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Oakland A’s prospect watch: Lou Trivino impressive in MLB debut

The flamethrowing reliever showed why he’s a potential setup man or closer.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s saw their first MLB debut of 2018 this week, as relief pitcher Lou Trivino rose from the ranks of Triple-A to make big league performances on Tuesday and Wednesday. The 26-year-old isn’t mere depth and has serious upside, which landed him on our Community Prospect List last winter.

Trivino’s first outing was a simple one-inning stint, mopping up the final frame of a blowout, and his second was an emergency long-relief assignment at the end of a 14-inning marathon. He handled each with aplomb, displaying both the ability to handle high-leverage situations and to go more than three outs at a time if needed. Here’s a closer look at the two games.

Tuesday: MLB debut

Line: 1 ip, 0 runs, 2 Ks, 1 BB, 2 hits, 25 pitches

The first pitch of his career registered 99 mph on the TV broadcast. He ended up sitting comfortably in the 96-98 range, and Brooks Baseball had him topping out just a few thousandths below 100. He controlled his fastball reasonably well, though certainly not pinpoint — he walked one, went to another three-ball count, and only 12-of-25 pitches registered as strikes, but I wouldn’t classify his performance as wild. He was more or less in command of what he was doing even if he wasn’t always hitting the glove, and his mistakes went out of the zone rather than becoming meatballs over the plate.

We only saw his breaking ball twice, running low-80s in velocity. The first time, on a 2-2 count, it ran a bit high but nearly nicked the top of the zone (a later fastball of at least the same height was called a strike). The second time, on a 3-2 count to a different batter (Yoan Moncada), it dropped down perfectly into the zone for a called Strike 3.

As you can see from that video, Trivino ran into a bit of trouble in this outing. The first batter he faced (Nicky Delmonico) singled, but did so on a pretty good pitch and barely sneaked it over the glove of a leaping Marcus Semien. Up next, Yolmer Sanchez tried to fight off 98 mph in on his hands but grounded it weakly to short; it could have been a double play with a slower runner or a better throw from second, but instead it was just a fielder’s choice.

With one out, free-swinging Tim Anderson drew a rare walk. Trivino got ahead 1-2 but couldn’t quite put him away, missing close with a pair of heaters and the aforementioned breaking ball. This was his wildest at-bat, and he followed it up with his one real mistake of the evening — a fastball left out over the plate to Leury Garcia, which fortunately only resulted in a single that somehow didn’t score Sanchez.

With the bases loaded and one out, Trivino responded by bearing down and striking out the next two hitters to end the rally. Down 2-0 to Omar Narvaez, he found the zone twice to even the count and then got Narvaez to chase the same high heater that Anderson had laid off of. Moncada then worked a full count but eventually got frozen by the breaking ball in the video above.

It wasn’t a perfectly clean inning, but it was strong enough considering the pressure of a debut in front of an unusually packed house of 46,000 fans. The key was the last two batters, which demonstrated his ability to dominate his way out of a jam without even allowing a ball in play.

Wednesday: First MLB win

Line: 3 ip, 0 runs, 4 Ks, 0 BB, 2 hits, 49 pitches

Under normal circumstances, you’d expect Trivino to sit out the afternoon game after debuting the night before. However, Wednesday was not normal, with a 14-inning affair that went nearly six hours. The pen was emptied and the call came in for emergency duty, and he answered it like a champ. This time we witnessed his complete arsenal, after seeing mostly heaters in his debut.

Trivino entered in the 12th, and once again he pitched his way into and out of trouble. He showed Sanchez three good curveballs (better than on Tuesday and with more break) to get ahead in the count, but then allowed hard contact on a hittable fastball for a double. Jose Abreu saw a couple more quality curves but got ahold of one for a single that was hit too hard to score the runner. From there, Trivino responded the same way he had the night before — two clutch strikeouts to quash the rally. Delmonico went down on three pitches, and Matt Davidson hung in tough for 10 pitches but also came up empty. Those last two at-bats brought the first sight of Trivino’s 91-92 mph cutter, which earned the swing-and-miss for Strike 3 on both Ks.

The next two innings went much smoother. with the final six batters going down in order. The highlight of the 13th was another Strike 3 on a cutter, this time called on the outside corner to end an eight-pitch battle against Narvaez. In the 14th, he froze Adam Engel with a curve after a steady diet of fastballs. Even this deep into the outing, with fatigue surely setting in, he was sitting at 96-97 with his fastball and locating all his pitches well enough to succeed.

Well done!

Overall, this was a great first impression by Trivino. That’s easy to say after a bunch of scoreless innings, but specifically I liked every pitch in his arsenal and was encouraged by his adequate control and command. He was able get outs with all of his pitches (heater, cutter, curve), and even got at least one strikeout using each. His velocity is elite as advertised, and as a former starter he’s even got some endurance when needed. The jams he got into were well-earned by the opposition, and he fought his way out of them even with the game on the line.

Congrats to Trivino on an excellent and memorable debut series! It’s easy to see this guy sticking in Oakland’s pen, and maybe even leading it in the near future.