Rookies Manaea, Mengden and Overton may be key to A’s future
The Oakland Athletics have historically been at their best when their starting rotation led the way for the rest of the team. The importance of a strong, healthy starting rotation helps even a mediocre bullpen or offense not be a crucial as they would be without a good rotation.
The A’s have won with stellar starting rotations, decent bullpens and decent offenses. The majority of the time it’s been pitchers from the A’s farm system that have come up to the majors to end up leading the team to victory. There are many examples from the early 1970’s to the early 2000’s to perhaps now.
In the last couple of months the Athletics have called upon three rookie starters in left-hander Sean Manaea, right-hander Daniel Mengden and left-hander Dillon Overton due to many injuries to players they thought would be in the rotation.
Jesse Hahn, who played well for the A’s in the first half of 2015 before succumbing to a season-ending injury on July 1, has struggled with his command and just can’t seem to get it together. Sophomore starter Kendall Graveman, who like Hahn showed promise in 2015, has struggled to keep the ball in the yard and has not shown that he can go deep into games, putting extra stress on an already fatigued bullpen.
Felix Doubront and Chris Bassitt both went down with torn ulnar collateral ligaments, needing Tommy John surgery. Both Jarrod Parker and Henderson Alvarez who were recovering from surgeries they underwent in 2015, had setbacks. Parker re-fractured his elbow ending his season once again and Alvarez has now been added to the 60-day disabled list.
The A’s went into the season expecting to have too much starting pitching depth. Now with their original rotation decimated by injury, the team is relying on a trio of rookies to get the job done. So far so good for the rookies; Overton, Mengden and Manaea. The A’s are already out of the American League West’s cellar and are on their way up. Much of their recent success has been due to brilliant performances from their rookies.
All three have performed well in the beginnings of their early big league careers. Even Manaea, who had an issue with his left elbow that was diagnosed as a left pronator strain, showed an immense amount of intelligence and poise when he first felt some tightness in the area. He made a very smart move and let the trainers know as soon as he felt it. Many pitchers would try to pitch through some tightness but Manaea knew better than to push himself.
His leaving the start early cost the A’s that day, but it was the best decision for him and for the team in the long run. He went on the disabled list and was reinstated Wednesday to start the third game of the Battle of the Bay against the San Francisco Giants. Had he waited to make that decision it could have spelled disaster for the 24-year-old lefty.
Instead Manaea out pitched Giants’ starter, veteran Jake Peavy. He pitched 5.2 innings, allowing just one walk and struck out four batters without giving up a run. He came away with the win over the Giants, leaving the game with a 7-0 lead.
Twenty-four-year-old Dillon Overton had made just one big league start and will face the intimidating Madison Bumgarner on Thursday at the Oakland Coliseum as the Athletics go for the sweep in the final game of the yearly – Battle of the Bay.
Bumgarner is an imposing foe but there’s every chance that Overton could be just a good. It will only be his second big league outing, however, he was very impressive last weekend in his MLB debut against the Los Angeles Angels. Overton allowed three runs in his debut, all on long balls. However, they were each solo shots hit by the Angels’ three most prominent hitters: Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun.
With those exceptions he was dominant allowing seven hits, two walks while striking out three Angels’ batters. He allowed all three homers early on in the game but once he settled in he appeared to be a veteran on the mound. Overton earned the win and having that first win under his belt should give him a bit of extra confidence Thursday at the pitcher-friendly Oakland Coliseum.
Daniel Mengden, the youngest of the three at just 23 years old, has had the most success thus far however it took him longer than the others to earn that first “W”. Despite not getting credited with a win until his fourth start in the majors, it wasn’t his pitching that made that first win elusive, it was really just a lack of run support.
At 1-3 with a 2.81 ERA Mengden, who sports a 1970’s style Rollie Fingers mustache, has struck out 26 batters in just 25.2 innings pitched. The right-hander has dominated hitters and may be the next, up and coming ace of the Athletics’ staff.
The three rookies all have so much potential that they could easily become the stars of the A’s rotation, leading the team back to the postseason after two, or more likely three, seasons in which they didn’t play in October. It wouldn’t be the first time a trio of A’s rookie starters have led the team to victory and it very likely won’t be the last.
However the Athletics’ season ends in 2016, be sure to keep an eye out for these three young stars in the making, they may end up giving your favorite team a tough time at the plate one day soon.
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**Since this was written Overton has been sent back to Triple-A Nashville for a little more seasoning and due to the fact that both Manaea and Rich Hill were reinstated from the disabled list.