Athletics

A's teammates 'respect' Mike Fiers for speaking out against Astros

A's teammates 'respect' Mike Fiers for speaking out against Astros

A's third baseman Matt Chapman isn't the type to dwell on the past, even though the A’s finished runner-up in the AL West behind Houston in 2018 and 2019. But the Platinum Glove winner certainly does see changes resulting from the Astros cheating scandal.   

“The future for them is looking a little different right now,” Chapman said Friday. “And the future for the A’s is exciting.”

It’s not like the sign-stealing tactics in south Texas are news to Oakland A’s players at all. They were tipped off during the 2018 season.   

“Whatever they did, if we would have been more careful, I still think we could have beat them on any given day,” shortstop Marcus Semien said. “And we showed that during the end of the year when we changed the signs and just played our game.”

Players haven’t chatted much amongst each other about the involvement of their teammate, Mike Fiers, who was the named source that put MLB’s entire investigation into motion.

“At the end fo the day, we’re united behind the fact that we embrace what Fiers did,” closer Liam Hendriks said. “We’re trying to clean up the game, and if it takes somebody putting their name to it, that shows a lot of courage.”

As for Fiers being a “rat,” Chapman offered disagreed with that characterization.

“I don’t think it’s right to call him that," Chapman said. "I have nothing but respect for Mike. I think he was put in a tough situation and he did the right thing, and that baseball is going to be better for it.”

As for Fiers speaking out against his former club, Semien applauded the pitcher's actions.

[RELATED: Melvin calls Fiers a 'hero']

“He was approached by the media, and the only one to put his name on it," Semien said. "I totally respect that. Sure there were other sources, he’s not the only one. But we’re happy the game is going to get cleaned up by this.”

Semien also thinks the punishments and firings of manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow will have an effect across MLB.

“The suspensions, they’re serious,” Marcus said. “Teams aren’t going to do this anymore.”

A's shut down outfielder Stephen Piscotty with intercostal strain

A's shut down outfielder Stephen Piscotty with intercostal strain

The Athletics have held Stephen Piscotty out of spring training games while dealing with a side injury now revealed to be an intercostal strain. He won’t be making his Cactus League debut anytime soon.

The Pleasanton native has been shut down indefinitely after an MRI showed the injury to be a “little worse” than expected, A’s manager Bob Melvin told reporters in Mesa, Ariz., on Friday morning.

Melvin wouldn’t rule Piscotty out for Opening Day, though he couldn’t provide a timetable for his return.

Piscotty was set to have batting practice Thursday but backed out of the workout, telling the San Francisco Chronicle he would do so soon. MRI results seem to have backed up that prediction somewhat.

[RELATED: Why Melvin is confident Khrush will bounce back this season]

The Athletics are deep in the outfield, and an optimist might say they can sort out a crowded position group by giving at-bats to others for the time being.

“The more you do this, the more important you realize depth is,” Melvin said, via the Chronicle. “It’s very rarely you get through spring training and everyone gets through healthy.”

Why A's prospect A.J. Puk feels less pressure after Tommy John surgery

Why A's prospect A.J. Puk feels less pressure after Tommy John surgery

MESA, Ariz. -- It was a highly-anticipated debut when the 6-foot-7 lefty prospect took to the mound to face the Yankees in Oakland last season. 

A.J. Puk contained that well-known plot of the young pitcher undergoing Tommy John surgery in April of 2018, and we would have to wait longer to see him in action.

His debut on Aug. 21, had him facing three batters. He would walk one and give up a hit. 

This spring, he's concentrating on "getting the cobwebs off and synching the mechanics," as most pitchers do, but he feels less pressure this time around now that his health isn't of as high concern as it had been previously. He can concentrate on being, well -- a pitcher. 

"I look at it as every day just try to earn my health," Puk told media after his Cactus League outing against the Rockies on Thursday.

In two innings, he struck out two and gave up one hit. 

Spring is unique, of course. Frankie Montas had just one inning to pitch on Wednesday, and Puk has made two game appearances totaling just three innings.

He's OK with the pace for now and looks forward to building on it, but doesn't have an innings number in mind for the future.

"I'll just keep throwing until they say no," he said. 

Puk, still young, not just on paper, but has to yet to have his first big-league start, is soaking up the moment of facing big hitters like Nolan Arenado in the desert.

The A's aren't going to get fair chances to go up against the Rockies, but Puk knows how rare of an opportunity this is.

Arenado hit a shot to left field near the scoreboard off Parker Dunshee in the seventh inning, as the five-time All-Star does. Puk said it was cool to be able to face guys like that at this level.

[RELATED: BoMel confident Khris Davis will have bounce-back season]

"He smoked that ball, you know," Puk said. "Thank God he didn't lift that, it would have been off the scoreboard, but that's baseball for you."

There is less pressure as the exhibition games continue, but the 24-year-old wants to continue proving himself. That mission won't fade.