Oakland Athletics v. Kansas City Royals: Vogt Looks Good After Elbow Surgery
The Oakland Athletics came back from an early 2-0 deficit to defeat a Kansas City Royals split squad on Monday afternoon. A pair of Stephen Vogt home runs earned four of the six runs that propelled the A’s to their 6-4 win.
The best case scenario for Vogt’s return to baseball action is coming true. He is just over a month removed from a late-January elbow surgery, and Melvin has been adamant about easing Vogt into game situations this spring. Melvin previously stated that Vogt would not be put into games before the second week of Cactus League play.
Now on the fifth day of spring training, Vogt appeared in his third game and sixth at-bat. In today’s game, he notched two home runs, easing concerns that his elbow may not yet be feeling ready to play.
Elbow surgery is a big deal for catchers, even one as non-invasive as the one that Vogt had. This especially pertains to Vogt, given how important a part of the A’s offense he has been the last couple of seasons. To see Vogt have the strength to power two home runs in a single game this early in spring training is a cause for optimism.
Yesterday, we talked about how Andrew Lambo is trying to make a case to be the last man selected for the Athletics outfield. Today, Josh Reddick continued to show why he was never in danger of being the odd man out. Reddick went 2 for 3 with two solid base hits in today’s game, and the one time he didn’t get on base, he hit a screaming liner that happened to go directly to the right fielder. Reddick is red hot to begin spring training, and he is summarily defending his position as the every-day right fielder.
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Newly acquired relievers Ryan Madson and John Axford had effective outings today, logging an inning each. Madson made short work of his former team in the third after striking out Alides Escobar and inducing ground-outs from Drew Butera and Christian Colon. Axford worked two quick outs, but threw himself into a jam with two consecutive walks. He recovered nicely by striking out the following batter to end the inning.
Axford’s comfort with the strike zone is paramount for his development through spring training. Axford previously ran into walk trouble when acting as the Cleveland Indians closer in 2014. This article by Paul Hoynes covers the struggle Axford had with the strike zone at that time, noting that he had “…six walks and seven strikeouts in 5 ⅔ innings as the Indians closer” at the time of that writing. The two walks today surely reopened these concerns, and he must be able to demonstrate that he can throw strikes in important situations moving forward.
Oakland prospects went 1 for 8 with a walk today, which is a considerable slowdown compared to previous games. The lone hit belonged to Tyler Ladendorf, who knocked his third base hit of spring training in his quest to convince the A’s that he belongs in the majors.
Notably lacking in the hit department was the second overall A’s prospect, Matt Olson. The front office is desperate to see his offense pick up after struggling in Midland last season, but this second consecutive hitless game leaves him at 1 for 9 for the spring. He hasn’t been in the discussion to be a major leaguer in 2016, but he is going to have to show offensive potency in both spring training and in Nashville this year to prove that his sluggish 2015 had more to do with the pitcher-friendly Texas League than it did his own struggles.
Eric Surkamp takes on Derek Holland and the Texas Rangers tomorrow (Tuesday) at 3:05 EST / 12:05 PST. Surkamp started for the A’s in their spring training opener last week, where he pitched for 2.0 innings and gave up one earned run on four hits. Holland is also making his second start of the spring, having logged 1.2 innings with no earned runs in his first start.