OAKLAND – It remains to be seen how the A’s starting rotation comes together by Opening Day.
But right now, with spring training still four weeks away, Oakland has gotten good news on the health of its potential starting staff.
Jesse Hahn said he’s feeling back to normal after a strained forearm ended his 2015 season in July. Fellow right-hander Kendall Graveman appears fully healed from an oblique strain that sidelined him from late August on.
That’s encouraging for the A’s, who like the candidates they have to fill the starting five behind Sonny Gray. But the physical readiness of guys coming off injuries is a big key as the Feb. 20 reporting date for pitchers and catchers approaches.
[STIGLICH: A's outlook: Questions abound for starting rotation]
“From what I’m hearing right now, everybody’s a full go,” manager Bob Melvin said during Sunday’s FanFest at Oracle Arena. “The great thing about spring is you ease into it with bullpen (sessions), then you get into games. The workloads aren’t that extreme early on. We’ll be able to see how they feel.”
Count Jarrod Parker, coming off a two-year absence due to extensive elbow troubles, as one of those pitchers progressing well. But the A’s will bring him along more slowly than the other pitchers.
“I know he feels great,” Melvin said.
Hahn said he’s added 10 to 15 pounds to his lanky 6-foot-5 frame, and he’s trying to make some mechanical adjustments he thinks will keep him healthier.
“I’ve got more leg strength, trying to get my legs involved more.”
The right-hander went 6-6 with a 3.35 ERA in 16 starts last year before his forearm began acting up in early July. He also felt discomfort when he began a throwing program in the fall and was shut down, though an MRI at that time showed no structural damage.
A potential rotation could feature Gray, free agent signee Rich Hill, Hahn, Graveman and Chris Bassitt. Parker, Aaron Brooks, Sean Nolin and Felix Doubront will also compete for a spot, and top pitching prospect Sean Manaea will command attention in spring training.
“Sean Manaea probably is a little bit of a wild card going into camp,” Melvin said. “We don’t expect to have him to start -- we’d like him to get a little seasoning at Triple-A. But we know the upside with him is as high as anybody we have (excluding) Sonny.”
[STIGLICH: Will 'dazzling' Manaea get shot at A's rotation in spring?]
The left field situation is still a question mark because the A’s don’t know what the exact availability will be of Coco Crisp. Crisp has had the past two seasons interrupted due to multiple injuries, but primarily a chronic neck problem. Even if he’s at full health, the A’s may be cautious with how they use Crisp, 36, in an effort to keep him fresh.
“We have some depth around him to fill in,” Melvin said. “But he’s worked hard and I know he started hitting a lot sooner than he did in years past. … Really, we don’t know until we get to spring, but he feels good at this point.”
[STIGLICH: A's outlook: Coco's health is the question for outfield]
Mark Canha is the top option for left field when Crisp isn’t out there, though Canha is also slated to split time at first with left-handed hitting Yonder Alonso. Sam Fuld, Jake Smolinski and Andrew Lambo can also play left.
Reliever Liam Hendriks was, of all places, at a wedding rehearsal dinner in November when he learned the Blue Jays had traded him to the A’s for pitcher Jesse Chavez.
“The first thing I did was have a look at Oakland and see what they did,” said Hendriks, a native of Perth, Australia. “Their bullpen wasn’t the best last year, and I’m just happy to come into something where I can learn from a guy like Sean Doolittle and (John) Axford and (Ryan) Madson as well. But it caught me off guard because I hadn’t heard my name” in trade rumors.
[STIGLICH: A's outlook: Will bullpen overhaul pay dividends?]
The A’s announced the FanFest attendance at “more than 12,000.” Among the highlights from the fan Q & A sessions: Melvin shared that former 49ers football coach Jim Harbaugh wants to return to A’s spring camp and coach third base this time. Last year, Harbaugh made a cameo appearance in Mesa and coached first base during a Cactus League game.
Travel problems from the brutal storm that’s slammed the East Coast in recent days prevented reliever Ryan Dull, second baseman Joey Wendle and bullpen coach Scott Emerson from attending FanFest.