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A’s Opening Day lineup shows first glimpse of jigsaw puzzle

The 2022 season begins with this starting nine

Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels
Kemp leads off the 2022 season
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Opening Day is here! The Oakland A’s begin their 2022 season in an hour or so, and they’ve settled on a starting lineup for their first game. These nine batters will go against right-hander Aaron Nola of the Phillies, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia:

  • 2B Tony Kemp (L)
  • DH Billy McKinney (L)
  • C Sean Murphy (R)
  • LF Chad Pinder (R)
  • 1B Seth Brown (L)
  • SS Elvis Andrus (R)
  • 3B Kevin Smith (R)
  • RF Stephen Piscotty (R)
  • CF Cristian Pache (R)
  • RHP Frankie Montas

Surely there will be many different lineups this season, as the rebuilding A’s try out a variety of ideas to see what works. But this is an interesting first data point.

Two of the new prospect acquisitions jump straight into the mix, with Smith (from the Chapman trade) and Pache (from the Olson trade). Smith is usually a middle infielder but is showing his versatility by shifting to a new position, while Pache’s path to CF is especially wide open for now while star Ramon Laureano is suspended. Neither was guaranteed a spot a few weeks ago, and even after making the roster neither was guaranteed to start, but they’re in there for the first game.

The corner infield spots were a big question entering the spring, once the Matts were traded away. Brown was the most obvious candidate for 1B, and indeed he gets the first nod there (instead of getting creative with other options like Jed Lowrie or Austin Allen), while Smith has some competition at 3B but starts today over Sheldon Neuse.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the DH spot, where McKinney gets it over Lowrie and others, and he’s batting quite high in the order no less. He’s back with the club that originally drafted him nearly a decade ago, and they’re not waiting around to give him a prime opportunity this afternoon.

The rest of the names should be familiar. Kemp takes the leadoff spot after his breakout campaign last summer, aspiring slugger Murphy bats third, Pinder hits cleanup (against a righty?), and Andrus and Piscotty look to bounce back from injuries.

But there are plenty of other ways to arrange everybody if Oakland sees fit. Kemp can also play LF, McKinney can do the corner outfield or help out at 1B, Pinder can fill in anywhere, Brown is an excellent corner outfielder, and Smith is supposed to be a middle infielder. And the bench still includes catchers Stephen Vogt and Allen, infielders Lowrie (2B) and Neuse (3B/2B), and outfielder Skye Bolt (LF/CF/RF).

There might not be a specific everyday lineup this month while the A’s figure out what they’ve got, but there will be a lineup every day. Right now it’s a big pile of jigsaw puzzle pieces, and this is our first glimpse at one way they might all fit together. Hopefully the picture they form is one we want to look at!