HOUSTON – Jesse Hahn will make another pitch to remain a member of the A’s starting rotation in the Sunday series finale against the Astros.
When he does, he’ll be bringing a little of 2015 presence to the mound in the form of, he says, a better mental approach to the game.
“I’ve got a clean mindset going now,” Hahn said Saturday, referring to the impressive eight scoreless one-hit innings he threw in Anaheim against the Angels in a start Tuesday. “I struggled with that last year.”
As a result, he’s been less the sure thing for the Oakland rotation than the A’s had hoped before the 2015 season when the club shipped catcher Derek Norris to the Padres for him.
Oakland currently has six pitchers for five spots in the rotation with Kendall Graveman having come off the disabled list on Thursday and Sonny Gray due to make his first start of the season Tuesday in Minnesota after beginning on the DL.
Hahn was a rising star with the A’s in his debut season, going 6-6 with a 3.35 ERA. But he missed the second half of the season with a right forearm strain.
Things weren’t the same in 2016 as he never found his game, bounced between the big leagues and the minors when he wasn’t on the disabled list, then missed the cut to make the season-opening roster this year.
“I tried to reinvent my game a little last year and that was a mistake,” Hahn said. “Now I’ve got my focus back and I’m just doing what I can do.”
The season was only a couple of days old when the A’s called Hahn up from Triple-A Nashville. He threw the final six innings of the fifth game of the season, allowing just two runs and essentially eased his way into the rotation over the man who started that day, Raul Alcantara.
He’s made three starts since, and each one has gone down as a quality start, three runs allowed in six innings in a 3-1 loss to the Royals followed by two runs (one earned) in six innings against the Rangers and most recently the eight shutout innings against the Angels to start this road trip.
And if he has to keep proving himself with the A’s rotation tightening up, he seems to be OK with that.
“I’m always out there pitching with a chip on my shoulder anyway,” he said. “I’m always out there trying to prove someone wrong about me.”
Alcantara, who’d been placed on the designated for assignment list earlier in the week, cleared waivers, which surprised the A’s a little, and was sent to Triple-A Nashville. Manager Bob Melvin said “we thought that there was a pretty good chance that we’d end up losing him. But it’s nice that we have him back. He’s struggled a bit at the big league level, but it’s good to have him back. We’ll need a lot of starting pitching depth over the course of the season.
With right fielder Matt Joyce dealing with a toe injury, Ryan LaMarre got a start in center field with Jaff Decker moving over to right. It’s a chance for LaMarre get a couple of starts back-to-back, because he would have been in the lineup Sunday against left-handed starter Dallas Keuchel anyway. And combined with Monday’s day off, the A’s are hoping Joyce will be ready to go come Tuesday in Minnesota.
Chad Pinder got a rare start at shortstop Saturday and Melvin said the plan would be to have him start at second base Sunday. Adam Rosales was hit in the finger by a pitch Friday and while he could play, Melvin wanted to give his current shortstop a day off. And he’s looking for a rest day for Jed Lowrie at second, which turns out to be a win-win for Pinder.
Daniel Mengden threw 30 pitches in batting practice Saturday in the club’s extended spring training camp in Mesa, Ariz. as he rebounds from his right foot surgery earlier this year.
Felix Doubront, who had Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery 12 months ago, threw two innings in a simulated game in Arizona. The A’s are hoping the lefty will be healthy enough to join the bullpen in a month or two.
Chris Bassitt, another pitcher coming back from Tommy John surgery, was scheduled to pitch in a simulated game Saturday night.
Rajai Davis, on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain, continues to run without pain and Oakland expects to have him back on the roster Tuesday in Minnesota. Melvin said the A’s offense has been a little one-dimensional without Davis’ speed in the lineup.
Second baseman Joey Wendle, who started the season on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder, came off the DL Saturday after a six-game injury rehabilitation assignment with Nashville and the A’s optioned him to the Sounds. During the rehab he hit .364 with two doubles, a triple and three RBI.