The Oakland Athletics have optioned starting pitcher Jesse Hahn to Triple-A Nashville, the club announced, allowing left-hander Felix Doubront to assume the role as the fifth starter to at least open the season. Most likely taking Doubront's place in the bullpen is right-hander Ryan Dull.
The A's starting rotation therefore will start the year as Sonny Gray, Rich Hill, Kendall Graveman, Chris Bassitt, and Doubront. In the bullpen are Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, John Axford, Liam Hendriks, Marc Rzepczynski, Fernando Rodriguez, and Dull.
The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser first suggested last week that Hahn was "potentially out of the mix" after putting up a 10.97 spring ERA with 16 strikeouts and seven walks to that point in 10 2/3 innings to that point. His result on Monday didn't help his cause, allowing six runs on ten hits with two walks and two strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings to bring his ERA to 11.15.
A pitcher who pitched healthy to the end of last season might have been allowed to work things out at the major league level, but Hahn was shut down for the year after a start on July 1 with elbow inflammation, ending the year with a 3.35 ERA in 96 2/3 innings with 64 strikeouts and 25 walks.
What has often brought out the hackles in A's fans has been the "guaranteed rotation spot" the A's gave Rich Hill as a condition of his signing his one-year, $6 million deal on the strength of four ace-level September/October starts for the Boston Red Sox. Hill has had command problems throughout the spring that he has attempted to resolve in two minor league starts.
In a sense, as fans, we don't like the idea that someone who is new to the club doesn't have to "earn" his spot. But the Rich Hill guarantee is perhaps better described as an opportunity to demonstrate he can repeat his performances in major league action, but with a number of pitchers in Triple-A challenging for his spot. Besides Hahn, Henderson Alvarez will return from the disabled list sometime in May, most likely, and prospect Sean Manaea will challenge for a call up throughout the year.
While Manaea was unlikely to start the year in the rotation to begin with, minor groin tightness caused the A's to plan on not taking him with them to the exhibition Bay Bridge series beginning Thursday. Manaea came through a bullpen session today fine, however:
Sean Manaea threw a 28-pitch side session today and will work in a minor-league game on Thursday or Friday. #Athletics— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) March 28, 2016
#Athletics Sean Manaea said left leg didn't give him any problems in bullpen session today. He's down to start again later in week in Az.— John Hickey (@JHickey3) March 28, 2016
So why would they option Hahn today and not wait for after the Bay Bridge series? I can only speculate, but I have to figure the A's really wanted two good starts out of Jesse Hahn to set aside the concerns that Slusser picked up on last week. If that's the case, his poor start Monday meant there was nothing Hahn could do to make the opening day roster, so they might as well get him started with the minor league staff immediately on getting him right.
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