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Lockdown Time Off Proves a Boost For Athletics' Piscotty, Puk and Mengden

Outfielder Stephen Piscotty and pitchers A.J. Puk and Daniel Mengden were going to have their start to the Oakland Athletics season impacted by injuries. With the break to the sport providing healing time, all three could be ready to go once baseball picks up post-lockdown
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There aren’t many positives that come from seeing the sport you play or that you love to watch being completely shut down.

The only one that comes readily to mind is that players who might have begun the season on the disabled list have been able to use the extra time to get healthy without missing any games.

It's that way around baseball. In the case of the Oakland A’s, that’s particularly true for right fielder Stephen Piscotty, starting pitcher A.J. Puk and starter/reliever Daniel Mengden.

A's manager Bob Melvin said Wednesday he expected that all three have gotten sufficient down time that all should be in the A's roster mix when things get going again. 

Piscotty, who was limited to just 93 games last year, was looking at missing as much as a month after coming down with an oblique injury in early March. Typically, a player recovering from an oblique problem will miss between six and eight weeks before being able to resume baseball activities, and even then, it’s usually a couple of weeks more before a player is back in the lineup.

As it happens, Piscotty had just finished building a basement workout facility in his East Bay home, so when the lockdown hit and Piscotty returned home, he could continue his rehab work without interruption. The A’s rehab crew gave him a general plan of action as he left Mesa, Ariz., and he’s had a series of Facetime calls with the planners as he’s progressed.

And he has progressed.

“I’m working through a swing progression right now,” he told NBC Sports-Bay Area recently. “With this pause in the game, it really allowed myself to get extra healing time and I’ve tried to take advantage of that.

“(With) obliques, you really are at risk to re-injure them. So, we gave it a couple extra weeks before I started swinging and I’m just now working through that progression. I have no pain, and I’m fully confident I’ll be fully healthy whenever this season picks back up.”

Puk started the Cactus League opener for Oakland and pitched twice before being shut down thanks to a shoulder strain. He was improving through early March and seemed likely to make the opening day roster, although it would likely have been as a reliever.

That’s the same role he had when he made the jump from Triple-A last August, going 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in 10 games covering 11.1 innings.

Puk told the San Francisco Chronicle that he’s feeling great, probably the best his shoulder has felt since returning from Tommy John surgery.

Melvin headed into the final two weeks of the spring, just before the shutdown was imposed, saying that Puk likely would have to be a reliever because there wouldn’t be time to get his arm built up.

As it stands now, however, there will be something along the line of three weeks of spring training and whenever the A’s reassemble, Puk, who has been able to throw off a mound near home in Iowa will begin even with the rest of the Oakland pitching staff.

It’s possible that Mengden will be part of that mix whenever the troops gather again. The right-hander, who was in the A’s rotation for much of 2019, had a small bone spur in his right elbow shaved off the day before spring training opened. That meant his chance of making the opening day roster went from maybe 60 percent to zero; he went on the 60-day injured list.

"We were looking for somewhere in June for him to be ready," Melvin said. "I think he's going to be fine once we get going."

Mengden was cleared to start a throwing program on Thursday, March 12. That happened to be the day baseball got shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 60 days have come and gone. By the time baseball starts up again, Mengden should be ready to compete for a job. In the wake of the surgery, Melvin was talking about Mengden joining the bullpen midseason.

That would have been perhaps sometime in June or July. And that’s when, speculation suggests, baseball may start again.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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