(SportsNetwork.com) - Oakland righty Sonny Gray eyes another impressive Opening Day start on Monday when the Athletics lift the lid on their 2015 season against the Texas Rangers at the Coliseum.
Gray became just the second pitcher in Oakland history not to allow a run on Opening Day last season. It set the tone for an All-Star season that saw him go 14-10 while leading the A's in strikeouts (183) and innings (200).
Oakland had been best team in baseball for a good part of last season and seemed poised for a deep run into October with the trade deadline acquisitions of Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija.
However, that never panned out as the A's went into the tank almost immediately after the Lester deal and were upended by the Cinderella Kansas City Royals in the AL Wild Card game.
General manager Billy Beane completely overhauled the team this offseason and had people questioning some of his moves, specifically the deals that sent popular third baseman Josh Donaldson to Toronto, Brandon Moss to Cleveland and Derek Norris to San Diego. The team also unloaded Samardzija in an attempt to start the rebuild in the farm system.
The A's will have an entirely new infield on Opening Day.
Beane did turn some naysayers around with the pickup of Ben Zobrist from Tampa. A typical Beane guy, Zobrist can play multiple positions and most importantly gets on base.
Even with the losses of Lester and Samardzija, the strength of this team will be the starting staff. Gray was as good as any pitcher in baseball the first half of last season and lefty Scott Kazmir continued his resurgence. Righty Jesse Hahn and lefty Drew Pomeranz will also fill the bill, while the team waits on the returns of A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker.
Meanwhile, Texas' 2014 season was doomed due to injuries, none more devastating than the neck injury to slugging first baseman Prince Fielder. In fact, the Rangers used 15 different starting pitchers last season and stumbled to an AL-worst 95 losses.
Sadly for new manager Jeff Bannister, the 2015 team may be going down a similar path, as ace Yu Darvish went down with a torn elbow ligament early in spring training and will miss the entire season.
Matt Harrison and Martin Perez are still injured, meaning the pitching staff as a whole is going to be ugly, at least at the outset. Lefty Derek Holland will assume the role as ace, while new faces Yovani Gallardo and Ross Detwiler add some depth.
Gallardo gets the call on Monday after starting on Opening Day the last five seasons for the Milwaukee Brewers. Gallardo posted a 3.51 ERA and 146/54 K/BB ratio in 192 1/3 innings across 32 starts with Milwaukee last season.
Holland is lined up to start the home opener.
Offensively, though, the Rangers should be solid, especially if Fielder is healthy. If Fielder gets back to being the RBI machine he was in the past, that should only make table-setters Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus even better. And don't forget old reliable Adrian Beltre, who is not only one of the best defensive third basemen in the game, but last year was his fifth straight season with an OPS+ of 131 or greater.