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Manaea dazzles for West in AFL Stars Game

A's prospect strikes out four over two hitless innings

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As Sean Manaea watched the World Series, he was occasionally struck by the thought, "The Royals couldn't be doing this without me."

That's because Ben Zobrist, who played such a vital role in the postseason run that ended with a championship, was acquired on July 28 in a trade with Oakland for Manaea, Kansas City's supplemental pick (No. 34 overall) in the 2013 Draft.

"But, no, I don't expect to get a ring," Manaea said with a broad smile.

This was a couple hours after lighting it up as the East's starter in Saturday night's AFL Fall Stars Game at Salt River Fields. A trio of two-run homers carried the West to an 8-3 win, but just as important to the West was the fact Manaea went only two innings.

In those two frames, Manaea pitched up to his stature. The 6-foot-5 lefty got on top of his pitches, throwing downhill, and it was an uphill battle for West batters. Manaea fanned four in his two hitless innings, including the side in the second.

"Everything was on tonight," said the Athletics' No. 3 prospect. "Especially the changeup. The slider I've been working on also felt good. And I was locating pretty well.

"It was fun, a real good experience to be out there," Manaea added of getting to show his stuff in front of 6,793 fans and a national MLB Network audience. "I talked to my mom earlier today, and she was really excited to watch the game."

Mom wasn't disappointed. Manaea didn't look like the pitcher who is 0-2 with a 5.63 ERA in four starts for the Mesa Solar Sox.

"I've struggled in a couple of outings," admitted Manaea, focused here on work, not results. "Fine-tuning my mechanics, improving my slider so I have it going into Spring Training, that's what I've tried to do.

"I gave up a lot of hits [on the slider]. It happens, but I'd rather have it happen here, where I can work on it. And it's coming along. Today, it felt really good ... in my hand, in the release."

At his height, which makes consistent mechanics a challenge, Manaea has been somewhat of a pitching chameleon.

"Even in college," said the Indiana State product, "I didn't really know what I was doing. I'd change my mechanics every month or so, and even tried to copy big league pitchers. That didn't really work. So I kept searching until I found something that felt comfortable."

Comfortable to Manaea, not to batters who, besides heat in the upper 90s, have to contend with his somewhat jerky delivery.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast.
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