Frankie Montas

Giants, A's react on social media just like us to missing Opening Day

Giants, A's react on social media just like us to missing Opening Day

Opening Day will have to wait.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, MLB, along with the rest of the sports world faced some alterations in their schedule. The regular season now will be pushed back until at least May. This left some of the Giants and the A’s restless and looking forward to baseball’s return.

Giants manager Gabe Kapler sent out a message to fans admitting he wishes he could be playing on Thursday as well:

Third baseman Evan Longoria took to Instagram in a message to not give up hope. That baseball will be back. 

Pitcher Tyler Beede posted a story on Instagram asking the world who was reading for baseball to start. And then mentioned turtles …

Logan Webb made it really simple on Monday:

And Giants catcher Tyler Heineman continues to keep us entertained with some of his magic tricks since we won’t be able to watch live baseball for a while 

Meanwhile, A’s pitcher Frankie Montas sent out a message to A’s fans while he was celebrating #OpeningDayAtHome:

[RELATED: Bochy reveals favorite Opening Day memory]

See you soon (hopefully), baseball. 

How A's Frankie Montas learned valuable lesson during long suspension

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How A's Frankie Montas learned valuable lesson during long suspension

A's starter Frankie Montas had it all going his way last summer: A 9-2 record, including five consecutive wins, and a virtual ticket to the All-Star Game as of June 20.

The next day, he was suspended 80 games by MLB after testing positive for a performance enhancing drug.

In the months that followed, Montas kept himself in physical playing shape, but struggled with the mental anguish.

“I ain’t going to lie, I think I went three-and-a-half weeks without watching a baseball game,” Montas admitted. “I wasn’t there, but, supporting my boys from the house. I missed it.”

“That was a dark place for him,” Manager Bob Melvin said.  “To have to go through that and watch his team succeed, a guy that was so important to us over the course of the first half.”

It worked out that the A’s didn’t derail from the Montas suspension. Instead, they found steam from separate places starting in mid-June, and still managed to hit the 97-win mark by October. Montas says he was proud of how his teammates responded to the adversity, but the individual lesson wasn’t lost.

“I did learn a lot last year,” Montas said about being instantly removed from his job. “Being able to miss it, that woke me up. Like, you’re playing this for something. This is not just for you, but for your family and the fans. It just makes you appreciate the game a little more, and love a little more, too.”

And now the focus turns to 2020. Montas and his high-octane fastball will be part of an elite rotation like Oakland hasn’t seen in decades.

“I’ve always thrown hard, had a good arm,” Montas said. “The thing for me was to try and control it. Through my progression in the minor leagues -- I was wild, was not a guy to go out and throw strikes. I’d walk five or six people. Trying to limit walks was a big challenge for me, and stepping up my game.”

[RELATED: Montas' rise to potential A's ace not all about splitter]

Montas says there’s no personal need to prove himself and that his performance from last season is exactly where he’d like to continue.

“He’s as driven as he’s ever been, and he’s smiling every day,” Melvin said. “He’s happy to be here and the guys embrace him, they understand he made a mistake. There’s always second chances, and he’s handling himself beautifully right now.”

Frankie Montas' rise to A's frontline starter not all about splitter

Frankie Montas' rise to A's frontline starter not all about splitter

Frankie Montas was virtually unhittable on June 20 of last year, allowing the Tampa Bay Rays just four hits and one run over eight innings. He struck out nine, walked none.

The A’s right-hander was at the peak of his powers, flashing a four-pitch mix featuring a new and devastating splitfinger developed earlier in the year. It fell in line with an excellent start to the season, when he was starting to realize vast potential.

His next outing came against air. Montas pitched then and every turn in the rotation after came for months in exile while serving an 80-game unpaid suspension for a positive PED test. He returned to his home in Arizona upset but hellbent on continuing what he started.

“When I left I was determined to keep working hard,” Montas said. “I kept the same routine, throwing every five days like I was in the rotation. It was a long time away and it was frustrating for sure, but it was important to make my return a good one. I felt like I needed to help the team in any way I could after being away so long.”

Montas got one shot at it, on Sept. 25 against the host L.A. Angels. He retained previous form in a shockingly similar outing to that June 20 start, allowing one run on four hits over six innings this time. He had six strikeouts and two walks in his one and only return to action that season.

While the A’s were upset losing Montas to an avoidable setback, manager Bob Melvin was pleased with his return.

“The most impressive thing to me last year was not what he did in the first half,” Melvin said. “It was when he came back and had to pitch in a pennant chance. That meant that he worked very hard in his downtime to come back and give us what we gave us that day.”

The A’s believe Montas can provide that type of performance on a regular basis this season. While spring outings don’t mean much, he hasn’t allowed a hit in three efficient innings thus far.

His threw two of them Monday, and struck out Jason Hayward on this nasty splitter:

That pitch gets a ton of credit for last season’s success, as it should. Montas exchanged a just okay changeup for an awesome splitfinger he developed pretty fast.

“I started messing with it in spring training last year, and I felt like it started working the first day I threw it,” Montas said. “I thought quickly that this was something I could add to my repertoire. There was work to be done finding the right release point, but I really thought it could help my game.”

The appropriately-hyped addition was well documented last spring, and it served Montas well over 16 starts. He threw it 18.2 percent of the time, the lowest amount of an arsenal that also includes a sinker, slider and four-seam fastball, but was it ever effective.

Opponents hit just .160 against it and their 80.2-mph exit velocity was the lowest of any of his pitches, per Statcast. Hitters swung and missed at the splitter 40.3 percent of the time. It paired with the slider as an effective put-away pitch. With two, it made Montas hard to predict. Pairing all that with a high-90s fastball has sent optimism sky high for what he can do over a full season.

It’s also safe to say that adding the splitter increased his overall effectiveness, but we can’t forget something Montas is most proud of during a transformation from bullpen arm in 2017 to frontline starter.

He has learned how to pitch. While some point straight at the splitfinger, Montas also considers the year before it was developed as a major growth period. He expanded his pitch mix and worked hard to improve command in 2018, after a year spent in the bullpen and made some strides that got things really rolling towards last season

“2018 was a big year for me,” Montas said. “I talked to a lot of veterans that year because I’m a guy always asking around about how to pitch. I’m not afraid to ask questions of guys who have been around longer about how to improve my game and how to throw the right pitch at the right time.”

[RELATED: How Semien became A's iron man]

He tries to absorb information from the coaching staff and his peers. He attached himself to Mike Fiers especially and Sean Manaea, trying to take whatever he could from guys who have been around the block.

“Those guys have been good in the big leagues and, in order to follow those two guys, you need to up your game. You have to be at their level and I’m working hard to be there every start. … I have great respect for how Jesus [Luzardo] and A.J. [Puk] work as well and feel like I can learn something from them even though they’re younger than me. I watch those guys throw bullpens and try to take something from that. I try to learn from everybody here.”

NBC Sports Bay Area reporter Dalton Johnson contributed to this report.