Athletics

Athletics

OAKLAND -- "Yeah, that was -- that was tough -- it was really tough. That sucked."

It was as if it were yesterday.

Sean Manaea was sitting in the A's clubhouse which was filled with chaos and yet hauntingly quiet. The starting pitcher had a plate of food in front of him -- pasta and steak. It was untouched. He was staring off into space.

It was Oct. 2, 2019, and Oakland had just lost 5-1 to the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wild Card Game, in front of a record-breaking crowd of 54,005. The A's pitcher received starter responsibilities over a possible Mike Fiers. 

That's where the finger-pointing began. But Manaea blamed himself. 

He was credited with the loss. In two innings of playoff ball, he gave up four hits and three home runs.

"At that point in time, I really felt like everything was on me, so I was just wearing the brunt of that and just feeling really down on myself and then -- I was very sad and very upset," Manaea told NBC Sports California at A's Media Day on Friday. 

After a while, Manaea got away from it all, realizing that the weight of the loss was not all on him even though he started that day.

"Honestly, I'm really happy that kind of happened, he said. "I'm not happy that we lost, but that experience, that whole 'learning how to deal with that,' how to deal with a situation where there's that many people there and in a playoff game.

 

"Just being there and knowing I could have done way worse and I'm still here, I'm still kicking, just valuable information."

The A's didn't help Manaea in the cause. In 33 at-bats, the team accumulated just eight hits and eight total bases with one RBI. 

Manaea appears to possess one of those -- what I like to call -- resting smiley faces. Always happy. He shifted a bit when I brought up the wild-card game, but just as he said, he bounced back to his normal, happy self. 

"Honestly, I think it just spring-boarded me into how I feel now which is as confident as I'll ever be."

That confidence shows.

Nobody blamed Manaea for the loss. Not A's manager Bob Melvin, not his teammates. Not even Mike Fiers, who some argued should have started that day. 

Nobody.

Now, he doesn't blame himself, either. 

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Manaea heads into the 2020 season as part of a promising starting pitching rotation including Fiers. Top prospects A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo could join them, and the A's should get a full season of Frankie Montas after he was suspended for 80 games in 2019.

One of the team's main goals is to avoid the one-and-done game scenario the wild-card matchup brings. That way, Manaea can hopefully enjoy his steak and pasta in peace.