MESA, Ariz. –- It turns out Josh Reddick will be in the Opening Night lineup, just not the one he hoped for.
The current plan will have the A’s right fielder playing in Single-A Stockton’s season opener at Inland Empire on April 9. If all goes well in his recovery from a strained right oblique, he would potentially be activated from the 15-day disabled list for Oakland’s April 11 game against Seattle.
There are hurdles to clear before then, and Reddick got past the first one Sunday when he emerged from a five-inning stint in a minor league game feeling good physically. It was an active afternoon for him at Fitch Park. He cut loose with some aggressive swings at the plate, he stole a base, and he scored from second on a single.
“It’s a huge relief, (though) I wasn’t really worried about anything bothering me,” ” Reddick said after returning to Hohokam Stadium, just down the street from Fitch.
He didn’t register a hit in four plate appearances and he didn’t get tested much defensively, but it was a good way to ease into things in Reddick’s first competitive game since March 4. The A’s want him to continue getting back in game shape and find his rhythm against live pitching. He will stay in Arizona to work out at the A’s minor league complex when the A’s head north Wednesday.
Reddick will break camp with Stockton and train with the Ports through their opener. He had talked of wanting to be ready in time to make the A’s Opening Night lineup April 6 against Texas, but knows taking it slower is the sensible approach.
“I’ve tried (to lobby), but I think it’s pretty much set in stone,” Reddick said.
But if he returns on the 11th, his first day eligible, that day will have an Opening Night feel “without the festivities,” he joked. The Mariners’ rotation would have Felix Hernandez facing the A’s that afternoon at the Coliseum, which has been the case for many an A’s opener in recent seasons.
Reddick will work out with the big league club Monday and play in another minor league game Tuesday.
CAMP BATTLE: It’s hardly a “battle” anymore for Kendall Graveman to crack Oakland’s starting rotation. The 24-year-old right-hander is in, even if manager Bob Melvin hasn’t flat-out said it yet. He continued his phenomenal spring with 6 1/3 shutout innings against Milwaukee in a 7-0 A’s victory. Graveman didn’t allow his first base runner until the fifth inning and struck out three with no walks.
His Cactus League ERA is an insane 0.42 through five starts, and he’s now allowed just one earned run in 21 1/3 innings.
“I don’t know what else to say,” Melvin said.
That’s because Graveman’s starts have looked remarkably similar, with him efficiently carving up lineups, inducing ground balls and eating up innings as he keeps his pitch counts low.
The only person who doesn’t seem blown away by his performance is Graveman himself. After advancing from low Single-A ball all the way to the majors in 2014, he’s picked up right where he left off last season.
“Trying not to think too much, and just try to let it happen,” Graveman said. “That’s what I’ve worked on all offseason, and I’ve worked with (pitching coach) Curt (Young) since I got here. Just go out and not think about it too much and just go out and do what I’ve done for years. Just let it happen.
“I like to visualize things, and I did visualize having a good Cactus (League) season.”
He has one spring start remaining, which will come in the Bay Bridge Series, and things currently set up with Graveman as the No. 4 starter behind Sonny Gray, Jesse Hahn and Scott Kazmir.
FLASHING LEATHER: Graveman works fast and gets lots of ground balls, and it’s no coincidence that his infield seems to be at its best when he’s on the mound. But truth is, Oakland’s infield defense has looked like an improved unit all spring. On Sunday, the left side of the infield stood out. Shortstop Marcus Semien backhanded a ball in the hole and made a strong throw across the diamond to get Jean Segura in the third. Brett Lawrie also turned in an impressive play at third base.
When Ike Davis is playing first base, and with either Ben Zobrist or Eric Sogard at second, the right side of the infield also appears strong as the regular season approaches.
This is one aspect of the team that appears to be a clear upgrade over 2014, even with the departure of All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson.
QUOTABLE: “What’s that word mean?” – Graveman, when asked for his thoughts on Melvin describing him as “cerebral.”
ODDS AND ENDS: The A’s made five cuts total Sunday – right-hander Chris Bassitt, outfielder Alex Hassan, infielders Max Muncy and Andy Parrino and catcher Luke Carlin. Bassitt was the most noteworthy but also not unexpected. He entered camp as a starting rotation candidate but posted an 8.78 ERA over five appearances (three starts). … Cleanup man Billy Butler hit his fourth homer, tied with Mark Canha for team-high honors this spring. … Lawrie connected for his second home run and had two RBI.