After generating a ton of excitement and outscoring their opponents 23-11 in their first two games, the A’s recorded their first loss of the year against the Colorado Rockies on Monday.
Starting off the game, new acquisition Drew Rucinski — one of the top pitchers in the KBO the past 4 years — pitched a forgettable two innings in his green-and-gold debut. In the first, he gave up a solo homer to 2016 NL MVP Kris Bryant, who hasn’t played baseball since July of last year, and a 2-out RBI single to catcher Elias Diaz. Not a great start.
Unfortunately, the 2nd inning didn’t treat Rucinski much better. Pitching his 2nd batter of the inning to a 3-2 count, he got called for a pitch clock violation for starting his windup motion just a second late and putting batter Cole Tucker at 1st base. A single, a sac fly, and another single later, the run came home and the A’s were in a 3-0 hole.
Drew Rucinski gets a clock infraction, but are the numbers behind the plate (on the left) not working today?pic.twitter.com/nKeMI9BaNA— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) February 27, 2023
Six hits, one walk, and just one strikeout is not what you want out of your first 2 innings of the year but Rucinski will have a lot of time and leeway to get himself straightened out. GM David Forst has essentially guaranteed him a spot in the Opening Day rotation so there’s no reason to panic about an early spring outing when he’s still shaking off some rust. The track record says that he’ll likely be an effective back-of-the-rotation starter for the A’s.
On the offensive end, there wasn’t much to see the first 6 innings of the game. Looking allergic to hard contact, the A’s even scored their first run before recording a hit. Previewing a bit of the small ball that the A’s are likely to utilize more this season, Nick Allen, who’s showing improved plate discipline, walked his way to first base and stole his way to second. After a groundout pushed him to third, Allen dashed home on a wild pitch from Stephen Jones. Even if the bat isn’t quite there, Allen has a lot of tools on the field to make him a viable, if not plus, major league player.
The never-ending search for the team’s first hit ended in the 7th with a double from arguably the star of A’s spring training so far: Lawrence Butler. Appearing as confident as any player on the roster, Butler not only got the A’s first hit of the game but also tried to get a last-minute rally going with a solo homer in the 9th.
Butler’s historically been considered more of a mid-tier prospect in the A’s system the past couple of years, mainly due to strikeout issues and some injuries limiting his playing time. But after a strong stint in the Arizona Fall League and a hot start this spring, he may start climbing the ranks as the year goes on. He’ll likely start the year refining his approach in AA; here’s hoping that he gets a shot at bringing his passionate playing style to Vegas by the end of the season.
Off to the negatives, of which there were many. The relievers behind Rucinski didn’t fare much better than him. Sam Moll and Zach Jackson were the only two who are likely to make the Opening Day roster.
Moll pitched a shaky 3rd, giving up a single, a walk, and two wild pitches that sent a run home. However, he also struck out a couple of Rockies, showing his stuff is still there. Jackson, who we haven’t seen since right shoulder inflammation put him on the IL last August, fared a bit better with two walks, a strikeout, and no walks. Both are likely to get a lot of high-leverage innings this season.
In his first start of the year, at catcher nonetheless, the A’s consensus top prospect Tyler Soderstrom struck out in both of his at-bats. The team will take the rest of spring to evaluate how close to major league-ready.
Overall, a more mundane Spring Training game than the last two, containing mostly duds and just a couple of bright spots. The A’s will back in action tomorrow against the Angels with what’s guaranteed to be a compelling matchup. Shintaro Fujinami makes his American debut against his countrymate and best-player-in-the-world candidate Shohei Ohtani.