Jharel Cotton

Sean Manaea 'feels really good,' could pitch in 2019, Bob Melvin says

Sean Manaea 'feels really good,' could pitch in 2019, Bob Melvin says

The A's starting rotation has been a successful surprise early in the season. With so many injuries, question marks swirled the rubber in Oakland.

So far, so good. And it can get even better. 

One of the two missing pieces currently is left-hander Sean Manaea, who underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery in September. On Monday though, A's manager Bob Melvin gave a positive injury update on the ace. 

"I think there is," Melvin said to MLB Network Radio on the chance Manaea pitches in 2019. "He certainly thinks it can happen. He's playing catch out to 90 feet right now and he feels really good."

As much as they miss him, Melvin knows the A's must play it safe with Manaea. 

"There's a certain timetable he's on, too. We gotta be discipline with that," Melvin said. 

The A's are also with Jharel Cotton and A.J. Puk, whom are both recovering from Tommy John surgery. Later on in the season, this rotation might look a whole different, with all three arms possibly joining the staff. 

[RELATED: A's make 'biggest dream' come true for 12-year-old with cerebral palsy]

"I feel like the potential is there, and with all three of those guys," Melvin said. "Even if we can get them to contribute a little bit this season ... we know that next season, from what looked to be a weakness this year with the rotation, can really be a strength for us next year.

"We gotta be careful with these guys and make sure they're healthy."

Manaea went 12-9 with a 3.59 ERA in 27 starts last season, and threw the seventh no-hitter in Oakland A's history.

A's pitchers A.J. Puk, Jharel Cotton make big strides in Tommy John recovery

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AP

A's pitchers A.J. Puk, Jharel Cotton make big strides in Tommy John recovery

Spring training is here and the A's starting rotation is still a question mark. But, two pitchers who can play major roles later this year made big strides to open camp. 

Prospect A.J. Puk and 27-year-old Jharel Cotton threw off a mound at full distance for the first time on Tuesday since the two underwent Tommy John surgery before the 2018 season. 

Cotton said throwing off a mound at 60 feet and six inches was "like Christmas." 

“It felt great, my first bullpen at 60 feet, 6 inches,” Cotton said to reporters. “It was kind of fun, I was beside Puk and we were doing the same thing. We were kind of excited about it and getting after it. ... It’s been such a long time. We felt like kids again.”

The two threw at 70 percent effort level, hitting between 70 and 76 mph on the radar gun. Cotton and Puk both missed all of last season, but should be factors in Oakland by midseason.

In 2016, Cotton made his MLB debut and showed his promise by posting a 2.15 ERA over five starts. He then struggled in 2017, going 9-10 with a 5.58 ERA over 24 starts. 

[RELATED: A's pitching prospect James Kaprielian to undergo MRI on right shoulder]

Puk is the A's top pitching prospect behind Jesus Luzardo. He was their top pick in the 2016 MLB Draft and has a 3.82 ERA in his minor league career with 184 strikeouts in 125 innings pitched. 

The 6-foot-7 left-hander said his arm "felt amazing" in the bullpen. 

Though the A's will monitor both arms closely, keep an eye on their progress this spring as they get closer to actual game action in the next few months.

A's Jharel Cotton's arm 'feels great' following 2018 Tommy John surgery

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USATSI

A's Jharel Cotton's arm 'feels great' following 2018 Tommy John surgery

OAKLAND -- Jharel Cotton was hoping 2018 would be his breakout season. Unfortunately, the injury gods had other plans.

Cotton tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow during spring training and underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery in March. The recovery process has been long and often lonely, but the 27-year-old right-hander can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"My arm feels great," Cotton told NBC Sports California. "No setbacks so far, which is great. I think I'm stronger. My body feels a lot better. My mind is good. I had a full year to work on all of those things, so I'm trying to get back now."

The average recovery time following Tommy John surgery is between 12 and 15 months, which would put Cotton on track to return sometime during the first half of the 2019 season. 

"Right now, I'm doing long toss to about 135 (feet) and I'm doing flag runs at 60 feet," Cotton said. "I think we're going to progress to bullpens in the next few weeks. I'm excited to get off the mound and just see what happens."

Added A's general manager David Forst: "He feels great. He hasn't had any bumps in his rehab progression, so we look to see him hopefully pitching competitively sometime after spring training."  

The A's acquired Cotton from the Dodgers in 2016, along with fellow pitchers Frankie Montas and Grant Holmes in exchange for veterans Rich Hill and Josh Reddick. Cotton had a rocky season in 2017, going 9-10 with a 5.58 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. However, he pitched much better in spring training last year, recording a 3.75 ERA and 1.17 WHIP before getting injured.

Cotton's goal for 2019 is not just to get healthy, but to come back and pitch better than ever before.

"(I want to) come back and contribute," he said. "Be a guy whenever they need me and step up for the squad. Last year they did a great job winning a bunch of games and going to the playoffs. I think this team has the ability to go and do it again. I want to come in and just pick up right where they left off."

[RELATED: Top prospect A.J. Puk 'feeling awesome' after TJ rehab]

Of course, Cotton doesn't want to get too far ahead of himself -- he knows he still has a lot of work to do before he can even think about returning to game action. 

"I just want to take it day by day, week by week," he cautioned. "If I'm healthy throughout the entire process, I'll be back before you know it."