Sears, Oller nab roster spots -- but only 1 will start

Rule 5 Draft pick Noda also makes cut as backup first baseman

March 28th, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- A’s manager Mark Kotsay announced before Monday night’s 12-6 win over the Giants at Oracle Park that both and had made the Opening Day roster. Kotsay, however, wasn’t ready to reveal which of the two would complete the starting rotation, with the other starting the season in the bullpen.

Sears had an impressive rookie season last year between the Yankees and A’s, going 6-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 17 games (11 starts). This spring, the left-hander was 0-1 with a 5.19 ERA in 17 1/3 innings.

Oller struggled last season, finishing 2-8 with a 6.30 ERA in 19 appearances, but the right-hander was steadier this spring with a 4.50 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 16 innings.

The rest of the rotation is set and will feature Kyle Muller, Shintaro Fujinami, James Kaprielian and Ken Waldichuk, though Fujinami will only pitch once a week.

"This is a five-man rotation with Fuji pitching every Saturday,” Kotsay confirmed.

Of course, the rotation will likely change when right-handers Paul Blackburn and Drew Rucinski recover from injuries. Both were expected to be among the starting group when the spring began.

Still, the A’s are confident with their rotation arms entering the season.

"It's a good group of guys,” Waldichuk said. “I think we've got some really good arms here.”

It came as a surprise to some when Muller was announced as the Opening Day starter. The 25-year-old southpaw has only pitched 49 big league innings in his young career.

But Kotsay has no doubt Muller is ready for the moment.

"The kid's done everything he can throughout the Minor Leagues to get this opportunity, get this moment,” Kotsay said. ”In my eyes, the way he takes the mound, his presence, his [competitiveness], all of those things kind of line up. I think he deserved that opportunity to go out there and take the ball for us on Opening Day. He's a part of our future and he's a part of our present."

Noda makes the cut
Kotsay also announced that first baseman will be on the Opening Day roster. The Rule 5 Draft selection struggled during Spring Training, batting .208 with one home run and six RBIs. Noda struck out 26 times in 53 at-bats, but his 11 walks contributed to a .362 on-base percentage.

"Obviously, Ryan probably didn't have his best Spring Training,” Kotsay acknowledged. “[But] Ryan had a great year last year in Triple-A for the Dodgers. There's a track record there that he displayed somewhat accurately. Maybe a little more strikeout this spring than what he did last year in Triple-A, but the high walk rate was there. The zone discipline was there. ... It's a short sample size, and you never want to completely make decisions on that amount of sample size."

Noda will back up Jesús Aguilar at first base, while getting some additional at-bats elsewhere.

"Ryan will be utilized in the DH spot as well as at first base, so I think we could see both of them [Aguilar and Noda] flipping back and forth,” Kotsay said.