MESA, Ariz. – It didn’t take long for Matt Chapman to demonstrate what all the fuss is about regarding his defense.
The A’s 2014 first-round draft pick made the play of the afternoon in Monday’s intrasquad game, sliding to his right to stab Billy Burns’ sharp grounder and making the throw to first to get the speedy Burns.
“This is the first time I’ve been on the field with the veterans,” said the 22-year-old Chapman, taking part in his first big league camp. “Coming off that play to go take my first at-bat, I was excited. It was hard to calm myself down a little bit. I’m sure I’ll get used to it.”
Chapman was taken 25th overall in 2014 out of Cal State Fullerton, and A’s scouting director Eric Kubota said at the time that Chapman has the tools to be an “elite” defender. Part of that is his rocket of an arm. Chapman actually took the mound for Team USA’s Collegiate National Team in 2013 and hit 98 miles per hour.
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He hit 23 homers last season for Single-A Stockton, but it was his glove that commanded attention Monday.
“Chapman made a hell of a play at third,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.
Ranked by Baseball America as Oakland’s No. 3 prospect, Chapman likely will begin the season at Double-A Midland. But like the other standout infield prospects in camp, he’s trying to make a lasting impression right now.
“You’ve got to earn your stripes around here, and I wanted to show people I belong,” he said.
NOTEWORTHY: Both starting pitchers in the intrasquad game looked good in throwing scoreless innings, but they couldn’t find themselves in more contrasting positions. Sean Manaea is the A’s best pitching prospect and one of the top stories in camp. Fellow lefty Eric Surkamp is a journeyman on a minor league deal, just looking to stand out from the other non-roster invitees to camp.
Surkamp, 28, will draw the start in the A’s exhibition opener Thursday against the Angels, and it’s a chance to not only impress A’s officials, but scouts from other teams that might be looking for pitching in the future.
“I’m just excited to have the opportunity to compete for a job up here again,” Surkamp said.
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Manaea, 24, will start Friday’s split-squad game in Mesa against the Colorado Rockies, and Melvin thinks he will benefit from having gotten his feet wet in an intrasquad game.
“You feel like this is an intrasquad game and there aren’t any nerves for something like this, but there are for those guys,” Melvin said.
HEALTH UPDATES: Right-hander Henderson Alvarez, signed to a two-year deal in the offseason, threw off the mound for the first time in camp, with the catcher set up in front of home plate. Coming back from shoulder surgery, Alvarez is expected to be sidelined until May approximately, but he’s coming along well.
ICYMI: Reliever John Axford, a noted movie fanatic who took part in ABC News’ celebrity Oscars predictions panel, went 17-for-24 with his Academy Awards picks. Here’s a story from late January that dives into Axford’s passion for movies.
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ODDS AND ENDS: Billy Butler got plunked on the elbow by a pitch in the intrasquad game but it ricocheted off his elbow guard and he was not injured. … First baseman Rangel Ravelo delivered a two-run single for the only runs scored in the game. … Franklin Barreto, a shortstop and Oakland’s top overall prospect, showed a burst of speed in legging out an infield single. … Sonny Gray threw to hitters for the first time this spring, and Melvin said his ace looked sharp. … Rich Hill and Chris Bassitt will start Tuesday’s intrasquad game, with Kendall Graveman and Jesse Hahn facing hitters Wednesday.