Piscotty 'looks 100% healthy' after shutdown
OAKLAND -- There are several players around the league who actually benefited from the delayed start of the regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A’s outfielder Stephen Piscotty is near the top of that list.
Just before Spring Training was shut down on March 12, Piscotty often walked around A’s camp with a bat in his hands, frustrated at the lack of activity he was able to take part in. An oblique/rib cage injury was holding him out of Cactus League action, continuing what he described as a “perpetual cycle of hurt” that had been going on eight months after knee and ankle issues limited him to just 93 games in 2019.
After taking the time during the baseball shutdown the heal, Piscotty is now at full strength and has shined during the first week of Summer Camp workouts at the Coliseum.
“He looks 100% healthy and he actually had a couple of hits and a walk in one [simulated] game,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. "It looks completely different than he did in Spring Training. It looks like he’s ready to hit the ground running. I feel really good for him.
“He’s gone through a significant period where it kind of went from one injury to the next for him and it got really frustrating. He looks completely healthy right now, so I know he’s pretty happy about that.”
Piscotty was impressive when he joined the A’s in 2018, smashing 27 home runs with 88 RBIs over 155 games. Struggling to stay out of the trainers’ room in ‘19, Piscotty slashed .249/.309/.412 with 13 homers and 44 RBIs and was limited to just 17 games after the All-Star break.
“Obviously, my season from a personal perspective was a bit of a disappointment last year,” Piscotty said. “I’m looking to bounce back. Just excited. It’s gonna be a sprint to the playoffs but I think we’re ready.”
Once Piscotty was able to swing a bat again during the shutdown, he immediately got to work, setting up a net and tee in the backyard of his home in Danville, Calif. As time went on, Piscotty found a connection through a friend who ran batting cages just 10 minutes from his home at Wellman Sports in San Ramon, Calif.
Throughout the shutdown, Piscotty maintained in close contact with A’s hitting coach Darren Bush, sending him video of his hitting sessions. Piscotty was focused on bettering the position of his head when at the plate. After not getting any Cactus Legaue at-bats, Piscotty is eager to get as many as possible in Summer Camp in order to continue improving his head position before Opening Day on July 24 against the Angels in Oakland.
“We were focused on my head position and keeping it still, not lunging forward. It’s really helped me see the ball really well,” Piscotty said. “That’s one thing I worked on every single day that I hit. It’s interesting to get in the box after not playing for so long and not feel comfortable. [Bush] was spot on with that, and I’m going to keep it going.”
If Piscotty can stay on the field, the A’s would have a lineup that is fully healthy at once for the first time in about two years. Missing players here and there hasn’t been much of an issue, as the club has still managed to win 97 games and reach the postseason in each of the past two seasons. But getting Piscotty back to right field on a regular basis and closer to his 2018 production will only make the '20 A’s lineup even more dangerous -- with perhaps not enough spots for productive players.
“The trick will be getting nine guys in the lineup on a particular day when you have guys on the bench who would merit being in the lineup,” Melvin said. “It’s a good challenge to have.”