Set to finish out suspension, A’s CF Laureano eager to play

March 19, 2022 GMT

MESA, Ariz. (AP) — As if on cue, Christian Pache stopped at Ramón Laureano’s locker and chatted up the center fielder prior to the Athletics’ exhibition opener this week.

A few minutes earlier, Laureano was describing his burgeoning relationship with Pache, a top prospect who was part of the youth-laden package Atlanta traded this week to Oakland for star first baseman Matt Olson.

Laureano and Pache met in the offseason in their hometown of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The outfielders trained together, unexpectedly became teammates and are now developing a mentor-mentee relationship.

Pache, 23, peppered Laureano, 27, with questions as he settled into his new clubhouse, following six years in the Braves organization.

“When he asks me questions I’m always trying to help him out,” Laureano said. “I think he’s eager to learn, like I was at that time. He gets a routine every day, and you get locked in for your game and your day, and he’s doing it.’’

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Later that afternoon, Laureano started in center as Cactus League play is permitted amid his 80-game suspension for testing positive for a banned drug in 2021. Laureano will miss the first month of the regular season while completing his penalty.

“I’m thankful (Mark) Kotsay came to me, and told me that I’m playing the first game,” said Laureano of the first-year manager.

Said Kotsay: “For Ramon, you know, he loves the game of baseball. Obviously, it was taken away from him, by his own measure, but he took accountability and he’s a part of this culture, and a part of this team.”

“As we get further along, we’ll manage that workload because he does have 27 days (games remaining in his suspension) once the start of the season takes place,” he said. “And he’ll have opportunity to get himself plenty of games and reps to get ready.’’

When the Athletics open the regular season at Philadelphia on April 8, Laureano will remain in Mesa for 12 days of extended spring training. Then, he is permitted to go on a 15-day minor league rehabilitation assignment before joining the big league club.

“I am fully ready to go, go out there and perform,” said Laureano, who arrived in the Phoenix area before the lockout ended, and threw and hit at Grand Canyon University.

“I am so excited to be here. I love the game. I love working on my craft, and I’m doing it every single day,” he said.

Now in his fifth season, Laureano has developed a reputation as a defensive whiz.

He impressed the lively crowd of 7,724 for the exhibition opener against the Angels with a powerfully accurate throw from the warning track that led to a tag out at home plate. He showed off his arm again, nearly getting an out at third base, on a high-velocity throw after chasing down a shallow line drive in center field.

In the later innings, he was replaced by another speedy center fielder with a plus arm: Pache.

If Pache hits well enough to make the opening day roster, Oakand’s early May center field depth chart might feature a duo with a similar approach.

After all, Pache sounded like his new mentor when he told translator Luis Victoria, “I am full of energy at all times.”

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