Dustin Fowler is in the Oakland A’s starting lineup for the first time on Friday, the team announced. He is batting ninth and playing CF. Fowler is the A’s best outfield prospect, ranking No. 4 on our preseason Community Prospect List and making almost every national Top 100 list.
The 23-year-old already reached one milestone this week by making his first MLB plate appearance. In his big league debut for the Yankees on June 29 he suffered a serious injury in the top of the 1st inning and had to exit before getting a chance to hit. For the next 10 months he carried the label of Moonlight Graham, in reference to another player over a century ago who famously made it all the way to the majors but never got to bat. Now he can just be Fowler again, after lining out against Will Harris of the Astros on Wednesday.
In an amazing twist of fate, Fowler’s first start will come against his old team, the Yankees. Even better, he will face New York starter Sonny Gray, the very star pitcher he was traded for last July. “It’s just the perfect story,” Fowler said, via insider Jane Lee. Sonny is having a rough time so far this year (6.00 ERA, 4.53 FIP), but he’s posted quality outings in his last two appearances.
For Fowler’s part, he spent the first month of 2018 in Triple-A after missing half of the previous season to his knee injury. It took him a couple of weeks to get going, but over his last 14 games he posted a 1.075 OPS with a slew of extra-base hits. He also led Nashville in stolen bases, which is a good sign after the injury put his excellent speed in question. He’ll look to boost an Oakland lineup that has scored just 26 runs in its last 11 games amid a team-wide slump.
Fowler, 2018 AAA: .310/.333/.484, 108 wRC+, 3 HR, 8 SB, 3.8% BB, 16.7% Ks
The A’s have a particular need in the outfield right now. Right fielder Stephen Piscotty was officially placed on the bereavement list Friday after the passing of his mother, the team announced. He’s expected to miss the next four games (Fri-Mon) and rejoin the team on Tuesday in Boston, reports John Shea of the S.F. Chronicle.
To replace Piscotty on the roster, pitcher Kendall Graveman was recalled from Triple-A. Graveman will start Friday’s game against the Yankees. He’s taking the turn of injured teammate Trevor Cahill, who went on the 10-day DL Wednesday with an elbow impingement. Graveman was Oakland’s Opening Day starter this year but got torched in six outings, leading to a demotion to get himself sorted out.
Graveman, 2018 MLB: 8.89 ERA, 28⅓ ip, 23 Ks, 11 BB, 7 HR, 6.02 FIP
Once back in the minors, Graveman was roughed up in his first game (5⅔ ip, 6 runs) but then settled down his next time out (6⅓ ip, 2 runs, 5 Ks, 1 BB). Now he’s back for another try, but he’s got his work cut out for him: he’ll be facing the top-scoring lineup in baseball (5.76 runs/game), in one of the hitter-friendliest parks in the sport.
Check out the full lineup below.