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Spring Game #13: Sean Manaea sharp in debut as A’s beat Reds

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Ramon Laureano played point guard on offense

Arizona Diamondbacks v Oakland Athletics
Pictured: Not today
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s waited a little longer than usual to get their starting rotation into Cactus League spring training games, and so far it’s been worth the extra wait.

After Chris Bassitt and Jesús Luzardo aced their own spring debuts the past few days, Sean Manaea followed with three sharp innings on Saturday, leading the A’s to a 5-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

*** Click here to revisit today’s Game Thread! ***

The impressive part of Manaea’s outing wasn’t just the clean results, which don’t mean much in an exhibition contest, but rather the way he achieved them.

The left-hander’s velocity had been down in recent years, but in this game he was throwing his fastball around 93-94 mph, reports Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News. The past couple summers he’d shown he could find at least some success at lower speeds, and even as far back as 2018 he threw a no-hitter while averaging 90.9 and topping out at 92.5 that night. If the zip is back on his heater, then that would be quite an exciting development — and he thinks the radar readings could still increase further, adds insider Martin Gallegos.

Manaea: 3 ip, 1 run, 4 Ks, 1 BB, 3 hits

The one run came on the following sequence: groundball single, stolen base, RBI groundball single. Half his batted balls went on the ground, that is when the Reds could make contact at all.

Manaea featured a power arsenal when the A’s acquired him as a prospect, but he thinks the time spent without that old velocity taught him some valuable lessons about other aspects of his craft. Per Gallegos:

“I did well without throwing hard for a couple of years and that really made me learn how to pitch. Having some more velo now and having learned how to pitch I think will take me a long way. I think it’s just going to keep increasing.”

The rest of the game was wrapped up by J.B. Wendelken and then three non-roster relievers, with just a solo homer off Brian Schlitter and a couple of walks over four total innings.

And since this was Manaea Day for 2021, we must include the latest hair update.

That’s three-fifths of the rotation now that has come out the gate this spring looking absolutely fantastic. Bassitt, Luzardo, and Manaea combined for 10 innings, 2 runs, 11 strikeouts, 3 walks, and 3 hits. We’ll see a fourth debut on Sunday, as Frankie Montas is scheduled to take the hill.

LaureanOBP and Pinder Power

We did not get a Buddy Reed highlight today. The outfield prospect did play a few innings off the bench, but nobody hit the ball to him on defense, and he went 0-for-1 at the plate. And even then, that at-bat still ended in him reaching on an error, making it an especially interesting 0-for-1.

Instead, we settled for a quietly effective five-run effort from some MLB regulars and roster-bubble candidates.

It all begins with Ramon Laureano, who sparked the offense without even hitting the ball. He walked in the 1st inning and then again in the 3rd, and both times it set up an opportunity for his teammates to knock him in. The first time it was a double down the line by outfield hopeful Seth Brown, and then it was a two-run homer by Chad Pinder.

Then a couple other speedy outfield prospects repeated Laureano’s trick. Luis Barrera drew a walk to lead off the 4th, moved to third on a double, and scored on a sac fly by RBI Machine Pete Kozma. In the 6th, with two outs on the board, Skye Bolt walked to keep the inning going, and catcher Austin Allen doubled him home to turn a once-quiet frame into a scoring rally.

Oakland scored five runs, and four of them reached base via walk. Without properly setting the table, maybe they lose 2-1 and we’re clinging to the consolation prize of Pinder’s solo dinger and the pitching staff’s squandered effort. All but one of the runs also crossed the plate after the second out had been recorded.

Among the lineup, beyond the obvious Laureano and Pinder, winners for the day begin with Brown and Allen, who each had a slugging highlight as they vie for Opening Day spots at crowded positions. Bolt contributed to a pair of rallies using both power (double) and patience (walk), and it was encouraging to see the aggressive Barrera draw a free pass.

***

Good game! But the best part of the day? The mercy rule is officially over, as it was only a temporary provision through Saturday. For the rest of the spring, the only way to get out of an inning is to record three outs or serve up a walk-off. Or rain perhaps, in Arizona.

Also, remember to move your clocks forward! Sunday’s game begins at what will now be 1 p.m. PT, and it will air live on actual television on MLB Network.