Oakland Athletics Select Eric Surkamp To Start Cactus League Opener
Former San Francisco Giants prospect Eric Surkamp will take the mound for the Oakland Athletics on Thursday, starting the first game of the Cactus League for the A’s.
Surkamp, who signed a minor league deal with the Athletics on Dec. 4, is someone that the A’s will be taking at least a brief look at this spring. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reported that the left-hander added a cutter to his repertoire, which is why Oakland feels he may have a chance to impact the big league club at some point.
The A’s are Surkamp’s fourth team, after being drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 draft by the Giants. He made his debut in 2011, making only a handful of appearances over two seasons before being claimed off waivers by the Chicago White Sox. In May 2015, the Sox deal him to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Blake Smith, and he was released at the end of the season.
For those who aren’t Spring Training aficionados, don’t panic over this unfamiliar name. It really doesn’t matter who starts the first Cactus League game, and there’s nothing wrong with Sonny Gray or any of the Athletics’ other starters. Typically, teams use prospects to make the first 2-3 starts, giving their regular pitchers more time to ease into Spring Training. Most of the big names will likely take the mound for the first time next week.
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Surkamp isn’t likely to make the squad, but he could be a nice depth option or bullpen piece later in the season, once he’s had time to perfect his new pitch. With the Giants in 2011, Surkamp started six games and posted a 5.74 ERA and a 4.68 FIP. He didn’t appear at all in 2012, and made just one start in 2013, but he had more success with Chicago.
As a White Sox reliever in 2014, Surkamp posted a 4.81 ERA and a 4.82 FIP, striking out 20 batters in 24.1 innings over 35 appearances. Those aren’t good numbers, but with the addition of the cutter, he may be someone to keep an eye on in the minors. If the Athletics are giving Rich Hill another shot as a major league starter, why not take a look at this lefty, too?
A good impression in Spring Training could take Surkamp from unknown to potential mid-season call-up, so it will be interesting to see how he performs. The A’s could certainly use the depth.
The Athletics named their first several starters, including Sean Manaea, who will start the Home Opener at Hohokam Stadium on Friday. Felix Doubront will also get a start in a split-squad game on Friday, and Rich Hill is scheduled to be Saturday’s starter.