The A’s currently have a great problem: They have too many starting pitchers.
After re-signing veteran Mike Fiers and the health progression of lefty prospect A.J. Puk, the A's currently have six capable starting pitchers. However, the possibility of utilizing a six-man rotation hasn't been talked about yet. Puk’s 2021 role will be dependant upon how he performs in the coming weeks.
“I think A.J.’s development will play into it and see where he’s at -- we haven’t had any discussions as of now on a six-man rotation,” A’s pitching coach Scott Emerson said on Wednesday. “We’ve always thought about five guys traditional with six guys options.”
Emerson said Puk will face hitters Friday and he plans to evaluate how many days of rest Puk will need until his next outing.
In 11 1/3 innings of relief in 2019, Puk posted a 3.18 ERA with 13 strikeouts.
He also had a few setbacks with shoulder surgery, which resulted in no box score numbers for the 2020 season. And while Puk is on course to be a starter, there are possibilities he comes out of the bullpen as well.
“I really can’t answer where he’s going to be penciled in because we got to watch the guy pitch first, but so far, what has worked that he’s been doing has been awesome. Really impressed at what he’s doing. He’s very confident and that makes it even better. So we’ll get through Friday and see where we’re at on Saturday with him.”
Emerson says obviously depth is imperative to any team’s rotation and there always is a need for starters.
“That doesn’t mean one guy can’t be in the bullpen and be a long guy and then something happens, just fills the starting rotation -- you don’t necessarily have to go down to Triple-A,” Emerson said.
It’s still early, but A’s manager Bob Melvin said during the offseason Jesús Luzardo looks to be a guy at the top of the rotation in 2021. Chris Bassitt became the most dependable starter last season after simply vying for a spot and is a dependable No. 2. The A's have Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas in the fold as well.
Despite a delay due to a positive coronavirus test, Montas looked strong after his offseason training and topped out with some serious velocity on his pitches.
Behind those six, the A's have plenty of prospects on the cusp such as Daulton Jefferies, Grant Holmes, Cole Irvin and James Kaprielien ... just to name a few.
As mentioned -- it's a good problem to have.