Projecting the A's 2019 rotation behind Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada


Projecting the A's 2019 rotation behind Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada

All offseason long, we heard about the A's desire to improve their starting pitching. While it remains to be seen if Oakland truly upgraded the rotation from last year, manager Bob Melvin at least has some options to fill out his five slots.

A's general manager David Forst said in January, he expects veteran right-handers Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada to be the top two starters. That leaves a handful of pitchers competing for the final three spots in the rotation.

Brett Anderson will almost certainly earn one of those spots to start the season. The 31-year-old left-hander signed a one-year Major League contract with Oakland last month. Anderson went 4-5 with a 4.48 ERA last year and has a career ERA of 4.09 in 10 seasons.

Right-handers Daniel Mengden and Frankie Montas would seem to be the frontrunners for the other two slots in the rotation, if for no other reason than they are both out of minor league options. That means the A's would risk losing them on waivers if they didn't make the 25-man roster.

Mengden and Montas have both shown flashes of their ability at the big league level, but each has struggled with consistency. Mengden, 26, went 7-6 with a 4.05 ERA last season, while Montas, 25, was 5-4 with a 3.88 ERA. This will be a critical season for both, and likely their last chance with the A's.

Paul Blackburn and Chris Bassitt also have a chance to make the rotation, but unlike Mengden and Montas, they have options remaining. That allows Oakland to start them in Triple-A and bring them up later in the season.

Aaron Brooks is an interesting case. The 28-year-old is out of options but would likely go unclaimed on waivers. Even if he were claimed, the A's would be far more willing to part with him than Mengden or Montas.

[RELATED: Manaea back by All-Star break?]

And then there's Jesús Luzardo. The 21-year-old left-hander is one of the top prospects in all of baseball. He might already be Oakland's best starting pitcher, but the A's will proceed with extreme caution. They want to make certain Luzardo is absolutely ready for the big leagues to avoid damaging his confidence in any way.

At this point, the safe bet for the rotation is Fiers, Estrada, Anderson, Mengden, and Montas. Blackburn and Bassitt will certainly be in the mix as the season progresses, and it's only a matter of time until Luzardo takes Oakland by storm.

How Sean Manaea is taking on leadership role with A's, in rotation

How Sean Manaea is taking on leadership role with A's, in rotation

MESA, Ariz. -- Sean Manaea has come a long way since the AL Wild Card Game in October.

A trip overseas proved to be an escape and a well-needed adventure to discover the loss to the Rays wasn't all his fault.

It was a perfect reset to Manaea who will be taking on a different role than he was before heading into the season.

Once in the group of youngsters, he finds himself sandwiched in between the fresh-faced and experienced arms of those vying for spots in the A's starting rotation in 2020.

"[Manaea] is at a different point in his career right now too," manager Bob Melvin told reporters prior to Manaea's Cactus League debut against the Brewers on Monday. "He's not just that young, talented left-hander, he's had to make some changes along the way because of the injury -- do things a bit differently but he's excited about a full year, as are we because, like I said, numbers were fantastic last year."

Manaea's spring debut wasn't everything to be desired, and he knew that. 

He left after 1 1/2 innings giving up six hits, six runs and two home runs.

"Results-wise, I mean, six runs is six runs -- that sucks, and I don't really know what happened," Manaea told reporters after his outing. "I think, just leaving stuff down the middle and ultimately that's what I was trying not to do. I just wanted to go out there and throw my slider and get a feel for it -- and I think I accomplished that today."

Manaea said it was a good starting point to work on for a spring outing and the hits he got after throwing it were just lessons to pay attention to.

He maintained the positive attitude BoMel touched on that makes him special on the team and in the clubhouse.

Manaea said the slider moved well, and he was really happy with the movement overall. Just not location wise. 

[RELATED: Fiers gets cheers upon Cactus League pitching debut]

"For the most part -- for some of the part, it was pretty decent," he smiled. 

Talking about a spring training outing can often feel pointless, but one thing is for certain -- the laidback vibes the weather and baseball in Arizona can bring will resonate through the regular season for Manaea. 


A's Mark Canha will never forget the time he autographed a potato

A's Mark Canha will never forget the time he autographed a potato

MESA, Ariz. -- Imagine approaching A's Mark Canha and asking him to sign ... your potato.

Well, a fan did that on Sunday prior to the A's Cactus League game against the D-backs: 

"You never forget when you sign a potato," Canha told NBC Sports California on Monday. 

Oh ... c'mon, I had to ask him about it.

"The guy was just like 'Hey Mark, will you sign my potato?' and I was like, 'Yeah, I don't have a problem with that.'"

Canha also said it might have been the weirdest thing he's ever signed. He can add that to the collection of autographed cell phones, babies -- well, a baby's bib.

One of the most interesting parts of this potato (wow, I can't believe I just wrote that) was the fact that there are multiple signatures on it and it's stood the test of time to some degree, so that's quite impressive. 

[RELATED: A's tab Puk as top prospect over Luzardo]

"I've signed some weird stuff," he added. "Some kids want you to sign their arm."

"That [potato] had to be one of the weirdest," Canha said.