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How Piscotty’s injury impacts outfield picture

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Stephen Piscotty will be shut down for the foreseeable future, possibly relegating the Oakland A’s outfielder to the injured list for the beginning of the regular season.

An MRI revealed that Piscotty’s intercostal strain had worsened. There is no timetable for his return. Manager Bob Melvin said he has “no idea” if he will be ready for the regular season, but he wouldn’t throw it out of the realm of possibility.

The silver lining is that the A’s have a plethora of viable outfielders ready to step up in Piscotty’s place.

“Thins tend to work themselves out. It’s really crowded, and that’s a good thing to have. the more you do this, the more you realize how important depth is,” Melvin said.

An outfield without Piscotty to start can easily shift with the pieces it holds, though. It looks as if the starting outfield might consist of Ramón Laureano in center, Mark Canha in right field and Robbie Grossman in left possibly platooning with Swiss Army Knife Chad Pinder. Laureano and Canha could easily switch places, too).

But, a possible open roster spot could mean that a number of outfielders on the 40-man roster who have shined — particularly in spring so far — could take advantage of this opening with a shot at the Opening Day roster.

Luis Barrera missed that window last season when he was placed on the 60-day injured list with a shoulder injury he suffered in June with the double-A Midland RockHounds (he also was named the MVP of the Texas League All-Star game in 2019). But, back with the A’s in camp, Barrera looks like he hasn’t missed a beat.

“He’s come in this spring looking to prove something,” manager Bob Melvin said on Wednesday.

Barrera’s demonstrated a plus first-step instinct in the outfield, a capability that stood out when he effortlessly snagged Giants third baseman Jacob Gonzalez’s sure-fire gap double last Sunday.

The A’s are looking to bolster the crop left-handed bats on the roster, too. Enter Barrera. His injury kept Barrera away from winter ball this year.  He notably slashed .440/.500/.440 with a .940 OPS in the Dominican League in 2018/19. With the RockHounds, he slashed .321/.357/.513 with a .871but his bat’s been hot in the Cactus League. He’s collected five hits in 13 at bats (.384 average) in seven games.

The 24-year-old might have been on the fast track to a starting outfield role last season had he not incurred that shoulder injury. This sliver of opportunity could open that fast track back up again. Barrera has two minor league options

Seth Brown is another candidate to step up. The A’s have one of the best first basemen in baseball in Matt Olson (Canha and Pinder can play there, too), so consideration for positional flexibility at that position, considering depth, seems futile. But Brown is a natural first baseman, converted to a reliable outfielder.

Brown forced his way up to the big leagues last August after mashing 37 home runs for the Las Vegas Aviators. He couldn’t go yard within the big league confines, but Brown proved he could hit big league pitching right away, he turned into an RBI machine (13 in 26 games). Skye Bolte and Dustin Fowler are other options on the 40-man that could provide depth.

Mike Fiers tries out that slider again

Mike Fiers has relied almost entirely on a four-pitch mix since he was with the Houston Astros in 2017. The 34-year-old’s arsenal consists of a fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup. It’s an arsenal that’s largely worked for him.

Fiers gave up five runs on four hits with three walks in two innings against the Cincinnati Reds in an eventual 10-1 loss on Friday at Goodyear Ballpark.

“I don’t even know half the guys in the lineup,” Fiers said. This start was more about his own progress this spring, less about the crooked numbers.

A red flag shot up when Reds shortstop Jose Garcia lofted a lazy slider into the left-field’s foul territory, just shy of being fair. Another flat shot up when Fiers dealt another slider that slipped right over the plate again. And, that one, Garcia lofted into the lawn.

Take those swings with a fat grain of salt.

In his first two starts of spring, Fiers has strayed a bit from his normal four-pitches and started trying to incorporate his slider into the mix.

“That slider he hit for a homer, to be honest I wouldn’t throw that in that situation, but I have to work on it to have an extra pitch if I need to,” Fiers said. It wasn’t the first time he’d thrown back-to-back sliders this spring. He threw two to Giants’ Wilmer Flores last Sunday, but he spoiled them — to Fiers’ relief.

It’s a pitch Fiers has been challenging himself with this spring as a potential weapon to mix in with his cutter against right-handed hitters. Fiers said he’s been fiddling with it in bullpen sessions, but it’s clearly a work in progress. It’s a pitch he used liberally, with varied success, in Milwaukee. Fiers thought he’d re-kindled that relationship with his slider. That changed come game-time.

“it doesn’t look like it,” Fiers said, asked if he saw any improvements to his slider. “But when the season comes, you go to your strengths. But this is the time to work on it.”

Sonny Gray, Bob Melvin a dugout camera and a towel



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