A's Piscotty may not be Ready for Opening Day

John Hickey

Right fielder Stephen Piscotty may not be ready to start the regular season for the A’s.

Piscotty’s spring training work has mostly been on hold while he dealt with some discomfort in his ribs. He had an MRI on Thursday, and on Friday morning manager Bob Melvin said the results came back “a little worse” than the club had been expecting.

Melvin isn’t saying that Piscotty won’t be ready on March 26 when the Minnesota Twins visit the Coliseum for the opener, but he will be sidelined for the near future and it’s clear that the A’s must prepare for a worst-case scenario.

Piscotty, 29, hasn’t played a Cactus League game yet, and he told the San Jose Mercury News that he might have sustained the injury by taking too many swings in batting cages during the offseason.

Rib cage injuries aren’t anything hitters want to mess around with. There is a long history of players coming back too soon and suffering a reinjury, compounding the playing time missed.

This news comes on top of Piscotty having missed 69 games last year with a sprained knee, an injury ankle. He opted against surgery, did rehab work and made it back for the last week of the season, although the A’s didn’t judge him in good enough shape to make the post-season roster.

That came in the wake of Piscotty having a breakout year in his first season in Oakland in 2018 after being picked up in a trade with St. Louis. He had a .267/.331/.491 slash line with 27 homers and 41 doubles. In 2019 he fell to .249/.309/.412 with 13 homers and 17 doubles.

So for now, the A’s will have to look at its outfield depth. In that regard, they are in good shape.

“The more you do this, the more you realize how important depth is,” Melvin said. “Not only pitching, but certain on the position-player equation, it’s very rare you get to spring training and everyone gets through it healthy.”

The A’s had been planning on having Mark Canha in left, Ramon Laureano in center and Piscotty in right this year. Last year when Piscotty wasn’t available Melvin often went with Canha in center, Laureano in right and Robbie Grossman or Chad Pinder in left.

Both Grossman, who is in his final year before free agency, and Pinder are back. Infielder/outfielder Jorge Mateo is a candidate; he’s out of options. And outfielders Dustin Fowler, Skye Bolt and Luis Barrera are all on the 40-man roster. Fowler and Bolt both have a little big-league experience.

Elsewhere on the roster, an absence by Piscotty from the Opening Day roster might mean the A’s can buy time in making the decision at second base. If Mateo makes the roster as a backup outfielder, then some combination of Mateo, Franklin Barreto, Tony Kemp or Rule 5 pickup Vimael Machin could get extra time to make their case at second base.