SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – By this point in the spring, it figured that Matt Chapman would be logging his playing time over at the A’s minor league complex.
Instead, the 2014 first-round pick has drawn starts at third base for the big club and continued to turn heads. Chapman made an impressive defensive play in the first inning Tuesday against Colorado, then launched a two-run homer off Rockies ace Jorge De La Rosa. The 22-year-old, in his first Major League camp, is tied with Stephen Vogt for the A’s home run lead at three.
“He’s impressed us beyond what we expected at this point,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I didn’t expect him to get this many at-bats -- and he’s earned them.”
Chapman will be ticketed for the minors at some point over the next couple of weeks, and he’s likely to start the season with Double-A Midland. But right now he’s looking right at home against major league competition.
That contrasts with his wide-eyed, take-nothing-for-granted work ethic. During the late stages of batting practice Tuesday morning, an amused Melvin had to tell infield coach Ron Washington to relay to Chapman that he could head to the clubhouse to rest up with the other players in Tuesday’s starting lineup.
“He wants to take grounders,” Washington informed the manager.
Chapman’s 2015 spring training got wiped out by a strained left knee, but he went on to hit 23 homers with Single-A Stockton, tops in Oakland’s farm system.
He’s also considered to have terrific defensive upside with a rifle for a throwing arm. Starting opposite Rockies three-time Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado, Chapman flashed some good hands in the bottom of the first. He went to his left to pick a tough chopper off the bat of Gerardo Parra and threw to first for the out.
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“Getting experience like this definitely is a confidence booster,” Chapman said. “When you play against guys that have been in the big leagues this long and been that good, it’s nice to have a little bit of success, to take some momentum into the season wherever I go.”
CAMP BATTLE: Outfielder Sam Fuld has his work cut out to make the 25-man roster, but he provided a reminder of how valuable his defense can be. With A’s starter Rich Hill struggling in the second inning, Fuld made a diving catch in right to rob D.J. LeMahieu. The play went for a sacrifice fly, but Fuld was able to double up Ryan Raburn at second and help prevent a bigger inning.
“That’s about as good a catch as you can make, and we’ve seen Sammy do it once a month,” Melvin said. “We get spoiled as far as that goes.”
Fuld, who is out of minor league options, is trying to break through in a crowded A’s outfield picture that has Josh Reddick, Billy Burns, Coco Crisp and Khris Davis all guaranteed to make the club, plus Chris Coghlan and Mark Canha as additional outfield options.
PROSPECT WATCH: Lefty Sean Manaea threw two innings of scoreless relief, striking out three with no walks. In the eighth, he allowed a leadoff triple to Rafael Ynoa, but stranded Ynoa at third with help from two strikeouts. Manaea has allowed just one run over 6 2/3 innings spread over three appearances (one start). He’s struck out eight and walked three.
NOTEWORTHY: A fire alarm sounded throughout Salt River Fields after the eighth inning, instructing everyone to evacuate the venue. A large portion of the fans still in attendance began making their way up the stairs even as the Rockies took the field for the ninth and the game carried on. Ballpark security personnel mentioned a fire on the premises, though no smoke was visible anywhere.
HEALTH UDPATE: Right-hander Henderson Alvarez, coming back from shoulder surgery, mixed in changeups with his fastball during a 30-pitch bullpen session and came out of it well, Melvin said.