Is There Any Chance Athletics' Pitchers Will Have Enough Time To Be Ready?

John Hickey

No Major League pitcher threw as many as 15 innings in spring training before things were shut down on March 12 over the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The A’s Mike Fiers threw 13 innings, one of nine MLB hurlers with 12 or more innings pitched this spring. No other Oakland pitcher threw more than nine innings.

With the suggestion that baseball may have a second spring starting in mid-June and a possible regular season opening coming in the first week of July, what does that mean for the Oakland pitching staff?

The first time around, spring training began on Feb. 12 for the A’s and was in session for 10 days before games began. Then there were almost three weeks of games before the pandemic brought things to a halt. This time around, there will be about 60 percent less time available.

The A’s, like everybody else, will be starting from scratch. And with the second spring probably limited to about three weeks – half of normal – it’s going to be very difficult to get the starting pitchers, particularly, up to speed.

If teams play spring games – there’s some belief that most of the competition will be intrasquad if teams train in their home parks -- they won’t play many. Getting to 15 competitive innings before the regular season begins will be difficult.

So, when the season starts, many starting pitchers might not be ready.

Take the 1995 season. After the 1994-95 strike led to spring training camps full of replacement players, the strike ended.

Pitchers were working out and throwing before federal judge Sonia Sotomayor, now a member of the U.S. Supreme Court, issued a ruling that led the players to end the strike. There was no new labor agreement in place, but the owners decided against a lockout that would have kept baseball on the shelf, and it was time to get ready.

Then as now, pitchers were working on their own. There was a three-week spring training in April of 1995 before that season began. The results indicate there was not enough to get starting pitchers up to scratch. The A’s showed having pitchers work on their own is no substitute for a regimented spring scheduled.

Starting with the April 26 opening day 1.1-inning effort turned in by Dave Stewart in Toronto, there were only two games of more than five innings turned in by A’s starters the first two times through the rotation – 10 games total – as pitchers tried to get their strength built up.

While current members of the A’s pitching staff are throwing on their own now, there is, by design, little input from pitching coach Scott Emerson and the A’s staff.

“There’s really nothing new to report,” Emerson said via text Thursday. “We’re waiting on a decision to play, and we’ll go from there.

“There is still no formal program in place. We are keeping in touch with text messages or calls. Once we see what we have, we will begin a formal plan, but there is no formal plan as of yet.”

Emerson talks with the pitchers weekly, but his basic message – health, safety and well being for the pitchers and their families is the priority – has not changed.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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