In search of roster spot, Alcantara gets gritty against Cubs

It wasn’t pretty, but Raul Alcantara showed his teeth battling through 2-2/3 quality innings against the Chicago Cubs.

One day after watching Andrew Triggs take a stride in the direction of claiming one of the A’s final three spots on the Opening Day pitching staff, Alcantara did similar, facing the reigning champions’ “A squad.”

In his fourth outing this spring, and first as a starter, the 24-year-old allowed five hits while walking one and striking out one. Both of his runs allowed crossed on a home run off the bat of the National League’s defending Most Valuable Player, Kris Bryant, from which he battled back to get All-Stars Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist.

Manager Bob Melvin, who remains steadfast in his assertion that results are not the end-all and be-all in measuring spring success, said that he was impressed by the fight of his starter:

“All-in-all, going 2-2/3 like he did, he threw the ball well and had to pitch out of some traffic out there. Those are the types of things you can learn from guys in Spring Training.”

Faced with a daunting test early, after walking lead-off man Kyle Schwarber then giving him second on an errant pick-off throw, Alcantara set down Bryant, Rizzo and Zobrist in order for a clean first.

The hopeful starter, who allowed five runs in the first innings of five starts as a major leaguer in 2016, said through the team’s translator Juan Dorado that he was satisfied by his ability to wrangle the emotions of the afternoon’s first frame:

“It felt great. I was making my pitches, trying to keep the ball low, trying to fight through that inning. It was great for me, because usually teams get a hold of me in the first inning and get a couple runs, but it felt great getting out of that inning without any runs.”

Added Melvin:

“You come in, you get your first start of the spring, and you get their ‘A lineup,’ the World Series lineup, it’s a group that makes you work. Three hitters into the game, he’s got about 25 pitches on him, (has one out), therefore he had to take it up a notch.”

It was more trouble in the second for Alcantara, who was faced with runners on second and third with two outs and Schwarber looming in the on-deck circle. Once again, though, he bared down to make the pitch he needed and end the threat. More frustrated than anything, the hurler showed little emotion as he walked off the mound after coaxing a routine fly ball from Albert Almora Jr. to end the threat.

He wasn’t so fortunate in the third.

After a Schwarber single up the middle, Alcantara tried to get a roll-over double-play grounder with a fastball away to the right-handed swinging Bryant. That pitched leaked a bit over the plate and was launched for a two-run shot.

Said the hurler:

“I felt good. It was a tough lineup, but I made a lot of pitches early. Obviously, Kris Bryant got a good chunk of that ball, but I felt good out there. It felt like a good test for me.”

Once again, Alcantara responded by placing his nose firmly to the grindstone, retiring both Rizzo and the World Series MVP Zobrist on lazy fly balls. But an Addison Russell single up the middle brought the afternoon to an end.

Now through four games (one start), the native of Barahona, Dominican Republic has tossed a team high 11-1/3 innings. Although his 4.76 ERA (six earned runs) is less than impressive, his 1.24 WHIP is more than manageable.

As he is out of minor league options — the only bubble player in such a predicament present at A’s camp — the club will be searching for reasons to make room for Alcantara on the 25-man roster, rather than make him available via waiver claims to the rest of the league.

On Sunday, he gave them a few.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.