San Francisco Chronicle
Rucinski’s injury latest blow to rotation
MESA, Ariz. — The Oakland Athletics have another injury concern in their rotation with a week before opening night.
Drew Rucinski is dealing with left hamstring tightness and will not make his scheduled Cactus League start Thursday. Manager Mark Kotsay said the A’s have “no timeline” yet for Rucinski and aren’t sure whether he might need to start the season on the injured list.
JP Sears, originally scheduled to pitch Wednesday after starter James Kaprielian, was pushed back and will start Thursday’s night game against the Rangers. Sears last pitched in a minor-league game March 17, throwing five innings, and is a candidate to open with the A’s as a starter or a swingman.
The A’s will open without starter Paul Blackburn because of a torn fingernail on his pitching hand. Blackburn said the nail is healing, and he’s set to throw a flat-ground session Thursday.
Kaprielian remains on track to begin the season in the rotation in his return from shoulder surgery. The right-hander worked five innings Wednesday against the Cubs and said he’s “feeling good” despite not having great command in the outing. He gave up a firstinning home run to Cody Bellinger and allowed four hits and four walks with four strikeouts.
“A little quick early, my timing wasn’t there, and I think we did an OK job of settling back in,” Kaprielian said. “We were able to … make some good pitches in certain situations.”
Notably, Kaprielian got 10 of 15 outs via groundout or strikeout. He has been largely a flyball pitcher in the majors but said he is throwing his sinker “quite a bit” this spring and suggested mixing it more with his four-seamer might help prolong his outings. He has a 1-to-1 groundout-to-flyout ratio in his Cactus League outings.
“There’s all this talk about me not being able to pitch deep into games,” Kaprielian said. “So, force some swings early with the sinker, maybe get early groundballs, keep the pitch count lower.”
If the A’s mix in a sixth starter or spot starter at times, there might be days or stretches when the bullpen is thinner. “So, yeah, it is going to be important for us to get deep into games,” Kaprielian said of the starters.
Kaprielian is slated to pitch once more before the season, likely in the second Bay Bridge exhibition, he and Kotsay said. The A’s have yet to name their starters for the opening series against the Angels. Briefly: Seth Brown (left shoulder soreness) is scheduled to play in the field Friday for the first time since March 4. Brown, who has been starting Cactus League games at designated hitter, played catch Wednesday out to about 250 feet. … The A’s likely will wait until after the Bay Bridge exhibitions to make a decision at backup catcher, Kotsay said. With Manny Piña (wrist) set to open the season on IL, Kyle McCann is the lone backup in camp, but the A’s could bring nonroster catchers Yohel Pozo or Carlos Perez to the Bay Area. … Jesús Aguilar had three hits in the 4-2 loss to the Cubs, including his first home run of the spring. “Mentally, that helps me a lot, the confidence,” he said. “I feel like I’m ready for the season right now.” … Miguel Romero, a relief pitcher in the A’s minor-league system, had a strong showing in the WBC with a 2.08 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 82⁄3 innings for Cuba. “It was noticed,” Kotsay said. Romero had a 7.76 ERA in 38 games with Triple-A Las Vegas last season. … Jace Peterson left Wednesday’s game after being hit on the hand with a pitch; Kotsay said the in-game report was that Peterson has a bruise and “should be fine.”