When we last saw Stephen Piscotty -- six feet away one March day in Mesa before baseball shut down -- he lamented the "perpetual cycle of hurt" he couldn't escape. With the shutdown providing time for recuperation and refocus, Piscotty emerged in spring training 2.0 as one of the most locked in hitters.
"My season, from a personal perspective, was a bit of a disappointment last year," Piscotty said in a call with reporters. "Now, I'm looking to bounce back."
Piscotty's eternal struggle with injury began in June 2019 when he sprained his knee in a game against the Angels. His return was met with a sprained right ankle sustained in August that kept him off the Wild Card roster. He didn't get a single spring training at bat in February and March due to an intercostal strain he sustained in the cages.
Piscotty can't fully appreciate the three month layoff that allowed him time to fully heal.
"I don't think of it in a positive way because I wish this year was normal," he said.
But, the positives are hard to ignore. Beyond the 100% health he says he's reached, the time off gave the 29-year-old outfielder space to make some key tweaks to his hitting approach. And the tweak was minute.
Hitting coach Darren Bush noticed that Piscotty was lunging his head forward during his swing. With a makeshift cage made up of just netting and a tee on his back patio, Piscotty leveled the lunge.
"It's interesting to get in the box after not playing for so long and already feeling comfortable, so (Bush) was spot on with that," Piscotty said. Consistent injury aggravated Piscotty's mentality, too. In the few games between IL stints he fell into, Piscotty lost himself trying replicate a 2018 second half in which he batted .272 with 15 home runs and a .873 OPS.
"I feel like I was just lost last year trying to replicate 2018," he said. "And I think now I have an understanding of what I was doing that I might not have been thinking of."
Coaches and A's players have said that Piscotty -- along with prospective second baseman Franklin Barreto -- have had the strongest at bats in this first week of summer camp.