impact, Jesse Hahn, surkamp

Doubront to take A’s fifth rotation spot as Hahn is sent down

*I wrote this piece this morning and approximately 15 minutes after I’d finished it, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported via Twitter that some of the questions posed in this post had just been answered. Still, I believe their is valuable information and insight on how Jesse Hahn’s demotion in favor of Felix Dubront will affect both the starting rotation and the bullpen, along with stats on the guys that will be affected.

Slusser’s Twitter Updates:



Original Post:

In a surprising twist for the Oakland Athletics, it appears that there is suddenly a battle for a spot in a starting rotation that had seemed set, at least until May.

It was reported this week that right-hander Jesse Hahn, who was expected to be the team’s number two starter, now might not make the starting rotation to start the season. In fact there’s a chance he could spend the entire season in the minors at Triple-A Nashville.

Hahn has had a particularly rough spring having started four games and pitching just 10.2 innings. He’s allowed 16 hits and 13 earned runs over that span leaving him with a very inflated ERA of 10.97.

The tall right has been having issues with his command of both his fastball and curveball. He’s not throwing the curve for strikes anymore which, if you ever watched Barry Zito with his curveball, you’d know that makes the difference between getting hammered and having a completely flawless game.

To compensate Hahn has been using his changeup to try and get strikes, which isn’t the way his changeup should be used. When used correctly, to get the batter to make weak contact, it’s a an above average pitch.

Apparently, he’s even having a problem with with his sinker not sinking quite enough but Hahn attributes that command issue as something that tends to happen for him in Arizona. He expects to have better results with it in the Bay Area in his start against the San Francisco Giants on Saturday.

“I’m not seeing the results I’d like to see,” Hahn said. “I know I’m a better pitcher than what I’m showing right now. I have to find a way to get hitters out.”

At this point in March it isn’t about working on things anymore. It’s about results. As manager Bob Melvin put it,

“Where we are now, everyone knows we’re looking for results and at this point, for him, I know he’s probably disappointed.”

He’s now in jeopardy of losing his assumed spot in the starting rotation to left-hander Felix Doubront. Doubront had been effective up until his last start on Thursday in which he gave up seven runs and is scheduled to pitch in a minor league game Tuesday.

His performance will undoubtedly be a very important factor in who makes the A’s Opening Day starting rotation, just as Hahn’s Saturday start back in Northern California will be just as key an outing. Hahn still has a chance to save his spot in the rotation.

Felix Doubront, hahn
Felix Doubront. Stephen Dunn/Getty Images.

Using Doubront in the rotation does free up a bullpen spot that would likely be filled by rookie Ryan Dull. Dulll has been as good this spring as he was impressive during the month of September last year. Dull hasn’t allowed a run in 8 1/3 spring innings while striking out 10 and walking one. He has allowed just two hits.

If Doubront makes the rotation Dull would join Fernando Rodriguez in the back of the A’s bullpen. Rodriguez has also been virtually unhittable this spring, allowing just one run in 10 ⅓ innings while compiling 13 strikeouts without giving up a walk.

Together the two could combine to give the A’s the innings Doubront would if he were to stay in the bullpen as the A’s long reliever.

Things will get even more interesting in April and May for Oakland when starter Henderson Alvarez returns from having shoulder surgery last season. He’ll surely get a shot in the starting rotation upon his return.

At just 25, Alvarez has a ton of potential if his shoulder issue is infact gone and would provide an excellent one-two punch with Gray atop the rotation.

The A’s only real problem here is that they have too many pitchers and not enough spots on the 25-man roster. This isn’t a bad problem to have in most circumstances. The A’s starters while talented are all young and/or wild cards.

Rich Hill pitched brilliantly in four starts for the Boston Red Sox in 2015 but there are questions about his durability and also his command during his spring starts. He has walked 12 batters in just 7.2 innings of work this spring but at the same time he has seven strikeouts over that same time span.

Hill is out of options and part of his signing with the A’s was a guaranteed spot in the starting rotation – at least to start the season. If he doesn’t perform that could quickly change.

They A’s also have Kendall Graveman, who has been impressing this spring, and Chris Bassitt but their durability is also somewhat of a question mark being that both of them, along with Hahn, spent significant time on the disabled list in 2015.

Kendall Graveman, Oakland A's, promotions, success, hahn
Kendall Graveman. Getty Images.

Also, not to be forgotten is the team’s top pitching prospect Sean Manaea who has also been having a great spring. A midseason call-up could be likely for the young lefty.

While having too many pitchers to choose from is a good thing for any team Gray is the only starter the A’s know that they can count on one-hundred percent of the time, so their may be some mixing and matching going on.

Hopefully, the A’s pitching staff won’t be the game of musical chairs it was in 2015. That obviously did not work. Right now the team is down to the wire with less than a week left before they face off against Chris Sale and the Chicago White Sox and a decision will not likely be made until after Saturday’s exhibition game.

Hahn’s recent outings have left some in doubt that he is worthy of a rotation spot or that he needs more seasoning in the minors or perhaps the Tommy John surgery survivor who spent half of 2015 on the disabled list is just rusty after being away from the mound for so long. That’s something only Hahn can show in his Saturday start.

It’s surely causing chaos, or at the very least an unsettling feeling amongst the A’s pitchers, not knowing where they will end up with the season starting in just a matter of days. Sometimes though that’s just one of the hazards of playing in the big leagues.

  • Tom U

    I feel sorry for the A’s that they have to have Doubront on their club. The Cubs gave up a great prospect in Marco Hernandez for this tuna.

    • I doubt he will be starting long … Hahn was stellar the first half of last season when he was healthy but they shut him down in July with forearm soreness. He supposedly had a few control problems in the spring which I think could be just rust from being out of the game since July 1st (I was at that game – it’s my birthday!) and my guess is that he’ll be up soon when either (or both) Doubront or Hill (I’m super skeptical on him. He’s gotten quite a few K’s but he’s also walked more batters!!) start to tank. Alvarez will supposedly come back healthy in May and if he actually does – and Hahn is back I think the rotation could be quite good and worst case – he may be a rookie – but that Manaea kid is killer!!! I’m also thinking that with Hahn they may be trying to keep too many innings off his arm – he’ll get regular work in Triple-A but not as much as in the bigs. He’s had Tommy John and can pitch like a champ (he threw a complete game shut out prior to his injury last season) but he probably doesn’t need to come back too fast …. learned that lesson with Parker oh, ya know, a couple of times now. That kid is crazy brave to try and make another comeback attempt. Well, Sorry to go off – it’s about my A’s after all! LOL! And Kendall Graveman showed some seriously signs of brilliance in June/July/beginning of Aug last year if you look at the numbers (not the win-loss column) and Bassitt I haven’t seen enough of personally but I hear good things. The only real plus of having Doubront start is that it opens up a spot in the bullpen for rookie Ryan Dull who impressed last September and has been unbelievable this spring …. Ok, I’ll stop now Tom!!! I apologize for a bit of an overshare here! LOL! I’m super long-winded.

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