The Oakland A’s are continuing their near-daily roster shuffle. The team announced on Thursday that starting pitcher Jharel Cotton has been optioned to Triple-A Nashville. There is no corresponding move yet to fill Cotton’s roster spot.
The 25-year-old rookie has made seven starts this season, with mixed results. He’s striking out batters just fine, but his walks and homers are way too high and that has limited his effectiveness. Only three of his seven outings have registered as quality starts, and he’s simply giving up more hard contact than he did last year.
Cotton, 2017: 5.68 ERA, 38 ip, 35 Ks, 16 BB, 6 HR, 42 hits, 4.58 FIP
Normal Cotton baseline, for context: high Ks, low-medium walks, medium-high homers, low hits
On the bright side, this is the world of young pitchers. They go through ups and downs, and we already knew that the long ball was the main weakness Cotton needed to avoid. His excellent stuff is still there, but his command has been shaky all year and that’s the kind of thing a rookie can go back to the minors to work on.
As for the next move for the A’s, Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle reports that Sean Manaea will return from the disabled list to take Cotton’s spot in the rotation. Manaea looked good in a rehab outing for Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday, with a line of 4 ip, 1 ER, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HR, 72 pitches. However, the lefty won’t be on turn to pitch until at least Sunday, so in the meantime Slusser suggests the initial roster move tomorrow could involve activating catcher Josh Phegley from the 7-day concussion disabled list.
Hot take: This is the right move to make room for Manaea. There are six starters when he returns, so someone has to go back to the minors for now. The other likely options were Andrew Triggs and Jesse Hahn, but they’re arguably the rotation’s two best performers right now so you’ve gotta let them keep rolling. Cotton looked like he could use a quick break in the minors anyway to sort out his command, so he’s the obvious choice.
Of course, at the rate the A’s are using their DL, a trip to the minors doesn’t necessarily have to last a long time. For all we know Cotton could be back next week when the next guy tweaks a muscle and needs a breather. One way or other, though, I’m not worried about him based on this demotion; he’s still missing plenty of bats, and it’s OK to run into a hiccup after the meteoric rise he enjoyed the last two years.
If Phegley takes the roster spot, then (based on the team’s recent history) I’d imagine we can expect to see Bruce Maxwell go down in a couple days to make room for Manaea. Unless something else changes between now and Sun/Mon, which is entirely possible with this club.