Chad Pinder

A's wowed but not surprised by Ram贸n Laureano's throw home vs. Red Sox

A's wowed but not surprised by Ram贸n Laureano's throw home vs. Red Sox

OAKLAND -- Xander Bogaerts already had rounded third and was cruising toward the plate with the game's first run. This one wasn't even worth a throw.

Mitch Moreland had just singled to center, and the Red Sox were about to take a 1-0 lead.

"When it was hit, I didn't think he had a chance," A's manager Bob Melvin said.

Ram贸n Laureano had other ideas.

Even after the ball took a bad hop and kicked to his left, the A's center fielder came up firing. Without any forward momentum, Laureano launched a 96-mph missile to the plate. On the fly.

Nick Hundley swept the tag on Bogaerts, and the Oakland Coliseum crowd erupted. Members of the media gasped in the press box. Did that really just happen?

"Those ones are kind of in the moment, so the adrenaline gets you going," Laureano smiled. "But it's just practice. It's the same thing we practice every day."

"He's special," added Chad Pinder, who had an up-close view from left field. "Any time that guy is charging a ball where there's a close play at the plate, everybody here knows what Ramon's capable of. It's not just the arm strength, but the accuracy. I knew he had a chance."

Pinder wasn't the only one who knew Laureano had a chance. Starting pitcher Aaron Brooks' job on the play was to back up home plate, in case of an errant throw. That proved to be unnecessary.

Said Brooks: "When the ball was hit, I kind of said in the back of my mind, 'I'm gonna go back up home, but I'm pretty sure he's gonna get thrown out.' He made a perfect throw, and it was huge."

While it did end up being a perfect throw, Melvin noted that Laureano missed the cut-off man, something he's willing to forgive this time.

"It's like a three-point shot," Melvin joked. 'No, no, no, yeah!' And he's done that before. We should know never count out his arm on a particular play."

But Laureano says he knew what he was doing the whole time: "I know Moreland doesn't run that well, so I knew I just had to throw it straight home because he wasn't going to second base."

Laureano was right. Moreland stayed at first despite the throw going all the way through to the plate.

Oakland went on to beat the Red Sox 7-0, with Laureano among four A's who homered in the win. But even though the game turned into a rout, Laureano's second-inning throw was pivotal.

"There's momentum from both sides, and that throw is huge right there," Melvin said. "It's a run, all of a sudden it's a tie game and now it's not. That was a big part of the game."

Added Laureano: "You don't know how the rhythm of the game is going to go. As long as you can get some outs, especially some key outs, that's always big."

Laureano recorded nine outfield assists in just 47 games last season as a rookie. This was his first of 2019. And you can bet it won't be his last.

Grading Oakland A's 2019 Opening Day 25-man roster by position group


Grading Oakland A's 2019 Opening Day 25-man roster by position group

The A's head into Thursday's home opener against the Angels sitting at 0-2, already with injuries to slugger Matt Olson and top pitching prospect Jes煤s Luzardo. But they're still optimistic about getting back to the postseason after a 97-win campaign in 2018.

The A's haven't officially announced their 25-man roster, but based on what we already know, we can piece the team together.

Here's how the Opening Day roster will look, following Wednesday's acquisition of Kendrys Morales. 

Catchers: Nick Hundley, Josh Phegley
Infielders: Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien, Jurickson Profar, Kendrys Morales
Outfielders: Robbie Grossman, Ram贸n Laureano, Stephen Piscotty, Khris Davis
Utility: Chad Pinder, Mark Canha
Starting pitchers: Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Brett Anderson, Frankie Montas, Aaron Brooks
Relief pitchers: Blake Treinen, Lou Trivino, Fernando Rodney, Joakim Soria, Ryan Buchter, Yusmeiro Petit, Liam Hendriks, J.B. Wendelken

The A's also have several key players who will open the season on the injured list, including Matt Olson, Sean Manaea, and Jes煤s Luzardo. But in the meantime, we grade each position group on the active roster:

Catchers: C

Nick Hundley and Josh Phegley are both serviceable major league catchers and figure to split time behind the plate. Hundley has the better bat, but Phegley has the edge defensively.

Last season with the Giants, Hundley slashed .241/.298/.408 with 10 home runs and 31 RBI in 96 games. Phegley's slash line was just .204/.255/.344 in 39 games as Jonathan Lucroy's backup.

Chris Herrmann will join the mix later this season when he returns from his knee injury. He posted a .237/.322/.421 slash line last season in 36 games with the Mariners.

