The Matts are back.
Nearly six months after Matt Chapman’s 2020 season-ending hip surgery, he re-joined the A’s lineup in Monday’s 13-5 Cactus League win over the Cincinnati Reds. Chapman and fellow A’s star Matt Olson each recorded extra-base hits in their first game in a lineup together since Sept. 6.
Listening to the people who were in the ballpark, most heard Olson’s monstrous two-run home run but eventually lost track of the ball.
It’s just Day 2 of the Cactus League schedule for the A’s and there were no television cameras on site to capture Olson’s blast. Only tweets from reporters like Bay Area News Group’s Shayna Rubin and MLB.com's Martin Gallegos.
The ball landed somewhere beyond the right-field fence and got out in a hurry, according to A’s manager Bob Melvin.
“Wow,” Melvin told reporters in his postgame video conference. “If you believe the board on the exit velocity, that was one of the highest exit [velocities] I’ve ever seen, 116 [mph] I think they had. He felt pretty good about it. I thought it was going to hit the batting cages for a minute.”
Olson has been a tough critic of his 2020 campaign, saying he “stunk” after posting a .195/.310/.424 slash line with 14 homers and 42 RBIs last season. Melvin said he was encouraged to see such a sweet swing from Olson, who historically has been a slow starter in the regular season.
“After a tough year, you get your early at-bats in spring training, you hit a ball like that, you got to feel pretty good about it,” Melvin said.
Olson hit into a first-inning double play and was scheduled to bat with two outs in the fourth but the inning was “rolled over” by the Reds, or finished with two outs, as teams ramp up their pitching staffs following a truncated 2020 campaign.
Chapman played his first of three scheduled games as a designated hitter before the A’s plan to let him loose at the hot corner later this week. He started off his day with an eight-pitch at-bat that resulted in a soft ground out.
He also struck out in the third inning and finished his day with a ringing double to right-center.
“Early in camp you want to see the ball and let it travel a little bit,” Melvin said. “Good one to go home on.”
Chapman is renowned for his work ethic and nonstop desire to be on the field, but he’ll have to wait until Wednesday at the earliest. But at this point, it’s about the long-term and keeping Chapman healthy for 2021 and beyond.
When the A’s cut ties with Marcus Semien and Khris Davis this offseason, Chapman and Olson were thrust into leadership roles this season for the A’s.
It’s still a group trust when it comes to the locker room, but they aren’t the young guys on the corner of the infield anymore. Behind Mark Canha, who debuted in Oakland in 2015, Chapman, Olson and Sean Manaea are the longest-tenured players with the A's.