Spring training is just practice and the standings don’t mean anything, but it sure is more fun to win an exhibition game than to lose it. The Oakland A’s finally won on Friday, by a lot.
The A’s hit four homers and thumped the Chicago White Sox by a 12-4 margin, earning their fourth victory in 14 tries so far in the Cactus League.
Oakland’s lineup broke out of their March slump, which was appropriate enough with the calendar flipping to April today. They banged out 19 hits and drew four walks, with seven of those knocks going for extra bases. That onslaught allowed them to score in six different innings, beginning right away just four batters into the game.
There was no shortage of contributors, starting with veterans Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty both notching hits in each of their first two at-bats. But the most notable performances came from some prospects and other newcomers competing for roster spots.
The 1st inning brought a run on an RBI groundout by infield prospect Kevin Smith, and in the 2nd inning they added another on a sac fly by NRI utilityman Drew Jackson. In the 5th they ramped it up a notch, with Smith smoking a three-run dinger, then 3B candidate Sheldon Neuse following with a blast beyond the berm to make it back-to-back jacks. Jackson later singled in another to cap that five-run frame.
That barrage made the score 7-1, but the A’s weren’t done. In the 6th they got back to work with Smith singling home another run, and then in the 7th outfield prospect Denzel Clarke went deep for a three-run opposite-field homer. They made it an even dozen in the 9th inning, when NRI outfielder Billy McKinney drilled one more long ball to finish out the day.
The pitching side was less eventful, in a good way, but it also yielded a piece of actual roster news.
Starting on the mound was Adam Oller, one of the prospects acquired in the recent rebuilding trades (for Chris Bassitt). The right-hander bounced back from a rough outing last time out, staying mostly sharp for three frames today with a fastball that “hit 96 mph and sat 93-94 throughout.” A walk and a few singles led to a run in the 2nd, but otherwise he missed a lot of bats and Chicago didn’t collect any extra-base hits against him.
- Oller: 3 ip, 2 runs, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 4 hits (all singles)
While spring stats don’t count for anything in the record books, that doesn’t mean nothing real can happen during spring, and indeed today was one of those days. Oller was competing for a spot on the Opening Day roster, and after the game he was informed that he will make the club and be on the MLB pitching staff when the season begins.
Out of the bullpen this afternoon, Oakland got two scoreless innings from NRI reliever Jacob Lemoine. The right-hander hasn’t gotten a lot of press this spring, as a 28-year-old who still hasn’t reached the majors, but he was solid in Triple-A last summer (for the Rangers) and has been lights out during the Cactus League.
- Lemoine, spring: 6 ip, 0 runs, 5 Ks, 2 BB, 1 hit, 1 HBP
Next up came a scoreless inning apiece from NRI relievers Zach Jackson and Dany Jimenez, who are also both having excellent springs. The Sox later added a couple runs during garbage time but not enough to launch any kind of comeback.
A few more details not to be missed amid all that action:
- Piscotty had a great day, in just his third appearance this spring. He went 2-for-3, added a walk, and stole a base.
- NRI catcher Christian Bethancourt (playing 1B today) went 2-for-3.
- Outfield prospect Cristian Pache had a hit and drew a walk.
- Lower-minors outfield prospect Pedro Pineda (age 18) got a couple at-bats in the late innings and hit a “booming” double into the gap.
However, today belonged to the prospects. Oller made the team, and Smith piled up 5 RBI during three different run-scoring at-bats, with Neuse on the side continuing his suddenly loud spring. Mix in some NRIs chipping in another round of impressive work, and it was a pretty good day before even factoring in that they won the exhibition game.
Adam Oller just found out from A’s manager Mark Kotsay that he made the roster. An emotional moment for a 27-year-old righty who has had a long journey to this point.— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) April 1, 2022