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Spring Game #15: Chris Bassitt good again, but bullpen struggles

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A’s lose 7-3 to Cleveland

MLB: ALDS-Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s dropped their Cactus League game 7-3 to the Cleveland Indians on Monday. Let’s run through some positives and negatives, without putting too much stock in spring training results in either direction.

*** Click here to revisit today’s Game Thread! ***

The good news begins with starting pitcher Chris Bassitt, who made his second appearance of the spring. For the second time he was wonderful, working into the 4th inning and striking out one-third of the batters he faced. He reached his pitch count before finishing the 4th, but only allowed one run along the way, on back-to-back extra-base hits in the 2nd.

Bassitt: 3⅔ ip, 1 run, 5 Ks, 0 BB, 4 hits

The right-hander got up as high as 94 mph on his fastball, reports Cleveland insider Jacob Rudner. Bassitt called his curveball “unbelievably good,” but said he didn’t have a good feel for the new slider he’s working on.

Tom debuts

On the offensive side of the ball, the top story was the debut of outfielder Ka’ai Tom. The Rule 5 draft pick missed the first half of the Cactus League due to an oblique injury, but he led off and played RF on Monday.

The lefty batter went 1-for-3, with a sharp line drive single in his second at-bat. The video below is of his first trip to the plate.

Tom was drafted away from the Indians over the winter, and the A’s were coincidentally playing against his old Cleveland teammates in this game. He didn’t deny some extra motivation given the circumstances, returning to the field to face the organization that drafted him in 2015.

Per Rudner: “Ka’ai Tom picked up his first hit as a member of the A’s, a single to right field against his former team. Indians first baseman Jake Bauers welcomed him to first with a tap on the chest with his glove.”

NRI hit parade

The A’s didn’t get a lot done on offense, with only three runs on seven singles, and two of the runs were unearned. But how about some shoutouts for the non-roster invitees, who collected most of those hits.

  • C Carlos Perez: 2-for 3
  • 1B Frank Schwindel: 2-for-4
  • 2B Pete Kozma: 1-for-5

The other two hits were by 40-man roster members, with Tom getting one and backup catcher candidate Aramis Garcia notching the other. Garcia has struck out in half of his 16 plate appearances so far, which is the exact problem he needs to mitigate in order to be effective in the majors, but he’s also reached base six times (4-for-6 BABIP) so at least he’s hitting the ball decently when he does make contact.

Oakland did also wait out seven walks to help their cause, including two each by Seth Brown and Chad Pinder, and the first of the spring for Vimael Machin after an aggressive two weeks at the plate.

Garcia’s hit, and all the team’s scoring, came in the 6th. The A’s loaded the bases with nobody out, and Garcia singled up the middle to drive one home.

With the bags still packed, Schwindel hit a grounder but the defense botched it for an error to let through another run, and then Tony Kemp grounded into a double play that brought in a third run. Not the prettiest rally, but it got the job done, partly because instead of striking out they made contact and forced the defense to work for it.

Bullpen meltdown

Those three gave Oakland a brief lead, but it was gone within minutes. Lefty Adam Kolarek pitched the bottom of the 6th, and he let three of the first four batters reach base before serving up a grand slam.

The 8th brought Nik Turley, the next southpaw on the depth chart after Kolarek, and he had his fourth straight rough outing of the spring. A double, a walk, and a pair of singles plated two more runs, though on the bright side he kept the ball in the park for the first time with no homers allowed.

Even Yusmeiro Petit had a shaky inning in the 5th, navigating around a pair of singles to earn his scoreless frame.

***

Another relatively quiet spring day, and we didn’t even get a Buddy Reed highlight even though he played the whole game. The positive takeaways are that Bassitt looked and felt sharp, and Tom appears healthy. The negative is that Kolarek and Turley are getting blasted so far this spring, but there’s still plenty of time for both to iron out the wrinkles and settle in before Opening Day, and anyway they’ve combined for only around seven total innings of exhibition baseball so there’s no need to worry yet.