OAKLAND — Stephen Piscotty told the Examiner last week that he may get emotional during Monday’s ALS Awareness Day, held in conjunction with the New York Yankees.
“I’m prepared for it,” said the Oakland Athletics right fielder, who lost his mother to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis on May 6.
Piscotty will help present a check for $150,000 to the ALS Therapy Development Institute before first pitch, money raised through the A’s and Yankees, as well as the Piscotty family’s own GoFundMe drive, and sales from Piscotty’s jerseys and shirts through the rest of the year will go to ALS TDI.
“It makes it natural with Stephen’s situation, him kind of spearheading it, but [team president] Dave Kaval seems to do whatever he can for any organization,” manager Bob Melvin said. “The fact that we do support it in the light that we do, it’s easy to do, and something that we should do.”
The A’s have a history with the disease. Along with Piscotty’s mother Gretchen, Hall of Fame pitcher Catfish Hunter died from the disease, as is 32-year old superfan Corey Reich, who has lived for over 11 years with the disease.
Ted Reich — Corey’s father — bought out 150 tickets beyond the right field wall for ALS Awareness Day. Corey, assisted by Ted, delivered the first pitch to Piscotty, flanked by his father, Mike Piscotty. Reich’s sister, Clare, works for the ALS Therapy Development Institute.
Piscotty has been one of the A’s most productive players. In his last 79 games, Piscotty is hitting .282 with 18 home runs, 24 doubles, 49 RBIs and an .881 OPS. He’s also improved vastly in the defensive department. Though the advanced analytics don’t quite show it — he has a -3.2 ultimate zone rating thanks to some early bumps — Piscotty has played a very crisp right field over the last two months. He has three outfield assists in right since the start of July, and only one error.
“It’s the jumps he gets,” Melvin said. “For me, you look at the analytic numbers, and they support what you see as far as the eye test. When the ball’s hit, and you look up, he’s already moving towards it. [Chad] Pinder the same way in left, but Stephen, after figuring out the dimensions here and reading balls off the bat, takes a little while to get used to this place, he’s been absolutely fantastic.”
For Melvin, Piscotty’s most valuable quality is the fact that he makes big plays in big spots.
“A lot of those balls that could be base hits to drive in runs, now, all of the sudden, he makes the play, and it kind of swings the momentum back into your dugout,” Melvin said. “He’s been doing that for the better part of the season.”
With his 20th and 21st home runs on Sunday, Piscotty became the fifth Oakland hitter this season to pass the 20-home run mark. The A’s have now done that two years in a row. Mark Canha — starting in center for a resting Ramon Laureano — has 15, and Pinder has 10 in 92 games.
“We knew that would be a strength here,” Melvin said. “You look at guys like Pinder, too, who will have a few more in his pocket. The more at-bats he gets, the more he’ll hit. Same with Canha. We have homers spread out throughout the lineup. Marcus Semien, who’s leading off today, has hit 25 before, too, so we knew going into the season, that would be one of the strengths of our team.”
Melvin noted that Oakland had yet to see Matt Olson truly heat up, and he already has 24 homers.
“I think there’s a little bit more in the tank,” Melvin said.
After losing both Brett Anderson (ulnar nerve irritation in his left forearm) and ace Sean Manaea (left rotator cuff tendonitis), Oakland now has seven starting pitchers on their 40-man roster who are on the disabled list, including Anderson, Manaea, Paul Blackburn, Jharel Cotton, Andrew Triggs, Daniel Gossett and Kendall Graveman.
So, they traded for reliever Cory Gearrin, and called up relievers Liam Hendriks, Chris Hatcher, Dean Kiekhefer and Danny Coulombe to bolster their bullpen. On Saturday, Oakland had the club’s first go at bullpenning. It didn’t end well.
On Monday, the A’s acquired right-handed pitcher Aaron Brooks from the Milwaukee Brewers for cash considerations. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, Oakland designated Coulombe for assignment. Brooks, who was 9-4 with a 3.35 ERA in 26 games and 15 starts this season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, won’t be eligible for the postseason roster, but he could help out the pitching staff in the short term,
In four starts for the Brewers in August, he went 2-1 with a 2.00 ERA. He was selected by Milwaukee on Aug. 30 before being designated for assignment the next day. Originally drafted by Kansas City, he was traded to Oakland with Sean Manaea for Ben Zobrist on July 28, 2015. Brooks last pitched in the majors for the A’s in 2015, when he went 3-4 with a 6.71 ERA in 51 innings.
Trevor Cahill will start Monday against the Yankees, but beyond that, Melvin did not know, as of two hours before game time, who the A’s would start on Tuesday.
Oakland trails New York by 4 1/2 games for the first American League Wild Card spot. If the season ended today, the A’s would play a one-game playoff in the Bronx for the right to face either Boston or Cleveland.
“The Yankees tend to bring some people to the ballpark, so it should be a good atmosphere,” said Melvin, who played nine games for New York in 1994. “We love it when our place is packed with the upper deck open now, too, hopefully there are a lot of people here today, which we expect, and this can be a very lively crowd, as we’ve discussed often.”
New York will start Vallejo native C.C. Sabathia, and before the game, the big right-hander got an ovation from fans behind the Yankees dugout as he made his way to the bullpen.
Starting help will not come from Andrew Triggs, Melvin said. If and when he comes back, he likely won’t be ready to start.
“I don’t know if we can get him ready for a start, but we’ll have another option in the bullpen, especially the way he’s handled right-handers for the most part,” Melvin said. “He’s come a long way with lefties this year, but another guy who can give us some length, too.”
Triggs will head to Stockton on Wednesday for a rehab start, while Anderson threw off flat ground on Monday, and will throw off a mound on Wednesday.