A’s Mon­tas back in camp with clean slate

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - SPORTS - By Shayna Ru­bin

On June 20, Frankie Mon­tas was a rev­e­la­tion, his split­ter sky­rock­et­ing his strike­out rate and min­i­miz­ing his ERA to All-Star pro­por­tions. On the morn­ing of June 21, Mon­tas was pack­ing up his locker in Oak­land, ban­ished to the Ari­zona com­plex af­ter be­ing handed down an 80-game sus­pen­sion for vi­o­lat­ing MLB’s per­for­mance en­hanc­ing drug pol­icy.

Save for a start in Ana­heim in­ter­sect­ing with the sliver of time in­ter­sect­ing his lifted sus­pen­sion and the post­sea­son he was dis­qual­i­fied to par­tic­i­pate in.

The new year washed Mon­tas’ slate clean. He’s back in camp with new hair and the same con­fi­dence he’d pro­jected af­ter shut­ting out the Tampa

Bay Rays on June 20. He had one in­ning to work with in Wed­nes­day’s spring game against the Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs, and it looked all too fa­mil­iar. Mon­tas whipped 9697 mph fast­balls and spun his two-seamer, slider and quin­tes­sen­tial split­ter into a score­less ef­fort with one strike­out.

“Looks like we’ve seen him for the bet­ter part of a year plus, now,” man­ager Bob Melvin said af­ter the A’s 16-3 win over the Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs on Wed­nes­day at Ho­hokam Sta­dium. While the

“It was tough to see (the sus­pen­sion). You saw how much he helped the team.”

— Mike Fiers, A’s pitcher, on team­mate Frankie Mon­tas.

game lasted al­most four hours, Mon­tas’ sin­gle in­ning would have felt a dis­tant mem­ory if not for its po­tency. Though, there was mean­ing to this mean­ing­less spring game for Mon­tas. It started his come­back.

“I don’t think I have any­thing to prove, to be hon­est with you,” Mon­tas said. Of course, one in­ning in the sixth Cac­tus League game doesn’t prove much. But there’s a mon­key on his back whether Mon­tas put it there or not.

“He knows he made a mis­take, and ev­ery­one makes mis­takes,” Mike Fiers, Mon­tas’ close friend, said be­fore the game. “It was tough to see (the sus­pen­sion). You saw how much he helped the team.”

The bar is high, and Mon­tas’ first toe dip in spring ini­ti­ates his op­por­tu­nity to prove that the first half of 2019 was no fluke. He had a 2.63 ERA with 103 strike­outs and nine wins in 16 starts last sea­son. He’s rolling into the sea­son with an equally suc­cess­ful win­ter in the Do­mini­can League, too. He had a 1.44 ERA in five starts with 26 strike­outs and six walks in 25 in­nings for the Leones del Escogido.

Some might ques­tion the im­pact the pro­hib­ited sub­stance had on his per­for­mance in 2019. Oth­ers might ask if the shal­low pool of suc­cess can run deeper. He seems primed for a re­dux.

STEPHEN PIS­COTTY'S SLOW ROLL >> Ev­ery hit­ter can take an ob­ses­sive ap­proach to tweak­ing a swing to its full op­ti­miza­tion. Pis­cotty is no ex­cep­tion.

In the dead of win­ter, the Stan­ford grad stud­ies the most minute de­tails of his film, look­ing to make the slight­est ad­just­ments in or­der to sail right into the sea­son in a groove at the plate. Pis­cotty found that, last year, his lower half drifted a bit too far for­ward in his ap­proach at the plate. He no­ticed his hands were too glued to his body when the pitcher be­gan his mo­tion. In 2018, he’d found more suc­cess when his lower half stayed back.

Pis­cotty took ob­ser­va­tion to prac­tice out in the cages. Swing, af­ter swing, af­ter swing.

“I was prob­a­bly tak­ing too many swings in the off­sea­son, which might have not helped,” Pis­cotty said.

Sore­ness in his ribcage started to sound, enough to keep Pis­cotty out of Cac­tus League ac­tion for the fore­see­able fu­ture. The A’s will be care­ful not to ag­gra­vate a touchy in­jury. He’ll be folded slowly into the mix.

Pis­cotty’s been try­ing to get back in the fold for what feels like months. This ribcage sore­ness fol­lowed a knee sprain in June and right an­kle sprain in midAu­gust that Pis­cotty de­clined surgery on. Hope that he could con­trib­ute to his play­off-bound team kept alive his spir­its more than a sea­son-end­ing ses­sion un­der the knife.

Spi­ral­ing in­juries in­ter­jected an of­fen­sive sea­son that couldn’t get off the ground. Pis­cotty bat­ted .249, slash­ing .309/.412 with a .720 OPS and 13 home runs in spurts that seemed to heat up at the point of in­jury.

MATT CHAP­MAN GOES YARD >> The A’s got their first win of the spring, and it was a drub­bing. They put up six runs in the first in­ning, two in the se­cond and two in the third with most of their ex­pected starters tak­ing the box to kick things off.

“We ran a pretty good group out there to start, we’re known to have early in­nings,” Melvin said.

The early high­light: Matt Chap­man yank­ing a break­ing ball straight over the left field fence for a two-run home run, scor­ing Mar­cus Semien, who had walked (sound fa­mil­iar?).

It was a swing Matt Ol­son saw com­ing sec­onds be­fore. “They know each other pretty well,” Melvin said.

Mon­tas: Pitcher served a sus­pen­sion last sea­son for vi­o­lat­ing MLB’s per­for­manceen­hanc­ing drug pol­icy.

DARRON CUM­MINGS — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS, FILE

The A’s Frankie Mon­tas throws dur­ing spring train­ing on Feb. 13in Mesa, Ariz.

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