Cactus League games begin tomorrow! Or today depending when you’re reading this! The Oakland A’s open their spring schedule against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, Feb. 28, at 12:05 p.m. PT.
Before the action gets going, here’s all the latest news out of A’s spring camp.
Montas and Barrera arrive
Two members of the club were delayed in their arrivals, but both are now in Arizona.
Starter Frankie Montas had to wait after testing positive or coronavirus and experiencing symptoms, and he was placed on the COVID-19 related injured list. Now he’s cleared to join camp and has done so, reports Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle. Montas has begun throwing and “feels fine, will be on same schedule as everyone else, he’ll just be a bit behind,” adds Alex Coffey of The Athletic.
Montas still must be activated from the IL at some point, and when that happens the A’s will need to make a corresponding move to clear a spot for him on the 40-man roster.
Meanwhile, outfield prospect Luis Barrera was held back due to visa issues, but they’ve been resolved and he’s in Arizona for intake testing, per insider Martin Gallegos.
Starting rotation, schedule notes, TV broadcasts
The A’s first four Cactus League games are Sunday through Wednesday, against the Dodgers, Reds, Brewers, and Rockies. Oakland will put the following starters on the mound for those contests, reports Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News:
- Sun (vs. LAD): Daulton Jefferies
- Mon (vs. CIN): Grant Holmes
- Tue (@ MIL): Parker Dunshee
- Wed (@ COL): Cole Irvin
Jefferies and Holmes both made the Top 10 of our latest Community Prospect List, and they’re both on the 40-man roster. Dunshee is in the running to make the Top 30 of the CPL (No. 29 last year). Irvin was acquired over the offseason and is on the 40-man.
Of course, “starting” in early Cactus League games doesn’t mean much, as nobody will likely go more than a couple innings yet. But the first pitch of 2021 A’s baseball will be made by Jefferies.
Better yet, you might be able to watch him throw that pitch on Sunday. According to the current listings on my TV, the A’s vs. Dodgers opening game will be on MLB Network at 1 p.m. PT (which would mean a one-hour delay).
And that might not be the last time. All Angels spring games will be televised, which means when the A’s play them it should be available on MLB Network, points out Melissa Lockard of The Athletic. Oakland plays the Halos on Friday, and then again on March 20, and the Dodgers again on March 26. Click here to see the A’s full spring schedule.
Another detail regarding these four games is that they’ll only go seven innings apiece, reports Gallegos. (Hot take: I like it, as long as it’s just the first few games. Sometimes the early spring games go on too long anyway, and these are just loose warmups not strict or meaningful affairs.)
One more fun fact: When the A’s face the Dodgers on Sunday, they’ll go against starter Mike Kickham, who made his MLB debut against Oakland in 2013 as a member of the Giants, via A’s radio voice Vince Cotroneo. Among the hitters Kickham will see are Elvis Andrus, Ramon Laureano, Mark Canha, and Mitch Moreland, reports Kawahara.
Manaea and Puk
A pair of lefties, who have both dealt with their share of injuries lately, are feeling great.
Sean Manaea is working on the mental side of the game with a mental performance coach this spring, reports Gallegos. The southpaw also did a new training regimen over the winter to target some specific muscles, explains Gallegos in his full writeup — after reading that story, you’ll leave you with the distinct impression that Manaea is in the best shape of his life.
Sean Manaea set to lead the A's rotation and be sworn in as the 16th President of the United States. https://t.co/D5q0lt9R0o— Melissa Lockard (@melissalockard) February 25, 2021
As for top prospect A.J. Puk, who missed all of 2020 to a shoulder injury, the news continues to be promising. Per Kawahara:
AJ Puk said halfway through his throwing program this offseason, “I just completely forgot that I had shoulder surgery.” Puk said he felt “a little hesitant” warming up previous year and a half but “Now it’s just ready to go.”
More, from Gallegos:
A.J. Puk says he really wants to be a starter but is ready to pitch in whatever role the A’s want this year. He’s slimmed down a bit and feeling healthy in camp.
Click here to read Gallegos’ full writeup on Puk.
A few odds and ends and links, beginning with an early injury.
- OF Ka’ai Tom is “dealing with an oblique issue” and is expected to miss the first week of games, per Kawahara. Tom is a Rule 5 draft pick, so he must make the Opening Day roster to stay in the organization (though he can also stay if he opens the season on the injured list). He ranks No. 15 on our Community Prospect List.
- Per Gallegos: “Ramón Laureano said he’s been talking a lot with Elvis Andrus about stealing bases. Says the whole time is excited to learn from the veteran shortstop.” As for why Laser isn’t talking to annual camp attendee Rickey Henderson about stealing bases, that’s because the Man Of Steal (and other usual advisers like Dave Stewart) can’t be there due to COVID restrictions, notes Gallegos.
- New A’s catcher Aramis Garcia learned his strong pitch-framing skills from Yasmani Grandal, according to this story by Coffey (paywall). Interesting note from Coffey: “General Manager David Forst said that if García hadn’t missed the 2020 season after having surgery on his right hip labrum, he likely would’ve been the Rangers starting catcher.”
- Kawahara: A’s ‘excited’ to play in front of fans again at Hohokam Stadium ($)
- Kawahara: A’s spring training observations: Clubhouse leadership will be a group effort ($)
- Kawahara: A’s spring training observations: Batting leadoff ... Mark Canha? ($)
- Kawahara: A’s spring training observations: Left-handers, young hitters impress ($)
- Kawahara: At Giants and A’s spring training, ‘weird’ is just the new normal ($)
- A’s Plus podcast: Matt Kawahara and Susan Slusser talk spring training
- Kleinschmidt (NBCS): Lowrie fully embracing underdog role for A’s roster spot
- Woo (NBCS): Six under-the-radar A’s players to watch during spring training games
- Gallegos: Soderstrom seeks ‘good impression’ with A’s
As for that last link, here’s some video to go along with it, of top A’s hitting prospect Tyler Soderstrom.
Want to see some gorgeous swings? (Of course you do) The amazing @Cu_As took this video of top @Athletics prospect @tylersode yesterday. Check it out! pic.twitter.com/pqCoFKEPzu— Melissa Lockard (@melissalockard) February 26, 2021
He hit some balls yesterday that might’ve cleared the cove to be honest— Collin Theroux (@CollinTheroux) February 26, 2021
Baseball is almost here!
Tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/wSKs0OLY1o— Oakland A's (@Athletics) February 28, 2021