A's starter Sean Manaea could return from injury by 2019 All-Star break

A's starter Sean Manaea could return from injury by 2019 All-Star break

The A's might have just received the best Christmas present they could have ever asked for.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane told the San Francisco Examiner that starting pitcher Sean Manaea, initially expected to miss the entire 2019 season following shoulder surgery, potentially could return as soon as the All-Star break in July.

“We need starters, but with guys like Sean, we’ve got a process of rehab that we’ve got to follow through,” Beane told The Examiner. “Optimistically, and I think we should be optimistic because it sounds like the surgery went well, we’re hoping there’s a chance Sean will be there at the All-Star break.”

Manaea, 26, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his pitching shoulder in September, ending the best season of his career. The left-hander went 12-9 with a 3.59 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 27 starts, even tossing a no-hitter against the future World Series champion Boston Red Sox.

A mid-season return by Manaea would provide an incredible boost for the A's, who have labeled starting pitching as their top priority this offseason. With fellow starters Jharel Cotton and A.J. Puk also expected to return midway through the season, Oakland's rotation could transform from a weakness to a strength for the stretch run.

Just last week, the A's projected starting rotation featured Daniel Mengden, Frankie Montas, Paul Blackburn, Chris Bassitt and Jesús Luzardo. Now we could be looking at Manaea, Puk, Cotton, Luzardo and Mike Fiers come August. Combine that with a deep and talented bullpen, and the A's could have something special.

Of course, there's no guarantee Manaea will return to full strength right away, and there's always the possibility of a setback in his recovery. But Beane seems to be optimistic and, by all accounts, Manaea's surgery and rehab have gone extremely well to this point.

“As far as all the stages that he has to take, those things can change," Beane told The Examiner. "But we’re looking at an end date, potentially, possibly, the All-Star break, and hope for the best during rehab at that point."

Beane told the Examiner he plans to seek additional starting pitchers this offseason in order to add depth. As it stands now, the A's still have just six or seven healthy starters. They probably would like to get that number to eight or nine by Opening Day, as additional injuries are almost inevitable.

Fortunately for Oakland, reinforcements are on the way.

A's vs. Mariners lineups: Seattle turns to opener to start in Oakland


A's vs. Mariners lineups: Seattle turns to opener to start in Oakland

OAKLAND — The A's will try to bounce back from a disappointing 9-2 loss Friday night as they once again host the last-place Seattle Mariners.

Seattle will employ an opener, with right-hander Gerson Bautista taking the hill. The 24-year-old has only pitched 3 1/3 innings this season, allowing two earned runs on four hits and four walks, with one strikeout.

Bautista will be followed by veteran left-hander Wade LeBlanc. The 34-year-old enters Saturday's game with a 3-2 record and a 5.31 ERA in eight outings. In eight career games against the A's, LeBlanc has gone 3-1 with a 3.82 ERA.

Oakland will counter with 26-year-old Frankie Montas. The right-hander is having a breakout season with an 8-2 record and a 2.84 ERA in 13 starts. He has struggled against the Mariners, however, going 0-1 with a 5.23 ERA in four career appearances, including one start.

The A's lineup will feature all right-handed hitters except for first baseman Matt Olson, who returns to the three-hole after hitting sixth on Friday. Mark Canha will bat fifth and Ramón Laureano moves up to sixth.

Chad Pinder will once again fill in for Stephen Piscotty in right field and bat eighth. Piscotty will miss his second straight game following surgery to remove a melanoma from his right ear. The A's expect him to return within a week.

Here are the full lineups for the A's-Mariners game, which will be broadcast on NBC Sports California and the MyTeams app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. PT, with first pitch at 6:07.

Seattle Mariners (30-43)
Mallex Smith, CF
J.P. Crawford, SS 
Domingo Santana, RF
Daniel Vogelbach, 1B
Omar Narváez, C
Kyle Seager, 3B 
Tim Beckham, DH
Mac Williamson, LF 
Dylan Moore, 2B

Gerson Bautista, RHP (0-0, 5.40 ERA)

Oakland A's (35-35)
Marcus Semien, SS
Matt Chapman, 3B
Matt Olson, 1B
Khris Davis, DH
Mark Canha, LF 
Ramón Laureano, CF 
Jurickson Profar, 2B
Chad Pinder, RF
Josh Phegley, C

Frankie Montas, RHP (8-2, 2.84 ERA)

A's struggles against Mariners, last-place teams could prove costly

A's struggles against Mariners, last-place teams could prove costly

OAKLAND -- One of the most impressive parts of last year's A's team was the way they beat up on bad teams. This season has been a completely different story.

Following their 9-2 loss to the last-place Mariners on Friday night, Oakland fell to 3-5 against Seattle on the season and just 9-9 against last-place teams in baseball. And that doesn't even include the A's 0-6 mark against lowly Toronto, currently 25-44 on the season and only out of last place thanks to the horrific Baltimore Orioles.

If the A's end up missing the postseason by a game or two, some of these losses could prove to be their undoing.

"We're chasing some good, good teams," said Friday's starter Chris Bassitt. "We just can't give any games away, and unfortunately, I kind of feel like I did tonight."

At 35-35, the A's are fortunate to still be well in the mix for a wild-card berth, just 2 1/2 games behind Texas for the second spot in the American League. But these types of uninspired losses against poor competition have to stop.

For whatever reason, the A's have really struggled to play good baseball against the Mariners this season. After losing the first two games of the season in Tokyo, Oakland dropped two more in Seattle last month. The A's did bounce back to sweep the Mariners later in May, but once again looked shaky in Friday's blowout loss.

"Everybody in the big leagues is going to give you a challenge and we just didn't play well enough to win the game tonight," said Oakland manager Bob Melvin. "(Seattle) won the first four games (against us) -- two in Tokyo and two at their place -- and then we ended up sweeping them (last series). Coming off a road trip with a day off, we'd expect to do a little better today. We just didn't. So come back out with a little better effort."

[RELATED: A’s Piscotty undergoes surgery to remove cancer from ear]

The A's still have a chance to win this series against the Mariners, but now there's no margin for error. Right-hander Frankie Montas will get the ball Saturday, followed by Tanner Anderson on Sunday. Oakland could really use two wins.