The A’s entered camp with a host of pitchers competing for what appeared to be two rotation spots. Another opened during Spring Training, as righty Paul Blackburn tore a fingernail and will start the year on the injured list. That left Drew Rucinski and Shintaro Fujinami as the apparent top two. For different reasons, there are questions about the workload both hurlers can shoulder.
Rucinski won’t make his next scheduled Spring Training start because of left hamstring tightness, manager Mark Kotsay said this afternoon (relayed by Martín Gallegos of MLB.com). His availability for Opening Day is now uncertain. Signed to a $3MM free agent deal after four seasons with the NC Dinos in the Korea Baseball Organization, Rucinski has pitched three times this spring. The right-hander has allowed eight runs with a 7:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 10 1/3 innings.
Fujinami isn’t dealing with any health concerns. The A’s are planning to be cautious with his workload as he makes the jump from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, however. Starters in Japan typically only throw once per week, so a five-day rotation presents an adjustment for hurlers coming over from NPB. Kotsay indicated this week that Oakland would limit Fujinami to starts every sixth or seventh day early in the season to avoid overworking him (link via Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle).
“We feel strongly about keeping him in that routine,” Kotsay told reporters. “There is a lot of change going on already for Fuji, so we want to try to at least keep something as consistent as possible and that’s his routines.” The 6’6″ right-hander signed for $3.25MM this offseason, with the A’s rolling the dice on a high-octane arsenal despite an inconsistent strike-throwing track record in Japan.
Control woes kept Fujinami from holding a permanent rotation spot with the Hanshin Tigers over the past few seasons. He’d bounced between the Tigers and their minor league affiliate and between the starting staff and the bullpen. Altogether, Fujinami tallied 107 1/3 innings last season. That was the first time he’d topped the century mark since 2018, so it’s not surprising the A’s want to keep an eye on his workload.
Oakland has maintained they’re committed to Fujinami as a starting pitcher. It’s an upside play that could make him an intriguing trade candidate if he establishes himself closer to the summer deadline. Fujinami has been erratic this spring, striking out 17 but issuing 13 walks in 12 2/3 frames over three outings.
With only one pitcher now locked into the season-opening rotation and coming with workload concerns of his own, Oakland will obviously have to plug a number of vacancies. As Kawahara writes in a separate piece, righty James Kaprielian seems on track to grab a rotation job. While he’d been delayed in camp recovering fromDecember shoulder surgery, he built up to five innings in today’s exhibition start against the Cubs. The former Yankee first-rounder started 26 games and threw 134 innings last year, working to a 4.23 ERA despite below-average strikeout, walk and ground-ball rates.
A number of recent trade acquisitions are among those battling for rotation spots alongside Fujinami, Kaprielian and hopefully Rucinski. Ken Waldichuk and JP Sears, both acquired from the Yankees in last summer’s Frankie Montas deal, could have the inside track on jobs after debuting last season. Lefty Kyle Muller, brought in from Atlanta this winter in the Sean Murphy package, remains in camp.
So does righty Adam Oller, who came over from the Mets in the Chris Bassitt trade a year ago. Oller started 14 of 19 MLB appearances as a rookie but was hit hard, surrendering more than six earned runs per nine innings. Kawahara suggests the righty could be ticketed for long relief instead of the rotation. The 28-year-old told reporters he was open to whatever role the club preferred. “I knew going into this year (a swing role) was going to be a possibility,” Oller said (via Kawahara). “I spoke to Kotsay … and I told him straight up, ‘I don’t care.’ Obviously, everybody wants to be a starter, but at the end of the day, I just want to be on the team and do what I can to help the team win.“
deGrom Texas Ranger
More walks than innings? That 4.26 spring RRA is nice, bit this is why guys like him can thrive in the bullpen and may struggle in the rotation.
What is RRA?
deGrom Texas Ranger
Dumpster Divin Theo
When Astro talks pitching his go to is RRA- as in I rove ru Rorge. What’s his RRA?
It’s ST. Only 7 hits and 0 HR allowed is good for 12.2 IP. The 17 Ks are outstanding. He needs 15 to 20 starts eveb before thinking about reducing his role especially for a team like Oakland.
Does Manfred get a cut of the real estate deal we’re trying to tank for?
Hey you guys want Frankie Montas back? He should be ready by September. Lmk
If the A’s were truly serious about tanking, they would have kept that slob Montas. Instead they got two semi-adequate innings eaters
Prospects and major leaguers with a lot of team control are a strategy (ploy?) for the new stadium. Creating a good base of players followed by a flurry of FA spending after a new stadium is constructed usually creates a good team that draws fans and inflates the resale value of the club they’re trying to tank right now.
We’re basically an episode of property brothers, but with federal anti-trust exemptions and more leverage for purchasing property in high population cities.
Just putting it out there, but if the A’s just need to save money on pitching, I’m willing to pitch a full season for $100K. Give me a call. I can throw a 4-seamer, 2-seamer along with a devastating slider. I strike out all the little leaguers when I play against them. Give me a call. My contact info is in my bio.
Another starter candidate, Freddy Tarnok, is also dealing with an injury.
I cannot believe Tarnok wasn’t even mentioned. He looked like an extremely promising young starter when he was in Atlanta.
Also, what is going on with Muller? He should be an easy candidate to take one of their rotation spots, yet he’s barely even mentioned in this article. Muller was primed and ready to break out with Atlanta, with a good spring, and take over their fifth starter job. w
With Kyle Muller already having some quality appearances at the big league level previously, you’d think with any decent progress that the A’s would be excited to start him off as one of their starting five.
I know @Patrick Tracey mentioned Tarnok being hurt, but does anyone know why neither he nor Muller, according to this article above, seem to be getting any kind of real shot at making the PD roster??
Muller is gonna be in the rotation
I think Fujinami will move to the bullpen sooner than later and Oller is more of a mopup guy. But the two pitchers the Yanks gave them show promises to develop into solid mid rotation pieces.
Should have just gone with 5 young guys
You’ve got 26 men really pushing to have a good 3 months…..
So they can get traded away from the black hole that’s Oakland
California has 14 teams already don’t they? They can afford to lose one, considering the owners are top 3 worst in the league
Maybe not 26 players but someone might need Laureano. And May absolutely looks like he will be traded if healthy and producing if at least so the A’s don’t have to pay all 7 million.
Kind of Amazing how the A’s shipped out Bassitt, Montas, Chapman, Olsen, Murphy and MLB pipeline still ranks them at / near the bottom with no high ceiling prospects. Loved Ollers comment, refreshingly honest compared to the normal talk.
I always think the same as well. They seem to hardly ever have top prospects or high upside guys despite all the trading. They seem to value high floor, low ceiling types I guess but they gotta get something better in these deals aside from what could be a solid everyday catche.r.
Langeliers graduated but they hold onto Bassitt & Manaea too long and got basically nothing back.
Hoglund is a good prospect but they took a huge bust in Pache back
The A’s have a rotation?
Please option Oakland to AAA
Relegation comes to baseball.
Move the A’s to Vancouver. They could become the Eh’s? Right now they are just the Huh’s?