It felt like it was yesterday.
I walked into the Athletics’ clubhouse after their devastating 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2019 AL Wild Card Game. Starter Sean Manaea stared into space with an untouched plate of food in front of him.
He took full responsibility for the loss after allowing four earned runs in two innings. But as time went by, he understood the loss wasn't solely his fault. Manaea has come a long way since then, especially embracing who he is as a pitcher.
“As much as I want to be a guy throwing 100, that's not me,” Manaea said following Tuesday’s 7-0 win over the Minnesota Twins in the first game of Oakland's home doubleheader. “I gotta utilize what I have and what I bring to the table. That's kind of freeing in a way, just accepting who I am as a pitcher. ... What I have is pretty good.”
Manaea threw a complete-game shutout Tuesday (seven innings), striking out seven and walking just one. He now boasts a 3.04 ERA, showing signs of becoming the pitcher he was meant to be.
Back in Februrary, Manaea admitted he has changed a lot since the A's traded for him in 2015.
“I’m not 23 anymore throwing like 96,” Manaea said of his evolution. “Who knows, maybe I’ll do that again this year. As far as things changing, I definitely think I have a lot more confidence in how I’m going about my business and not so much worrying about what this guy’s doing or this other guy[.]”
Lately, the 29-year-old has started telling himself his stuff is "nasty." He's calm and down to earth away from the mound, but he wanted to stop being "too nice" while pitching.
That confidence is showing.