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Elephant Rumblings: Rotation picture shifts over weekend

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A’s righty James Kaprielian will take the mound against the Guardians in Oakland. Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, Athletics Nation!

Last Thursday, Martin Gallegos at MLB sized up the state of competition for spots on the A’s starting rotation. Plenty remains to be seen this spring before the A’s settle on their opening day rotation, but developments over the weekend may have shaped the direction of things.

Perhaps most significantly, James Kaprielian looked fit in his spring debut against the Padres yesterday. He struck out five in just 1⅔ innings and topped out at 97mph with his fastball. Kap has been questionable due to shoulder surgery over the offseason, but presumably he’ll have a rotation spot on opening day if healthy.

In that scenario, the A’s more experienced arms—Kaprielian, Paul Blackburn, Shintaro Fujinami, and Drew Rucinski—would likely make the Opening Day rotation, leaving Adam Oller, Ken Waldichuk, and Kyle Muller to compete for the fifth spot. Among those younger prospects, training camp performance will likely weigh more heavily as a determinant of who rounds out the rotation.

Oller has boosted his prospects with strong performances in Spring Training, while Muller has been middling, and Waldichuk, who presumably held an edge as the A’s number two prospect, has consistently struggled so far.

Adrián Martínez and JP Sears have also been in the rotation conversation, but Martínez was optioned to Triple-A on Saturday, and Sears, who struck out six in five full innings pitched against the Giants yesterday, seems more likely to play swingman out of the bullpen to start the season.

There has also been some discussion of the possibility the A’s could go with a six-man rotation, and whatever happens, the Opening Day rotation will not be set in stone as the season continues. But at the moment, a Blackburn/Fuji/Rucinski/Kap/Oller Opening Day rotation feels like a distinct possibility on to me. How about you?

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