Athletics

Athletics

MESA, Ariz. — The physical ailments are tough enough for any pitcher to overcome, and Jesse Hahn has endured his share.

Last year, some mental hurdles also sidetracked the A’s right-hander.

“I think that’s the first time I’ve honestly ever really struggled in my career,” Hahn said of 2016. “I don’t think I was used to it. I was approaching it the wrong way. I’d struggle and come back trying to be more aggressive, which led to me just not pitching like myself. This year, it’s a completely different approach. Just keep my mind clear and focus on the positives.”

Last spring, though Hahn was coming back from forearm problems from the year before, he was viewed as a sure-fire candidate for Oakland’s starting rotation. But he labored through a poor Cactus League season, spent most of the year with Triple-A Nashville and then hit the disabled list with an achy shoulder in August.

It’s a different scenario in 2017, as A’s pitchers and catchers report for camp Tuesday. Jharel Cotton and, to a lesser extent, Andrew Triggs appear the front-runners for the final two rotation spots to join Sonny Gray, Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea. That leaves the 27-year-old Hahn needing to wedge his way into the discussion, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing for a pitcher who has something to prove after going 2-4 with a 6.02 ERA in his nine major league starts last season.

Hahn sounds relaxed yet focused, eager to turn the page from 2016. His shoulder felt good heading into the offseason, which he says led to a productive winter of work. He’s got six bullpen sessions under his belt as the A’s prepare for their first official workout Wednesday.

 

“I was just getting back to pitching,” he said. “Keeping the ball down, seeing some life to my fastball again, finding my natural arm slot, finding one arm slot that works and sticking with that.”

He also got something important accomplished away from the mound this winter. Hahn got engaged to girlfriend Jessica Pauley, popping the question while the two were on a trip back to his alma mater, Virginia Tech. The offseason included a couple of other fun trips, which Hahn says helped him clear his mind after the rough season.

“I think going into spring training, every year is a competition,” Hahn said. “You can’t settle in and get comfortable. For me, I’m not worried about those things. I’m just gonna go out there and do what’s best for me. Just focusing on pitching and let everything else fall into place.”