Outdoor Athletics

Montas named Opening Day starter, rotation gets update after Manaea trade

Just 24 hours ago, with less than a week to go before Opening Day, the Oakland A’s rotation appeared pretty much set. There were five spots to fill, and five obvious candidates remaining in spring camp, badda bing badda boom.

But nothing is ever that simple with the A’s, and this would be no exception. Sunday morning, they traded Sean Manaea to the Padres. Five days before the season is set to begin, the rotation suddenly changed significantly, with one of its biggest stars gone.

However, one thing did become certain today, as Frankie Montas was named the Opening Day starter, reports broadcaster Dallas Braden.

That always seemed likely considering the right-hander’s excellent performance last summer, and it became a foregone conclusion upon the departure of Manaea, who represented his only competition for the nod. But now it’s official, and Montas will pitch April 8 in Philadelphia against the Phillies.

Behind Montas, everybody else moves up a spot. That leaves one vacancy to fill at the end, and the team hasn’t yet revealed who will get it. The likely candidate would seem to be prospect Adam Oller, who already made the team but was initially ticketed for the bullpen. Fellow prospect A.J. Puk also “could be in the mix,” reports Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle.

The updated rotation looks like this, in no particular order after the first spot:

RHP Frankie Montas

LHP Cole Irvin

RHP Paul Blackburn

RHP Daulton Jefferies

RHP Adam Oller or LHP A.J. Puk

That’s a downgrade from yesterday when Manaea was onboard, and it’s especially light on experience. After Montas, the rest of the group has made a total of 64 career MLB starts combined, and neither of the candidates for the fifth spot has made any. But there’s still an ace at the top and some youngsters worth watching, and plenty of opportunity for a breakout performer to make a mark during a rebuilding year.

Help might arrive quickly, as James Kaprielian is on the mend. The right-hander had a spring setback due to shoulder irritation and is expected to miss most of April while he warms up, but he’s making progress toward returning.

In the meantime, your starting five next week is probably Montas, Irvin, Blackburn, Jefferies, and Oller, unless the team wants to try out Puk before Oller, or specifically wants Oller to begin in the bullpen for any reason, or if they sign somebody new before then. And it’ll be Frankie on Friday in Philly.

A’s manager Mark Kotsay:

“I think we’re establishing our identity from the starting staff. Frankie Montas is going to lead this group. He’s been here, he’s had success.”

— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) April 3, 2022

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