Role Players Pivotal To A’s Success This Year
My first observation following yesterday’s 2-1 win in Toronto: Trevor Cahill (left) looks like the same guy who won 18 last year and earned All-Star honors—if not better. His ball still darts downward with a bite almost unfair to hitters. And this, from a 23-year-old kid who still sports peach fuzz on his cheeks.
It took some courage from Bob Geren to remove him from a 3-hit masterpiece after eight innings and a 105-pitch count, but in the long run, I think they felt it was time for Brian Fuentes to notch his first save. We don’t make a serious run at the AL West crown unless we’re clicking on all cylinders, and that means Fuentes, Bailey and Balfour providing the final touches on A’s wins. Same goes for sitting down David DeJesus in favor of Conor Jackson (left, below) and plugging in Andy LaRoche to rest the ear-infected Ellis. Jackson and LaRoche will play vital roles on this team if we want to join the 90-win echelon of other playoff contenders. This means specialists and backup players will need to step up and flourish when they’re asked to perform, whether it is an occasional start, a pinch-hitting appearance, or a summon from the bullpen.
The good news is they’re passing the early tests. After a bout with a finger blister, Fuentes looked like his old self at the Rogers Centre, whipping that cross-body heater that can tie hitters up in knots. Jackson has been nothing but sensational in his two starts this season. Not only has he wielded a hot bat, he’s also more than held his own in the field. His shoestring catch of a sinking liner off the bat of Adam Lind in the sixth inning today may have been even more impactful than his game-deciding RBI single was in the eighth. And LaRoche, thrust into the unaccustomed role of utilityman, may have emerged as our most consistent hitter in the early season while starting at shortstop, third base and second base in consecutive games.
Yes realists, we are only 2-4 as we enter the frigid confines of Target Field. But as I mentioned in my previous blog, this is a work in progress. While expectations are high, and the early season schedule presents challenges, those wearing green and gold uniforms are focusing merely at the task at hand. With 156 games left to the finish line, there will be many revelations in store as the season unfolds. Today, the Twins christen their home season. Brett Anderson will take the mound for the Athletics, aiming to spoil another team’s Opening Day in the same fashion King Felix did in Oakland last week. As always, time will tell.