Athletics

Sean Manaea searching for answers after worst start of big league career

Sean Manaea searching for answers after worst start of big league career

OAKLAND — Sean Manaea insists there is no injury hindering him on the mound right now.

As for troubleshooting what has gone wrong over his past three starts, or how to correct it, the A’s left-hander didn’t offer many specifics after recording just one out Saturday in the shortest outing of his big league career.

“Honestly, I have no idea,” Manaea said. “I’m trying a whole bunch of different things and hopefully …. I can try to figure out how to get out of this rut. Right now I’m just trying to think about the positive things. I’ve got to carry on and try to wipe these kinds of games away.”

The Orioles sent 11 men to the plate in a seven-run first inning that paved the way to their 12-5 victory Saturday night at the Coliseum. Manaea was only around for seven of those batters. He allowed a walk, followed by six hits in succession, and A’s manager Bob Melvin went to his bullpen. Manaea was charged with six runs, the only out he recorded being a 7-6-2 play at the plate.

Some sort of physical ailment certainly wouldn’t be good news, but it would at least provide an explanation for Manaea’s recent struggles after he looked so dominant through an extended midseason stretch.

Over his past five starts, Manaea is 0-2 with a 9.31 ERA and a .400 opponents’ batting average. He wasn’t all that bad in the first two of those. But in his past three times out, Manaea has completed just 6 2/3 innings while allowing 13 earned runs on 21 hits.

“He was just missing some locations,” Melvin said of Saturday. “Balls in the middle of the plate. They hit some balls that were off the plate, in and away. It didn’t look like he had the feel for his slider. Another tough day for him.”

Manaea’s fastball didn’t top 91 miles per hour and at times sat in the high 80’s. Asked if he was concerned if that perhaps pointed to an injury, Melvin replied:

“It’s been down for a while here. Maybe it’s a dead arm state. Not dead arm, (but) it’s August. He’s got 100-plus innings. He got an extra day (of rest) this time, but he’s going to have to figure it out in his bullpens.”

Perhaps this is just a blip on the radar for a 25-year-old pitcher who is still figuring things out in just his second major league season.

The A’s aren’t playing for a postseason spot. They can afford to let Manaea work through this bout of turbulence. And if indeed there is no physical issue nagging at him, the mission is two-fold: First to identify what the problem is, and then go about fixing it.

It could be the first of those tasks is just as challenging as the second.

Ryan Christenson named bench coach as A's solidify 2018 staff

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Ryan Christenson named bench coach as A's solidify 2018 staff

Ryan Christenson has worked his way up the coaching ladder in the A’s farm system, and on Thursday he was named the team’s new major league bench coach.

The announcement makes Christenson, 43, the right-hand man for manager Bob Melvin and essentially the No. 2 man in the dugout. It also settles a position that was in flux over the course of the 2017 season. Mark Kotsay began this past season as bench coach but stepped away from the team in June to be with his family after his daughter, Sienna, suffered a serious eye injury.

Kotsay is expected to remain with the big league club in some form of non-everyday role. Chip Hale finished the season as bench coach but will now switch back to third base coach, a position he originally was hired for leading into the 2017 season. Hale also coaches Oakland’s infielders.

“At some point in time we knew Ryan was going to be here,” Melvin said. “He went through all the classifications (managing in the minors). He did well with a young group. It’s a good fit bringing him in, and he’s ready for the bench coach role. He’s done a lot of managing.”

Though the bench coach works in closest tandem with a manager throughout the game, Melvin also noted the importance of having a third-base coach that thinks right along with him and is on the same page. From that standpoint, he said having Hale in that role is important.

“Chip’s so good at third, that even though I’m used to having him on the bench, it’s tough not to use him (at third),” Melvin said. “Certainly this isn’t a demotion for Chip.”

It’s the first appointment on a major league staff for Christenson, who has spent the past five seasons managing in Oakland’s farm system, starting with low Single-A and working his way up to Triple-A Nashville this season. He led Double-A Midland to back-to-back Texas League titles in 2015-16, and his teams went 391-307 (.561) over those five seasons.

The rest of Melvin’s coaching staff will return intact in 2018. That includes pitching coach Scott Emerson, who took over that role midseason after the firing of Curt Young, and hitting coach Darren Bush. Like Christenson, Emerson and Bush both were promoted from within the farm system to their eventual spots on the big league staff.

All three men have extensive history coaching the large group of young players that are establishing themselves as the A’s core, and that’s a factor worth keeping in mind when evaluating the makeup of this staff.

Emerson, who assumed Young’s duties in June, will return as pitching coach despite the A’s staff posting a 4.67 ERA, highest by an Oakland staff since 1999. A’s pitchers also surrendered an Oakland-record 210 home runs.

“Similar to Ryan, he knows everybody, what we have here and in the minor leagues,” Melvin said of Emerson. “He’s been a good fit here and continues to be a good fit.”

Bush oversaw a group of hitters that showed improvement as the season wore on, scoring the fifth-most runs in the American League after the All-Star break. The A’s set a franchise record for strikeouts – in line with the rise in whiffs throughout the majors -- but also hit the fourth-most homers in franchise history.

Melvin’s staff is rounded out by first base coach Mike Aldrete, bullpen coach Garvin Alston and assistant hitting coach/catching coach Marcus Jensen. Steve Scarsone, who filled in as interim third base coach from June through the rest of the season, will resume his duties as a traveling instructor throughout the farm system.

Young A’s fan writes letter to team after fires take home, beloved memorabilia

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Twitter @KatieUtehs

Young A’s fan writes letter to team after fires take home, beloved memorabilia

Young Athletics fan Loren Jade Smith is among the thousands of people affected by the Northern California wildfires. Along with his family's home, the fire storm took his most valued possession -- his A's memorabilia collection. 

In his disappointment, Smith wrote a letter to the A's that has since gone viral. 

After the letter was shared throughout the Twitterverse, A's President Dave Kaval said the team would reach out to Jade and his family to replace his memorabilia. 

And since Kaval's announcement, the A's community of fans has responded with offers to send the young fan some memorabilia. The A's have even set up an address where fans can send Smith their gifts.