A’s Montas back in camp with clean slate
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.
The A’s Frankie Montas throws during spring training on Feb. 13in Mesa, Ariz.