Notes: Jefferies locked in; Laureano returns

March 24th, 2021

immediately ran into trouble Tuesday by surrendering a leadoff triple to Josh Fuentes in the second inning against the Rockies. The A’s right-hander has admitted that such a situation would fluster him in the past.

But this is a different Daulton Jefferies.

Refusing to allow the inning to spiral into an avalanche of runs, Jefferies took a deep breath and set his sights on a random area of Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz., to relax his nerves. Staying calm, he regrouped and proceeded to strike out the following three batters to keep the game scoreless.

“That was huge for my confidence,” Jefferies said after a 4-1 win over Colorado. “I just tried to focus on executing each pitch, one at a time. I know when a guy gets on second or third with nobody out, maybe some guys tense up a little bit. I’ve done that in the past. That was a big maturity move I tried to make going into this spring where I can just breathe and check out a focal point in the stadium or something like that. Just focus on executing pitches.”

That triple by Fuentes was the last hit Jefferies allowed on the day. Retiring the final nine batters he faced, the 25-year-old righty completed four innings and held the Rockies scoreless on two hits with seven strikeouts and no walks. In a Spring Training that has seen Jefferies turn in several strong outings, Tuesday’s start was the best manager Bob Melvin has seen him yet.

“He looked a little bit more determined,” Melvin said of Jefferies’ demeanor in the second inning. “You get a man on third, and the first guy, we’re playing back so you’re just trying to get an out. Once you get the [first strikeout], now you’re trying to keep him on third, and then he strikes out the side.

“Really good pitching. Great command. It’s the command he’s probably had all along that maybe we haven’t seen as much. But it all came together for him today.”

, who was behind the plate for Jefferies’ start on Tuesday, echoed similar sentiments.

“Daulton had all his pitches going today, and whenever you have days like that, it makes my job easy,” Garcia said during the radio broadcast on A’s Cast. “He had every single one of his pitches going today, and I don’t think he missed one spot. He was really, really good.”

Control has always been the area of expertise for Jefferies. He posted a ridiculous 93:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2019 across 79 combined innings at Class A and Double-A. That quality is showing up this spring, now holding a 1.38 ERA in five games with 20 strikeouts against three walks in 13 innings.

Putting together another strong effort, Jefferies might be closing in on winning the battle for the final rotation slot that recently opened up as Mike Fiers deals with left hip inflammation. It’s an exciting possibility for Jefferies, but he won’t spend too much time stressing over the final decision, which could come by the end of the week.

“I can’t make any decision, but I can be as consistent as possible and be a guy where they know what they’ll get when I take the rubber,” Jefferies said. “That was the goal coming into camp and going into the season. I feel good and healthy, so I can only control what I can control.”

Laureano returns to action
After missing nearly a week of games due to left side soreness, outfielder returned to the starting lineup and lined a first-pitch double off Rockies reliever Yency Almonte in the third as part of a 1-for-3 day.

“It was good to just get my feet wet again,” Laureano said. “I felt better than I expected.”

Seeing the ball well this spring (6-for-18 in Cactus League play), Laureano doesn’t expect it to take much longer to get his swing fine-tuned and ready for Opening Night on April 1 against the Astros.

“I’m feeling ready to play Opening Day in a week,” Laureano said. “If Opening Day was today and it was Zack Greinke out there, I would play.”