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Oakland A’s injury update: Sean Manaea dominating in Triple-A rehab

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The lefty inches closer to a return to Oakland.

Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

It’s been a long season of rehab for Sean Manaea. After shoulder surgery last September, the big left-hander didn’t return to game action in the minors until July. Even then, his first several outings brought shaky results, as well as a brief setback for soreness in his side. But he’s made significant progress since then, and his latest effort was downright dominant.

On Friday, Manaea pitched for Triple-A Las Vegas, and his line was eye-popping. He faced 23 batters and struck out over half of them, while allowing just three baserunners. Granted, the game was played in Tacoma, which is relatively on the pitcher-friendly side for the Pacific Coast League, but these numbers are impressive no matter where you post them.

Manaea, Fri: 7 ip, 0 runs, 12 Ks, 1 BB, 2 hits

And that wasn’t his first good game, just his latest and best. Here are his last four starts combined:

Manaea, last 4 gms: 1.90 ERA, 23⅔ ip, 36 Ks, 5 BB, 2 HR, 11 hits

That strikeout rate works out to 42% of the 85 batters he’s faced, and nobody is reaching base against him in any fashion. He might be running out of things to prove in the minors.

However, there are still a couple of considerations before he returns to Oakland. The first is his velocity, which has consistently been reported in the 87-90 mph range. He’s succeeded with low velo before, so it might not be a dealbreaker, but even in 2018 he still averaged 90 on his heater. High-80s soft-tossing like he’s doing now can sometimes look great in the minors before getting exposed by MLB hitters, who will be better at laying off his quality secondaries and sitting on that weak fastball.

On the bright side, last weekend Manaea’s velo range was up to 88-91 mph and occasionally 92, reports Athletics Farm. Perhaps he’s on the way to rediscovering the extra couple ticks he needs to return to his old self.

Even when he is ready, though, it might be tough to fit him into the current rotation. Oakland’s starters are pitching out of their minds right now, and none of the five deserve to lose their spots. Mike Fiers is doing his best ace impression, Brett Anderson is plugging along consistently, Chris Bassitt has been hot for the last two months, and trade acquisitions Tanner Roark and Homer Bailey are both exceeding expectations and churning out quality starts nearly every time they take the mound.

For a moment an opening looked possible, as Anderson exited his last outing with a blister on his finger. But he’s expected to make his next start, reports insider Martin Gallegos.

Whatever happens, the A’s appear to be headed for the good kind of problem, where they have too many quality pitchers to fit into one rotation instead of not enough. And that’s before factoring in top prospect Jesus Luzardo, who will “almost assuredly” join the team in September, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. Stay tuned to see how it all shakes out over the coming weeks!

Mengden hurt

All of that good news on the rotation comes not a moment too soon, as the A’s have recently lost one of their few viable depth pieces. Daniel Mengden was placed on the Triple-A injured list this week due to a sore elbow, reports Athletics Farm. No further details yet on the severity of the injury, but at this late point of the summer even a minor problem can potentially be season-ending.

Laureano on the mend

On the other side of the ball, the A’s are missing one of their star hitters in Ramon Laureano. The center fielder was one of the hottest producers in the sport in July but went down at the end of that month with a stress reaction in his leg. Fortunately, he’s making rapid progress in his recovery.

Three weeks after landing on the IL, Laureano ran sprints on Tuesday and felt no soreness the next day, reports Ron Kroichick of the S.F. Chronicle. He also said on Wednesday that he “feels he can play right now,” reports Gallegos. He could get at-bats soon at High-A Stockton, adds Kroichick.

Other notes

A few more quick updates:

  • RHP Daniel Gossett was scheduled to throw to hitters in Stockton on Friday, reports Gallegos, though just on the side as opposed to in an actual game. He’s not a candidate to return to Oakland this year, but it’s nice to at least see him taking the next step in TJS recovery.
  • RHP Daulton Jefferies (Double-A Midland) landed on the IL this week, though A’s Farm notes that it’s “more a matter of fatigue.” After missing all of 2017 and 2018 to a lengthy TJS recovery, the right-hander has thrown 79 innings this year between High-A and Double-A.
  • RHP Gus Varland (High-A Stockton) had Tommy John surgery, reports A’s Farm. The 2018 draft pick made our preseason Community Prospect List, but we’ll have to wait until likely 2021 to see him again.

Best of luck to all the injured A’s in their recoveries!