April 19, 2024
Oakland A's lose to Dodgers, but Kyle Muller sharp in Cactus League debut.

One of the A’s biggest questions entering camp is where Kyle Muller fits into their pitching plans.

Muller, a key piece to the prospect package the A’s received from Atlanta in the Sean Murphy trade before last season, is out of options, so he’ll have to break camp with the team or possibly be lost to a waiver claim. Sunday, Muller made his Cactus League debut and allowed one run with three strikeouts in two innings in Oakland’s 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Glendale, Arizona.

The 26-year-old lefty was the A’s Opening Day starter last season and had a good start, then struggled and was demoted to the minors. When he returned, the former Braves second-round draft pick mostly pitched out of the bullpen with mixed results.

Muller allowed just two hits against the Dodgers, but one was a solo home run to Redwood City’s James Outman. The homer is notable because Muller struggled to keep the ball in the ballpark last season — he allowed 16 in 77 innings and at one point allowed at least one homer in nine straight appearances — and Outman bats left-handed. If Muller doesn’t claim a spot in the rotation he’d need to show he can consistently get left-handers out as a reliever.

Other than Outman’s homer, Muller had no trouble with the Dodgers’ other lefties: he struck out Freddie Freeman and Jayson Hayward swinging, and got Max Muncy looking. Muller didn’t get a chance face the Dodgers’ newest big left-handed bat, Shohei Ohtani, who has yet to make his spring debut.

The A’s offense for the second time in two spring games was mostly silent. The A’s, after collecting three hits in a 5-1 loss to the Rockies on Saturday, had five hits, and four of those were singles. Hoy Park, a candidate to fill the Tony Kemp utility role, doubled home Jacob Wilson, the A’s first-round pick last June, to end the Dodgers’ shutout bid in the top of the seventh. Park scored on a wild pitch.

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— Dany Jimenez had an encouraging Cactus League debut, retiring all three batters he faced on fly balls. Jimenez led the team with 11 saves in 2022, but was not much of a factor last season because of an elbow strain and inconsistency. If he recaptures his 2022 form it’d be a big boost to a bullpen that figures to open the season with Mason Miller as the closer and Lucas Erceg as the primary setup man.

— On-base machine Zack Gelof started both the games over the weekend and reached base in both games. He was out of the game when younger brother Jake, the Dodgers’ second-round draft pick last June, struck out as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning.

— Muncy, the former A’s infielder, hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning off Francisco Perez to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead. Perez is another candidate for a left-handed role in the A’s bullpen, along with Scott Alexander, Sean Newcomb and Muller.

— The A’s continue Cactus League play on Monday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.