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Aviators look for success with experienced roster

Jonah Bride wasn’t with the Aviators for long last season, playing in 18 games with Las Vegas before the A’s called him up.

Bride is one of 14 players on the Aviators’ opening day roster who spent time in the big leagues last season and one of eight who played with Oakland. He believes the mix of players with big league experience and prospects in the A’s organization will help the Aviators to a successful season.

“This team is full of a bunch of guys that are going to compete to get to that next level, and that’s why it’s exciting to be around here,” Bride said. “We look forward to playing hard and winning a lot of games.”

The Aviators begin the season with a three-game road series against the Reno Aces at 2:05 p.m. Friday. Right-hander Colin Peluse will start for Las Vegas against Reno left-hander Tommy Henry.

Highlighting the Aviators’ roster is catcher Tyler Soderstrom, the A’s top prospect, according to MLB.com. The left-handed hitting catcher was the 26th overall selection in the 2020 MLB draft.

Soderstrom spent most of 2022 at High-A Lansing (Michigan) before appearing in 36 games at Double-A Midland (Texas) and nine games in Las Vegas at the end of the season. After getting a taste of Triple-A baseball last season, Soderstrom said he’s more comfortable being a contributor for the Aviators from the start.

“It’s not always hard, but sometimes it is to settle in and get comfortable with the new guys in the clubhouse and stuff like that,” Soderstrom said.

Touted for his power hitting across the field and strong arm behind the plate, Soderstrom could get the call from Oakland this season. While he said it’s the eventual goal, he said he’s focused on making an impact with the Aviators.

“You have to trust the process,” Soderstrom said. “You can’t look ahead and want to get there. You have to put in your time and take it day by day.”

It’s the same approach others on the team are taking, including outfielder Cody Thomas, who made his MLB debut last season. The 28-year-old missed most of the season recovering from Achilles surgery.

As a veteran on the team, he admitted it’s hard to ignore the thought of being called up, but said he’s focused on being the best where he’s at and helping set an example for younger players.

“It seems like every year they’re getting better and better,” Thomas said. “As an older guy, you’re trying to outwork everyone and trying to show these guys the right way to do it.”

Along with Thomas and Bride — who caught and played first, second and third base — Jordan Diaz, Dermis Garcia, Cal Stevenson and Kevin Smith are other notable returners for the Aviators.

“It’s a really good mix of a group that you put them all together, it’s going to be an exciting team to watch,” Bride said.

The Aviators will start the season without manager Fran Riordan, who is tending to a personal matter but is expected to return for the first home series, a six-game homestand against Oklahoma City beginning Tuesday. A’s director of player development Ed Sprague will help the Aviators coaching staff in Riordan’s absence.

The Aviators finished 71-79 and in third place in the Pacific Coast League’s West last season after being in first place in the middle of July. While they were in the top half of the league in hitting, the Aviators are looking to have a better season on the mound, as they finished ninth of 10 teams in ERA (6.11) and opponents batting average (.288).

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on Twitter.

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