The A's were one of those teams devastated this spring by an injury as Oakland lost projected No. 1 starter Jarrod Parker to season-ending Tommy John surgery. It's the second for Parker and the statistics show it's incredibly hard to return to form after a second such surgery. Parker was 12-8 with a 3.97 ERA last season.
Despite that injury, many experts still like Oakland to win the AL West. The Rangers have had their own injury problems and the Angels might not have enough pitching so it's possible that Oakland wins a third straight division crown. Unlike the big-spending Rangers and Angels, the A's don't really have the money to likely add a key piece via trade this summer, however. Oakland is 9/1 at sportsbooks to win the AL pennant.
The Twins don't pretend to think they can contend this season, but they have two of the top hitting minor-league prospects in baseball in Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. The string of arm injuries even extended to Sano, a third baseman. He also had Tommy John surgery this spring. It wasn't likely that Sano would play in the majors this season regardless. Buxton could be a late-season call-up, although he's been sidelined by a wrist injury.
Oakland won six of seven against the Twins in 2013, scoring at least eight runs in every win and hitting double-digits three times. Minnesota starters had the worst ERA in the majors last year. Entering Sunday' series finale in Cleveland it hasn't been much better at 4.94. A's starters have combined for a 1.80 ERA entering Sunday.
Oakland didn't want to pay 40-year-old Bartolo Colon what he wanted despite a Cy Young caliber-season in 2013 (his 2012 suspension for performance-enhancing drugs may have played a role) so the team let him walk as a free agent and signed lefty Scott Kazmir. For a while there, he was one of the best young lefties in baseball with Tampa Bay but then it all just went south. He was pitching in the Independent League as recently at 2012. Kazmir was a huge surprise with the Indians a year ago, going 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA in 29 starts. The A's gambled two years and $22 million on him, and he's still only 30. Kazmir looked great in his first start, throwing seven scoreless innings and allowing three hits over 7.1 innings against his former Indians teammates on Wednesday.
Kazmir dominated no team more than Minnesota last year. He was 3-0 with a 1.45 ERA in 31 innings, allowing 25 hits. Minnesota star Joe Mauer, who has started the season slowly (maybe he misses catching), is 5-for-18 with an RBI and five strikeouts in his career off Kazmir. Trevor Plouffe is 5-for-14 with two doubles. He has been Minnesota's best regular thus far in 2014. Brian Dozier has a homer in 14 at-bats against Kazmir.
Minnesota counters with right-hander Kevin Correia. He was 9-13 with a 4.18 ERA last year. Correia earned a no-decision in his 2014 debut, allowing three runs and five hits over six innings at the White Sox. Correia faced Oakland once last year, allowing two runs and six hits over six innings of a no-decision. He was much, much better at home (3.35) ERA than on the road (5.24) a season ago. No current A's have more than 10 at-bats off Correia and none have homered. Brandon Moss has faced him the most, going 3-for-9 with a double.
MLB free picks: Twins +112, even though they are 0-6 in Correia's past six home starts, and the over eight runs at sportsbooks. Fairly long flight on Sunday night for Oakland and its first road game of the year. The A's will be playing about 15 hours after hosting Seattle on Sunday. The over is 6-0 in the past six meetings. It is 10-1 in Minnesota's past six series openers.