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Spring Game #1: A’s open spring with comeback 10-8 win over Angels

Skye Bolt hits go-ahead homer in 8th inning

MLB: OCT 03 Athletics at Astros
Skye Bolt hit the game-winner!
Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Oakland A’s played a baseball game today! They opened their 2022 Cactus League season with an exhibition contest against the Los Angeles Angels, earning a comeback victory in the late innings.

It’s only spring training, which means we’re talking about practice here. But it was still a welcome sight after an offseason full of lockout doldrums and a heartbreaking roster rebuild.

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

The A’s won the game by a 10-8 score, falling behind early but chipping away through the middle innings until taking the lead in the 8th. But the result isn’t important here, so instead of dwelling on play-by-play let’s focus on some key names and noteworthy performances.

Pitching

Closer looks at a few relevant arms, as the Angels took an early lead.

  • Brent Honeywell: The A’s new starting pitcher got knocked around a bit, including a no-doubt homer by Jo Adell. He worked into the 3rd inning, allowing three runs on seven hits, and he got bailed out of another run by his teammates’ defense behind him. Don’t freak out about the box score though, he was fine — made some good pitches and some mistakes and got tagged a couple times, nothing out of line for the first day of spring.
  • A.J. Puk: The dynamic lefty prospect came out of the bullpen for the 6th inning but couldn’t find his groove. He was all over the place, working deep counts and issuing a couple walks, and saw a hanger get rocked for a double. He did miss the bat a couple times while earning his one strikeout. But he faced six batters and threw around 28 pitches, and had to be lifted mid-rally with two runs across the board.
  • Dany Jimenez: The righty is back to try out for a second straight spring, and he looked great today. His fastball jumped out of his hand, and his breaking ball landed for called strikes and earned whiffs and weak contact. He came in to relieve Puk in the 6th and escaped the jam with a strikeout, then retired the side in order in the 7th, though one of the plays went down as a hit — the infielder dropped a routine popup, then the runner was thrown out stretching to second base. Anyway, if you’ve been looking at Jimenez as a sleeper candidate for the bullpen, then today was a promising first data point because he looked nasty.

The Angels led 5-0 after the top of the 4th, and later it was 8-3 after the top of the 6th, but the A’s didn’t give up.

Remaining stars

The Matts and The Hound are gone, but some familiar stars are still here. Oakland’s lineup went down in order the first time through, but in the 4th they put together a rally. Tony Kemp lined a leadoff double into the RF corner, Sean Murphy lined a similar double down the LF line to drive him in, Seth Brown pulled a single through the shift, and Chad Pinder doubled just short of the left-center wall for two more runs.

It’s not an Oly Bomb, but it’s a reminder that there are still a few hitters left on board. The pitcher was Zack Weiss, a righty who posted high strikeout and walk rates in Triple-A last year at age 29.

A couple other returners posted a highlight on defense. The Angels hit a deep fly to the wall, and outfielder Ramon Laureano grabbed the carom with his bare hand to get it in quickly. Shortstop Elvis Andrus collected the cutoff and delivered a perfect relay home to nail the runner at the plate. That’s some especially nice execution for the first day of spring!

For goodness sake, Don’t Run On Ramon.

New prospects

Two of the new names saw some action!

  • Kevin Smith: Tough day for the A’s newest prospect, acquired in the Chapman trade. Smith started at third base but flubbed a pair of grounders, one of them a ball to his left and the other a hit directly at him that clanked off his glove, but he’s a shortstop who’s still gaining experience at the hot corner so patience is warranted. He also went 0-for-2 with a strikeout at the plate. Shake it off and go get ‘em next time
  • Cristian Pache: No matter what his future holds in terms of production, he’s going to be exciting to watch. In his first at-bat with the club since being acquired in the Olson trade, Pache lofted a deep fly ball that might have been catchable but found turf (lost in the sun?), and he took the opportunity to streak around to third base for a triple. I mean he absolutely flew. His elite speed is no joke.

Later in the game Pache’s luck evened out, as he smoked a liner in the 8th that went straight into the LF glove for an out. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see much of his electric 80-grade defense, as one deep fly his way was too far even for him, but today was a thrilling first impression overall.

Old prospects

Not old like age, just the prospects we already had. Incumbent prospects?

  • Nick Allen: He nearly homered to the opposite field, settling for a triple that glanced off the fielder’s glove. Watch the Pache video above to see Allen’s hit in the same highlight clip. He also drew a walk later, and on defense he received a routine double play ball and fielded it as smooth as silk. Good first day for prospect who will hopefully take over the shortstop position this sometime this summer.
  • Logan Davidson: The team’s 1st-round draft pick from 2019, in his first at-bat he lofted a fly into the LF corner and it landed on some chalk for a double. In his second at-bat he worked a full count but struck out looking. On defense he made a heads-up play — the first baseman lost a popup in the sun, and the batter tried to hustle all the way to second base, so Davidson alertly picked up the ball and fired it to the bag to nab him.
  • Jonah Bride: He joined the 40-man roster over the winter even though he hasn’t yet played above Double-A, and he had a productive day even with recording a hit. His first time up he lofted a sac fly to cash in Allen’s triple, and later he drew a walk.
  • Skye Bolt: The star of the day! He drew a pair of walks in his first two trips, then played hero in the 8th. With two runners on and the A’s trailing 8-7, he got a fastball up-and-in and blasted it for a three-run homer. Perhaps most impressive of all, the switch-hitter went deep from the right side of the plate, which has long been considered his weaker side both in terms of power and overall production. This proved to be the game-winning hit.

On the downside, the team’s 1st-round pick from 2020 and top overall prospect Tyler Soderstrom struck out both times up. No worries, the 20-year-old is still one of the most exciting names to watch this spring.

Other stuff

A few stray notes.

  • Non-roster catcher Christian Bethancourt went 2-for-2 with a couple RBI. Presumably the backup job is up for grabs, so it’s not impossible he’s in the running for an Opening Day spot.
  • DH Eric Thames got the start, and his arms are absolute tree trunks. This dude is massive.
  • We had a Buddy Reed sighting! The star of 2021 spring training is back for another go-around.

The results of spring training don’t matter, but it’s still a baseball game, and for what it’s worth this turned out to be an especially fun one. After a bummer of a winter, the A’s are back in action.

Here’s outfielder-turned-pitcher Aaron Brown delivering the final strike of the day!