ORACLE PARK — When Aaron Brooks came to the Oakland Athletics last season in a September trade, all he was hoping for was a chance to prove that he was still a Major League pitcher. Acquired after the deadline for players to be eligible for playoff rosters, Brooks, who hadn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2015, knew he wouldn’t be a part of the A’s postseason plans. He just wanted a chance.
“We feel like this guy can give us something,” manager Bob Melvin said at the time.
Brooks only wound up throwing only 2 2/3 innings in three games over the final month of the season. He returned to the club this spring, and thanks to top prospect Jesus Luzardo’s shoulder tightness, he entered the final week of spring training angling for not only a roster spot, but a starting gig. He struck out nine in nine innings of work, but walking four and allowing six earned runs.
On Tuesday, in a rain-shortened final game of what turned out to be the first A’s sweep of a spring Bay Bridge Series since 1989, Brooks gave Melvin exactly what he needed to see, and was named the fifth starter as Oakland moved closer to finalizing its Opening Day roster.
“He did,” Melvin said. “He pitchedreally well. He was pitching to try to get a job and he pitched really well, so we gave him a job.”
Brooks struck out five in 5 1/3 innings, walking two and scattering five hits. The only run he allowed came after he’d left the game. Melvin had said the club wanted to see him get in and out of trouble, and throw about 80 pitches before making a decision. He threw 82 before he was lifted following a one-out single by Connor Joe in the sixth.
“I thought he had a really good mix of pitches today,” Melvin said. “Really, two-seam, four-seam, there was a little bit of gap in that, with 91-92 with the two-seam, 95 with the four-seam, but a really good changeup today, a really good slider. Nick [Hundley] did a good job calling the game for him, too.”
The only run he allowed came across when he was already out of the game. Reliever Brian Schlitter loaded the bases by issuing a two-out walk to Alen Hanson and hitting Mac Williamson on the hand, before Jerry Blevins came on and allowed a two-run single to Gerardo Parra.
While Brooks was in, he improved as the game went on, striking out three of the final six batters he faced. The A’s were already leaning towards Brooks, after the other contender for the fifth spot, Chris Bassitt, caught a line drive off the shin in Japan. He will head to the injured list to start the season.
Reliever Ryan Dull will be sent down, but the A’s will keep J.B. Wendelkin for the U.S. opener. Jerry Blevins and Chad Pennington will both head to minor league camp.
After a stellar spring offensively — .351 with four doubles and a home run in 17 games, 37 at-bats — Franklin Barreto will start the season with the A’s. His work in the outfield is what kept him on the roster, but his work defensively at second hasn’t taken a step back. On Tuesday, he fielded a ball behind the bag and threw against his body back to first for an out.
“Now, he’s versatile,” Melvin said. “He can play the outfield, took to that really well, too. It doesn’t surprise me. This kid’s a really good player waiting to happen, [waiting] for a job to open up for him, but I think the versatility allows us to play him a little bit more than we did before.”