Athletics

A's Bob Melvin thrilled to have difficult Opening Day starter decision

A's Bob Melvin thrilled to have difficult Opening Day starter decision

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's have a problem: Figuring out who will get the ball on Opening Day.

Yes, it's early to think about, but it's a stellar problem to have. One manager Bob Melvin is not used to.

The obvious smile on his face during the cool morning at Hohokam Stadium showed he likes knowing he has plenty of strong options.

"Literally you can throw it in a hat and pick it out, and I don't anyone would have a problem with it," Melvin told reporters Monday. 

He understands it's not an easy decision, especially this time around.

"There are a lot of things that go into picking your Opening Day starter, so we'll probably wait a little while to give you that news."

As a veteran, Mike Fiers will have a promising case for the job against the Twins on March 26. He didn't get the start over Sean Manaea for the AL Wild Card Game last postseason, but that doesn't signify much. 

Young lefties and A's top prospects A.J. Puk and Jesús Luzardo also will be part of the equation. 

Luzardo, put up sensational numbers in 2019, albeit in a small sample size. He boasted a 1.50 ERA with a 0.667 WHIP and 16 strikeouts in 12 innings, facing just 46 batters.

Puk came out of the bullpen last season as well and will vie for a spot in the starting rotation.

[RELATED: Fiers gets cheers in first appearance since Astros article]

The A's will also get a full season of Frankie Montas, who is coming off of an 80-game PED suspension in 2019. He went 9-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 2019. 

Chris Bassitt also will be thrown in the mix. He showed his diversity last season, moving to the bullpen after Blake Treinen was out with a back injury.

He could be a sixth-man option or continue a reliever slot, but either way, Melvin will put Bassitt in a position to succeed.

Regardless of who gets the ball on March 26, the A's will not be short on options.

Melvin said his bullpens have been great. 

A's legend Dave Stewart describes coronavirus scare, testing process

A's legend Dave Stewart describes coronavirus scare, testing process

Dave Stewart is down 15 pounds, and feeling “about eighty percent” healthy.

All of this part of an illness, which two weeks ago, the former pitcher-turned NBC Sports California A's analyst feared was coronavirus.

“I was very, very much afraid,” Stewart said, who also suffers from asthma.

The 63-year old’s symptoms began while on a baseball business trip in Monclova, Mexico. The return flight to California is when he knew something was wrong, and testing for COVID-19 was imminent.

“Went straight from the airport, to the testing place,” Stewart said. “They didn’t even give me two minutes, rushed me into the tent, put a mask on me. And started the testing.”

That testing, as you might well already know about, is invasive through the nasal cavities.

“Two swabs, up these big tunnels of mine,” Stewart said about the testing process. “They put those things up there, I felt like they were in my brain. One for the flu, the other for the virus.”

Stewart’s breathing and blood pressure were also observed, in addition to an X-ray of his chest region. 

Eight painstaking days later, he received good news: Everything was negative.

But that didn’t stop Stewart from self-quarantining the moment he got home. And for good reason: He has a 93-year old mother and 102-year old step-father.

“If I’m carrying it, and I don’t know it, then I’m responsible for two very elderly people,” Stewart said.

“The people that I could touch, and possibly give this to, and possibly endanger their lives.”

[RELATED: Why Astros serving bans despite hiatus stings for A's fans]

The 1989 World Series MVP is set to resume his role on "A’s Pre and Postgame Live" once baseball resumes. Stewart also was set to have his jersey retired with the A’s on May 23. But that is now inevitably better suited for a later date.

“This is certainly something I can live with, that’s for sure,” Stewart said.

Why Astros' bans ending in 2020 despite MLB hiatus stings for A's fans

Why Astros' bans ending in 2020 despite MLB hiatus stings for A's fans

We're currently in the midst of unprecedented times due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

But sports have faced major setbacks, with postponements and cancellations affecting leagues worldwide. MLB has not played a regular-season game, and the date of Opening Day still is undetermined. And yet, the Houston Astros, who were scheduled to face the A’s this week, might get a small break due to the delay.

Former Houston manager AJ Hinch and ex-general manager Jeff Luhnow’s one-year suspensions would be served this year, whether an MLB season is played or not. 

ESPN’s Buster Olney reported Thursday, citing a source, that MLB will view both Hinch and Luhnow serving their discipline this year in 2020 because the suspensions were tied to the end of the upcoming postseason.

The league also announced the Astros would lose their first and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 MLB Draft as part of the disciplinary actions, and they also were fined $5 million. 

Astros owner Jim Crane then took an additional step and fired the two. 

With the A’s originally set to face the reigning AL champions this week in Oakland, it would have created many storylines centered around Mike Fiers.

Fiers was the whistleblower who exposed the Astros of their cheating ways during their 2017 World Series run. This subjected him to much scrutiny from fans, but Fiers also was dubbed a hero to those around the game.

For now, the earliest the season could start is around mid-May. That’s in addition to agreement between the league and the MLB Players Association that states the season cannot begin until there are no bans on mass gatherings, no travel restrictions and medical experts have determined games will not post a risk to the health of teams and fans.

The Astros-A’s series could have been the series that set the tone for the rest of the season across the league

[RELATED: What Canha misses most about baseball during hiatus]

It appears that the tone is different now. Not because baseball hasn’t started yet, but Hinch and Luhnow would be getting a free pass in a way. None of us are playing baseball right now. 

That has Hinch and Luhnow waiting around, just like the rest of us.