The Oakland A’s put most of their MLB regulars in the starting lineup of their Cactus League game on Friday, but it was their prospects and non-roster invitees who stole the show — for worse, and then for better.
The A’s fell behind after making a few mistakes, but then battled back for a comeback 5-4 win over the San Diego Padres. To the surprise of nobody, the go-ahead run was driven in by outfielder Buddy Reed, who simply won’t stop posting daily highlights this spring.
After beginning the spring with abbreviated seven-inning games, today was Oakland’s first full nine-inning affair this year. Not much happened in the first five frames, leading to a 1-1 stalemate up to that point, but the action escalated quickly after that.
In the 6th, shortstop prospect Nick Allen committed an uncharacteristic error, letting the leadoff batter on base. Pitcher Daulton Jefferies recorded two strikeouts and a walk to the next three hitters, at which point the inning should have been over, but due to the error it extended long enough for national Top 10 prospect C.J. Abrams to blast a three-run homer.
That gave San Diego a three-run lead, but the A’s sharpened up the rest of the way. The pitching and defense held serve for the final innings and didn’t allow anything more, giving the lineup enough time to mount a comeback.
Oakland got one run back right away in the bottom of the 6th, on a dinger by non-roster 1B Frank Schwindel. Who is Schwindel? Glad you asked! Click here to find out about him and the other NRIs.
The 7th began with a pinch-hit double by Tyler Soderstrom, the A’s 19-year-old top prospect. He’s now 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles this spring, in what is effectively his pro debut since he’s yet to play in a regular season minor league game. Two batters later, he was driven in on an RBI groundout by infield prospect Edwin Diaz, and the Padres’ lead was cut to one.
With two outs on the board and the bases now empty, Oakland began a new rally. NRI catcher Francisco Peña singled, and Allen redeemed his earlier defensive miscue by lining a double to push Peña to third.
With the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position, the mighty Buddy Reed came to bat. The Cactus League superhero delivered, again, this time with a liner for a single to plate both runners. As a reminder, the A’s acquired Reed from San Diego in late-2019 as part of the Jurickson Profar trade.
Reed, spring: 4-for-16, .982 OPS, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1 BB, 5 Ks, SB
With the lead in hand, all the A’s had to do was hold it for two more innings, and Grant Holmes answered the call. The righty, No. 10 on our Community Prospect List, let a couple runners on base in the 8th but stranded them, and then went 1-2-3 in the 9th, ultimately striking out four of the seven batters he faced.
Overall it was an encouraging day for the prospects. There were negatives, but they were quickly overshadowed by even bigger positives, even by the same players atoning.
Allen’s error and Jefferies’ dinger combined for a costly crooked number, but Allen later helped spur the comeback on offense and Jefferies finished with only those unearned runs in a performance that was his shakiest of the spring but still solid enough. Regarding Allen, seeing him get a hit is more encouraging than seeing his established superhuman defense flash a brief moment of mortality.
Manager Bob Melvin said the following about Jefferies and his improved breaking ball(s), via Athletics Farm:
“Was basically kind of a 2-pitch guy it seemed like last year ... and now it really feels like he’s coming into his own. The breaking pitch is huge for him. The command’s always been there. Velo on his fastball’s back. Has a good changeup.”
Beyond them, Reed came through huge in the clutch, and so did Holmes. And each time recent high schooler Soderstrom gets a a hit in a game just pumps up the excitement meter on him even further.
And let’s not forget those NRIs. Schwindel had his biggest moment of the spring so far, and Peña chipped in too. Earlier on, fellow catcher Carlos Perez knocked in the A’s first run of the game with a well-placed doinker — can’t BABIP your way into an RBI hit unless you hit the ball.
“BoMel said Carlos Perez is kinda like an ump — you only notice him when he does something wrong. Didn’t mean anything bad by it but said that Perez quietly goes about his business.” — Rickey Blog on Twitter
And what about all those MLB stars who started the game’s first few innings? Jed Lowrie played at 2B and made a couple nice plays on defense, though he’s still searching for his first hit. Matt Chapman was sharp, with a good effort fielding a bunt and then a 111 mph single at the plate, both observations per Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News.
On the mound, reliever Sergio Romo pitched the 1st inning, in order to guarantee he’d get his work in before forecasted rain that did eventually come but didn’t interrupt the game. Romo served up a dinger to his first batter, but it was newly minted $340 million superstar Fernando Tatis Jr, so it doesn’t count.
Sergio Romo got Tatis to a full count. Then Tatis did this: pic.twitter.com/k3GgKmpAXV— Shayna Rubin (@ShaynaRubin) March 12, 2021
Fun fact: The first homer Romo ever allowed in the majors was to Fernando Tatis Sr, in 2008, per Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle. I’ll add that his second homer allowed was a week later to Mike Cameron, whose son Daz debuted for the Tigers last summer.
Romo put another pair of runners on base after Tatis’ long ball, but he was able to get out of it before needing to invoke any mercy rule nonsense. It was a rough outing for the veteran righty, but there’s never any reason to worry about this experienced of a player in spring training. He’ll be ready for the season.
It was another surprisingly fun Cactus League game by the A’s, and a particularly productive one. The prospects got to show some mettle, whether by quickly bouncing back from their own mistakes, or by rising to the occasion to help pick up their teammates after an early stumble. And the Buddy Show continued for another day.