With the A’s shifting around pitching plans due to the threat of rain in the area, Friday’s 5-4 win over the Padres at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz., shined a spotlight on their bullpen.
Newcomer Sergio Romo drew the start against San Diego, and though he surrendered a leadoff homer to star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., the right-hander regrouped and limited the damage to the one run in a 27-pitch first inning. Right-handers Yusmeiro Petit and Burch Smith and left-hander Adam Kolarek followed in relief of Romo and kept the Padres off the board. Combined, the four relievers held San Diego to one run on four hits with four strikeouts across four innings.
“With Romo, I’m actually glad he threw a few pitches,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s working on a changeup. Obviously, throwing his slider. He gave up the homer but got out of a jam like he typically does. Petit gets out of a jam like he normally does. Kolarek had a pretty easy inning, and then Burch threw well today.”
The scoreless frames by Petit and Smith were their first of the spring. Petit’s inning was a nice rebound after he was touched up for five runs in just two-thirds of an inning in his Cactus League debut earlier this week.
“All our veteran guys are just getting their work in right now,” Melvin said. “A lot of times, you want to see them throw some pitches if there’s something they’re working on. It was nice to be able to get them out of the game pretty quickly on a cold day.”
The bullpen was Oakland’s strength last year, combining to lead the Major Leagues with a 2.76 ERA. Even with a slightly different cast -- All-Star closer Liam Hendriks has been replaced with Trevor Rosenthal and the loss of setup man Joakim Soria was addressed with the additions of Romo and Kolarek -- the A’s still maintain high expectations that their relievers can routinely shorten games with continued dominance in the late innings.
Lowrie moving well
Jed Lowrie went 0-for-2 at the plate on Friday to remain hitless this spring, but the A’s aren’t too concerned with his bat. Shaking off some rust after two injury-riddled seasons with the Mets that limited him to nine games and eight plate appearances over the past two years, Lowrie is trying to show the A’s that he can be the type of hitter he was in his previous stint with the club from 2016-18, when he set an Oakland record for doubles and earned his first career All-Star selection.
What the A’s are also looking for from Lowrie -- who turns 37 in April -- is mobility. Coming off surgery on his left knee over the winter, he’ll have to prove the range is still there. It might be too early to say he’s all the way back, but Lowrie showed no limitations on Friday as he made a couple of tricky plays while playing second base, including an off-balance throw on the run as he charged in on a short grounder by Tucupita Marcano for a putout at first base in the fifth.
“That’s one of the things we’re looking at is how he’s moving around at second base with the knee issue that he had and not playing in a couple of years,” Melvin said. “It’s really more about how healthy his legs look, and he’s getting some pretty good swings with nothing to show for it. But to be able to make good plays like that when you haven’t been on the field for a while, I know makes him feel good.”
Though he’s in camp on a Minor League deal as he looks to earn his third stint with Oakland, Lowrie is presumably the frontrunner in a battle for the second base job this spring. It’s all going to depend on health, and so far, he’s gotten through all three of his Cactus League appearances feeling strong.
The A’s will travel to Goodyear, Ariz. for a 5:05 p.m. PT game against the Reds on Saturday. Left-hander Sean Manaea is set to make his Cactus League debut after spending the earlier portion of camp participating in simulated games with the rest of the A’s starters. Right-hander Jeff Hoffman will take the mound for Cincinnati.