OAKLAND — Oakland Athletics baseman Matt Olson, out since he broke his hamate bone on a swing during the A’s second game against the Seattle Mariners in Japan, finally got to swing a bat on Tuesday, and that bat was a fungo.
Usually, the only man carrying a fungo into the A’s locker room is manager Bob Melvin. There’s usually no need for an everyday player to tote around the infield-hitting implement. That wasn’t so on Tuesday.
Olson took 15, half-speed, two-handed dry swings with the lighter bat, the first time he’s done anything close to hitting since March 21. Olson didn’t consider the session in the Oakland Raiders locker room hitting, per se (“Not at all,” he said), but it’s a significant step on the road to return for the Gold Glover who hit 29 home runs in 2018.
“It’s starting to feel pretty good,” Olson said. “I had some wrist tightness, just from my wrist being immobilized for however long I was in that splint, but getting the strength back, and felt kind of good.”
The fungo swings were the first baseball activity Olson has done since his surgery to remove the cracked hamate bone in his right hand on March 22.
Since the initial injury, the A’s have acquired Kendrys Morales to play first and serve as the occasional designated hitter. He’s hit .214 in 14 games with the club, with one home run.
Last season, Olson played all 162 games at first base, and hit .247 with 29 homers, 33 doubles and 84 RBIs. Defensively, he was worth 14 runs saved for a 97-win A’s team, and had a 4.3 WAR.
It was projected to take about four to six weeks for him to return, and though there’s no definitive date set yet for him to get back on the field, he’s right on schedule.
“All the ligaments and everything are fine, so it’s just going to be some tightness that I’m going to have to work through,” Olson said. “I’ll have a better idea [of timeline] in three or four days, as I progress a little bit and see how it feels.”
Manager Bob Melvin has been keeping up with Olson while the team was on its three-city road trip, but got to see him for the first time again on Tuesday.
“It’ll be a progression from this point to soft toss and tee and all that sort of thing,” Melvin said. “I think we’re right on schedule with him, and I know he’s pretty eager to start swinging a bat and start facing pitching, but it’s going to be a little bit more time before we do that.”
The next step will be dry swings with a regular bat, and then taking swings off a tee.
Nick Martini (knee) was also back in the clubhouse on Tuesday, and has started all baseball activities. He was slated to take batting practice with the team before the series opener against the Houston Astros.
The left fielder who emerged as an on-base savant last season — with a .296 batting average and a .397 on-base percentage — sprained his right knee by crashing into the left field wall at Hohokam Park in Mesa, Arizona at the end of February.
He went down after the acquisition of Robbie Grossman hurt his chances to break camp with the team, but was hitting .333 after five spring training games. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list at the start of the season, and is eligible to come off whenever the club deems him healthy enough, although a rehab assignment is likely before that happens.
Newly-re-signed right-handed pitcher Edwin Jackson is still in Arizona working up his arm. He won’t be joining the team soon, but with so far five healthy starters, the A’s don’t need to rush him, especially with the likes of Daniel Mengden, Paul Blackburn and newly-optioned Chris Bassitt down at Triple-A Las Vegas.
“He’s in Arizona right now, so he’ll go through some bullpens and he’ll throw to some hitters,” Melvin said. “Once we feel like he’s ready to get in a game, then he’ll end up going to Vegas. Still a little bit more time before that happens.”
The A’s, Melvin said, wouldn’t hesitate to make a move to bolster the starting depth — the organization would prefer to have 10 viable starters — but with the off day on Monday marking the end of a streak of 18 straight games to start the season, and another one coming up on Thursday, there’s no need to juggle the rotation.
“One of the things we like8 to do over the course of the season is to give the starters an extra day, unless there’s just a glaring weakness, and at this point there’s not. Especially after being on turn for a little over three times around, I think it’s the prudent thing to do to give everybody the extra day.”