Athletics

Bigger than baseball: Piscotty reflects on homecoming in trade to A's

piscotty-us.jpg
AP

Bigger than baseball: Piscotty reflects on homecoming in trade to A's

He’ll be playing in front of his family and hometown fans, in the ballpark he grew up going to as a kid.

Stephen Piscotty is fully aware that not many major leaguers get to do this, but his trade from the St. Louis Cardinals to the A’s means so much more on a deeper level.

The Pleasanton native will get to play in front of his mother, Gretchen, who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”, in May.

It was a difficult and emotional 2017 season for Piscotty, a 26-year-old outfielder who left the Cardinals for a period to be with his family and also dealt with two stints on the disabled list. He struggled to a .235 batting average after a 22-homer, 85-RBI season in 2016.

He admits how difficult it was to concentrate on baseball, with his thoughts drifting back to the Bay Area and his Mom. Piscotty expressed gratitude to the Cardinals for their treatment of him during his tough time and for their efforts in orchestrating a trade that brought him home.

The A’s sent minor league infielders Yairo Munoz and Max Schrock to St. Louis in a deal that was finalized Thursday.

“We’re pretty emotionally tied to that organization,” Piscotty said of the Cardinals. “It chokes me up a little bit. But family obviously comes first, and sometimes some things are more important than baseball. With this opportunity here, it’s just a great combination of family and baseball. … A lot of good is going to come out of it.”

Piscotty and his brothers, Austin and Nick, grew up going to the Coliseum, as his father, Mike, has been an A’s season ticket holder for more than two decades. In May, their tight-knit family was rocked by news of Gretchen’s diagnosis.

“I remember kind of thinking ‘OK, they diagnosed it a certain way but it’s gonna turn out to be something else,” Piscotty said. “I didn’t want to believe it. I kept playing for a couple days, but I was so distracted, I couldn’t focus. I really didn’t care about what was happening on the field.”

Piscotty talked with manager Mike Matheny, hitting coach John Mabry and others.

“They were like, ‘You need to go home,’ and it was the right decision,” Piscotty said. “… It was a roller coaster year. I got sent down (to the minors), but I learned a lot. I’m gonna tap into some of those experiences.”

The A’s feel they’re getting an athletic corner outfielder about to reach his prime. Piscotty inked a six-year $33.5 million before the 2017 season, so he’s locked up at an affordable rate moving forward.

Piscotty has played mostly right field, but he and new teammate Matt Joyce can handle either corner spot.

Though the A’s made the trade primarily for baseball purposes, general manager David Forst added that “it’s wonderful for his family, and hopefully it will have given him and his family some peace of mind.”

Piscotty got news of the trade while in Pebble Beach with friends for a golf trip that had been a long time in the planning. Team orthopedist Dr. Will Workman actually made the drive to Pebble to administer Piscotty’s physical — at a local Airbnb property — so the A’s and Cardinals could finalize the trade.

Piscotty lives in Pleasanton in the offseason, but the family recently made a trip to St. Louis and saw the Budweiser Clydesdales. Gretchen loves horses.

Piscotty is optimistic his mother will be able to get out to the Coliseum to see him play. He credits his father, who has “worked his tail off” to take care of insurance needs and medications for Gretchen.

“We’re in a good place,” Stephen said. “We’re at a point where we’ve got things pretty dialed in and we can move around and go places.”

The support has poured in from St. Louis and the Bay Area. A’s president Dave Kaval, responding to a fan on Twitter, said the team will donate some of the proceeds from Piscotty jersey sales to ALS research.

“I wish I didn’t need all of their support, but it’s nice to have it,” Gretchen Piscotty told the Bay Area News Group.

Stephen, who grew up idolizing Tim Hudson and Mark McGwire, is excited to wear green and gold. Getting to spend more time with his mother provides a different kind of lift.

“That will give me a lot of comfort and peace of mind knowing I’m close.”

A's slammed in loss to red-hot Red Sox

A's slammed in loss to red-hot Red Sox

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- Mitch Moreland hit a grand slam, Jackie Bradley Jr. added a three-run homer and the streaking Boston Red Sox won their eighth in a row, beating the Oakland Athletics 7-3 on Friday night.

Boston kept up the best start in the franchise's 118-year history, improving to a major league-leading 17-2. They've won 17 of 18 since losing to Tampa Bay on opening day.

Hundreds of Boston fans decked in red showed up at the Oakland Coliseum. They saw Moreland hit the fifth grand slam by the Red Sox this season - they didn't hit any last year.

