MESA, Ariz. —The A's optioned starter Jesse Hahn to Triple-Nashville on Sunday and announced that lefty Ross Detwiler has opted out of his minor league contract to become a free agent.
Hahn’s demotion brings Oakland's rotation into focus, with Andrew Triggs and Raul Alcantara lined up as the fourth and fifth starters, respectively, behind Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton. Sonny Gray will begin the season on the disabled list.
Hahn got off to a strong start this spring but struggled mightily in his last two starts, giving up 12 earned runs combined. It’s the second spring in a row that he’s entered camp looking to lock down a rotation spot before getting sent down, but the right-hander believes he’s better equipped to handle this setback.
“It’s disappointing for sure, because I set a goal this spring and that was to make the rotation,” Hahn said. “I didn’t do that, but I can’t get down on myself. I have to stay positive. I think I did a lot of positive things this spring. … I’m not going to let this one get me down. I’ve been through that situation last year. I learned from it. So I’m not going to make the same mistakes that I did last year.”
Gray’s injury, a strained lat muscle that’s expected to sideline him most of April, left two spots at the back of the rotation. The A’s are turning to right-handers Triggs and Alcantara, who have combined for just 11 big league starts between them.
Certainly with Triggs, this scenario had been developing for a while. Front office officials had talked him up since the beginning of the offseason as a rotation possibility. He's posted a 5.06 ERA in five exhibitions (three starts), but he looked very sharp in his last outing Wednesday against the White Sox.
Alcantara is out of minor league options, and the A’s wanted to keep him whether it was in a starting or relief role. His ERA is 4.50 over six appearances (three starts), but like Triggs, his most recent start was his most effective.
“Both of these guys will get an opportunity they haven’t had before,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.
Sunday’s developments could have a trickle-down effect with other parts of the roster. The A’s are in a better position now to keep five outfielders if they want and go with the standard seven relievers. Going with eight relievers and four outfielders seemed more likely when Alcantara was still a bullpen consideration just to keep him from hitting the waiver wire.
Non-roster invitees Alejandro De Aza and Jaff Decker, who is slated to return Monday from an oblique injury, are the primary candidates to be the fifth outfielder, although Chris Parmelee, another non-roster player, has quietly had a good spring.
The seventh bullpen spot could go to Daniel Coulombe if the A’s deem it important to have a second lefty, or they could go with impressive right-handed prospect Frankie Montas, who would be more of a multi-inning reliever asked to get both lefties and righties out. Of course, they could still opt for an eight-man ‘pen if they want a second lefty and think it’s necessary to keep Montas as a length guy.
Detwiler was on the fringe of the rotation competition and also could have been a bullpen consideration. But he posted an 11.88 ERA over eight appearances. The lefty is now free to sign with any club, though Melvin didn’t rule out the chance of Detwiler returning at some point.
Khris Davis, out recently with right quad soreness, will play in a minor league game Sunday along with Decker. If Davis comes out of it well, Melvin said he will DH on Monday.
In another injury update, third baseman Trevor Plouffe is doing OK after tweaking an abductor muscle in his groin. Melvin is aiming to get him in one more game before the A’s fly north Wednesday, and then Plouffe will have the Bay Bridge Series to make sure he’s ready.