Oakland Athletics finalize Opening Day rotation, with a surprise inclusion

The Oakland Athletics have finalized their Opening Day rotation
Oakland Athletics Spring Training
Oakland Athletics Spring Training / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

It's finally Opening Day! The Oakland Athletics have finalized the 2024 Opening Day rotation and in a surprise move, they've chosen to include prospect Joe Boyle.

Boyle was electric in three starts at the major league level at the end of 2023 and got off to a hot start this spring. Despite struggling in his final three spring training outings, he inspired enough confidence in GM David Forst that he was chosen to open the year in the 5th rotation spot.

The A's chose Boyle over lefty Kyle Muller, who despite pitching well during spring training was a bit of a disaster on the mound in 2023. Muller couldn't do enough to repair the damage already done and will start the year in the bullpen, alongside the A's other left handed relief option TJ McFarland.

The 2024 rotation will be headlined by left hander Alex Wood, who is scheduled to start tonight's matchup against the Cleveland Guardians. It will be the first career Opening Day start in Wood's 12 year career. Wood will be followed by JP Sears, Paul Blackburn, and recent free agent addition Ross Stripling.

While many fans assumed that one of Sears or Blackburn would earn the nod for Opening Day, manager Mark Kotsay determined that Wood's experience and leadership were qualities they couldn't pass up.

Prior to leaving Los Angeles after the 2018 season, Wood was a very good starter. He pitched at least 150 innings in four of his first six seasons, posting a 3.29 ERA while striking out nearly a batter per inning.

In the five years since, Wood has had a rough stretch. He's topped 130 innings just twice, peaking at 138.2 in 2021. He's missed significant time to injury and lost his starting job with the Giants last year for a brief period. With any luck, he'll be able to recapture some of that old success and find good fortune on the injury front.

Like Wood, Stripling struggled in 2023. He split time between the rotation and the bullpen and finished the year with a 5.36 ERA in just 89 innings. The A's will look to him to provide volume at the start of the year while they wait for Luis Medina and Ken Waldichuk to return from injury.

While the rotation doesn't have the top end potential you'd prefer to see, there's still some upside. If Blackburn can stay healthy he should be a strong option. He's been effective when he's been available but unfortunately that hasn't been the case often enough the past two seasons. Sears should provide quality innings and is the best bet of the group to lead the team in innings pitched.

If the group can stay healthy, the team should be okay. If they have to dig further into the minors for rotation depth though, things could get ugly fast.