Kotsay a winner in his 1st exhibition game as A’s manager

MESA, Ariz. (AP) — It was a day of firsts for the revamped Oakland A’s, under first-year manager Mark Kotsay. Although the defensive highlight was something familiar: a powerful throw from the warning track by suspended center fielder Ramón Laureano to veteran shortstop Elvis Andrus, whose relay to catcher Sean Murphy cut down the Angels’ Jake Gatewood at the plate.

An enthusiastic Cactus League crowd of 7,724 welcomed the return of baseball just eight days after the 99-day lockout ended. While the Angels did not bring superstars Mike Trout or Shohei Ohtani over from Tempe, rising star Jo Adell connected off Brett Honeywell Jr. for a two-run homer in the first inning of a 10-8 A’s victory.

For Honeywell, among a plethora of A’s newcomers acquired via three major trades, free agency and the waiver wire, it was an opportunity to focus on performance rather than health. Following his fourth elbow surgery, Honeywell was limited to 1 2-3 innings in 2021 for Tampa Bay, who traded him to the A’s in November.

The former Top 20 prospect showed that he’s quickly ramped up for the condensed 3 ½-week spring training, facing 13 hitters and allowing seven hits, including Adell’s 491-foot drive.

“I think he did what he was supposed to do,’’ Honeywell said. “I threw it right down the chute, and those tend to leave the yard.’’

Honeywell lamented missing his spot after being ahead in the count, yet focused on the bigger picture: his healthy right elbow.

“I was able to get my feet wet again,’’ he said. “I am working toward something now, when the last spring training I wasn’t necessarily working toward anything, I was making sure I felt good. ‘’

In his first experience with his new batterymate, Murphy called the pitches while encouraging Honeywell to express disagreement.

“We talked a little bit and that will continue this whole camp,’’ said Honeywell, who was not only thrilled to be viewed as a starter again, but pleased to start the first exhibition game. When Kotsay gave him the news, he immediately telephoned his brother.

After seven years on the A’s coaching staff, writing out the lineup was a novelty for Kotsay, never mind the exhibition game nature of it.

“It’s fun to just start the season; we’ve waited a long time to get going,’’ he said in reference to the lockout. “And even though we’ve been working out for the last four days, obviously today feels different because we have a game to play.’’

Among the 27 players Kotsay penciled into the lineup: infielder Kevin Smith, acquired on Wednesday as part of the Matt Chapman trade to the Blue Jays, and outfielder Christian Pache, acquired Tuesday as part of the Matt Olson trade to the Braves.

Smith, who will be considered at multiple positions, played third base while Pache replaced Laureano in center field. Laureano was suspended 80 games during last year after testing positive for a banned drug, and will miss the first month this season.

As Kotsay noted, Smith is not only trending upward, he made a significant first impression, along with Zach Logue and Kirby Snead. The former Blue Jays were all in his office by 7 a.m. Thursday morning.

“They made it a point to get on a plane immediately after they were told,’’ he said. “ … That shows their character and what we want here.’’

Pache also made a noticeable first impression, driving a 2-1 pitch to the warning track, where it was lost in the sun. Showing off his speed, he reached third base. Later in the fifth inning, he scored, part of an Oakland rally capped by Skye Bolt’s three-run homer in the eighth.

NOTES: OF Stephen Piscotty is hampered by a shoulder impingement, so his workload will be managed … LHP Sean Manaea is expected to start Saturday against the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark.

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