OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Athletics posted a farewell photo on social media featuring pitching ace Chris Bassitt and their former superstar slugging Matts, third baseman Matt Chapman and first baseman Matt Olson, after trading them away in cost-cutting moves so familiar to this low-budget franchise.
Missing in the mix: departed manager Bob Melvin, who left in October to take over the San Diego Padres.
“Those are guys that are tough to replace, but we have a job here now,’’ Chad Pinder said. “We still have to go to work every single day. We are preparing for April 7, we are preparing for the season just the same. … We acknowledge this happened, but we acknowledge that there’s still a job to do.”
Meanwhile, the A’s welcomed back a pair of veterans who have meant so much to the franchise: catcher Stephen Vogt and infielder Jed Lowrie.
Former outfielder Mark Kotsay was promoted from third base coach to replace Melvin and will be challenged with a young roster.
“I always accept challenges, and I think my mindset is to touch as many people as possible every day,” he said when spring training began.
Oakland missed the playoffs last season following three straight berths and an AL West title during the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season and finished 86-76, nine games behind the division champion Astros.
The A’s open the season April 8 with an interleague series at Philadelphia.
Pinder wants no pity as the A’s look to move forward without those three key faces.
“We’re going to start dragging, we’re going to start being slow and Bassitt, Chappy and Olson certainly wouldn’t want that. That’s not how they prepared us. That’s not the culture they helped to build here,” Pinder said. “… I hope that the guys in this room, when they see guys traded, they realize that they’re getting traded for a reason. It’s because of all the work they put in, and the talent, and the players they’ve become. So it’s an opportunity for a lot of guys in this place, including myself, to take the reins and try and keep the culture that they helped build.”
Generating enough runs could be a challenge for the A’s. Olson hit a career-best 39 homers last year and Chapman had 27 to go along with his sparkling defense that led to his third Gold Glove award.
Kotsay realizes it could take time for the A’s to find their identity — though some key returners should help with that. From right fielder Stephen Piscotty, Vogt and Lowrie, there are plenty of faces who have seen success here.
“As a club, there’s opportunity in that room now that exists for those guys,” Kotsay said. “They should see that.’’
He held a home run derby in mid-March at spring training.
“You’ve got to have some fun,” he said.
Oakland begins the season still without strong-armed center fielder Ramón Laureano, who must complete the remaining 27 games of an 80-game suspension he received in early August after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.
Laureano, who tested positive for Nandrolone, underwent surgery on his core last fall and participated in spring training.
He will be a welcome addition once back: Laureano hit 14 homers and drove in 39 runs last year before being penalized.
Without Bassitt leading the way, right-hander Frankie Montas and lefty Sean Manaea will lead a rotation still including Cole Irvin and with the additions of righties Daulton Jefferies and Brent Honeywell.
Jefferies has made six career appearances, all over the past two seasons, and will take on more responsibility.
Bassitt had a career-best 12-4 record in 2021 despite missing time after taking a frightening line drive to the face in Chicago on Aug. 17 that required surgery to repair three fractures in his right cheekbone.
ROOKIES TO WATCH
Outfielder Cristian Pache, infielder Nick Allen and third baseman Kevin Smith have a chance to make the club out of spring training.
The 23-year-old Pache joined the A’s from Atlanta in the trade that sent Olson to the Braves.
AP Freelance Writer Theresa Smith contributed.
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