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Elephant Rumblings: Opening Day start and rotation order still up for grabs

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New York Yankees v Oakland Athletics Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

It’s the weekend, Athletics Nation!

With only a handful of spring games left, the A’s attentions are starting to turn toward Opening Day. When the Athletics start their season next Friday in Philadelphia, there is still some question as to who will fill out the roster and especially who will be on mound.

The lead of the A’s rotation isn’t as certain as the last few seasons. Chris Bassitt got the nod last year, but post-trade he’s now moving up the Mets’ rotation with Jacob deGrom injured. While Frankie Montas was the June opener for the abbreviated 2020 season, his return to Opening Day isn’t as certain in 2022.

A’s manager Mark Kotsay has kept both Montas and Sean Manaea on what seem to be equal chances to be the Opening Day starter, with Montas being moved to the backfields to throw on the same day as Manaea. As discussed by Matt Kawahara in the San Francisco Chronicle, this gives Montas the chance to make sure he hits his inning and pitch goals for the spring without the uncertainty of an opposing team.

There is also the possibility that either starter could get dealt in the last week before the season, as trade rumours have abounded since the end of the lockout. Most notably, both A’s have been attached to the Twins and Yankees as trade targets, with Manaea being the more shopped pitcher. Manaea’s salary is set almost $5 million higher than Montas’ this year, and it is Sean’s last year under team control. This means that the salary shredding A’s of 2022 may want to hold onto the cheaper Montas until they can flip him next year as a rental. Of course being a trade deadline rental may be Manaea’s ultimate fate as an Athletic if he isn’t moved this coming week.

Look to see who the A’s Opening Day starter will be at the beginning of next week, after the results of both Manaea and Montas throwing on Sunday. Whichever pitcher doesn’t start the season’s first game on Friday will be set for the second game on Saturday.

The rest of the rotation is a bit tougher to predict with Brett Honeywell Jr. being shut down indefinitely and James Kaprielian out for the first month. The last three spots likely belong to some mix of: Cole Irvin in his second year with the team, Paul Blackburn who has been up and down for spot starts each of the last five years, Daulton Jefferies who showed up for the end of last season, or newbie Adam Oller. Earning his spot on the roster this spring after coming to the A’s in the Bassitt trade, Oller’s inclusion is extra exciting as it will be his major league debut after a long journey in the minors, the Australian league, and indie-ball.

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