MESA, Ariz. -- Stephen Piscotty stands around the cage with a bat in hand during most batting practices at Hohokam Stadium. But all he can do for now is take in the sounds of the crack of the bat and observe his teammates.
As the A’s gear up for a 2020 campaign in which they intend to improve upon back-to-back 97-win seasons, they do so knowing that mission will likely begin without Piscotty, who entered Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Royals yet to see any action this spring. With Opening Day just over two weeks away, Piscotty remains shut down from all baseball activity with an oblique/rib cage injury.
“I’m working through this oblique. It’s a tough baseball injury, that’s for sure,” Piscotty said. "I feel healthy, but I have to be patient.”
Patience can be tough to practice when it’s going on eight months. Since a right knee sprain on a slide in Anaheim on June 30, Piscotty has spent more time in the trainers’ room than the field. He returned Aug. 3 but never felt completely healed from the sprain, then he sustained a right ankle sprain just three weeks later and missed all but one game the rest of the way.
In all, Piscotty was limited to 93 games and slashed .249/.309/.412 with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs.
“I feel like I’m in an eight-month perpetual cycle of hurt, and it’s very frustrating,” Piscotty said. “But I’m trying to keep a positive attitude and keep working.”
Piscotty tried to ramp up the activity shortly after Cactus League play began Feb. 22, but he said the oblique “did not respond” the way he had hoped, leading to the indefinite shutdown. There’s no timetable for when he might start back up with baseball activities, but the bright side for the outfielder is that the injury is happening now instead of during the season.
“I am glad it’s happening now and not for what hopefully will be a long postseason run,” Piscotty said. “It’s a tough one. My mind is spinning on how I’m feeling, and I’m just trying to trust in our trainers and doctors. They’ll give me the green light when it’s time.”
A’s manager Bob Melvin agreed with the right fielder’s view, adding that the proper time to heal will hopefully get Piscotty's production back to what he showed in 2018, when he clubbed 27 home runs and had 88 RBIs in 155 games.
“I would say the silver lining is it’s happening now and not in April or May,” Melvin said. “He’s doing the best he can to rehab and get himself ready to play. Hopefully, we’re past some of those injuries once he gets back on the field.”
Piscotty’s absence to begin the season could be softened by the A's strong outfield depth. Mark Canha, who posted career highs in games played (126), runs scored (80), hits (112, matching 2015), home runs (26), batting average (.273) and OPS (.913) last season, is the leading candidate to get the bulk of playing time in right field.