Eduardo Nunez had three hits and scored while Hanley Ramirez singled twice for the Red Sox.

Jed Lowrie matched his career high with four hits for Oakland. Lowrie, who doubled in a run in the first, leads the majors in hits (32) and RBIs (22). The A's had won four in a row.

Moreland homered on the first pitch from reliever Emilio Pagan in the sixth. Mookie BettsAndrew Benintendi and Ramirez opened the inning with three consecutive singles off starter Kendall Graveman (0-4) before Moreland's towering shot to right.

This is the first time the Red Sox have hit five slams before May 1.

Bradley homered off Graveman in the second inning, his second in four games.

The power surge came by the Red Sox was timely on a night when starter Drew Pomeranz failed to make it out of the fourth inning in his season debut. Activated off the disabled list earlier in the day after recovering from a strained forearm, the left-hander struck out seven but allowed three runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Hector Velazquez (3-0) pitched three scoreless innings for the win. Boston also got a lift from Matt Barnes, who retired four batters and struck out pinch-hitter Matt Joyce with the bases loaded to end the seventh.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: J.D. Martinez was given a planned day off. Martinez has been Boston's hottest hitter over the past two weeks while going 13 for 22 (.591) with four home runs...LHP Bobby Poyner will make at least one more rehab start before the team decides whether or not to activate him off the DL. Poyner has been out since April 12 with a strained left hamstring. . RHP Marcus Walden was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket to make room for Pomeranz.

Athletics: RHPs Chris Bassitt and Josh Lucas were recalled from Triple-A Nashville. LHP Daniel Coulombe was optioned down.

UP NEXT

Boston's Chris Sale (1-0, 1.23 ERA) faces Sean Manaea (2-2, 1.63 ERA) in matchup of lefties at the Coliseum on Saturday. Sale has yielded three runs and struck out 31 over 22 innings this season. Manaea has been Oakland's most consistent pitcher, allowing two or fewer runs in each of his four starts.

Mr. Professional: A's Jed Lowrie playing best baseball of his career at 34 years old

Mr. Professional: A's Jed Lowrie playing best baseball of his career at 34 years old

Jed Lowrie has delivered some productive seasons throughout his 11-year Major League Baseball career, but nothing quite like this.

Through 19 games, the A's second baseman leads all of baseball with 28 hits and 21 runs batted in. His six home runs are tied for the American League lead, while his 49 total bases rank second and his .346 batting average is fifth.

In an extremely small sample size, the former Stanford star is on pace to hit 51 home runs and drive in 179 runs, at the age of 34. To put that in perspective, Lowrie's career highs in those categories are 16 and 75, respectively.

"It's all about the work for me, the routine," he explained. "I think the results speak for themselves. But I'm not focused on that. I'm focused on my work in the cage and what I do to prepare for the games."

"He's playing the best baseball of his entire career," A's manager Bob Melvin marveled. "He's as professional a hitter as anybody in the league. He has been absolutely terrific."

Lowrie has been on an absolute tear the last two weeks. Over his last 11 games, he is batting .367, with six home runs and 16 RBI.

"He's got a great awareness what his strengths and weaknesses are," Melvin said. "Through experience, he knows what pitchers are going to try to do to him. Throughout the course of the game, he understands the adjustments that are going to be made. He has a focus now probably better than any point in his career, and the numbers would suggest that as well."

Lowrie believes the turning point of his career came two offseasons ago, and ironically, it had nothing to do with baseball. For years, he couldn't figure out why he would wake up still feeling tired, despite sleeping more than eight hours a night.

It turned out Lowrie had a deviated septum, suffered several years earlier when he was hit in the nose by a baseball. After consulting with an ear, nose, and throat specialist, he had surgery to repair the septum.

"I think it helped a lot," Lowrie said. "I just assumed I wasn't waking up refreshed because of the season. Come to find out my airway was very restricted and my sleep quality was not very good. So while I was sleeping eight or nine hours a night, I was still waking up not feeling refreshed, like I hadn't even gone to sleep. After nine years of having a deviated septum, that's going to be something that takes time, but I can already see the results from it."

"From that point on, he seemed like a different guy,” added Melvin. “He's allowed to work a little bit harder because he's getting some rest."

Last season following the surgery, Lowrie set an Oakland A's record with 49 doubles, while leading the team with a .277 batting average. The A's picked up his $6 million option for this year, which has turned out to be quite a bargain.

If Lowrie continues at his current pace, or even anywhere near it, he'll soon be able to add another achievement to his baseball resume: MLB All-Star.