Infielders: A-

Even with the injury to Matt Olson, the A's infield boasts loads of talent. Matt Chapman leads the way as arguably the best all-around third baseman in baseball and a possible MVP candidate.

Jurickson Profar and Marcus Semien form a solid double-play duo up the middle and both have some pop at the plate. Kendrys Morales and Mark Canha figure to get most of the action at first base until Olson returns, while Chad Pinder could also see some action on the infield.

This is a young and talented group with massive upside, both offensively and defensively. 

Outfielders: A-

We'll include Khris Davis in this group, even though he's obviously a DH most of the time. The 31-year-old has posted more than 40 home runs and 100 RBI in three straight seasons and there's no reason to believe he won't make it four in a row.

Stephen Piscotty also appears poised for a huge year after a breakout season in 2018. The 28-year-old hit .267/.331/.491 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI, doing most of his damage in the second half of the season.

Robbie Grossman will be the A's primary leadoff hitter against right-handed pitchers. Last season in Minnesota, he slashed .273/.367/.384. Ram贸n Laureano could also see some time in the leadoff spot against southpaws.

Starting pitchers: C-

On paper, this is the clear weakness of the team. Marco Estrada and Brett Anderson are both coming off disappointing seasons, while Frankie Montas and Aaron Brooks are still trying to establish themselves as reliable major league pitchers.

That leaves Mike Fiers as the A's No. 1 starter. Fiers pitched well for Oakland last season after coming over from Detroit. The 33-year-old went 5-2 with a 3.74 ERA in 10 games with the A's, but he has never been a No. 1 starter before.

Oakland won't ask its starters to pitch deep into games, but even five solid innings could be a challenge.

[RELATED: Seven A's prospects who could reach the majors in 2019]

Relief pitchers: A

The bullpen was a major strength of the A's last season and that should be the case again this year. All-Star closer Blake Treinen is coming off one of the best seasons in MLB history. The 30-year-old went 9-2 with 38 saves and a ludicrous 0.78 ERA, recording 100 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings.

The A's will use Lou Trivino, Joakim Soria, and Fernando Rodney as their primary setup relievers, but the depth doesn't end there. J.B. Wendelken, Ryan Buchter, Liam Hendriks, and Yusmeiro Petit are all highly capable in their own right.

Last season, the A's were an incredible 70-2 when leading after seven innings, thanks in large part to a dominant bullpen. That pen looks just as good this year.

Matt Olson optimistic A's can fill void at first base in his absence


Matt Olson optimistic A's can fill void at first base in his absence

OAKLAND 鈥 It really was a freak injury. One swing of the bat, a seemingly inconsequential foul ball.

But during Thursday's loss to the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo, Matt Olson knew right away something was wrong.

"I generally have a pretty high pain tolerance," the A's first baseman said Sunday. "I couldn't grip the bat when I came back (to the dugout) so I knew something was up."

It turned out Olson had fractured the hamate bone in his right hand. He underwent hamate excision surgery Friday in Los Angeles, and will be out indefinitely.

"It sucks," Olson admitted. "The timing of it is good and bad. Good because I get five or six days here to get ahead, but it sucks because it's the beginning of the year and you work all offseason to get to this point."

A's manager Bob Melvin added: "There are certain guys who you feel like are a little more replaceable than others. He's a tough one. ... He makes everybody in the infield better. All you've got to do is get it over in his direction. He's got a wide wingspan and he picks everything out of the dirt.

"It's tough not having him out there, but that's why we have a Mark Canha, a (Jurickson) Profar, and a Chad Pinder. It gives somebody else an opportunity."

Olson was not given a timetable for his return, but he noted a wide variance in other players with the same injury, anywhere from four to eight weeks. While he's obviously disappointed, he believes the team can survive without him.

"We've got guys -- Canha, Pinder, (Franklin) Barreto, and Profar -- all of those guys are very established and have good at-bats," Olson said. "They're guys who are going to get more at-bats because of it. I don't think it's a bad thing. It sucks for me, but I'm glad these guys are going to get a little more regular playing time."

[RELATED: A's have options at first base in light of Olson injury]

Although he hasn't missed any games yet, Olson joked he has already experienced the effects of sporting a cast on his right hand in his everyday life.

"I had to go to the store today to get stuff for my apartment. I got a ton of stuff. Then I got to the apartment complex, and thought I was going to have to make like five trips because I can only carry things with one hand," he laughed.

As Olson adjusts to life with just one functional hand, the A's must adjust to life without Olson's powerful bat in the lineup and his slick glove in the field. In both cases, it will be a difficult process.