Gelof 'right where he needs to be' in hot spring start

March 4th, 2024

MESA, Ariz. -- Opening Day is still a few weeks away but already appears to be locked in for the season.

Gelof added to his hot start this spring with a pair of doubles in Sunday’s 5-2 A’s victory over the Rangers at Hohokam Stadium. The second baseman clubbed an RBI double to left-center field off Dane Dunning in the first inning and later drilled an opposite-field ground-rule double to right that registered at 105.2 mph off the bat.

“The at-bats he’s taking are reflective of what he did last year,” said A’s manager Mark Kotsay. “Zack’s right where he needs to be to have success.”

Through seven games played, Gelof’s five extra-base hits lead all players in the Cactus League. With six hits over his past four contests, he is now batting .389/.476/.889 with two homers and three doubles.

“I worked pretty hard this offseason, so I think just to see some results is pretty cool,” Gelof said. “Ultimately, I’m not really worried about [results]. For me, it’s staying within the process and trying to dominate what I do every day with my pre-work. Then, out in the game, just try to be super competitive.”

The most encouraging sign for Gelof is that most of his hits are going to the opposite field, which is usually a sign that his swing is where he wants it to be.

“I think Miguel Cabrera said something like, ‘When you hit it to the opposite field, it opens up the whole field,’” Gelof said. “For me, it’s staying consistent by trying to hit the ball the other way. If they throw it in, turn on that, too.”

Coming off a debut season in which he hit .267 with a .840 OPS, 14 home runs, 20 doubles, 32 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 69 games, Gelof is garnering high expectations for 2024 as a budding star who looks on the cusp of a breakout. Based on his performance thus far in Spring Training, those lofty projections might be spot-on.

Sears stays nearly perfect

The A’s have yet to announce their Opening Day starter, but the way the rotation currently lines up, would be on schedule to take the mound at the Oakland Coliseum to begin the season on March 28 against the Guardians.

His performance early on in spring is certainly worthy of that consideration.

Making his second Cactus League start on Sunday, Sears struck out seven batters across three scoreless innings and allowed just one hit. Between his first two outings, the left-hander has nine strikeouts and no walks with only one hit allowed in five innings.

“Both outings have gone really well,” Sears said. “Today was one of those outings where I just was locating my fastball really well and I was just able to get guys off balance with some good swing-and-misses from them. A really good day.”

In addition to integrating a new sinker into his arsenal of pitches, Sears has also been working on improving his sweeper this spring. He utilized it as the putaway pitch on his strikeout of Evan Carter to end the third.

“It was a really good pitch for me last year but I kind of lost it in the second half,” Sears said of his sweeper. “I’m trying to get the consistency out of it to where I feel convicted with it. I feel like I threw some good ones today, so I’m definitely getting better with that.”

Stripling makes his spring debut

After a delayed start to Cactus League action due to a chipped fingernail, made his first appearance with the A’s on Sunday. Following Sears out of the bullpen, the veteran right-hander, who is expected to begin the season as part of the A’s starting rotation, worked three innings and allowed one run (unearned) on two hits with a strikeout.

“That’s vintage Strip,” Kotsay said. “He’s going to change speeds and get soft contact to manage innings. He had to finish up in the bullpen with another inning to get his 45 pitches in. It was good to see him out there.”