Oakland Athletics righty Paul Blackburn set to make his 2024 debut

The Oakland Athletics will take on the Cleveland Guardians this afternoon

Mar 30, 2024; Oakland, California, USA; Oakland Athletics center fielder JJ Bleday (33) catches a
Mar 30, 2024; Oakland, California, USA; Oakland Athletics center fielder JJ Bleday (33) catches a / Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics look to stave off a four-game sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Guardians this afternoon. After three dismal outings, the A's sit at 0-3 on the year with a -19 run differential.

Paul Blackburn will make his first appearance of 2024 in an attempt to slow down a Guardians offense that has racked up 35 hits over the past three days. The Athletics' bullpen has been taxed heavily so far this series, as neither Alex Wood nor JP Sears were able to make it out of the 4th inning, and Ross Stripling only went 5 innings on Friday.

It would be a significant boost if Blackburn could get through at least 5 innings today, as the A's don't have a day off until Thursday. Manager Mark Kotsay is going to need all the help he can get. Blackburn averaged just over 5 innings per start in 2023 so it's a reasonable ask.

It's interesting to see first baseman Ryan Noda hitting 6th in the lineup today. Noda had a team-high .364 OBP last year. He's gotten off to a slow start but he'll have the platoon advantage over Guardians starter Carlos Carrasco and would seem to be a better option in the top half of the lineup than either Seth Brown or JJ Bleday.

Noda hit exceptionally well for a Rule 5 pick last year. The strikeout rate was a bit high but he posted a 15.6% walk rate, good for 6th best in MLB among batters with at least 400 plate appearances.

A's fans would love to see him continue to take steps forward. Outside of Zack Gelof, Noda might have as much potential as anyone on the roster to become a significant part of the A's future. He's still just 28 years old and should have plenty of production left in the tank.

The Guardians will counter with Carrasco on the mound today. The righty has fallen off a cliff as he enters his age 37 season. He was solid in 2022 but due to injuries and bad luck, he's had just that one good season since 2018.

Carrasco threw just 90 innings last year with a 6.80 ERA. If there was ever a time for the Athletics offense to get back on track, today would be the day. First pitch is scheduled for 1:07 pm PST.