The Oakland A’s are heading into the 2021 season at darn near full strength in terms of health, but they weren’t quite able to avoid spring injuries entirely. As a twist of irony, the only one that will extend past Opening Day is to arguably their most durable player.
The A’s will open the year with starting pitcher Mike Fiers on the injured list, reports Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle.
Fiers is dealing with hip inflammation that cropped up early in the spring and kept him out of the Cactus League entirely. He’s already on the mend and has begun throwing bullpen sessions, and he’ll throw another one Friday, reports Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News. However, without having faced any hitters yet this month, there’s no way he’ll be ready to go in time for the regular season. Opening Day is April 1, just six days away, and the rotation will go through a full turn by April 5.
The right-hander made at least 28 starts each year from 2015-19, only once falling short of 30, and last year he made all 11 outings asked of him in the abbreviated campaign. He leads the A’s in innings since the beginning of 2018, despite not being acquired until August of that year, and was re-signed over the winter to a one-year, $3.5 million contract to bolster an Oakland rotation high on talent but low on experience.
Another recent setback is still less clear in its future prognosis. Fellow starter Frankie Montas exited his appearance Thursday with a torn cuticle on the middle finger of his pitching hand. There are no new updates on his condition, but manager Bob Melvin is hopeful he’ll feel better over the next few days, reports Alex Coffey of The Athletic.
Where does all this leave the rotation?
One thing we know for sure is Chris Bassitt will start Opening Day. He was scheduled to make one final spring outing tonight, but was pulled so that the Dodgers don’t get a look at him before their regular season matchup in early April, notes Kawahara. He’ll throw a sim game instead, adds Athletics Farm.
That leaves the following plan to wrap up the spring over the next few days:
- Fri: Cole Irvin starts, Chris Bassitt sim game
- Sat: A.J. Puk starts, Jesús Luzardo sim game
- Sun: Daulton Jefferies starts
- Mon: Sean Manaea starts
When the regular season begins, the order is shaping up like this, per Coffey:
- probably Manaea (might move down)
- hopefully Montas (if he’s ready)
- fill-in fifth starter (unless it makes sense to move him up)
The fifth starter competition is still between three candidates, with Daulton Jefferies the presumed front-runner ahead of lefties A.J. Puk and Cole Irvin. However, it’s not officially decided yet, and all of them will still pitch again by the end of the weekend. Whoever doesn’t get the job might still find themselves on the active roster anyway, as a long reliever in the bullpen.