Almost ready for the off!

After what has felt like the longest off-season ever – probably because technically it has been, at least in recent memory – we’ve now reached the “this time next week …” point.

For all the player departures and budget woes, I’m no less excited for this coming season than I have been for any other. It’s the seasons when you expect big things and it all falls apart that hurt the most. This year, we know the A’s have taken some steps backwards and that we have to adjust our win-loss expectations accordingly, but there will still be plenty of great performances and fun moments over the course of the 162 games to come.

Rule Changes Announced

MLB and the Players Association jointly-announced some additional rule changes on Thursday that will come into effect immediately.

The Extra Innings rule, where a runner is automatically placed on second base from the tenth inning onwards, will be back this year as expected, to the considerable anger of some baseball fans but to general indifference from me.

Extra innings are a bit like extra time in football: you may not like penalties as a way to decide a game, but if the teams couldn’t be separated after 90 minutes you may as well get on with it rather than adding another 30 (almost always boring) minutes onto the game.

The more immediate rule changes are those that are going to be temporary until the end of April. The active roster size will be 28 rather than 26 until May 1st, which should help teams manage pitching innings early in the year after the disrupted Spring Training schedule. It also will slightly annoy A’s owner John Fisher in having to pay the MLB minimum salary to two extra players for a month – yes, we know he is that petty! – so count that as an added bonus.

Related to that, there will also be a change from May 2nd that means pitchers (and those two-way rare birds) will be put on a 15-day Injured List rather than the 10-day Injured List. I’m not particularly sure why they’ve modified that (the period is a minimum so it’s not like it will impact a team potentially having to rush a pitcher back), but let me know in the comments if you’ve got any suggestions.

Roster decisions

The 28-man active roster means the A’s will be able to carry a couple of extra players (pitchers, more than likely) so that will have a bearing on some of the close calls that otherwise might have had to be made in pairing the group down for Opening Day.

MLB.com’s Martín Gallegos wrote an article yesterday about Sheldon Neuse and Kevin Smith, both of whom having impressed hugely in camp. The ability to add a couple of extra pitchers to the roster means that the team won’t have to make a compromise elsewhere, so I’d expect both to make the Opening Day roster.

Both of them are a great example of the stories that a year like this can bring. I was disappointed when Neuse was traded to the Dodgers a year ago, in part because I always expected Matt Chapman to be traded this off-season, so it’s great to see he has got another shot at becoming a regular in the A’s infield.

As for Kevin Smith, he got a taste of the Big Leagues last year with Toronto and when rumours were circulating of the Blue Jays looking for infield additions it must have felt to him like he would have to climb another mountain to get back there. He’s now in a situation where, even if he has some time in Triple-A at points this year, there’s a much clearer path to getting some regular playing time in the Majors. Players like that, who are desperate for a chance to give everything to the cause for the A’s, are always easy to get behind.

Oller Oller Oller

There’s no one on the roster that applies more to than Adam Oller. After toying with thoughts of retirement and giving up on his Big League dreams, his years of hard work are finally going to pay off.

Mark Kotsay told Oller on Friday that he would be on the Opening Day roster and his comments about calling his parents to tell them the news were wonderful to read. Kotsay clarified yesterday that the plan for now is for Oller to be in a long relief role in the bullpen, something that is likely to be particularly important over the first month.

Not all good news

Unfortunately it’s the way of things that where there is good news for some, there’s bad news for others.

Deolis Guerra was an unsung hero out of the bullpen last season, filling in with several innings out of the bullpen on numerous occasions when needed; vital work even just to save the rest of the relievers so that a short outing from a starter didn’t snowball into several days of pitching struggles. He looked all set to build on that work this season with a more prominent role; however, he is now slated for surgery in response to suffering from forearm tightness.

The exact details are yet to be disclosed, but the concern is that forearm tightness can often be a symptom of a ligament tear in the elbow that could require Tommy John surgery and over a year on the sidelines. All we know right now is that he’ll start the year on the Injured List, so we have to hope for the best whilst perhaps fearing the worst.

The same goes for Brent Honeywell who looked like he was finally over his years of injury problems that plagued his time with the Rays and was ready to start the season in the A’s starting rotation. Instead, he’s been shutdown with what could be yet another serious elbow injury, as per the San Francisco Chronicle’s Matt Kawahara:

And there was also bad news for A’s prospect Grant Holmes. We’ve been waiting for him to work his way through the Minors since being acquired from the Dodgers in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill trade that also bagged us Frankie Montas and Jharel Cotton back in 2016. Holmes came into camp out of Minor League options, so he either had to make the Opening Day roster or be made available to other teams.

Unfortunately for Holmes, he struggled in his Cactus League appearances so a Big League call is once again on hold. The one positive, for the A’s at least, is that he wasn’t claimed off waivers by another team so they have been able to take him off the 40-man roster (gaining a needed spot on there) whilst keeping him in the organisation. He’ll be back with Triple-A Vegas in 2022.

Plans for the week ahead

As well as keeping up the Sunday blogs and news items here, my plan for 2022 is to up our game on our YouTube channel having spent time over the off-season learning more of the intricacies of Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects and Photoshop (although, as with the A’s, perhaps temper your expectations in the early going!).

Not only will I be doing regular A’s videos and livestreams there, but I’ve also started a series where I’ll be commenting on news stories around the Majors in my “The Other 29” series. So, head over to the channel and subscribe if you haven’t done so already.

Dom is out in Oakland right now enjoying some Roots action in place of the A’s original home-stand being postponed. That’s given him the chance to dish out some A’s UK (and Roots!) merch to plenty of our friends in the East Bay as well as to finally take our beautiful Town Business to where it belongs.

We’ll probably be a little behind in getting around to our 2022 Predictions podcast until Dom’s back, but keep an eye out on the YouTube channel and Twitter account for a bunch of features as we look ahead to the A’s Opening Day on Friday in Philadelphia.

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