The Oakland A’s only have one win through their first six games of the 2022 Cactus League, but there’s a lot more to focus on in spring training than the meaningless standings.
The A’s lost again Thursday, this time 5-3 to the Texas Rangers, but the important thing is that a handful of key players put up exciting performances.
On the pitching side, Sean Manaea is still here amid weeks of trade rumors, and he made his second start of the spring. He looked great, breezing into the 5th inning on just 57 pitches. The only hit he allowed was a smash to the gap that bounced around for a triple, and that runner later scored on a sac fly, but otherwise his only other baserunners were one walk and two groundball errors by his teammates.
- Manaea: 4⅔ ip, 1 run, 1 K, 1 BB, 1 hit, 57 pitches
Whether he begins the year in Oakland or is merely showcasing for a trade later this spring, it’s encouraging to see Manaea out there looking healthy and throwing strikes.
Unfortunately the Rangers came back against the A’s bullpen. Brent Honeywell got knocked around for four runs, which turned out to be the difference in the exhibition game, though prospect Grant Holmes and non-roster invitee Ryan Castellani chipped in a scoreless inning apiece. Castellani ended his frame with a nice slider for a Called Strike 3, on the outside corner to a righty batter.
The lineup brought several more pieces of good news, as some prospects and Triple-A players had promising days.
First up is Cristian Pache, the outfield prospects from the Olson trade. He led off the game with an impressive at-bat, laying off some tough pitches and then getting something in the zone that he launched to the warning track for a double. He later struck out a couple times, swinging through a couple breaking balls, but even those were good patient at-bats and he wasn’t chasing. Then on defense he showed a glimpse of his elite glove in CF, making this diving play look easy:
Next we’ve got another defensive whiz in shortstop prospect Nick Allen, who started at second base today just for fun. All that’s left to prove is his bat, and it’s been hot so far this spring. In his first at-bat this afternoon he drilled a grounder up the middle for a single, then stole second base. In his next trip he blasted a homer, pulling it over the LF wall.
Nick Allen dinger— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) March 24, 2022
If he can hit with some pop that'd be huge bonus pic.twitter.com/tCEZTAxCnC
Also in the lineup was Austin Allen. He started behind the plate and threw out a basestealer, but with the crowded depth chart above him at the catcher position, the more interesting thing to watch is his powerful bat. His first time up he smoked a single to right, and his next time he hit a sharp liner to the gap that was robbed by a diving catch. The box score says 1-for-3, but he made strong contact twice (he popped out in his third at-bat).
Like Austin, another Triple-A player battling for a spot on the team is infielder Sheldon Neuse. He notched his first hit of the spring, delivering a mighty opposite-field dinger to right-center.
Sheldon Neuse's first hit back with the A's is a dinger pic.twitter.com/4CX6p9kt1Y— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) March 24, 2022
That’s a lot of positives for one loss. Nick Allen is looking every bit like the Shortstop of the Near Future we’ve been hoping for, and Pache is already showing teasers of his dynamic ability. Austin Allen continued an impressive spring and Neuse finally made some noise, as they each look to take advantage of prime opportunities to crack a rebuilding roster, with positions to be determined later.
A few other notes:
- Nick Allen (at 2B) and Kevin Smith (at SS) each made a throwing error, but after Smith’s error they turned a beautiful 6-4-3 double play to totally redeem themselves. Smith ranged up the middle and smoothly backhand-flipped to Allen covering the bag, who then sent a strong throw to first.
- Other prospects who had hits, all singles: C Shea Langeliers (broken-bat liner pulled to left field), 3B Zack Gelof (on 2-2 count, sent grounder the other way through right-side hole), and OF Skye Bolt (solid liner to center).
- CF Ramon Laureano hit an RBI single in his first at-bat, driving in Pache. Click here to watch!
The losses don’t start mattering for a couple weeks. For now enjoy the ride, because some A’s stars, journeymen, and prospects alike are putting on a good show this spring. And Stephen Vogt is officially on the way!