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Elephant Rumblings: Montas - Trivino trade could be paying off

MLB news roundup

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MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Wednesday, Athletics Nation!

Last year, the rebuilding Oakland A’s traded top starting pitcher Frankie Montas to the Yankees, with the briefly brilliant reliever Lou Trivino riding sidecar alongside Montas to New York City. Sadly, neither Frankie nor Lou has pitched in 2023.

In return, the A’s got pitching prospects Ken Waldichuk, JP Sears, and Luis Medina along with second baseman Cooper Bowman. Now, the three pitchers are the top three A’s in innings pitched this season —though Paul Blackburn is neck and neck with Medina for third place.

These young pitchers’ rookie season ups and downs have been among the team’s more interesting storylines to follow this year. Waldichuk and Sears hit high notes this week, handing Houston their “Astros” in Monday and Tuesday’s games and earning victories in the process as the A’s clinched the unfinished three-game series.

A’s pitchers dazzled against one of the league’s best lineups in the series opener, as Mason Miller and Waldichuk threw a combined eight innings of one-hit ball. The hit was against Miller, and Ken carried 75 percent of the innings load: six innings, no hits, one walk.

Waldichuk has struggled plenty this season. His ERA sits at 5.36 through 126 innings. But he’s looked great at times when his command is on, and he’s demonstrated improvement with a 3.67 ERA since the All-Star break. The A’s have been emphasizing Ken’s changeup development—perhaps this will portend more breakthrough performances like Monday’s.

Sears pitched through a fair bit of traffic in earning his win on Tuesday, but he came up clutch in some pivotal moments, especially in the fifth inning. With runners on first and third with no outs, JP made this spectacular double play.

Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña followed with an RBI double, but Sears managed to limit further damage by striking out the fearsome Yordan Álvarez a second time.

Sears has been the most consistent among these former Yankee arms so far, with a 4.45 ERA and a 2.57 BB/9 through a very respectable 157⅔ innings. Waldichuk and Medina have had more severe struggles with control, both walking in excess of four batters per nine in their nascent MLB careers.

Medina‘s recent appearances are more forgettable. He continues to struggle, but he’s got the best stuff of the three. When he can find the strike zone, Luis has shown he can positively dominate. He’s worth having in the mix as the next good A’s roster slowly takes shape on the horizon.

Sears, Waldichuk, and Medina are the top three A’s in innings pitched this season.

Here’s to hoping this talented trio reaches its potential in 2024. And best wishes for a return to baseball for Frankie and Sweet Lou, too.

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