The Oakland Athletics are calling Las Vegas home … for this weekend.
The A’s sent a split-squad of players to Las Vegas for two games against Cincinnati as part of “Big League Weekend.” The games are being played at Las Vegas Ballpark, the home of Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate, the Aviators.
The two-day visit to Sin City comes with the continued conversation that Las Vegas could become a permanent home for the A’s in the future if the lengthy, ongoing search for a stadium solution in the Bay Area doesn’t materialize soon.
The A’s lease at RingCentral Coliseum expires after the 2024 season, and though they might be forced to extend the terms, the club and Major League Baseball have deemed the stadium unsuitable for a professional franchise.
The A’s have spent years trying to develop a stadium solution in the Bay Area, but missed a major deadline last October for getting a deal done in Oakland for a new stadium development. That has raised the specter of Las Vegas becoming the future home of the A’s, but there are concerns with the amount of funding the baseball team could receive for a new stadium in Nevada.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said last month that while the door isn’t being closed on Oakland, most of the focus of late by A’s owner John Fischer has been on possible solutions in Las Vegas.
Oakland manager Mark Kotsay told reporters on Friday that he didn’t view the visit to Las Vegas as being awkward for the franchise while working dual paths for its future in both the Bay Area and in Nevada. It’s the first time the A’s have played in Las Vegas since 2020 just before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down baseball.
“It’s no secret that we’ve been pursuing paths in Oakland and Vegas. So maybe there’s more buzz around it because we’re going right now and the process has seemed to be shifted a little bit,” Kotsay said. “But regardless of all that, we’ve been there before and it’s our Triple-A home. I think it’s a great thing to take in for fans, a weekend of baseball in Vegas.”
On the bench
Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said Ronnie Gajownik was going to be his bench coach for Saturday’s game against the San Diego Padres as she prepares for her first managing job.
The 29-year-old Gajownik was hired during the offseason as manager of the D-backs’ minor league affiliate Hillsboro Hops. She’ll be the first woman to manage a minor league Class High-A team.
“I told her we’re just going to sit down, talk baseball for nine innings and let’s have some fun with it,” Lovullo said. “I said, ‘You think I’m going to be teaching you things, but you’re going to be teaching me things as well.’ I’m just appreciating my time with her. She’s a spectacular teacher and can relate with the players very well.”
Rachel Balkovec became the first woman to manage a professional baseball team last year when she led the New York Yankees’ Class A Tampa Tarpons.
Gajownik was a two-year starter on South Florida’s softball team and also won a gold medal with the United States in the 2015 Pan American Games.
“Her work ethic and attention to detail has made her a good coach and will also make her a good manager,” Lovullo said.
Gajownik served as video coordinator for the Hops in 2021. She was on the coaching staff of the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the D-backs Double-A affiliate, last season as first-base coach.
Toronto slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. withdrew from playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic on Saturday due to inflammation in his right knee.
Toronto manager John Schneider said that an MRI showed no structural damage in Guerrero’s right knee a day after he left the Blue Jays’ spring training game with discomfort in the knee after taking some awkward steps into second base following a hit.
Guerrero was scheduled to leave the Blue Jays to join the Dominican Republic team on Sunday.
Guerrero is the third Blue Jays player to withdraw from the WBC joining catcher Alejandro Kirk (Mexico) and relief pitcher Jordan Romano (Italy).
On the bump
Cubs righty Jameson Taillon, who spent the past two seasons with the New York Yankees, worked three scoreless innings against the Los Angeles Angels in his second spring outing. He allowed two runs in 1 1/3 innings in his first start.
Taillon said adjusting to the pitch clock was part of the problem in his first spring outing.
“The first outing I was a little rushed with the pitch clock. I saw today the clock was down to one, two, three seconds,” Taillon said. “I definitely process pitch to pitch what I’m doing with the pitch and what I want to do with the next pitch. The first time I didn’t do much of that I felt like a pitching machine. I was in a lot better tempo and way more comfortable with it.”
Across the valley, young Seattle right-hander George Kirby had a rough outing in his spring debut. He pitched a clean first inning, but gave up four runs and four hits in the second, including a home run to the Colorado’s Alan Trejo, before being relieved with one out.
Kirby didn’t break camp with the Mariners last year, but emerged as a key part of the pitching staff that helped Seattle reach the postseason for the first time in 21 years.
Kirby had a 3.39 ERA in 25 starts last season for Seattle.
Seattle has slow-played its two youngest starters this spring training holding Kirby and Logan Gilbert back a little bit. Kirby will have a few more weeks to build up his arm and continue work on a new splitter he’s added.
“It felt good to get back out there,” Kirby said.
Red Sox left-hander James Paxton has a grade 1 strain of his right hamstring and seems unlikely to be on the opening day roster for Boston. Paxton left his outing on Friday after 1 2/3 innings after feeling discomfort in his leg. Manager Alex Cora said Saturday it’s unclear how long Paxton will be shut down, but the injury is the least severe possible strain.
Friday’s outing was Paxton’s first in a game in nearly two years. Paxton missed nearly the entire 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery while pitching for Seattle. Paxton made one start and threw 1 1/3 innings the entire 2021 season. He signed with Boston before last season but spent the entire year on the injured list with a series of setbacks while recovering from the elbow surgery.
The 34-year-old is several years removed from the best seasons of his career. Between 2017-19, Paxton was 38-17 with a 3.54 ERA in 81 starts for Seattle and the New York Yankees.
Jordan Walker, the top prospect in the St. Louis system, continued to flash his raw power at the plate with two homers in the Cardinals’ 9-6 win over the Nationals. Walker is hitting .500 with three homers and a 1.667 OPS this spring. … The adventures of Fernando Tatis Jr. in right field continued for the Padres. Tatis made a fine sliding catch against the Diamondbacks, a better result that a couple days earlier when he dropped a flyball for an error. Tatis is switching to the outfield after San Diego signed Xander Bogaerts to play shortstop.
Texas signed LHP Will Smith to a $1.5 million, one-year deal. The 33-year-old was 0-3 with a 3.97 ERA and five saves in 65 relief appearances last year for Atlanta and Houston. … Colorado agreed to terms with LHP Brad Hand on a one-year deal. Hand was 3-2 with a 2.80 ERA and five saves in 55 appearances for Philadelphia last season.