Winters are long enough anyway, but the 2020/21 version has dragged more than any other. Covid-19 lockdown across the UK has meant basically everything has been shut, short of essential shops and services. That’s still the case, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not just the vaccination programme that brings cause for optimsim.
Baseball is back, to watch or listen to on a British evening when there’s literally nothing else to do.
Normally I would have some measure of understanding for the unenthused “it’s only Spring Training” crowd. Not this year, though. If you’re not excited about being able to unwind from a stressful day by watching a few innings then I’m not sure why you bother with the sport at all.
Anyways, it’s not so much Spring Training that I’m excited about, but A’s Spring Training. As we covered in our recent podcast, the player signings over the last couple of weeks have lifted all of our spirits. We’ve got a good team this year, no one else in the AL West has really taken a step forward, and we have every reason to go into the season confident that we will have a good chance at retaining the division title and heading to the play-offs for the fourth consecutive year.
Not Your Normal Nine Innings
Like everything else in the world, the games are going to be slightly different to normal. Games can be shortened to 7 or even 5 innings up to and including 13 March and it’s already been confirmed that the A’s first four games will be 7-inning affairs.
Baseball traditionalists will shriek in horror, yet it makes total sense. The main MLB players don’t play the later innings of games through the first half of spring anyway. Whilst it’s a shame to reduce the playing time of some prospects, there’s a clear logic in limiting the number of players that have to be taken to a game by the road team when social distancing measures need to be complied with.
Bob Melvin has announced the starting pitchers for the first four games:
- Sun vs LAD – Daulton Jefferies
- Mon vs CIN – Grant Holmes
- Tues vs MIL – Parker Dunshee
- Wed vs COL – Cole Irvin.
It’s going to be good to see this group of pitchers on the cusp of the Majors getting a chance to show what they can do, albeit accepting that Spring Training is about preparing for the season rather than results.
Mark Canha and Ramon Laureano are expected to feature in the opener against the Dodgers today, with Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland also likely to get their first playing time in the Green and Gold.
Today’s Cactus League opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers is set for 20:05 UK time. It’s being broadcast by the Dodgers’ TV network so is one of twelve A’s games available to watch this spring on MLBTV.
You can still enjoy the game without an MLBTV subscription as it’s been announced that the radio coverage will be available for free (likely just needing you to set up a free MLB.com account if you haven’t got one already).