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A’s spring update: Jed Lowrie nearing debut; Ka’ai Tom still out with injury

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Also, upcoming starting rotation plans

Oakland Athletics v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s are a week into their 2021 Cactus League spring training schedule, and a lot of their players are looking good so far. But a few notable names have been missing from game action, so here are some updates.

First up is Jed Lowrie, who was brought back as a non-roster invitee for a chance at a third stint in Oakland after missing the last two seasons to injuries as a member of the Mets. He is yet to appear in a game this spring, but we might not have to wait much longer.

Lowrie ran the bases on Sunday, and it went well. Manager Bob Melvin guesses the veteran will be able to begin playing in games on Tuesday, reports insider Martin Gallegos. Melvin described running the bases as “the last hurdle” for Lowrie, adds Athletics Farm. Update: Indeed, he will play at second base on Tuesday, per Gallegos.

If the former All-Star can return to health and anything resembling his previous playing form, then he could potentially help out the A’s at second base, in the DH spot, or as a reliable bat off the bench.

However, the news is not as good for outfielder Ka’ai Tom. He’s still out with an oblique injury and has no target date for return, though Melvin hopes the Rule 5 draft pick will be back in time to play some Cactus League games, per Athletics Farm. He must make the active roster out of camp or else be returned to his former team, unless he lands on the injured list in which case the decision would be delayed until he’s healthy.

Next up is catcher Sean Murphy, who is recovering from a collapsed lung but is tentatively expected to be ready for Opening Day. Gallegos reports: “He’s now able to hit and catch. Still a while away from playing in games, but he’s progressing well.”

Update: Murphy and Tom are both gearing up to take batting practice soon, reports Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News. Tom could be playing by mid-March, and outfield prospect Skye Bolt will debut Monday after being held back by a shoulder issue, adds Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle.

The team’s top prospect, A.J. Puk, threw to hitters on Friday and there haven’t been any reports of setbacks. The lefty pitcher hasn’t appeared in a game since a couple outings at the beginning of last spring, as his shoulder cost him all of 2020.

And finally, there’s starting pitcher Frankie Montas, whose arrival was delayed after a positive coronavirus test and subsequent symptoms. He’s healthy and back in camp but has not yet played in a game. Kawahara reports: “Montas will be a little behind other starters working into spring games after late camp arrival. Melvin said Montas threw a bullpen yesterday, next outing will be a sim game.”

Montas is still on the COVID-19 related IL, and at some point he will need to be activated. When that happens, a corresponding move will need to be made to remove someone else from the 40-man roster.

One injury that does appear to be more or less resolved is third baseman Matt Chapman, whose 2020 season ended early due to hip surgery. He played defense in Friday’s Cactus League game and made a vintage diving play, with no problem or pain reports Alex Coffey of The Athletic. After DH’ing Sunday (and hitting a homer) he’ll play the field again on Monday, per Gallegos.

Starting rotation

The A’s have played seven-inning games so far in spring training, but that won’t last much longer. They could ramp up to nine innings by Thursday, reports Kawahara.

In the meantime, the next two contests will be started by pitchers we’ve already seen this month. Right-handed prospect Parker Dunshee goes Monday against the Royals, and newly acquired lefty Cole Irvin gets the nod Tuesday against the Cubs. Both of them worked two scoreless innings in their spring debuts, each allowing just one baserunner while striking out one apiece. Dunshee is on track to join our Community Prospect List Top 30 in the bottom few spots.

On Wednesday, we’ll begin to see the MLB starters. Chris Bassitt will take the first turn, reports Kawahara. He’ll face the Brewers and former teammate Brett Anderson, notes Gallegos.

  • Mon: Parker Dunshee, @ KCR
  • Tue: Cole Irvin, @ CHC
  • Wed: Chris Bassitt, vs. MIL

Other starters still waiting to make their spring debuts include Jesús Luzardo, Sean Manaea, and Mike Fiers, along with Montas and Puk.