It didn’t take long for Sean Murphy to find his rhythm at the plate.
Playing in his sixth Cactus League game as the A’s slowly ramp up his workload back from emergency surgery to repair a collapsed lung this offseason, Murphy showed off his power stroke with a solo shot off right-hander Lance Lynn in the second inning of Wednesday’s 14-4 win over the White Sox. Murphy’s blast sailed into the left-field bullpen at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., for the first hit of a 2-for-3 day that also included an RBI double and a walk.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “In a short season last year, he was on it, too. He’s just going to continue to develop and be a real two-way catcher. He does a great job behind the plate, and as you saw as the year went along last year, the offense started catching up. He has that power and we feel like we have something special in him.”
Murphy broke out last year as a rookie, especially shining in the second half as he led the A’s in OPS (1.062) and home runs (five) over the final month of the season and slashed .277/.424/.638 across 16 September games. Showing no signs of rust early on in his return to game action, the 26-year-old catcher might be primed to take another big step entering his second full season in the Major Leagues.
Through six spring games, Murphy is 4-for-15 (.267) with two homers, two doubles and four RBIs. Surely there was a period of time where he went through some anxiety in preparing to return from a collapsed lung, an injury rarely seen in baseball and even rarer to predict how one might respond to once getting back on the field. But those worries quickly went away for Murphy after playing in his first game last week.
“At a certain point, I just stopped thinking about it,” Murphy said. “It feels like I’m back to normal. Maybe if I take a fastball off the ribs, that would be a little worrying. But other than that, I’m fine.”
Manaea sharp again
For established pitchers on the roster like Sean Manaea, the goal over the final couple of Cactus League outings are to provide a glimpse of their regular season form. His start Wednesday was just what the A’s would like to see from him this year.
Working his pitch count up to around 80 pitches, Manaea worked through a tough White Sox lineup that featured most of its regulars to finish with two runs allowed, one earned, on five hits with three strikeouts and two walks in 5 1/3 innings pitched.
“I knew coming in that these guys are going to be really good this year,” Manaea said of the White Sox. “It was nice to face these guys and see what I can do against them.”
Manaea was pleased with his ability to pound the fastball inside on hitters to generate mostly weak contact throughout. His wipeout slider, which can be devastating to hitters when going right, also showed good movement.
At his best, Manaea can keep an economical pitch count to get deep into starts. He’ll get one more start this spring to build closer to a full workload with Opening Day just a week away, but this is the Manaea the A’s are hoping to get in 2021.
“He was good again,” Melvin said. “He used all his pitches. We’re just trying to get his pitch count up and he continues to improve and pitch better.”
The A’s return home to Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz., for a 1:05 p.m. PT game against the Mariners. Right-hander Frankie Montas will take the mound for the A’s to make his third spring start. Left-hander Nick Margevicius is set to start for Seattle.