Oakland Athletics vs. Cleveland Guardians Pick & Prediction MARCH 28th 2024

Stephen Vogt hopes his debut as a major league manager goes as well as his farewell as a player when his Cleveland Guardians open the season against the host Oakland Athletics on Thursday.

Guardians’ right-hander Shane Bieber (6-6, 3.80 ERA in 2023) is slated to make his fifth consecutive Opening Day start. He will be opposed by A’s newcomer Alex Wood (5-5, 4.33), a veteran left-hander who is receiving his first Opening Day assignment.

Vogt, native of Visalia in Central California, was a 10-year major league catcher with a .239 career average. He spent six of those seasons with the A’s, and a seventh across the bay with the San Francisco Giants.

A fan favorite in Oakland, Vogt announced that the A’s finale in October 2022, a home contest, would be his final game. He then responded to his last at-bat in the seventh inning with one of the proudest moments of his career, belting a home run to right field.

The homer, the 82nd of his career, gave the A’s a 2-0 lead in a game they eventually won 3-2.

Vogt became a quality-control coach for the Seattle Mariners last year before getting hired to replace Terry Francona last November.

The 39-year-old credits Francona, who managed the Guardians into the postseason in six of his 11 seasons, for allowing him to take over a team that’s ready to win.

“Really, it’s understanding what we have done well,” Vogt said of the managerial hand-off. “He left this place in such a good place. Now it’s, ‘Let’s pick up where you guys left off, and let’s see how much better we can get moving forward.'”

The Guardians seemingly start off in good hands with Bieber getting the ball. He has pitched better than his 1-1 record in his previous four Opening Day starts would indicate, allowing just three earned runs over 22 2/3 innings with 33 strikeouts.

The Southern California native threw six shutout innings, allowing six hits, but didn’t get a decision in last year’s 3-0 Opening Day loss at Seattle on, coincidentally, Vogt’s first day as a big-league coach.

Bieber has never won at Oakland, going without a decision in two starts in which he limited the A’s to four runs in 13 innings with 14 strikeouts. For his career, he’s 0-1 with a 3.79 ERA in three starts against Oakland.

Signed by the A’s in February after spending three seasons with the Giants, Wood begins his 12th big-league season with his fifth different team, but his first in the American League.

The 33-year-old hasn’t allowed a run against the Guardians in three career appearances, two as a starter, giving up 12 hits with 11 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings.

A’s manager Mark Kotsay, who had little to celebrate going 50-112 last season, said he already feels like a winner this year.

“It was awesome telling Alex,” he said of the Opening Day decision. “You could see the emotion that he was feeling. He’s been on rosters to be able to do it for the last 11 years, so it was great to reward him. We targeted him this offseason. He wanted to come here and pitch. Everything just felt right about this.”

–Field Level Media

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