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Alex Wood trying to change Oakland A’s culture


Alex Wood trying to change Oakland A's culture

SAN FRANCISCO — For Alex Wood, signing a one-year deal to play for the Oakland A’s wasn’t simply about individual opportunity.

He wants to help change the culture.

Wood, 33, will get the Opening Day start on Thursday at the Coliseum as the A’s kick off their 2024 season looking to improve after back-to-back 100-loss seasons.

“I’ve been to a lot of places where I’ve been able to win,” said Wood, whose teams have made the playoffs in seven of his 11 big league seasons. “I want to set the example of what that looks like on a day-to-day basis and what goes into it, to have a winning culture and build a winning program.”

The idea that the A’s will be anything but last-place finishers in the American League West for the third straight year requires a bit of optimism. The oddsmakers at DraftKings have the A’s over/under set to 57.5 wins this season, a big jump from the 50-112 record they finished with a year ago.

“I think that we’re definitely going to be better than what people are expecting,” Wood said. “We’ve been banged up a little bit but I think we’re going to play good baseball. We’ve got some good arms, some good young position players. I think we’ll be super competitive.”

Last year, the A’s used a franchise record 41 different pitchers while posting a league-worst 5.48 ERA.

They hope to have upgraded by signing Wood (career 3.74 ERA) to a one-year deal worth $8.5 million and trading for 34-year-old Ross Stripling (career 3.96 ERA). The veteran starters were part of a San Francisco Giants team that won 79 games last year and will now lead a battle tested A’s rotation that also includes JP Sears, 28, Paul Blackburn, 30, and Joe Boyle, 24.

Boyle, acquired in exchange for lefty Sam Moll in a midsummer trade with the Cincinnati Reds, is a flame-thrower who had one of the hardest average fastballs (98 mph) in baseball last year.

“In terms of experience, there are four guys leading the way and it’s a much better start than what we had last year,” said A’s manager Mark Kotsay. “Nothing against the guys we did start last year, but there’s a lot more experience on the mound, guys who understand how to manage the game and get through it, whether they have their best stuff or need to go compete.”

The A’s haven’t had an ace in years. Chris Bassitt is the last A’s starter to be worth at least 4.0 WAR (wins above replacement) when he threw 157-1/3 innings with a 3.15 ERA in 2021. Before him, there was Sonny Gray in 2015, Bartolo Colon in 2013 and Gio Gonzalez in 2011.

Wood, who was used as a swingman with the Giants last year, hasn’t made 30 starts since 2015 but has found a way to contribute, often pitching important innings for playoff teams in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Atlanta. He has a career 3.11 ERA in 21 postseason appearances.

Wood said he didn’t sign with Oakland so he could join a team with lower expectations and less pressure.

“It’s funny because there are two separate things as far as expectations individually and as a team,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what team you’re on, what the expectations are. There’s pressure on every individual in this clubhouse to succeed, play well and solidify themselves in their own careers. That helps to feed into where the team is heading.”

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