Even though Sean Manaea got a no-decision in his first major league start, you could see the talent that is there. If Manaea stays healthy, he’ll be an excellent addition to the Athletics’ starting rotation.
The 24-year-old, imposing left-hander made his debut for the A’s Friday night against the Houston Astros. His line for the night may at first appear mediocre: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 4 ER 4 BB, 3 SO. However, it doesn’t quite tell the whole story.
Manaea cruised through the first four innings, allowing just a single run on a second-inning solo shot by Evan Gattis. Otherwise, he allowed a single to Chris Singleton in the first and one to Carlos Correa in the second inning, but neither went anywhere.
The fourth hit surrendered by Manaea was his undoing. He’d already put two men on, hitting Singleton with a pitch that was a bit overthrown and just got away from him. In the next at-bat, he walked Correa. It was a single to left by Gattis, who got his second RBI on the night, plating Singleton.
He was replaced by Sean Doolittle, who unfortunately allowed both runners he inherited from Manaea to score, thus raising tacking a couple more runs onto Manaea’s ledger that were only partially his doing.
Manaea threw 87 pitches, 50 of which were for strikes. Manaea’s only real weakness Friday night was his command. At times, he has trouble finding the strike zone and when Singleton was hit by Manaea’s pitch, it was evident and on display.
He walked four batters, and two of his four runs on the night were because those batters scored. Today’s Knuckleball’s own Bernie Pleskoff explains perfectly why these types of innings get away from Manaea, exactly the way the sixth inning did on Friday,
“He can lose his release point and his finish on his pitches quickly. When that happens, it takes him a hitter or two to return to his normal delivery.In that span of time, the inning can elude him.”
Manaea’s strengths far outweigh the control issues of a kid who only tossed 214 innings in the minors. He’s still developing, so he’ll learn to have better command of the ball in time.
Manaea is tall. At 6’5” he towers over hitters from the mound and throws with a downward, almost crossfire delivery. His fastball sits around 96 MPH but he’s been known to add a couple of miles per hour to it.
His main combination is his fastball/slider. His slider may appear to be a fastball, but fools hitters easily, being approximately 15 MPH slower than his fastball. He also throws a changeup that sits in the high-70s and can easily use any of the three pitches as his strikeout pitch, keeping pitchers off balance with his variations of speed and location.
Manaea has the sheer size and all the characteristics of a power pitcher. He is only undermined by his control issues. Although his weakness allowed some unnecessary runs to score, the A’s hitters had Manaea’s back.
Home runs by Coco Crisp and Marcus Semien and a walk-off homer off the bat of Yonder Alonso in the bottom of the ninth ensured that Manaea’s big league win-loss record remained at 0-0. The A’s took game one against the Astros by the score of 7-4.
The fact that Manaea did not have a perfect debut, albeit still a good one, was probably exactly what needed to happen. There have been many incredible debuts by highly-touted rookies who didn’t end up panning out in the majors.
The left-hander got a little taste of what it was like to struggle, but also what it was like to succeed. Manaea’s first start was, overall, well-rounded, and a perfect stepping stone to his major league career.