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Chris Bassitt named A’s Opening Day starter for 2021

The Hound takes the mound

Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s will open their 2021 season on April 1, at home against the Houston Astros. Now we know who will take the mound for the green and gold.

The A’s named Chris Bassitt as their Opening Day starter on Thursday, reports Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle. The Astros already announced Zack Greinke as their pitcher for the game.

Bassitt had a breakout season in 2020, finishing eighth place in AL Cy Young voting and then spinning a gem in his first career playoff start. He followed that up with a strong performance this spring, and even kicked things up a notch by learning a new slider.

  • Bassitt, 2020: 2.29 ERA, 63 ip, 55 Ks, 17 BB, 6 HR, 3.59 FIP, .299 xwOBA

The right-hander is now the second-longest tenured player on Oakland’s major league team, having made his A’s debut just a couple weeks after Mark Canha in 2015. He was a promising young starter upon his acquisition from the White Sox in the Jeff Samardzija trade the previous winter, but needed Tommy John surgery in early 2016 and didn’t make it back to the bigs for another 26 months. He quietly put in a quality campaign in the 2019 rotation, and then vaulted up last summer to become the A’s latest unexpected star.

Now age 32, Bassitt said the following of his latest honor, via Kawahara:

“I look back two, three years ago after (Tommy John surgery) and I questioned if I was ever going to make it back, period. I thought the end of my career was a lot closer.

“... Knowing the right field crazy people are going to be out there with their signs and their horns and stuff like that, I think we’re all definitely looking forward to the hecticness of the Coliseum.”

Manager Bob Melvin described telling Bassitt the news, via insider Martin Gallegos:

“He smiled. He kind of knew. Based on what he accomplished last year, I think he probably would have been surprised if he wasn’t the guy. He was appreciative. This kind of starts a different level for Chris Bassitt.”

Congrats to Bassitt! And to Mr. Bloopy, his beautiful slow curveball.

Melvin says “you could probably figure out” the rest of the rotation after Bassitt, per Kawahara. Following the current spring game logs, that would likely mean (though nothing after Bassitt is official):

  1. RHP Chris Bassitt
  2. LHP Jesús Luzardo (pitching a sim game Saturday)
  3. LHP Sean Manaea (pitching Monday)
  4. RHP Frankie Montas (pitched today, exited with torn fingernail)

The fifth spot would have gone to Mike Fiers, but he is behind schedule due to hip inflammation. The right-hander will throw a bullpen Thursday, reports Alex Coffey of The Athletic. In the meantime, righty Daulton Jefferies and lefties Cole Irvin and A.J. Puk are candidates to fill in, with Jefferies widely considered the front-runner by the Athletics Nation community.