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Oakland A’s name Frankie Montas as 2020 Opening Day starter

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Plus the full five-man rotation order

Oakland Athletics Photo Day
Frankie takes the ball on July 24
Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s will open their 2020 season on July 24 at home against the Angels, and pitcher Frankie Montas will be on the mound for the green and gold. The A’s named Montas as their Opening Day starter on Saturday, reports insider Martin Gallegos and the other beat writers.

This news was already expected, but now it’s official. Several of the A’s other starters are scheduled to pitch in the team’s exhibition games against the Giants on Monday and Tuesday, which won’t give them enough time to rest before the regular season opener on Friday. That left Montas as the top candidate, and indeed he’s now gotten the call.

The assignment is no surprise, as Montas was easily the A’s best pitcher last year, before his season was cut short by a PED suspension. Using his mid/upper-90s fastball, devastating spitter, and slider, he put together an excellent stat line across the board and was likely headed to the All-Star Game before he got popped in late June.

Montas, 2019: 2.63 ERA, 96 ip, 103 Ks, 23 BB, 8 HR, 3.00 FIP

In total, 12 of his 16 outings registered as quality starts, and extrapolated over a full season he would have produced around 5-6 WAR. Statcast agreed he was for real, as his .275 xwOBA almost exactly matched his actual wOBA, and ranked 18th out of 188 MLB pitchers who threw at least 1,250 pitches (he threw 1,485).

While the lengthy coronavirus shutdown and the abbreviated preseason training camp might limit some starters in the early going, Montas seems just about ready to go. In May he posted a video of himself hitting 100 mph on the radar gun, and he says he can go up to 90 pitches on Opening Day, per Gallegos — that’s almost a normal full start. That readiness makes the 27-year-old right-hander an especially ideal candidate for the opener, explains Gallegos and also Alex Coffey of The Athletic.

The full A’s rotation will line up like this, reports John Hickey of Sports Illustrated:

  1. Frankie Montas (R)
  2. Sean Manaea (L)
  3. Mike Fiers (R)
  4. Chris Bassitt (R)
  5. A.J. Puk (L)

They will go in that order, against the Angels for four games and then the Rockies for two. Click here to see the full 2020 schedule, or here for the latest updates on those two early opponents, or here for a full Angels preview. In the exhibition games against the Giants next week, Manaea will pitch Monday, and Fiers and Bassitt will go Tuesday, all televised on various NBCS affiliates (click here for times and channels).

In addition to those five, prized rookie Jesus Luzardo should be ready to join the group at some point soon, likely in place of Bassitt. The lefty missed most of training camp due to a positive coronavirus test, and although he’s now cleared and back with the team, he still needs to stretch out for longer outings. Oakland also has Daniel Mengden available as a backup option, or perhaps a piggyback partner for somebody.

After putting together a patchwork rotation the last two years, the A’s starters figure to be a strength this summer, which is one reason (along with catcher upgrades) why a two-time 97-win postseason team has reasonable expectations of improving in 2020. Montas is one of the brightest stars on that pitching staff, and he’ll begin the year at the top of the pack, getting the ball on Opening Day.