OAKLAND — Sean Manaea is in just his second major league season, but he’s wise in the ways of the A’s ever-changing roster.
Manaea was around last summer when the A’s dealt away Rich Hill and Josh Reddick to the Dodgers at the trade deadline. It wasn’t easy to see another pair of teammates go Sunday morning, as Oakland dealt relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to the Nationals, but at least Manaea could view it with some perspective.
He sensed the A’s cranked up the intensity a notch when they took the field Sunday afternoon looking to complete a sweep of the Cleveland Indians.
“Seeing that news kind of put a little fire under everybody,” Manaea said.
It’s a funny twist that on a weekend that brought a major trade and rumblings of more moves to come, the A’s played some of their best baseball of the season. They secured that sweep of the defending American League champs with a 7-3 victory at the Coliseum, helped along by Manaea’s seven strong innings and a four-run outburst in the first inning.
“Whenever you say goodbye to a couple guys like that, certainly there’s some sentiment that runs through the clubhouse,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “I think the runs early in the game were really important for us.”
The A’s outscored the Indians 17-6 over the three games. Their pitchers allowed just 17 hits combined and their defense — which has committed a major league-high 79 errors — had just one over the entire series.
If Manaea’s theory is correct, it has to be encouraging for Melvin that the A’s responded in a positive way on the field after the morning trade. Surely more deals are on deck before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Starter Sonny Gray is a particularly hot name in the rumor mill and All-Star first baseman Yonder Alonso and second baseman Jed Lowrie also are prime candidates to be dealt to contenders.
Manaea said waving goodbye to Doolittle and Madson was no small thing. Both are respected veterans — Doolittle being the only player left on the roster who had been on all three of the A’s postseason teams of 2012-14, and Madson a sage pitching presence who owns two World Series rings.
“I really felt their presence in the clubhouse, on the plane,” Manaea said. “It’s going to be hard to fill those shoes, but I think this team is headed in the right direction and it’s just an exciting time right now.”
Melvin stayed with Manaea in the seventh, with his pitch count soaring past 100 and two runners aboard with Oakland up 5-2. Manaea struck out Brandon Guyer with men on the corners to finish his outing at 115 pitches.
With the trade of two late-inning relievers, Melvin said he’s likely to lean on his starters a bit more heavily. But Sunday’s decision to stick with Manaea also reflected his rising confidence in the lefty, who is benefiting from an improved slider that’s giving him a true three-pitch mix with his fastball and changeup.
With more veterans likely to depart, young players will be asked to step up more, and Manaea is one of the leaders of that pack.
“He’s a guy that’s up for that now, and has matured into that role,” Melvin said. “He’s got 113 or whatever it is pitches, but at that point in time that was his game. I think he takes away a lot from that too.”