According to the lineups for tomorrow’s games, Jarrod Parker has been moved from his start which was originally scheduled for Saturday. This is leading to speculation that this is a move to get someone else on a regular turn to take the ball on Opening Day.
Arnold Leon will get the start for the Athletics in their game against the Rangers. Leon has pitched 7 innings this spring and hasn’t allowed an earned run thus far. A potent Ranger lineup will be a good test for him.
As for Parker, it is being reported that his velocity is a little bit down from where he wants it for the regular season. This is a big reason for his troubles this spring. He relies on a great changeup, so if his fastball isn’t maxing out, the changeup is much easier to hit. The key to pitching is mixing speeds, and if the difference isn’t great enough, the ball gets hit.
Parker added some weight this offseason so that he wouldn’t tire out at the end of the year like he did last season. That could be a contributing factor in this loss of velocity. He just needs more time to bring that speed up, which will happen the more he pitches. In terms of the whole season, Parker should be fine.
That leads to the big question: who would start Opening Day if Parker isn’t ready? There are two options. The first is the person that is their ace of the future, Sonny Gray. Gray has struggled a little bit in limited action thus far, but spring numbers don’t count. If everything is good mechanically, he should have a great season. The second option is Scott Kazmir, who has been having a great spring. He has allowed 3 hits and no runs in 7 IP, and has been facing more major-league caliber players when he pitches.
While most fans will probably want to see Sonny pitch with the ballpark packed like it was for the ALDS, Scott Kazmir is the preferable choice. He is hot right now. Typically, a team rides the hot hand while other players rebound, and repeat that cycle throughout the course of a season.
This is Gray’s first full season in the bigs. No need to put added pressure on him this early in the season. Let him ease into things, and take the ball in the first game after the All-Star break. Plus, the Athletics Opening Day opponents are the Cleveland Indians, Kazmir’s team from a year ago. He will want to have a good showing against them.
If Parker is unable to go, Kazmir should get the ball on March 31st. He offers the best chance for the A’s to grab a win in their opening game in a very long time. At the very least, it’ll be nice to not face King Felix on Opening Day.