Sean Manaea’s 2021 season was over following his final start Friday, but there was a smile on his face, and he had a sense of pride.
In the Athletics’ 8-6 win over the Houston Astros on Friday night at Minute Maid Park, Manaea struck out six in 5 2/3 innings. While his overall 2021 numbers weren’t quite what he wanted, he had plenty to be happy about.
“It’s not the results that I was looking for, but I’d say one thing I’m extremely proud of is just making every start, you know,” Manaea said after the game. “Taking the ball every five days and yeah, I think that’s, you know, such a cool thing.”
Manaea was able to stay healthy all season, which is huge for him and especially for the A’s, who had been riddled with injuries as the season winds down.
Manaea also took notice of his approach, working with what he had.
“That would be throwing out a good fastball, or just using two pitches, or having to use all three in different combinations that you don’t normally do,” Manaea said. “Yeah, that’s what makes, in my opinion, a pitcher a pitcher.”
This was a stark difference from the man who was sitting in the clubhouse, staring into space after the A's devastating AL wild-card loss of 2019.
Following Friday’s outing, Manaea was seen in the dugout talking to fellow starters Frankie Montas, Chris Bassitt and Cole Irvin. With the exception of Bassitt’s facial fractures that landed him on the Injured List for five weeks, the four had made each of their starts during the season.
“Just somebody said like, setting goals up, beginning of the season, and now it’s coming to the end and having a couple of brothers to do that with is great. To be able to go on this adventure altogether and just reminiscing and talking about next year,” Manaea said.
The chemistry the A's shared this season is something rare to see across the league. The starters play the thumb game one minute, then they exchange pitching secrets and advice the next as they sit atop the Gatorade coolers in the dugout.
Manaea finishes the 2021 season posting a 3.91 ERA with 194 strikeouts in 179 1/3 innings. Including two shutouts.
Manaea said one of the biggest lessons he learned this year is to be more fluid, not being as rigid. He had to trust himself and what he had to offer on the mound.
Heading into spring training, Manaea had a message to himself: To believe his stuff is nasty. As the 2021 season ends, does he still feel that way?
“Yep,” he said. “Very much so.”