San Francisco Chronicle
Fujinami to get extra rest between starts
TEMPE, Ariz. — While their rotation plans remain fluid, the Oakland Athletics offered a little more insight Tuesday on how they intend to use Shintaro Fujinami.
Fujinami will not start every fifth day, at least at first. Manager Mark Kotsay said it’s possible Fujinami could pitch every sixth day — or even every seventh day during the season. In Japan, where the righthander played the past 10 seasons, starters typically work once per week with six days’ rest between outings.
“We feel strongly about keeping him in that routine,” Kotsay said. “There is a lot of change going on already for Fuji, so we want to try to at least keep something as consistent as possible and that’s his routines.”
That will require flexibility with the rest of the rotation. With two off-days in the first eight days of the season, the A’s could get by using five starters — Fujinami included — until late in the second week of April. Then they play 13 days in a row in mid-April, though, and would have to add a sixth starter or spot starter in that stretch to preserve Fujinami’s schedule.
If Fujinami pitches every seventh day, it could pose more of a wrinkle. One possibility could be to rotate four other starters around Fujinami’s days, plugging in the occasional spot starter as needed to keep everyone rested. For April, the A’s could do that with the same five starters working all but two games if they kept everyone on turn. That gets trickier when they play 16 days in a row in early May.
The A’s have stretched out seven starters in camp and could carry one or two as long relievers. A’s pitching coach Scott Emerson said Fujinami is “willing to do whatever we ask of him” but added, “At some point, coaches and front offices have to make decisions they feel is best for the player. … We’ll look at the off-days and manipulate what we do. I don’t think anything is etched in stone.”
Fujinami worked as both a starter and reliever in recent seasons in Japan, which also helps explain why the A’s want to manage his workload carefully. He is building up deliberately this spring, making four Cactus League starts totaling 12 2⁄3 innings. Fujinami has 17 strikeouts in those outings but also 13 walks.
Emerson suggested Fujinami has encountered “some growing pains” adjusting to a larger MLB baseball and different mounds, though Fujinami said early in camp he wasn’t finding either to be a big change.
“I think we’re simplifying things to understand how good his fastball can be,” Emerson said. “This guy’s going to have one of the best fastballs in the league. Can he locate it is going to be key … because all of his pitches are going to play off that fastball.”
Oller’s swing: Adam Oller started Tuesday’s game against the Angels with a limit of about 50 pitches, which indicates the A’s are gearing him toward a swingman role.
“I knew going into this year that was going to be a possibility,” Oller said. “I spoke to Kotsay … and I told him straight up, ‘I don’t care.’ Obviously, everybody wants to be a starter, but at the end of the day, I just want to be on the team and do what I can to help the team win.”
Oller had a rough day Tuesday, allowing six hits and three walks in two innings against the Angels. He had some issues with the strike zone and said he “could have controlled my emotions on the mound a little better.”
“I have to be able to take that and say, ‘Next pitch, move on,’ ” Oller said. “And I didn’t do a great job of that today.”
Briefly: Outfielder Esteury Ruiz left Tuesday’s game, a 6-5 A’s win, after jamming a finger on his left hand on a stolen-base attempt; Kotsay said the move was “precautionary.” … J.T. Ginn, a pitching prospect acquired in the Chris Bassitt trade last spring, pitched three scoreless relief innings in his Cactus League debut, getting eight ground-ball outs. “It’s a really good sinker, and when it’s down in the zone it’s a tough pitch to get quality contact on,” Kotsay said. … Catcher Manny Piña said he had an MRI on his left wrist that showed no damage to his surgically repaired ligament; Piña is wearing a brace for two weeks before resuming baseball activity. … With Oller starting against the Angels, Ken Waldichuk pitched in a minorleague game.