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Elephant Rumblings: Rotation competition heating up

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MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Dodgers at Oakland Athletics Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, Athletics Nation!

Some of the big questions surrounding the A’s this spring concern the team’s considerable starting pitching depth and who will make the rotation come Opening Day. With this year’s Spring Training about halfway complete, Martin Gallegos at MLB provided an update on the competition for rotation spots and how the A’s many starters’ prospects are shaping up.

Gallegos identifies three veteran starters as “locks”: Paul Blackburn, Shintaro Fujinami, and Drew Rucinski. Blackburn, who was the A’s only All-Star in 2022 is favored to throw the season’s inaugural pitch on Opening Day. Fujinami has shown his stuff as advertised in two Cactus League outings, though his ability to handle a full workload will continue to be tested.

Rucinski hasn’t overly impressed so far this spring, but he was sent to the Minor League complex yesterday to pitch a sim game, which Gallegos cited as a strong indication that the KBO veteran’s rotation ticket has been punched.

Gallegos identifies four starting pitcher prospects as “in the mix”: Adam Oller, Ken Waldichuk , Kyle Muller, and Adrián Martínez. Oller has been perhaps the most impressive of all A’s starters this spring, with a 1.86 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 9⅔ innings. He was particularly effective yesterday in the first four innings of the A’s shutout against the Dodgers.

Martínez has also pitched well in Spring Training and will continue his efforts to secure a rotation spot as he competes in the WBC with Team Mexico.

If this “in the mix” foursome’s fortunes hinged primarily on Spring Training performance, it would not bode so well for Waldichuk and Muller to this point. Waldichuk has struggled this spring, and Muller’s results have been mixed. However, both are top five A’s prospects, so it would be foolish to rule them out prematurely. There is still time for slumps—as well as hot streaks—to be broken.

So, AN: with three weeks to go until Opening Day, who do you think will make the cut? Sound off below!

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