The Oakland A’s recalled pitcher Zach Neal from Triple-A Nashville on Sunday, the team announced. To make room on the roster, starter Jesse Hahn was optioned back to the minors.
Neal has appeared in five games for the A’s this year as a long reliever, and he got utterly shelled in two of them. That leaves him with a gross 8.56 ERA for now, but at his core he’s still what he was last year — an extreme pitch-to-contact right-hander who is capable of eating mediocre innings when firing on all cylinders. The 28-year-old is a warm body on a last-place team filling space in a young pitching staff that’s in a constant state of flux.
Neal, 2017: 8.56 ERA, 13⅔ ip, 10 Ks, 1 BB, 5 HR, 6.65 FIP
Note: That K-rate won’t stay so high ... in AAA he’s only at 4.1 K/9 this year, which is normal for him
Meanwhile, Hahn was plugging along having a fine season, with a 3.56 ERA and 2.88 FIP through 11 starts. However, he was lit up in his next two outings, both against the Astros. He completed only two innings in each game, allowing a total of 15 earned runs. It’s only two bad starts, but they were really, really bad.
Hahn, 2017: 5.30 ERA, 69⅔ ip, 55 Ks, 27 BB, 4 HR, 3.60 FIP
One key factor in those two disaster starts: Home runs finally caught up to him. With unspectacular K and BB rates, Hahn’s excellent FIP mark was based almost entirely on limiting homers. While he might have the true ability to sport a slightly better-than-average HR rate, he was never going to keep that number down around zero like he did for the first couple months of the year. Some of this regression was to be expected.
All that said, Hahn will be back, and this move is also intended to let rookie Paul Blackburn have another start (via John Shea, S.F. Chronicle). Blackburn performed admirably in his MLB debut on Saturday (6 innings, 1 unearned run).