Manaea fights jitters, tries to ignore rumors in spring debut

March 20th, 2022

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The trade rumors involving Sean Manaea have become nearly a daily occurrence. Saturday brought new reports of the Twins inquiring about him just a few hours before he took the mound.

Avoiding the external noise has admittedly become difficult for Manaea, particularly over the past seven days as he’s watched former teammates Chris Bassitt, Matt Olson and Matt Chapman get traded away. Still, Manaea has a season to ramp up for, regardless of what team it might be with, and that preparation got underway at Goodyear Ballpark in the A’s 9-3 loss to the Reds.

“It’s been a crazy past week or so,” said Manaea. “It’s always going to be in the back of my mind until the start of the season, and that’s where I’m at.”

Working through the jitters of pitching in a game for the first time in over five months, things did not start out well for Manaea. He was pulled at 26 pitches after getting just one out in the first inning, but the A’s utilized the Spring Training rule that allows teams to pull a pitcher from an inning that is going too long and have him return later in the game. 

Collecting himself in the bullpen, Manaea regrouped and returned for a much better second inning as he retired three of the four batters he faced on 15 pitches.

“I slowed things down and went back out there with a clear mind,” Manaea said. “Definitely nervous for my first game. But I felt good overall. I felt like I was good with my pitches. Just had trouble locating things, especially my fastball.”

Manaea ended up throwing 41 pitches and allowed five runs, three of which scored on a grand slam surrendered by Brian Howard later in the first, on five hits across 1 1/3 innings. His one strikeout came on a fastball on the outer half of the zone that froze Shogo Akiyama in the first. It was one of only a few fastballs he felt he was able to locate to his liking.

“I was trying to get the fastball glove side and throwing sliders off that. I wasn’t really good about executing that,” Manaea said. “I left some over the middle. But the slider was really good. I threw one or two changeups and that’s about it. ”

It’s no secret why teams are heavily pursuing Manaea. The 30-year-old lefty is coming off a superb 2021 campaign in which he finished 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA and set career highs in strikeouts (194) and innings pitched (179 1/3) as the anchor in Oakland’s rotation.

Manaea's desire is to remain with Oakland. He grew up in the small town of Wanatah, Ind., but he’s come to enjoy city life in the Bay Area, and the organization is all he’s known as a Major Leaguer. But he also realizes his value as an attractive trade chip as the A’s enter a new chapter heading in the direction of a rebuild.

“At the end of the day, it’s just going out there and pitching,” Manaea said. “If I were to get traded, it wouldn’t be any different. I’m just focused on what I can control. I’ve got to get ready for a season and get going.”