OAKLAND — Before the Oakland Athletics left Texas, outfielder Stephen Piscotty ran with his full weight on his sprained ankle. After several 30-second intervals, he came away pain-free, he said, and hopeful that he could re-join the team in time to round into shape for the postseason.
Manager Bob Melvin was less hopeful.
“Stephen’s been having a tough go of it,” Melvin said. “We’re worried he had some ankle soreness again yesterday, last couple days. We’re kind of backing off on on where he’s at right now.”
A game and a half up in the American League wild card, Oakland has decisions to make when it comes to setting its postseason roster. With the emergence of Sean Murphy and Jesus Luzardo — two pieces of the future — the A’s may have to keep Piscotty off the field, and on the injured list.
“I think we’re still in a position where anything’s open,” Melvin said. “He would have to respond quickly. But he has before, so kind of day-to-day as far as how much baseball activity.”
Any player who is on the 40-man roster or 60-day injured list as of 11:59 p.m. ET on Aug. 31 is eligible for the postseason. A player who isn’t on the 40-man can still be added to the postseason roster if the player was in the organization on Aug. 31, and is replacing someone who is on the injured list and has served the minimum amount of time required for activation. That someone could be Piscotty.
With Josh Phegley being the only catcher on the 40-man, it’s a lock that Murphy is added to the 40-man to replace of Daniel Gossett, who’s missed the entire season with Tommy John surgery. Murphy has earned high praise for his defensive work, which he showed in his very first outing catching Tanner Roark. After getting crossed up early, he shepherded the veteran righty through 6 2/3 scoreless innings. Murphy said Roark was the most challenging pitcher he’s caught so far, but he’s obsessive about preparation, and has worked with Roark (who he’s catching on Monday) to reduce the amount of shakes he gets before getting to a pitch Roark is comfortable throwing, in sequence. That, in addition to his confidence, has endeared him to the entire staff.
Luzardo has proven to be a weapon in the late innings for a bullpen that desperately needs a boost, which is why the A’s are shying away from giving him a start down the stretch, though his future is most certainly as a starter.
“He’s factoring into the the outcome of the game at the end,” Melvin said. “A lot of times, the starters going six innings or so, and don’t factor in towards the end. We feel like he’s good enough to be able to do that, and that’s exactly what he’s done these last two times out.”
Luzardo has struck out six in his first six innings of big league work, and allowed just three hits and two runs, flashing some truly elite stuff and truly elite velocity. He is not, however, on the 40-man roster, meaning he’d have to replace an injured player. That looks like it could be Piscotty, who was hoping to move from running on an Alter-G treadmill to running in the outfield on Monday. That did not happen. The field — which hosted the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday — was not ready.
“I saw some pictures at 8:30 this morning, I didn’t think we had a chance to play today,” Melvin said.
Groundskeeper Clay Wood worked a miracle to get the field in baseball shape in a 24-hour turnaround.
“I know he probably got an hour to sleep,” Melvin said. “His groundscre, they’ve been working really you know almost 24 hours to this point, so it doesn’t surprise me but it should that they do a miraculous job.”
While the field may not have been ready for a rehab run, that may have been a scale-tipping reason not to have Piscotty test out his ankle. High ankle sprains — such as the one he suffered on Aug. 17 while running back to second base against the Astros — are notoriously finicky. He’s been able to hit and play catch, but he’d still have to run the outfield, run curves, run the bases, run and cut and run while making outfield reads before being cleared, and after that, he’d stand in for a bullpen to get his eye back to tracking a ball. There are just two weeks left in the season.
Even if he was able to come back in time, Piscotty admitted that he’d have to play through pain, as long as the understanding is that he can’t make it worse. He did play four games after the injury, and went 5-for-12 with a double and a homer before going on the injured list.
“A lot of stuff is out of my control,” Piscotty said. “I’m just trying to control what I can and in the training room. I think the the narrative and the rhetoric has been very positive. And then if I’m doing really well, it’s just that these things take some time, which we’re running out of.”
Fiers update: A newly-shaven Mike Fiers (sans G-shaped beard) will undergo an MRI on Tuesday to assess an arm issue that cut short his start on Sunday. The injury was initially thought to be a nerve issue, but the A’s are hoping it’s more muscular.
“Hopefully, we caught a break,” Melvin said. “As far as that goes, we have a little room to play around with, with the off day, as far as his start, but we’re not altering anything until we get all the information tomorrow.”
Laser Ramon focused on right: The A’s will keep Ramon Laureano (right shin stress reaction) in right field until he can go full-bore running on an everyday basis. He’s still being rested frequently, given that Oakland has a reliable hand in center thanks to Mark Canha.
“The center fielder on every ball in the outfield has to move,” Melvin said. “Right field, we’re trying to cut down on some of the movement.”
Laureano’s residency in right has had unexpected side benefits, aside from keeping Canha’s bat in the lineup and making up for the absence of Piscotty. In his first game, he got his first right field assist.
“What’s been kind of a plus is the fact that his arm’s come into play a little bit more in right field,” Melvin said. “I think he’s comfortable out there, and until we feel like he can move around consistently, on an everyday basis playing, we feel like with a job that Mark’s done in center field that he’s in a good spot in right.”