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Jesse Hahn potentially out of Oakland A's rotation for now, reports SF Chronicle

Keep in mind that the Opening Day rotation does not necessarily answer the question, "Who will get the most starts for the A's this year?"

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

In a spring in which the A's own the second-highest ERA in the major leagues, the Oakland Athletics may turn to Felix Doubront to start the year in the rotation and potentially allow Jesse Hahn to start the year with Triple-A Nashville, reports the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser. A's executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane expressed disappointment in the results from the young staff, "You have to keep some perspective because of the time of the year, but that doesn't mean it's OK."

Hahn's last regular season major league game was on July 1 before elbow inflammation shut him down for the year. There was no need to push for the Tommy John survivor's return that year as the club wrapped up its 68-win campaign, but Hahn may be showing signs of rustiness from the long layoff.

The results from the expected major league starters have been disappointing through-and-through, however:

A's 2016 spring training through March 27
Chris Bassitt 5.28 4 4 15.1 17 9 9 1 7 12 .274
Sonny Gray 5.68 3 3 12.2 15 9 8 1 2 8 .288
Felix Doubront 6.19 5 3 16.0 20 11 11 1 5 13 .308
Kendall Graveman 6.75 4 3 14.2 17 12 11 3 8 8 .298
Rich Hill 15.26 3 3 7.2 10 13 13 2 12 7 .385
Jesse Hahn 10.97 4 4 10.2 16 13 13 2 5 9 .348
Sean Manaea 4.40 5 3 14.1 14 8 7 2 7 16 .241
Eric Surkamp 5.54 5 2 13.0 15 8 8 1 6 12 .306

This is entirely speculative on my part, but this could also be a good excuse to limit Hahn's innings (he's only thrown 115 2/3 innings in a season once) in a way the A's weren't able to do in 2015 by starting him every fifth day at the major league level. Sean Manaea is also a candidate to be limited after only putting up 115 innings last year, and some sort of tandem rotation spot in Triple-A between the two could work out nicely.

Besides Hahn, Rich Hill's results have been most troubling; he's the only member of the staff to walk more batters than he's struck out. His last two starts have come against minor league opponents (not included in the table). In his first minor league outing he hit three batters (two on fastballs, one on the curve ball) and walked three despite frequently flummoxing batters with his breaking pitches to the tune of five strikeouts and just one base hit allowed.

In his second, he allowed four earned runs while striking out five and walking five, but said "the last three innings were really good, much more aggressive, and a lot of swings and misses, not a lot of hard contact," according to's Jane Lee. Hill does not have options, and a condition of his signing a $6 million deal with the A's early in the offseason was that he was assured of a rotation spot to at least start the year.

How long Hill continues in the rotation and how long Jesse Hahn potentially stays out of it will come down to their results in the regular year. The first big event that will upend the rotation after Opening Day will be Henderson Alvarez's return from shoulder surgery, expected in mid-to-late May. Alvarez threw a 40-pitch bullpen session, simulating two innings of 20 pitches each, where he threw breaking balls for the first time since his surgery, writes's Jane Lee.

The next move will be how long Sean Manaea needs in Triple-A before an expected mid-year call up. He has been one of the best starters for the A's this spring, but his 115 innings last season including postseason and the Arizona Fall League, were the most he's thrown in a professional season.

Back of the bullpen

Hahn's potential demotion opens the door to allow Ryan Dull to start the year in the back of the bullpen next to Fernando Rodriguez, taking the spot vacated by Doubront's ascent to the rotation. Dull remains unscored upon in 8 1/3 spring innings while striking out 10 and walking one, allowing just two hits. Rodriguez, who is out of options, himself has allowed only a run in 10 1/3 innings while striking out 13 and walking none. The two of them together could be the length the A's might need if Doubront starts the year in the rotation.

Commentary on 2016

The way things have worked out, 2016 feels more and more like an audition for the 2017-and-beyond rotation. Bassitt, Graveman, and Hahn all spent lengthy periods on the disabled list last year while potential new additions are either a veteran one-off trying to jumpstart the 2016 A's into a competitive year (Hill), coming off serious injury (Alvarez), or new to the majors (Manaea).

For a little perspective, the looming issue for the A's is that there will be more pitchers vying for a place in the rotation in April and May than there are spots in the rotation. This is generally classified as a nice problem to have. Out of these eight potential starters, will the A's find four good ones and one that can eat enough innings to give their new-and-improved bullpen a chance to hang onto a few games? I think so, but if they haven't and the club is still competitive for 2016, this front office will find another pitcher in trade to fit the bill.

That's the big if, however. Even if the club is generally healthy, it's difficult to get a handle on how well the club will be doing and whether the A's should be trading away future assets to compete now.