Entering Spring Training intent on defending their American League West crown, the A’s confidence in achieving that feat has only grown over the past month in camp.
With so few roster holes, the main focus was keeping players healthy. Save for Mike Fiers, who is expected to land on the injured list come Opening Day due to left hip inflammation, the regulars on the squad have gotten through spring relatively unscathed.
Newcomers Sergio Romo, Mitch Moreland and Trevor Rosenthal have quickly acclimated to their new surroundings. Long known as an A's killer with career-best offensive numbers at the Oakland Coliseum, Moreland will see most of his playing time come at the designated hitter spot, an adjustment he's worked on mapping out a regular season routine for in camp. Romo brings championship experience as a solid back-end bullpen piece and a fun personality that fits right in with the A's laid-back clubhouse. Rosenthal is tasked with continuing what has been dominance from the A’s closer role over the past two years with Liam Hendriks, who is now on the White Sox. Rosenthal has shown nothing to suggest he can't carry over his success from last year as a closer with the Royals and Padres.
It didn’t take long for the A’s to feel comfortable about Matt Chapman again. Their star third baseman returned from season-ending right hip surgery last September and flashed his Gold Glove defense and power at the plate early on in Cactus League games, quickly putting any doubts about whether he would be the same player post-surgery to rest. Chapman has also developed good chemistry on the left side of the infield with new shortstop Elvis Andrus, who has compared the All-Star third baseman to former Rangers teammate and good friend Adrián Beltré.
The A’s also got a glimpse of the future with former first-round picks Tyler Soderstrom and Logan Davidson in camp. Both ranked among the club’s top five prospects per MLB Pipeline, Soderstrom and Davidson took advantage of the extra playing time in games this spring and left a good impression on the big league staff.
Here’s a closer review of A’s Spring Training as we await Opening Night on Thursday April 1 against the Astros at the Oakland Coliseum.
Daulton Jefferies -- Oakland’s No. 4 prospect -- was long hyped in the A’s farm system for his impeccable command. That attribute has finally shown up against Major League hitters in camp this spring, with the right-hander posting a 1.38 ERA with 20 strikeouts against three walks in 13 innings through his first five Cactus League outings. With Fiers likely sidelined to begin the season, the A’s now have a reliable fill-in for the starting rotation they can count on in Jefferies.
“This is the best we’ve seen him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s showing the command that he’s probably had all along but maybe we haven’t seen as much of yet.”
After being the workhorse of the rotation over the past few years, nagging injuries kept Fiers from appearing in any Cactus League games this spring. That opened the door for A’s No. 2 prospect A.J. Puk to firmly take over that vacant slot in the rotation, but the left-hander’s struggles with command and decreased velocity have raised some red flags in camp. With Jefferies faring much better and stretched out to a higher workload than Puk, who is making his way back from surgery to clean out his left shoulder last September, the A’s could opt to get the 25-year-old lefty some more reps in the Minor Leagues before bringing him back to Oakland.
Player who opened eyes
It wasn’t too long ago that Lou Trivino was thought to be the A’s closer-in-waiting as he went through a fantastic 2018 rookie campaign as the eighth-inning bridge to dominant closer Blake Treinen. After going through a down 2019 when he posted a career-worst 5.25 ERA, Trivino showed flashes of his old self last season, posting a 3.86 ERA in 20 appearances with 26 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings. This spring, the 29-year-old righty has been nearly unhittable, allowing just one hit with eight strikeouts and three walks in 6 1/3 innings. Melvin has mentioned Trivino as a potential multi-inning weapon out of the bullpen this year, so expect him to once again factor into high-leverage situations now that he appears to be returning to form.
The Buddy Reed Show came to an abrupt end in A’s camp after the outfielder sustained a right quad strain that will keep him out until next month, but it created a lot of buzz early on in spring. Reed -- Oakland’s No. 21 prospect -- had no more spectacular moment than on March 14 against the White Sox, when he perfectly timed a leap above the center-field wall just to the left of the 411-foot mark to rob reigning AL MVP José Abreu of extra bases. The highlight-reel catch was part of an impressive Spring Training resumé Reed turned in prior to his injury, which should keep him on the radar for a big league callup later this year.
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