OAKLAND — The Oakland A’s will face Zack Grienke of the Houston Astros to kick off a full 162-game season. Not the easiest task, but Grienke is no stranger to the A’s.
Manager Bob Melvin is trotting out a good bunch of familiar faces to get another look at the 37-year-old right-hander. Here’s how the A’s lineup looks for the series opener on Thursday.
Mark Canha LF
Ramón Laureano CF
Matt Olson 1B
Matt Chapman 3B
Mitch Moreland DH
Jed Lowrie 2B
Sean Murphy C
Chad Pinder RF
Elvis Andrus SS
Chris Bassitt P
What sticks out first is Pinder over everyday right fielder Stephen Piscotty in the lineup. Though Piscotty dealt with a wrist injury during spring, he is not injured, manager Bob Melvin said. The A’s are rewarding Pinder for a strong spring in which he pulled out of a cold start into a .356 average with a triple, three home runs and a double. Pinder played in 24 games last year, batting .232 in the regular season. But he was one of the A’s most consistent hitters in the postseason, hitting a game-turning home run in their sole win against the Astros in the ALDS.
Bassitt will get his first Opening Day start, but the bullpen will look a little different than anticipated with closer Trevor Rosenthal on the injured list with shoulder fatigue. Rosenthal isn’t expected to get an MRI, just regular treatment. He only made four appearances this spring and had trouble rebounding after his last one, Melvin said.
So, who will close? The A’s will move up their back-end bullpen plan one inning, which means Jake Diekman is expected to close games. Unless the eighth inning is lined with left-handed hitters, then they’ll improvise. But the bullpen deployment will be a bit more dependent on match-ups.
“It was easier to figure out with Rosenthal in the ninth and targeting Jake for the eighth,” Melvin said. “Now we have an assortment of righties and lefties with different stuff that we were going to try to match up. Now it’s just an inning later that we have to match up.”
Left-handed starter Cole Irvin will make the A’s opening day rotation, pitching in the season’s third game against the Astros. Melvin says the decision between Irvin and Daulton Jefferies — who also had a strong spring — came down to Irvin’s performance against the Los Angeles Dodgers A-squad in spring training.
“The game that stood out was the game against the Dodgers and the fact they basically had their entire lineup and he pitched so well,” Melvin said.
The decision to have him third in the rotation was to give Sean Manaea an extra day of rest. He’ll be fourth in the rotation. Frankie Montas, who is recovering from a ripped cuticle in his middle throwing finger, is expected to start fifth in the rotation.
Montas threw to A’s hitters on Wednesday and looked strong.
“Frankie threw great, velocity was good and our hitters were raving about him,” Melvin said “(His middle finger) was covered, but there’s enough time with five more days and the fact that it’s been covered for a while. And looking at it, it looks better.”
Mike Fiers, who will start the season on the IL with a lumbar injury, isn’t expected back until mid-April. He pitched a few innings on Wednesday and will go to the alternate site to work his way up to 80 or 90 pitches.