On a night when the A’s organization celebrated the 2016 Championship of their Double AA affiliate with a nice pre-game ceremony at home plate, the big league club started off week #4 of the Cactus League spring season with an encouraging start against the D’backs but ultimately failed to close the door against the slithery Diamondbacks. As Samuel L. Jackson, aka, Neville Flynn, aka Mace Windu, aka Nick Furry, eloquently said, "Everybody listen! We have to put a barrier between us and the snakes!"
Speaking of snakes, have you had the chance to see the incredible "Snakes vs. Iguana" scene from the recently released "Planet Earth 2?" If not, you must watch this.
Highlights from tonight's game that make us think the A’s could be really good in 2017:
1. A’s offense came out swinging. The A’s knocked around the D’backs shiny new acquisition, Tiajuan Walker, who came into the game as one of the hottest spring training pitchers in Arizona (21 K’s in 13 innings). The A’s scored 4 runs on 6 hits off of Walker before he departed in the 5th inning. The A’s game planned to be aggressive against Walker and it worked (although it is possible the A’s offense was simply pulling a Ryan Braun).
2. Khris Davis is the man. Davis crushed a ball off the batter’s eye in center field to drive in 2 runs in the 1st inning. The A’s desperately need him to come through with runners on base this season like he did tonight. (Last year Davis hit a measly .246 with runners in scoring position.)
3. It’s just spring training but Sean Manaea is really, really good. Manaea struck out 5 in 5 innings, scattering 3 hits and an unearned run and kept the Diamondbacks off balance with his developing slider, doing his best to avoid the homer run ball on a warm 80 degree night in the desert. (Manaea gave up 20 HR’s in 144 innings in 2016, numbers he would like to improve on in 2017)
4. Ryan Madson looks ready for the season to start. Madson came in after Manaea and threw a solid inning, striking out one and inducing two weak groundballs. He will have some in-house competition for the closer spot throughout 2017, but look for Madson to have a solid if not spectacular year in 2017.
Events from tonight's game that make us all worried we could be witnessing a 3rd consecutive 90 loss season for the Green and Gold in 2017:
1. Errors from the left side of the infield: Trevor Plouffe isn’t known around baseball circles as a great infielder but I will take an occasional error in exchange for his offense and clubhouse leadership,. However, the A’s starting pitching staff needs solid defensive play from the hot corner in order to pitch deeper into games in 2017 and errors with runners on base certainly doesn't help achieve that goal. Also, the team can’t afford to have Marcus Sieman revert back to pre-Ron Washington form (although Sieman was part of an excellent double play on the next batter after his 4th inning error). A’s beat writer Susan Slusser wrote about the A’s potential defensive liabilities this season in today’s San Francisco Chronicle.
2. A’s southpaw relievers looked shaky tonight. Doolittle gives up a 2 run long ball to Kevin Cron in the top of the 7th (Doolittle gave up 6 home runs in 39 innings in 2016) and Ross Detwiler walked two, gave up 3 hits, bounced two wild pitches and gave up 5 runs (ouch!) in one inning of relief.
3. However, be encouraged my green and gold brothers and sisters, our 2017 promotions are way better than their 2017 promotions. If things do get rough this season, take heart, our Bobble Head Giveaways in 2017 are vastly superior to what the Diamondbacks have to offer.
Moments tonight that make us think the A’s could be really good 2 birthdays from now…
1. Third Base Prospect Matt Chapman. Chapman hit the ball with authority tonight delivering a line drive single in the 7th and a Triple in 9th. I predict Chapman will go into camp in 2018 as the starting 3B for the A's.
2. The aforementioned 2016 Midland Rockhounds Double AA Championship Club. The squad has represented the big league club well this spring with position players, Ryon Healy, Chapman, Richie Martin and pitchers Daniel Gosset, Kyle Finnegan and Bobby Wahl all players that have the potential to be anchors for the A’s future. The A’s brass paid a nice tribute to the 2016 Midland team by handing out spring training big league at-bats late in tonight’s game to Tyler Marincov, Danny Oh and Brett Vertigan, all key cogs in last year’s Rockhounds playoff run.
A’s Injury Updates (March 20th, 2017):
Sonny Gray - RHP (Lat Strain, March 9th): Met with Doctor today in Chicago, no announced timetable for return
Joey Wendle – 2B/OF (shoulder soreness, March 7th): MRI revealed no structural damage; no announced timetable for return (currently shut down)
Jeaf Decker - OF (Oblique strain, March 19th ): no announced timetable for return, but threw and ran today (March 20th)
Jake Smolinski - OF (Surgery on March 16th to repair torn labrum): Out 4-6 months
Stephen Vogt - C (Minor Heel issue reported March 13th ): Reports no longer having any pain, back in the line-up tonight and cracked a solid double.
Daniel Mengden – RHP (Feb 2017 Surgery on Right Foot): Expected to be out of walking boot at end of March (2017).
Chris Bassitt – RHP (Tommy John Surgery in May 2016): Threw 30 pitch bullpen session on March 13th, possible return in June 2017
Felix Dubront – LHP (Elbow Surgery in April 2016): Rehabbing in A’s Minor League Camp
A’s will play another game under the lights tomorrow night (Tuesday), traveling to The Peoria Sports Complex to take on the Mariners at 7:05pm with Jharel Cotton scheduled to start. (available to listen to at mlb.com).
P.S. - A huge and hearfelt thank you to everyone at A's Nation for allowing me to contribute tonight's game thread and re-cap. It was a serous honor that I will never forget!