Tyler Nevin’s Emergence Is Key as Oakland A’s Begin Crucial Stretch

The versatile Tyler Nevin has been a major reason why the Athletics have surprised early on in the 2024 season.

Tyler Nevin #26 of the Oakland Athletics is congratulated by JJ Bleday #33 after Nevin hit a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the bottom of the third inning on May 1, 2024 at the Oakland Coliseum.
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - MAY 01: Tyler Nevin #26 of the Oakland Athletics is congratulated by JJ Bleday #33 after Nevin hit a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the bottom of the third inning on May 1, 2024 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

OAKLAND — On Monday night, the Oakland Athletics kicked off an 11-game stretch through the heart of the American League West. With four home games against the Texas Rangers, three on the road in Seattle against the Mariners and four in Houston against the Astros, the A’s could soon have an indication as to whether they can really sustain the momentum of their surprisingly strong start into mid-May.

“I talked about in spring training, the division we play in has the past two World Series champions (Houston and Texas), so it’s not an easy division,” Oakland manager Mark Kotsay said before Monday’s Rangers-A’s series kickoff inside the Coliseum. “This stretch of games with Texas, Seattle and Houston, you can’t ignore that we’re going into probably just as difficult of a stretch as when we left last time and went to New York (Yankees) and Baltimore.”

While the A’s entered the season with the lowest payroll in Major League Baseball, Oakland has made some moves that have, at least early in the campaign, paid off.

Among those was picking up Tyler Nevin, who was designated for assignment by the Baltimore Orioles on Opening Day.

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Nevin’s arrival on April 1 was met with plenty of criticism, as Esteury Ruiz was optioned to Triple-A (despite a 1.232 OPS and .429 batting average at the time) to make room for him on the roster. Yet, there has been little doubt that Nevin’s presence has helped lift the A’s in 2024, as Oakland announcer Jenny Cavnar discussed with me in a recent episode of the Clubhouse Chatter podcast.

Heading into Monday, Nevin has truly found a home in Oakland, hitting .350 (14-for-40) inside the Coliseum. While those numbers were tempered with an 0-for-10 performance over three games against the Miami Marlins before the Rangers rolled into town, Nevin’s OPS+ of 139 was second on the A’s behind Brent Rooker, who was named American League Player of the Week on Monday.

It’s certainly a good start for the 26-year-old Nevin, who was selected 38th overall by the Colorado Rockies in the 2015 MLB draft, then traded to the Orioles before making his MLB debut. Since stepping onto an MLB field for the first time (on his 24th birthday in 2021), Nevin has a career slash line of .225/.323/.337 in 415 plate appearances between the Orioles, A’s and Detroit Tigers.

“I don’t want to say that my career began then, but it feels like two separate stages of my baseball career, with a lot of development on both sides,” Nevin told me about the trade from the Rockies that gave him his chance with Baltimore. “That’s when things turned real. You start getting the business side of baseball. You get drafted by a team and you envision yourself being in the big leagues with that team, but then it all gets turned on its head.”

The “business side of baseball” struck again for Nevin this season when Baltimore, knowing he was out of minor league options, decided to part ways with him. Trying to earn a spot on a young, loaded Orioles roster, Nevin knew he was working to crack a numbers game in spring training.

“It wasn’t like I wasn’t playing with the Orioles, but it was very open with the coaching staff and front office like, ‘We’re going to get you as many opportunities as you can to try to make this team. There’s a spot for you. We’ll see how it shakes out, but also we understand there are 29 other teams that we want to help you get a look at,'” Nevin said. “They have a great coaching staff over there. I can’t speak highly enough of that organization.”

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That, however, is in the past. Nevin is now focusing on what he can do to help the A’s continue to surprise in the standings. That includes playing wherever he is needed, having already slotted in at third base, first base, left field, right field and designated hitter this season.

“I have a lot of stuff on my plate daily, but I understand it helps me get at-bats,” Nevin said. “It helps me stay in the lineup, so I’m going to take a lot of pride in that and be ready at all times.”

And yes, while his days in Baltimore may be in the rearview mirror, certain things about the A’s remind him of his time at Camden Yards.

“It reminds me a lot of that ’22 Orioles team,” Nevin said of the Baltimore squad that started to show flashes of the juggernaut it would become in 2023 and this season. “A lot of young guys that are getting their first real taste of the big leagues and a dominant bullpen. It’s a great learning opportunity to play winning baseball all nine innings to get yourself a couple of runs here and there because we know that we can lean on those guys in the back of the ‘pen the majority of the time.”

That “majority of the time” proved itself true on Monday, as Lucas Erceg gave up a three-run, eighth-inning blast to Corey Seager as Texas rallied for a 4-2 win. Nevin himself continued to struggle, going 0-for-4 while also making an error after moving from right field to first base late in the game.

These moments will happen for a team (and a player) that is still getting used to what it takes to win consistently. But, while the opener of a key 11-game stretch was disappointing for the A’s, both Oakland and Nevin have plenty of chances to make amends in the critical days ahead.

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