The Oakland A’s finalized the writing on the wall regarding a couple of their Opening Day roster decisions Monday morning, entering the last day of spring training.
Outfielder Ka’ai Tom and reliever Burch Smith both made the team, reports Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle.
In Tom’s case, he was the last position player remaining in camp after the latest round of cuts on Saturday, so it was already apparent that he had won the job but now it’s official. The Rule 5 draft pick will have to stay in the majors all year or else be returned to his old Cleveland club, but he had an excellent spring and has earned a chance in MLB.
Tom, spring: 9-for-28 (.321), HR, triple, 2 doubles, 4 BB, 8 Ks
Manager Bob Melvin said the following about Tom, per Bill Moriarity of Athletics Farm:
“He uses the whole field, he takes some pitches ... but I think the thing that stands out the most for me is the power that he has ... He’s hit 20+ home runs before [in the minors], so that kind of stands out for me.”
As for the defensive side, Melvin had this to say after Sunday’s game against the Giants, via Rickey Blog:
“We got a pretty good snapshot [of Tom’s defense] yesterday. That’s a big outfield to have to play, especially in center field. The sun’s right in your face ... and he made two really good plays in the outfield yesterday, that makes us feel that much more secure about his defense and being able to play all three positions.”
Should we watch the clip of his triple again? Let’s watch his triple again. Tom is fast.
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
As for Smith, his selection was also telegraphed by previous news. He was the final reliever remaining after the latest cuts, outlasting all the NRIs as well as Jordan Weems and a couple 40-man roster prospects, and Melvin mentioned that he wasn’t expecting to use a sixth starter as a long man. That left Smith, and indeed, he did get the job.
Smith, spring: 6.48 ERA, 8⅓ ip, 8 Ks, 1 BB, 2 HR, 13 hits
The right-hander got knocked around a bit this spring, but he still maintained a sterling strikeout-to-walk ratio and also fanned a batter per inning. Anyone who watched the A’s last season will remember his brief dominance before getting hurt, striking out 40% of his batters in a dozen brilliant innings, so it’s easy to be excited for his next try this summer even if a few extra hits landed in the Cactus League.
Between Tom and Smith, plus recent announcements about catcher Aramis Garcia and second baseman Jed Lowrie making the team, the Opening Day roster is nearly set. The only remaining question is who will take the fifth starter spot when Mike Fiers goes on the injured list, with three candidates including Daulton Jefferies, A.J. Puk, and Cole Irvin.
Chris Bassitt (R)
Jesus Luzardo (L)
Sean Manaea (L)
Frankie Montas (R)
IL: (Mike Fiers) (R)
Trevor Rosenthal (R)
Jake Diekman (L)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Sergio Romo (R)
Adam Kolarek (L)
J.B. Wendelken (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
Burch Smith (R)
Sean Murphy (R)
Aramis Garcia (R)
Matt Chapman (R)
Matt Olson (L)
Elvis Andrus (R)
Jed Lowrie (S)
Tony Kemp (L)
Chad Pinder (R)
DH: Mitch Moreland (L)
Mark Canha (R)
Ramon Laureano (R)
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Ka'ai Tom (L)
As for Fiers’ recovery, he’s throwing Monday and will hopefully face hitters in a simulated game Wednesday, with an eye toward a return sometime in April, reports Alex Coffey of The Athletic.
Fellow starter Frankie Montas, who exited his last spring outing with a torn cuticle on his pitching hand, will also pitch in the sim game Wednesday, adds Kawahara. The precise order of the rotation won’t be decided before then, other than Bassitt and Luzardo in the top two spots.