JP Sears

How A's pitcher Sears used pandemic to further his MLB career

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Programming note: Brodie Brazil’s full “All A’s” interview with JP Sears will air at 10 a.m. PT Sunday before "A's Pregame Live" on NBC Sports California, and again after "A's Postgame Live."

JP Sears made the most out of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A minor-league pitcher at the time, Sears didn’t compete in any games during the infamous shortened 2020 MLB season, but was sure to stay busy in the hypothetical lab. 

In the latest episode of “All A’s,” the 28-year-old lefty detailed his development during the pandemic to NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil.

“So, I didn't play that year,” Sears told Brazil. “I tell a lot of people that, you know, obviously, COVID was a bad thing as far as the virus, but as far as the time off for me, it made me a lot better. Like, I got to be a much better baseball player in that time. I worked with some guys that helped me out a lot. I really -- I feel like I used a lot of time to get my arm a little bit better. In 2019, It wasn’t in the best shape. I went into the 2021 season feeling better than I ever have. And so I, I just used that time to get a lot better and work on my mechanics. 

“So, I feel like I benefited a lot from it.”

Sears went 4-4 with a 4.07 ERA for the New York Yankees' High-A affiliate, the Tampa Tarpons, in 2019 before the pandemic halted the world. 

But after returning to action in 2021 following a one-year hiatus filled with personal strides, Sears was a different pitcher.

That season, he finished 10-2 with a 3.46 ERA in 104 combined innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

While not pitching in a single game in 2020 was an odd experience for Sears -- like it was for many athletes -- stacking repetitions made his return to action easier.

“No, I found it, I found it early on in 2021,” Sears said about rhythm. “You know, maybe a little bit more nerves or jitters in spring training, just because I'm like, ‘Oh, wow. It's been a minute. It's been a while, yeah.’ But I tried to emulate a lot of [live action] in the offseason, towards the end closer to the spring training just so that I'd be a little bit more prepared [since I hadn’t] played [in] so long.”

Sears’ strides between 2019 and 2021 didn’t just lead to improved ERAs and win-loss records. They also led to a spot in the majors.

In 2022, Sears made his MLB debut for the Yankees before ultimately being traded to the Athletics that August. Since then, Sears has been a key part of a rebuilding Oakland rotation, currently with 270 1/3 innings for the A’s.

As of May 17, Sears is 3-2 with a 3.96 ERA for the 2024 A’s, starting in all nine of his appearances.

No one ever will know what Sears’ career would have looked like had he not made the best of a bad situation, and so far, it seems to be paying off.

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