Oakland Athletics Preview: Opening Series vs. Seattle Mariners

Brandon McClintockCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2011

PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 12:  Infielder Cliff Pennington #2 of the Oakland Athletics tags out Jack Wilson #2 of the Seattle Mariners as he attempts to steal second base during the second inning of the spring training game at Peoria Stadium on March 12, 2011 in Peoria, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners kick off their 2011 seasons this Friday evening in Oakland, both looking to improve on their 2010 campaigns.

The 2010 Athletics broke a string of three losing seasons in a row to finish at 81-81 in second place, while the 2010 Mariners were abysmal at 61-101, their second 101 loss season in three years.

Over the offseason the Athletics strengthened their offense with the additions of Josh Willingham, David DeJesus and Hideki Matsui. The A's also added depth to their bullpen with the free agent signings of Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour.

The Major League's best rotation in 2010 returned intact with newcomer Brandon McCarthy winning the fifth starter battle to round out the rotation. With an improved offense, the rotation looks to improve on their win-loss record while maintaining their efficiency on the mound.

Meanwhile, the Mariners signed former A's designated hitter, Jack Cust, to help their struggling offense. Justin Smoak, acquired in the Cliff Lee trade, will also help bolster the Mariners offense this season.

The Mariners rotation is led by reigning Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez, who will face off with Oakland's all star starter, Trevor Cahill, in the series opener. Eric Bedard returns after missing last season to injury, along with Jason Vargas, Doug Fister and top prospect Michael Pineda to round out the Mariners rotation.

Pitching Match-Ups:

Friday, April 1, 7:05PM:
Felix Hernandez (2010: 13-12, 2.67 ERA) Vs. Trevor Cahill (2010: 18-8, 2.97 ERA)

Saturday, April 2, 6:05PM:
Jason Vargas (2010: 9-12, 3.78 ERA) Vs. Brett Anderson (2010: 7-6, 2.80 ERA)

Sunday, April 3, 1:05PM:
Doug Fister (2010: 6-14, 4.11 ERA) Vs.
Gio Gonzalez (2010: 15-9, 3.23 ERA)

Injuries:

Athletics: Andrew Bailey, Rich Harden, Adam Rosales

Mariners: David Aardsma, Franklin Gutierez

Promotions:

April 1: Magnetic Schedule giveaway, first 32,000 fans

April 2: A's Pet Calendar, first 10,000 fans

April 3: Hideki Matsui T-Shirt, first 10,000 fans

Japanese Heritage Day:

With Japan's two biggest stars, Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui, competing against each other for the first time this season in this three game series, the Oakland A's have designated Sunday's game Japanese Heritage Day.

The A's are donating $1 for every ticket sold to help the recovery from the Japan earthquake and tsunami. The Athletics announced in a press release (available here) that they have already raised over $50,000 through ticket sales and corporate donations to the fund.

Notes: 

The Athletics attempt to purchase their radio flagship station, KTRB (860AM) have stalled and caused some broadcasting problems for the team. The station, which remains in receivership, suspended A's broadcasts for the Bay Bridge Series, and the remainder of the Athletics regular season schedule remains in question.

Until this situation is resolved, the Athletics are broadcasting their games on KFRC (1550AM).

 


Brandon McClintock covers the Oakland Athletics and Major League Baseball for BleacherReport.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @BMcClintock_BR.