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Four keys to A's returning to postseason in '19

@JaneMLB
March 19, 2019

TOKYO -- The A’s quest for a second straight playoff appearance begins on international turf, quite literally. Come Wednesday, they’ll officially open the regular season with a two-game set against the Mariners at Tokyo Dome hoping to build upon their 97-win showing in 2018. MLB.com takes a look at four

TOKYO -- The A’s quest for a second straight playoff appearance begins on international turf, quite literally. Come Wednesday, they’ll officially open the regular season with a two-game set against the Mariners at Tokyo Dome hoping to build upon their 97-win showing in 2018.

MLB.com takes a look at four keys to their season:

Starting off

The lineup is likable. The bullpen is formidable. The rotation, however, is fickle. The A’s are relying on the veteran trio of Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada and Brett Anderson to lead this otherwise unknown staff. The A’s have yet to reveal just who will join them, and it’s unclear whether they’re actually serious about including top prospect Jesus Luzardo in the mix when they return to Oakland. Aaron Brooks and Frankie Montas, who are out of options, are also in play. It’s a questionable group on paper, but the A’s managed 97 wins last year despite dangling a ransacked rotation. Can they do it again? Starters will need to step it up.

No Jed, no problem?

For the first time since 2015, the A’s will be operating without Jed Lowrie, who was a mainstay in the middle of the lineup. They feel well-equipped to move on without him, though, and hope Stephen Piscotty and Matt Olson can team up to duplicate the kind of production the A’s are used to getting in the third hole ahead of Khris Davis.

Health matters

The A’s escaped the exhibition season relatively healthy, a trend that will be paramount to their success this year. Matt Chapman underwent a pair of offseason surgeries (right wrist, left shoulder) and appears good to go after playing through injury last season, and Davis, slowed this spring by a left calf strain, is at full strength just in time. Moreover, the A’s hope to be adding pitching options soon, rather than subtracting them; Tommy John patients Jharel Cotton and A.J. Puk could be available midseason, and Sean Manaea (shoulder surgery) is also expected back in action before season’s end.

No sophomore slump

Flamethrower Lou Trivino and center fielder Ramon Laureano enjoyed breakout seasons in 2018, and the A’s need both to avoid the sophomore slump. Trivino, who recorded a 2.92 ERA and struck out 82 in 74 innings, will once again be asked to fulfill setup duties behind All-Star closer Blake Treinen in a bullpen that will be leaned on heavily. Laureano, meanwhile, was a force in center field upon his August promotion, and he’ll need to maintain consistent production at the plate in order to stay there.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.