Roster decision on Pache likely to come down to wire
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Cristian Pache is doing all he can to earn himself a spot in the Major Leagues come Opening Day. Whether or not he earns that opportunity is still very much up in the air.
Among a crowded group of outfielders vying for spots in A’s camp this spring, Pache entered Thursday night’s game against the Rangers with as strong of a case as any. Through 17 games, the 24-year-old outfielder was hitting .333 (12-for-36) with an .841 OPS and tied for the Cactus League lead in triples with two.
In Thursday night's 7-7 tie with the Rangers, Pache went 1-for-5 with an RBI single and three strikeouts.
Beyond the numbers, manager Mark Kotsay has taken note of Pache’s attempts to drive the ball with more lift. Last season, Pache’s .459 OPS with the A’s was the worst among qualified Major League rookies. The root of those struggles stemmed from a 56 percent ground ball rate, which was much higher than the MLB average of 45 percent.
“I think Cristian’s made a conscious effort to make an adjustment to try to get the ball off the ground,” Kotsay said. “You see it in his approach, as well as swing. He’s aware of the changes that need to be made. He’s done everything possible that he can to make those adjustments.”
Those changes include maintaining good posture during his stance, which A’s hitting coach Tommy Everidge said allows him to stay back on the ball to see it longer and drive it the other way. An example of this came against the Giants on March 12, when Pache worked a 3-2 count against Ross Stripling before belting a triple into right-center.
“He’s been working his butt off, and I think the results are showing for themselves,” Everidge said of Pache. “Seeing two strikes and laying off tough pitches and still hit the heater. He’s been really good.”
Another positive has been Pache’s plate discipline. Entering Thursday, he’d struck out just three times in 38 plate appearances.
“That’s really encouraging,” Everidge said. “We felt some of his moves were making him in and out, not so much his judgment. Taking pitches with two strikes and still being ready, I think being in that better position with his body is allowing him to do what he actually wants.”
A major factor that might be working in favor of Pache’s roster chances is his lack of Minor League options. If he does not make Oakland’s Opening Day roster, the A’s would have to pass him through waivers in order to option him to the Minors. Given his performance this spring along with his elite 80-grade defense that was well-documented in 2022, it’s highly likely that Pache would get claimed by another club in need of outfield help.
Pache will travel back to Oakland with the club. Following Saturday’s game against the Brewers in Mesa, the A’s will head back to the Bay Area to finish their spring schedule with two games against the Giants. Will Pache line up along the third-base line for Opening Night at the Coliseum on Thursday? That decision appears to be coming down to the wire.
Pérez enters catching mix
Carlos Pérez, who signed a Minor League deal with the A’s on Sunday, figures to be a longshot to make the club. After just a couple of days of practice at the club’s Minor League complex, however, he was thrust into action Thursday, catching the game’s final four innings and going 0-for-2 at the plate.
With Manny Piña set to begin the season on the injured list, the backup catcher spot remains a question mark. Kyle McCann, who started Thursday’s game, appears to be the leading candidate. But the A’s are familiar with Pérez, who hit 31 homers while playing for the organization’s Triple-A affiliate in 2021.
Asked if Pérez has a shot to make the team out of Spring Training, Kotsay said the 32-year-old backstop will get an opportunity to earn that job.
“He just came to camp a couple of days ago, but physically, he looks great,” Kotsay said. “We have to assess it and see where he’s at. Yeah, there’s a chance.”