Skip to main content

Five Storylines as Athletics Prepare to Start Summer Camp This Weekend

The Oakland Athletics will have 42 players in their Summer Camp at the Coliseum for the next three weeks. The A's don't know what the future will bring, but they are preparing for baseball in the middle of a pandemic. Here are some storylines likely to crop up as baseball returns.

Baseball returns to the Oakland Coliseum Saturday, at least after a fashion.

It’s Summer Camp, not Spring Training, and the A’s will have more than three dozen players ready to work out for the first time since Major League Baseball shut down back on March 12 in the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

There won’t be any fans on hand, not much media and, in fact, no one not deemed essential to getting baseball up and running after more than three months on the shelf.

After a week or 10 days or so, the A’s will probably begin working in some intrasquad games, and there’s a decent chance that the A’s and the Giants, working out across the bay in Oracle Park, will play two or three exhibition games – again, no fans – before the season starts up the weekend on Jun 23-25.

Here are some of the storylines to be watching as baseball makes its much-delayed return:

The schedule: The A’s know that they will be playing each of the four teams in the American League West a total of 10 times each. They know further that they will play four games against the five teams in the National League West.

They don’t know much more than that. A scheduled has been roughed out and the A’s have seen it, but exact dates and times around baseball haven’t been finalized, and MLB isn’t expected to announce the scheduled until sometime early next week.

The rotation: As we’ve discussed before, the A’s will go with a five-man rotation with Mike Fiers, Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk doing the honors.

A year ago, the rotation was ravaged by injuries and a half-season suspension for Montas, and as recently as February, it seemed that Puk might not be ready to start the season in the rotation because of shoulder discomfort. But the delay to starting the season has him back and as ready to pitch as ever.

Melvin said that while “we’re not going to be expecting them to throw games the first time out,” there won’t be any innings restrictions on his starting pitchers.

“We’ve got our five all healthy,” Melvin said. “We like what we’ve got.”

Read More

The lineup: Most of the roles for position players were close to being set when the shutdown game. Sean Murphy is likely to get first call catching, Tony Kemp and Franklin Barreto are probably in a second base platoon and Mark Canha is the probable regular left fielder.

Stephen Piscotty was probably going to start the season on the injured list if things had begun as scheduled on March 26. But the oblique injury that had slowed him months ago seems to be a thing of the past and the A’s will be counting on him in right field.

It will be up to the offense to get off to a quick start, because while the A’s finished with 97 wins each of the last two seasons, they were basically .500 teams 60 games into both 2018 and 2019. The postseason hasn’t been expanded, so with only five teams making it into the postseason this time around, the A’s need to play these 60 games as if they were the height of a pennant race, because they are.

The Coliseum: While most people watching the A’s will be focused on the field, what takes place inside the Coliseum will be important.

The A’s will divide their roster between the regular clubhouse and the Raiders’ locker room one level up. Having the two spaces will allow the club to practice social distancing as best they can, and the club is hoping that’s enough to keep players from being on top of each other at a time when practice a six-foot distance is recommended.

The problem comes from the south side of the clubhouse level. The opponent’s clubhouse is even smaller than the A’s regular clubhouse. Major League Baseball has recommended that clubs in a situation like the one the A’s find themselves find an open area and build a second space that could be used as a clubhouse by the visiting team. The trouble is, there isn’t much unused space in the Coliseum, but the A’s are working on trying to figure it out.

In any event, it’s likely that construction workers will be working on renovating the Coliseum for much of this month. It will be interesting to see if that construction can be scheduled for times when players and staff aren’t working.

Coronavirus and all that stuff: Everything to this point is written on the assumption that the players and staff don’t have major coronavirus issues. But the pandemic is all around – Alameda County specifically and the State of California in general are halting reopening projects.

The halt is not currently impacting the A’s, who weren’t going to have any fans in attendance. But if players or staff contract the virus, everything could change.

One reason baseball will start with 30 players in Oakland and another 30 or so at the alternative site is that if the 30-man roster in Oakland is hit by a big COVID-19 outbreak requiring quarantine, the club will have a (hopefully) healthy group of players to call on to take over.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

Click the "follow" button in the top right corner to join the conversation on Inside the Athletics on SI. Access and comment on featured stories and start your own conversations and post external links on our community page.