OAKLAND -- After one final tuneup of his mechanics, Sean Manaea appears to be ready to go for the regular season.
In the A’s 6-2 loss to the Giants at the Oakland Coliseum in their first exhibition game of Summer Camp on Monday night, Manaea tossed five innings and allowed three runs on four hits with four strikeouts. All his runs allowed came in the second after a pair of infield singles to load the bases set up a three-run double by Austin Slater.
“He was a little rusty in the first couple of innings,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Manaea. “They put some good at-bats on him and hit the ball the other way. Then the next couple of innings he pitched well and got the swing-and-misses that we’re used to seeing. We got his pitch count where we wanted to get it.”
Limiting the damage, Manaea soon settled in, retiring the final 10 batters he faced before exiting right around his targeted pitch count at 65. The left-hander has been working on improving his slider during camp, and it was a main focus Monday as he threw it 22 times, using it as the putaway pitch on a swinging strikeout of Darin Ruf in the third.
“I thought it was awesome,” Manaea said of the slider. “Judging everything on how it looked from my perspective and how the swings looked, I’m pretty close to being able to backdoor it and just pitch off of that. For now, I’m extremely happy with how it’s turned out and how I feel with it.”
With Monday being the first time the A’s faced a team with a different uniform in about four months, Manaea admitted to feeling some butterflies before the start as he arrived to the Coliseum. Though once he took the field for pregame warmups, things quickly started to feel familiar again.
“I was pretty nervous going into today. It was a little nerve-wracking. But once I started warming up and got in my routine, I was good. I’m excited for Saturday.”
Manaea’s next start will come Saturday in Game 2 of the A’s opening four-game series against the Angels at the Coliseum. With the club expected to monitor each starter at least through their first turn in the rotation, Manaea will see his pitch count increased to around 75-85 pitches in his first regular-season outing.
The decreased velocity on Manaea’s fastball was a topic of discussion last season, though he seemed to be able to work with it just fine, going 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA over five starts in 2019. With a fastball that topped out at 89 mph and averaged 87.6 mph for the night, Manaea said he feels comfortable in his ability to make up for the slower fastball with good pitch sequencing.
“I feel good and that’s all that matters,” Manaea said. “I’m not really worried about velocity or if it will come back. As long as my arm feels good, I’ll be fine.”
Piscotty feeling back to normal
The A’s two runs on the night came on a solo blast by Stephen Piscotty in the second and a sacrifice fly by Khris Davis that scored Matt Chapman in the fourth.
After a 2019 campaign that was plagued by injuries, and a rib issue that kept him out of Cactus League action during Spring Training, Piscotty arrived to Summer Camp feeling completely healthy and it showed during Monday’s game.
“He looks like a different guy,” Melvin said. “If anybody really benefited from this time off, it was Stephen. He’d been struggling to get healthy for quite a while and wasn’t going to be ready for the season. Now he looks like he did a couple of years ago, using his legs like he normally does and hitting the ball the other way.”
Laureano expected to play Tuesday
Ramón Laureano was the only regular who did not play Monday night after experiencing calf tightness. The issue was not too concerning for Melvin, who expects Laureano to be in Tuesday’s starting lineup against the Giants at Oracle Park in what will be the A’s final exhibition game before the regular season.
Laureano still took some swings on Monday, facing Jesús Luzardo in a live batting-practice session before the game.
“He should be fine for tomorrow night,” Melvin said. “We’re just trying to be proactive.”