Earlier this week, the Athletics announced that veteran catcher Manny Piña was uncertain for Opening Day after experiencing discomfort in his left wrist. It was an alarming development considering Piña lost almost all of last season after suffering ligament and cartilage damage in the joint that required surgery.
This afternoon, Oakland informed reporters that Piña was headed for evaluation with the specialist who performed last May’s procedure (relayed by Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle). The club is still awaiting the results of that examination and doesn’t have a timetable for Piña’s return.
The A’s haven’t officially announced that Piña will start the season on the injured list but it seems likely with Opening Day two weeks out. If that proves to be the case, the club will have to make a roster move. Shea Langeliers is the only other catcher on the 40-man roster. A Piña injury would necessitate an addition.
That could be one of the non-roster backstops in Spring Training. Yohel Pozo, who played 21 MLB games with the Rangers two seasons ago, is in camp on a minor league deal. Oakland also invited minor leaguers Kyle McCann, Tyler Soderstrom and last year’s first-round selection Daniel Susac to Spring Training.
Susac certainly isn’t in consideration for an MLB job. McCann, a fourth-round pick in 2019, played most of last season with Double-A Midland. Soderstrom, Oakland’s first-round pick out of high school in 2021, traversed three levels last year. The 21-year-old mashed over 89 games for High-A Lansing, continued to perform well in Midland, and secured a late-season cup of coffee with Triple-A Las Vegas. He’s now regarded by most evaluators as the top prospect in the organization.
Given Soderstrom’s youth and questions about his defense, it seems likely he’ll head back to Vegas to open the season. Still, Oakland general manager David Forst suggested this week there’s at least a small window for either of Soderstrom or third base prospect Zack Gelof to take a big league job — if not out of camp, then at some point this year (link via Martín Gallegos of MLB.com).
“Anything can happen,” Forst said. “Those guys have performed in Triple-A. They’ve played in the Fall League. They’re here getting starts in Major League games, so I think it would follow that you hope their opportunity to contribute comes this year at some point.” Gelof is also a 2021 draftee, though he was selected out of college and is two years older than Soderstrom. The Virginia product hit .271/.356/.438 in 87 Double-A games before a late-season bump to Triple-A.
The A’s have a number of options at third base if they wish to get Gelof more developmental work. Sending Soderstrom to Las Vegas, which still seems the likeliest move, would clear a path for Pozo or McCann to crack the roster as Langeliers’ backup if Piña misses time. It’s also possible the front office looks outside the organization as Opening Day draws nearer.
There are a number of non-roster players with other clubs who’ll be made available if they don’t break camp with their current team. The Guardians, for instance, have each of Meibrys Viloria, Cam Gallagher and Zack Collins in camp battling for the chance to back up Mike Zunino. At least one of those players won’t make the roster and could get to explore other opportunities. The Angels have two catchers who can’t be optioned, Max Stassi and Matt Thaiss, competing for jobs with top prospect Logan O’Hoppe and non-roster veteran Chad Wallach. Those are just two examples of organizations whose depth could get squeezed once roster decisions have to be made later this month.