Matt Olson did some shopping Sunday morning to prep his Bay Area home for the long MLB season. But a hard cast over his right hand and the inability to lift any weight with that arm made unloading the car difficult.
His absence through April, and perhaps beyond, will make everything at least that difficult for the Athletics.
Olson suffered a fractured hamate bone in the A’s second loss to the Mariners in Japan Thursday and underwent hamate excision surgery Saturday.
Bob Melvin was unable to provide a return date, but no matter how long Olson is out the absence of the A’s Gold Glove first baseman and powerful five-hole hitter will be felt:
“There’s really no timetable on it but the sooner the better, obviously, for a guy like him.”
“I’m seeing anywhere from four to eight weeks. … There’s a lot of variance but we’ll take it.”
The 24-year-old Atlanta native homered 29 times in 162 games last season and 24 times in 59 games the year before. Olson is also one of just two lefties in a very right handed-heavy lineup, a loss the manager said would not have been as damning if Olson’s expected production wasn’t so high:
“If it was somebody that wasn’t a 30-home run guy and a guy that protects Khris Davis, and all that, maybe not. There’s certain guys that you feel like are a little bit more replaceable than others, he’s a tough one”
Aside from the massive slugging potential, Olson’s absence leaves a huge hole in the field. A 2018 Gold Glove came with little surprise last November for the 6-foot-5 first baseman, returned from his .995 fielding percentage and plus-14 defensive runs saved above average.
“He makes everybody on the infield better, too. All you’ve gotta do is just get it over in his direction, he’s got a wide wingspan, he picks everything out of the dirt — in our ballpark, it’s two bases if it gets by. … It’s tough not having him out there.”
Oakland has options for replacing Olson on the short-term, with Mark Canha (89 games), Chad Pinder (1) and Jurickson Profar (39) — each with previous big-league experience at first base — coming out on top.
Notoriously unwilling to tip his hand, Melvin offered no plan for how his A’s might fill the spot, saying it will be “looked at” day-to-day.
Franklin Barreto appears to have gained the most in Olson’s loss, emerging as a virtual lock for an Opening Day roster spot since the injury.
The one-time top prospect will not only see the roster, he will see the field consistently, according to Melvin. The 23-year-old middle infielder has just 57 at-bats over the past two seasons, slashing .215/.252/.424 with seven homers and 22 RBIs.
Melvin, though, expects Barreto’s numbers to stabilize with consistent playing time, particularly after a successful spring (.375/.459/.594) and a scorching run in the Venezuelan Winter League (.358/.419/.508).
As far as Olson’s injury, the youngster is taking it in stride, saying that the freakishness makes it easier to take.
Olson also has a wealth of teammates who have dealt with the same or similar surgeries upon whom he can lean for guidance:
“I was talking to Robbie (Grossman) about it, I talked to (Mark) Canha about it. It’s a familiar injury so that’s nice, the thing that sucks is the time that it takes to get back. I’ll talk to the guys more once I get [the cast] off and start doing some things, just kinda take their advice.”
Until he gets back to work, Olson is confident his teammates will be able to pick up the slack. And while it it far from ideal, he continues to find positives:
“It sucks (knowing I won’t be able to play). The timing of it is good and bad, good because I get five or six days to get ahead but it sucks because it’s the beginning of the year and you work all offseason to get to this point.”
“He wants to be out there, but it is what it is and he’s come to terms with that. Now it’s just about that bone healing up and getting him back out there as quick as you can.”
Luzardo injury news
Top prospect and favorite to make the Opening Day roster, rookie southpaw Jesus Luzardo remains in Arizona dealing with a strain in the left shoulder.
According to Melvin, the 21-year-old hurler has progressed of late, feeling better over “the past couple days,” but that will not change the current timetable which sees Luzardo returning to the mound in no less than four weeks:
“Hopefully we’re of the same mindset we were last year — next man up.”