Baseball players playing baseball has, at long last, returned. The disastrous season that was 2016 can be officially put behind us all, and, for the time being, hopes and dreams of greener fields, better baseball, and building towards a long and sustained future reign supreme. That build towards the future is likely to be a major theme of 2017 as well, from new President Dave Kaval’s strong push to end the A’s stadium limbo to the youth that will be heavily featured in today’s spring training opener versus the 2016 world series champs.
Starting today for the A’s will be Jesse Hahn, who perhaps has more incentive to put 2016 behind him than anyone else in the organization. After being a solid, yet fragile, mid-rotation starter in his first season with the A’s, Hahn managed only nine starts and 46 awful innings with a 6.02 ERA. Despite throwing harder than ever and having his most healthy season, his strikeouts evaporated and he surrendered a litany of home runs. Hahn attributes most of his issues last season with changing his pitching repertoire and abandoning his slider, and is looking to regain form this season by returning to what made him successful in 2015. To his credit, despite losing a couple of MPHs off of his fastball (due to reverting back to his original arm-slot), all of Hahn’s teammates are clamoring about the life and deception that has returned to his pitches. With the A’s starting rotation not yet solidified, a successful spring and return to form could result in Hahn taking the final rotation spot for himself.
Also scheduled to pitch today for the A’s are Raul Alcantara, Ross Detwiler, Chris Smith, and Bobby Wahl.
WIth so many prospects on the cusp of breaking into the show, Manager Bob Melvin emphasized exposing the youngsters to as much of the highest level of competition possible. As a result, Matt Chapman will be getting the start at third, Bruce Maxwell will be getting the start at catcher, and Franklin Barreto (who homered in his first at bat last spring) is due to get significant playing time at shortstop. Other notables in the lineup are Mark Canha playing in left field after missing most all of last season with a hip injury, and newcomers Rajai Davis, Matt Joyce, and Adam Rosales starting in center field, right field, and second base respectively. While the heavily injured pitching staff had its own fair share of problems last season, it was the pitiful offense and defense of the position players that really let the team down, and after making minor improvements to the offense and slightly more noticeable improvements to the defense, the now-healthy pitching staff should expect a boost of support (but not expect many miracles either).
The starting lineup today is: Davis CF, Semien SS, Joyce RF, Canha LF, Vogt DH, Chapman 3B, Alonso 1B, Rosales 2B, Maxwell C.
The A’s will be getting put to the test as much as a team can be put to the test this spring to kick things off, as facing the defending champion Cubs is no easy task. Starting today for the Cubs is Mike Montgomery, and he will be followed by Brian Duensing, Jack Leathersich, Aaron Brooks, Felix Pena, and Jose Rosario.
The starting lineup for the Cubs is Heyward RF, Bryant 3B, Rizzo 1B, Zobrist 2B, Russell SS, Contreras C, Jay CF, Szczur LF, Happ DH.
This is one of the few spring training games that will be televised, so tune into MLBN in order to see the new A’s and prospects and bounce back candidates in action. First pitch is at noon. The future begins today. Sort of.