Notes: Olson goes deeeeep; Chapman hits

March 2nd, 2021

MESA, Ariz. -- entered Spring Training and made it clear he was on a mission to prove that his down numbers on offense last year were not indicative of the player he can be over a full season.

It took him all of one game to put those words into action.

Making his 2021 Cactus League debut Monday afternoon, Olson launched a mammoth two-run homer off reliever Noé Ramirez in the third inning of a 13-5 A’s victory over the Reds at Hohokam Stadium. A no-doubter as soon as Olson made contact, the ball traveled well beyond the two bullpens situated behind right field and sailed into the players’ parking lot.

According to the stadium’s exit velocity meter, Olson’s home run was scorched 116 mph off the bat.

“If you believe the board on the exit velocity, that’s one of the higher exit velos I’ve ever seen,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “I thought it was going to hit the batting cages for a minute. After a tough year, you hit a ball like that early in Spring Training, you have to feel pretty good about it.”

Olson spent most of his offseason working to address issues he identified in his plate approach last year. Among the flaws he spotted was a tendency to leave his bat “too horizontal” during his setup, which led to his timing being thrown off and rolling over on pitches.

When Olson’s swing is right, he has shown to be a premier slugger. Look no further than his 2019 season, when he clubbed a career-high 36 homers and had 91 RBIs. If he can keep his swing looking like it did on Monday, Olson should be well on his way to proving that his .195 batting average from last season was an outlier.

“It felt pretty good,” Olson said of his homer in an interview with A’s Cast, the club’s 24/7 online streaming station. “I’ve seen Noé a lot with the Angels. He left a fastball a little over the plate, and I just felt like I was in there and reacted and got to it. It was a pretty good first day.”

Chapman doubles in debut

 The other Matt also had a pretty good day in his spring debut. In what was his first game action since season-ending hip surgery last September, started the game as the designated hitter and went 1-for-3. He smashed a booming double to right-center in the fifth before he was pulled for a pinch-runner.

Though Chapman has been getting through his defensive work in practice without issue, the A’s will be cautious with his workload early in games. The two-time Platinum Glove Award-winning third baseman is expected to return to playing defense in games after the club’s off-day on Thursday.

“Early in camp, you want to see the ball travel a little bit. That was a good one to go home on,” Melvin said of Chapman’s double. “It’s just about health for him right now. He’ll probably have another DH game and then we’ll look to get him on the field.”

The Buddy Reed Show
If the Cactus League had an MVP Award, would be positioned as one of the early candidates.

After showing off his impressive arm from right field to nab a runner at home plate on Sunday, Reed cut down another runner Monday, this time playing center field. Backing up second base after a throw by A’s reliever sailed into the outfield in the sixth inning, Reed charged in, picked up the ball and fired a laser to third baseman Jacob Wilson, who tagged out Alfredo Rodriguez for the second out of the inning.

Several minutes later, in the bottom half of the sixth, Reed showed off his hitting tools by driving a first-pitch fastball well up the berm in right-center field for a two-run homer.

Reed, ranked by MLB Pipeline as Oakland’s No. 23 prospect, said after Sunday’s game that he was coming into camp looking to “win a job.” Two games into spring, the 25-year-old certainly has the attention of the big league staff.

“He gets a first-pitch heater and puts a good swing on it,” Melvin said. “But it’s the defense that is his calling card. Not only is he able to play all three outfield positions, but he runs and throws well.

“He’s getting an opportunity like he probably never has before in big league camp, and he’s taking advantage of it.”