last year.

Here's one thing to watch, the bullpen should have benefited from pitching the fewest innings in the AL thanks to the quality of its starting rotation, but still only put up middling numbers.

Other notes

Pay attention to the TV Networks as the A's are jumping around quite a bit for the first few games. After Monday night's opener on CSN California (with pre-game starting at 6:00 PM), Tuesday night the A's will be on MLB Network in Oakland's television territory only to receive WGN's broadcast of the game with Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone. Wednesday night, the A's shift to ESPN2 and then the series wraps up back on CSN California for Thursday's 12:35 PM finale.

After this weird week, the MLB Network simulcasts of visiting team broadcasts will be limited to weekday day games.