On a sunny and clear Saturday afternoon, the Oakland A’s won their first real home game of the spring over the Chicago White Sox by a final score of 6-5. The comeback victory was Oakland’s first win of Spring Training.
Chicago jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when Daniel Palka hit a bloop double in the first inning off A’s starter Chris Bassitt. Oakland answered right back, as Ramon Laureano hit a laser into the left-center field gap for a double and came around to score on a soft line drive single to center by Matt Olson.
The White Sox would respond, taking a 2-1 lead in the second inning and adding two more in the fourth. Then, it was the A’s turn again, as Stephen Piscotty’s fourth-inning solo moonshot and Cliff Pennington’s sacrifice fly brought them back within one.
Chicago tacked on one more in the top of the sixth, but that would be it. The A’s used a very Spring Training-esque rally in the bottom of the inning to tie the game, thanks to an infield single by Josh Phegley and a sacrifice fly by non-roster infielder Corban Joseph. They took their first lead of the day when shortstop Jorge Mateo led off the bottom of the eight with a triple and later scored the game-winning run on Dustin Fowler’s sacrifice fly.
While this game wasn’t televised, I managed to make it down to Hohokam Park to see the action in person. The win was nice, but I was more focused on individual performances, especially those of the A’s younger players.
Barreto looked uncomfortable at best in left field. The first of his two opportunities in the first inning was a fairly routine fly towards the line. He took a weird route and just barely caught the ball with an ugly stab. His next attempt came on a flare that he had no chance at catching, but he played the bounce well and made a strong throw into second.
His next chance came in the top of the second, when White Sox second baseman Nick Madrigal hit a rocket line drive Barreto’s way. He only had to take a couple steps to make the easy catch. Barreto made another routine catch to end the top of the fourth, but again looked very unsure doing so.
Offensively, Barreto’s first at-bat was awful. He watched three strikes go right past him without taking the bat off his shoulder. It is clear that his pitch recognition skills could still use some work. His next at-bat was better, as he pulled a line drive double down the left field line.
Barreto’s tools - namely, his plus speed and inconsistent arm - make him a good fit for the outfield. But he is still raw out there and will need some more reps before he’s big-league ready at the position.
Mateo made a few defensive miscues during Friday’s game. But on Saturday, he looked silky-smooth at shortstop. In the sixth inning, he ranged far to his right and made a strong throw right on the money to retire the speedy Adam Engel. He made a similar play in the seventh, this time moving to his left to field a grounder from Luis Robert.
However, Mateo continued to be a mystery with the bat. He struck out in the sixth, flailing at consecutive sliders in the dirt. But in his next chance in the eighth inning, he smacked a leadoff triple into the right-center field gap. The man can fly, and it was clear he was thinking three from the second he left the box.
It’s easy to see why some scouts love Mateo. His tools are loud, and plus defensive shortstops with wheels like his don’t grow on trees. But the plate discipline will have to improve for him to become an MLB regular.
I knew I wanted to get a good look at Profar, who is tasked with replacing one of Oakland’s most productive players in Jed Lowrie. While he can play all over the diamond, Profar will see most of his time in 2019 at second base.
Saturday wasn’t Profar’s best defensive showing. In the fourth inning, he failed to make a charging play on Ryan Cordell’s infield single. This would have been an above average play, and I’m not sure it’s one that Lowrie would have made, but it’s one I think Profar expected himself to make. His struggles continued three batters later when a hard grounder off the bat of Leury Garcia popped out of his glove. Profar panicked and threw the ball wide of Olson at first, allowing Garcia to reach and a run to score on the error.
Profar almost redeemed himself in the fifth inning. Madrigal hit a sharp ground ball towards the hole, and Profar ranged and dove to his left, almost snagging the ball. But again, it popped out of his glove and Madrigal reached safely.
Offensively, Profar went a tough luck 0-for-2. From the right side of the plate in the first inning, he hit a fly ball to medium right field for an out. Batting lefty in the fourth, he hit a sharp grounder to Madrigal, but was robbed of a hit on a nice play by the second baseman.
Profar has all of the talent in the world, and has a fair chance of being as good as - or even better than - Lowrie this season. I’m confident that his rough game Saturday was just a small-sample blip
Others of Note
- Bassitt looked fine in his inning of work. He gave up hard contact to the first two batters he faced but settled down quickly, and only allowed a run because of the bloop double in front of Barreto. As of now, I think he has the edge over Frankie Montas for the last spot in the pitching staff.
- Four of Oakland’s high leverage bullpen arms took innings two through five. Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen looked like their usual lockdown selves, but Fernando Rodney and Yusmeiro Petit each gave up some hard contact.
- Laureano has some fire in him. The sparkplug hit another loud out in the fifth in addition to his first inning double. He also did a very loud swear after striking out swinging in the third inning. Oops.
- Piscotty’s home run was a thing of beauty. He also showed off his strong arm in right field.
- All three of Oakland’s right-handed catchers played in Saturday’s game. Nick Hundley hit a ball to the warning track in the second inning and an infield single in the fifth. His replacement, Phegley, hit an infield single of his own and threw a runner out trying to steal second base. Top catching prospect Sean Murphy made a brief appearance, drawing an easy walk in the sixth. I’m intrigued to see who wins the competition for the RHH-catcher role. My money is on Phegley, just because he is out of options, but a strong spring from Hundley could change everything.
- It was nice to see Andrew Triggs back on the mound, and even nicer to see him pitch a scoreless inning. Hohokam doesn’t post radar gun readings so I am unsure of his velocity, but his movement looked good and his delivery was as funky as ever. I think he could be a very useful arm to have, either as an opener or a long reliever. He has two options remaining, so I expect him to begin the 2019 season in Triple-A Las Vegas.
- Tanner Anderson is also really interesting to me. Acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates back in November, Anderson is a ground ball specialist that will likely serve as rotation depth in Vegas. He pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts, the only blemish being a weak ground ball single. What stood out most to me was Anderson’s delivery - it’s funky, with a high leg kick that likely helps make him more deceptive. I’m intrigued.
The A’s are back at it again tomorrow, taking on the Kansas City Royals at Hohokam Park once again. First pitch is at 1:05 P.M. local time (12:05 PST) with righty Aaron Brooks scheduled to start. See you then!