Zach Neal made his major league debut with the Oakland Athletics back in 2016. After a long and winding path, he made it back to the majors with the A’s in 2023 for the first time since the 2018 season where he appeared in just one game with the Dodgers.
The Athletics signed Neal to a minor league deal on April 7.
What were the expectations?
There was virtually no expectation for Neal upon signing with the A’s. The thinking was that he could provide some relief depth at the minor league level.
Neal began the season at Las Vegas, but got the call to the active roster on May 11. He appeared in two games where he allowed three runs over 3 1/3 innings. He was optioned back to Triple A on May 15 and was then designated for assignment on May 19. Neal elected to stick at Triple A and saw another stint on the active roster when the club selected his contract again on August 3. He appeared in eight games during that stretch where he posted a 7.58 ERA and a 7.83 FIP over 19 innings. Oakland sent him back to Triple A on September 6, but brought him back again on September 22 where he would finish the season with the team by allowing just one run over his final four appearances. For the season, Neal appeared in 14 games for the Athletics, which also includes two starts as an opener. The results weren’t pretty thought as he finished with a 6.67 ERA and a 7.03 FIP in 27 innings.
What went right? What went wrong?
For Neal, getting back to the majors for the first time since 2018 has to be viewed as a success. While he didn’t pitch very well, he saw three different stints on the active roster and was added back to the 40-man after being DFA’d. Neal issued 14 walks and allowed eight homers in his 27 innings at the major league level which certainly didn’t help his cause.
Neal was outrighted off the 40-man roster at the end of the season and elected free agency. He turned 35 on November 9. Like so many of the relievers that the A’s cycled through, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him latch on somewhere as minor league depth.