After two days locked away in their Houston hotel rooms, the A’s found their way back to the baseball diamond again. Cleared to rejoin the real world after a coronavirus positive test emerged from their traveling party, the A’s, in groups of 3-to-4, got their workouts in at the Oakland Coliseum Wednesday afternoon.
“What could go wrong actually did,” manager Bob Melvin said over a call somewhere in the Coliseum’s concourse. “It’s something we’re going to have to work through and understand. At this point, there’s not much we can do about it except just prepare for the next game.”
As of now, the A’s next game will be Friday against the San Diego Padres to kick off a three-game series. The A’s pitching staff will stay in rotation, meaning Jesus Luzardo – who was scheduled to start Sunday’s postponed game – will start against the surging NL West team.
While the A’s approach a hellacious September full of doubleheaders ahead with a lead atop the AL West to maintain, Oakland can only look back at the positive test, the team’s worst nightmare, with this takeaway:
“Nobody broke protocol, and we’ve had no positives since,” Melvin said. “This was kind of a hit for us, but no one went out and did something than what the CDC or MLB considers protocol.”
Here are a few things to consider as the A’s embark on the final month of the regular season.
Major League Baseball announced Sunday’s postponed game against the Houston Astros will be played in a doubleheader in Oakland Sept. 8. The Astros will play as the home team for Game 1, the A’s will reclaim home field for Game 2.
With that, the A’s are scheduled to play 10 games over a seven-day span in three different cities. The A’s will also play a doubleheader against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on Sept. 12, as well as a doubleheader against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on Sept. 14.
The span of games is the most the A’s will play over a seven-day stretch since A’s most games since June 16-22, 1966, when they also played 10 games in 7 days, according to the team.
For a team looking to keep momentum and the Astros at bay in the division, it’ll be a challenging feat. Perhaps they’ve built a tougher skin for this kind of hardship given the morale-beating nature of this season.
“It doesn’t matter, you have to be prepared for it,” Melvin said. “You have to go out there with the expectation to win come Friday. The season in general has been a mental battle as well. You look at see the standings, you see how teams are doing, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes that play into it this year obviously more than any other year.”
Other teams who’ve experienced series postponements due to COVID have varied bounce-backs. The Cincinnati Reds lost nine of their next 14 games, that included two doubleheaders. The St. Louis Cardinals missed two weeks of the season, but managed to go 11-9 in what remained of a double-header-ridden August.
Luckily, the postponement bug didn’t bite that bad, but bats and arms with a few days off can accrue rust.
“Doesn’t matter on physical end,” Melvin said. “Once we play games nothing changes... Can’t use it as an excuse.”
Mike Minor’s role
The trade deadline fell smack in the middle of the A’s coronavirus conundrum, so the A’s could add some instant insurance in left-handed pitcher Mike Minor from the Texas Rangers.
Minor, in a season un-mired by the positive coronavirus test, would stabilize a rotation unable to find its legs. Having Minor to pitch in some of these doubleheaders will be key to maintaining the pitching staff’s rest and health.
Minor, who has experience as a reliever, told Melvin he was “He’s willing to do anything.” So he may be coming out of the bullpen as soon as Friday. But, expect him to start one of the seven-inning games Tuesday against the Astros.
Semien – who missed his first start in 276 games for Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader – rejoined his team Wednesday for workouts. He took ground balls, did some running, but did not take any swings.
Left side pain he felt between Saturday’s games kept Semien off the field and prompted the team to conduct an MRI, which revealed no damage. The team doesn’t expect Semien to land on the injured list, but Melvin expect him to miss Friday’s game – to be cautious.
“Marcus is a tough guy, if he says he can’t play, it means that it’s bothering him,” Melvin said.
In the meantime, Chad Pinder, who came off the paternity list following the birth of his son, will fill in at shortstop against left-handed pitching. Vimael Machin will start there against right-handed pitching and Matt Chapman will move back to his post at third base (which he sort of plays like a shortstop, anyway).