The Oakland A’s traveled to Goodyear and played a 5-2, seven innings game against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night. Most of the starters haven’t made the trip, but Sean Manaea took the hill for his first start in the Cactus League this year. Here are some quick takeaways from the game.
Sean Manaea is now the senior statesman of the A-rotation. The 29-year-old is in his sixth season with the A and is still trying to find himself. This year in particular, he seems more at peace with his abilities. He threw three innings, hit four, and allowed a run on Saturday at Goodyear. He also consistently threw 93 mph, which is three mph above his 90 mph average that he kept in a tough 2020.
Manaea said he was « excited » to see these numbers flashing on the large board. Manager Bob Melvin was surprised that he even looked back at the board. Usually he doesn’t.
This is because Manaea lost miles per hour on his fastball to become a more complete pitcher. But the added bike was a nice bonus for a trip he was fine on, even though he wasn’t throwing his change on strikes as often as he would have liked.
Another part of Manaea’s growth was believing in yourself. « I think I am evil, » as Manaea put it at the beginning of the camp. « I feel too nice. »
He’s had some tough spots lately, including the multi-home run that cut the stake in the 2019 wildcard loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Another reason was the gradual decline in the speed of his fastball. It was clocked at 96 mph six years ago. Three years after shoulder surgery that resulted in most of the 2019 season being missed, the left-hander wasn’t a reliable starter for Oakland in the 2020 season.
The confidence boost from Manaea came in part with a little help from his friend Tyler Pizek, a mental performance coach he played with at Indiana University. Pizek told him to control his actions on the hill and own himself and his thoughts.
« I think my things are really nasty, » said Manaea on Saturday. « I might work on things, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think I’m gross. That’s just the mentality I have and it took me a while to really believe it, but I really do believe I think the more I believe in it, the bigger the sky. »
Chad Pinder got off to a slow start this spring, betting with an OBP of 0.350 until Saturday’s 2:15 game. He hit a double on Friday and a home run at Goodyear on Sunday.
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Sean Murphy, 26, arrived late at camp in Mesa after undergoing surgery on his collapsed lungs that winter. He is expected to play in a game « sometime this week, » manager Bob Melvin said.
Murphy played live with bats in a simulated game on Saturday and everything went well.
Murphy’s progress as opening day on April 1st is essential for the A’s. After a scorching “second half” of the 60-game season, he finished fourth in the 2020 rookie of the year voting in 2020. He achieved an average of 0.277 with 1.062 OPS in September and won the wild card in the victorious a game-winning home run against the Chicago White Sox.
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