For the second time in a week, a former KC Royals minor leaguer made his Major League debut with the Oakland A’s. On Monday, it was right-hander Andrew Triggs with a perfect inning of relief in Detroit (he was sent back to Triple-A and then recalled Friday, but is expected to be sent back to Nashville today).
On Friday night in Oakland, it was lefty Sean Manaea making his big league debut in the start against division rival Houston.
The first inning went without a hitch, though he did allow a single to George Springer (who was caught stealing). He recorded his first strikeout (of Carlos Correa). In the second, he allowed a leadoff home run to Evan Gattis.
Manaea walked the leadoff hitter in the third, only to induce a double play. In the fourth, Manaea walked two (though one was picked off) and struck out two. The 5th inning was perfect. In the sixth, the wildness came to the forefront, as he hit the first batter and then walked Correa. Gattis tied the game with a single to chase Manaea from the game.
Overall, Manaea allowed four hits, walked four, and struck out three over 5-plus innings (87 pitches, 50 strikes). Two of the four runs he allowed came after he was pulled. Not a bad big league debut.
Manaea has been one of my favorite pitchers since he began his professional career with High-A Wilmington. I’ve liked him not only because he is a dominant pitcher, but because of his personality and styling Hawaiian shirts. And now his look fits his personality (how can you not love the fro?).
After dropping to the Royals in the 2013 draft, he had hip surgery and dealt with shoulder issues. He spent the entire 2014 season in Wilmington, starting 25 games (his most so far in his young career). Manaea’s first half was a bit of a disaster (4.84 ERA in 12 starts with 25 walks compared to 67 strikeouts in 48.1 innings), but he rebounded to dominate the second half (1.96 ERA in 13 starts with 29 walks compared to 79 strikeouts in 73.1 innings with opponents hitting just .180 against him).
The injury bug bit again in 2015, as he did not return to the mound until the middle of June (one start in the AZL), before returning to the Blue Rocks for four starts. Back in Wilmington, opponents hit .297 against him, though he only walked four compared to striking out 22 in 19.2 innings.
By mid-July, Manaea was in Double-A with NW Arkansas, where he made two starts totaling just seven innings.
He proved he was healthy and was traded off to Oakland (along with right-hander Aaron Brooks) for utility man Ben Zobrist at the July trading deadline.
Out of the Royals organization, Manaea truly found his form. In helping Double-A Midland win their second straight Texas League title, he went 6-0 in seven regular season starts with a 1.90 ERA. Opponents hit just .218 against him. Manaea even bested his former teammates, beating the Naturals in Game 1 of the TL Championship Series (8IP, 7H 2R, 0ER, 2BB, 7K).
Manaea dominated in the Arizona Fall League and earned an invite to big league spring training. There he impressed, but was sent to Triple-A Nashville for some more seasoning to start this year. He had made three starts for the Sounds, reaching the 6th inning in all three and allowing a run in each. Opponents in the Pacific Coast League were hitting .232 against him at the time of his promotion and he had walked just four compared to 21 strikeouts in 18 innings.
*Check out some good articles on Manaea:
Best of luck to Sean and hopefully there are more Major League starts to come!