Well there’s something you don’t see every day in baseball — a tie game.
Such is life in the Cactus League, where the exhibition wins and losses don’t matter. The goal is stretching out for the regular season, and success is measured in the changeups we learned along the way.
And so when the Oakland A’s and Arizona Diamondbacks found themselves knotted up 4-4 after nine innings on Monday, they just called it a day, having gotten in the work they came to do.
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That doesn’t mean there aren’t takeaways. The score never mattered anyway, but there were some A’s players in the game whose performances were worth keeping track of.
That began on the pitching side, where Jesús Luzardo made his third start of the spring. For the second time in three tries he was brilliant, tossing scoreless ball into the 5th inning. He was in control the entire time and Arizona never put two runners on simultaneously against him, though he got some help at one point from catcher Sean Murphy nabbing a stealer.
Luzardo: 4⅓ ip, 0 runs, 3 Ks, 1 BB, 3 hits
Also of note, the southpaw wasn’t wearing his signature goggles, trading them in for contact lenses.
After Luzardo, another young star lefty got a chance to play, though it didn’t go quite as well. A.J. Puk made his second appearance of the spring, in his return from long-term injury, and his velocity was still down in the uncharacteristically low 93-94 mph range, reports Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News. He allowed three runs in the 6th inning, but at least part of it was bad luck, including one “hit” lost in the sun.
Puk: 1⅔ ip, 3 runs, 1 K, 2 BB, 3 hits
More troubling than the box score or the relatively modest velocity was a lapse in command, notes manager Bob Melvin, via Rubin: “As far as velocity goes, it is what it is, we’ll see if that ticks up a little bit. But the most concerning thing for me today was, at times, missing by a large margin.”
Hot take: Sounds like a pitcher making his first two appearances after missing a whole year. Let’s be patient while he shakes off his rust. Daulton Jefferies has long been my guess to fill in for Mike Fiers’ fifth starter spot, and nothing has changed. Officially the team says there is time to stretch Puk out to start right away if desired, but does anyone really see that happening? I wouldn’t even mind if he opened in Triple-A briefly while he finishes tuning up. What’s the rush?
Two non-roster invitee relievers made appearances on Monday, and Melvin had praise for both, per Athletics Farm:
Bob Melvin on LHP Reymin Guduan & RHP Deolis Guerra, neither of whom has allowed a run this spring: “I would be surprised if we didn’t see either one of these guys at some point in time during the season.”
Another NRI, righty Matt Blackham, got a save chance in the 9th with the A’s holding a 4-3 lead. Blackham, who was part of the second round of cuts over the weekend but is still allowed to participate in games, blew the save on a double and a couple flyouts. But how can you be mad when the tying run was driven in on a sac fly by Stephen Vogt?
The A’s only managed three hits in the game, but they still scratched out four runs, thanks almost entirely to Ka’ai Tom.
Oakland was gifted some table-settings in the 5th, on an error and then a walk. Tom came up next and tripled into the RF corner, driving home both runners. A moment later he scored on a sac fly.
Ka'ai Tom, everybody: pic.twitter.com/1cAOXjWqth— Oakland A's (@Athletics) March 22, 2021
The outfielder is on absolute fire through his first five spring games.
Tom, spring: 8-for-16, HR, triple, 2 doubles, 2 BB, 3 Ks
Another angle of his triple shows his full journey around the diamond, the most exciting 270 feet in baseball. He took less than 11 seconds from the plate to third base.
Ka’ai Tom triples. He’s now 8-for-15 with four extra base hits. pic.twitter.com/AeEf2Asgt0— Shayna Rubin (@ShaynaRubin) March 22, 2021
Shoutout to Tony Kemp as well, who lofted the sac fly that brought home Tom in the 6th, and then doubled and scored in the 8th for Oakland’s other run. He’s got a .387 OBP this spring, and he played LF again as he works on his defensive versatility
Second baseman Jed Lowrie didn’t get on base in three tries, but he did play another game on defense, which continues to be an impressive step forward. Per Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle:
Bob Melvin said he didn’t expect to be playing Jed Lowrie at 2B this spring as much as he has: “We’ve seen his legs underneath him offensively but I think defensively he’s probably - I don’t want to say a surprise but he looks like he did last time he was here.”
If that’s not encouraging, then I don’t know what is. And whaddya know, there’s suddenly an open spot on the 40-man roster if the A’s want him around on Opening Day.
Seven more spring training games until the real thing on April 1 at the Coliseum!