In one week the Oakland Athletics will summon their first batch of September call-ups, but the auditions for 2017 spots have long since begun.
Along with Ryan Dull — the only rookie to make the opening day roster after making 13 appearances in 2015 — the A’s (54-72) have received massive contributions from a flock of first-year players called up mid-season.
To be exact, rookies have provided Oakland with 15 wins, eight home runs and 23 RBIs.
Quickly becoming elders on a team that becomes younger daily, Dull holds the second-best WHIP among American League rookies while Sean Manaea is second to AL Rookie of the Year front-runner Michael Fulmer (104) with 100 strikeouts.
The “Throwin’ Samoan” reached the century mark in his most recent start, a 9-1 win over the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians. While he hooked up with rookie Bruce Maxwell, the lefty received backing in the form of career-first RBIs from his catcher as well as shortstop Chad Pinder.
Manaea (5-8, 4.53 ERA) said he saw the these contributions coming a year ago, when he joined the franchise after being traded from the Kansas City Royals system:
“I played with a lot of these guys last year in (Double-A) Midland. Ever since then, I knew that this group that’s coming up is going to be special. … We’re all going to contribute, and that was just a little taste of what is going to happen in the future.”
While his teammates were reaching career milestones Ryon Healy (.281/.303/.477 slash), who has been a key cog in the offense since he was called up and inserted directly into the starting third-base position on July 15, was busy going 3-for-4 with an RBI double. It was a first-inning single, though, that officially extended his current hit streak to an impressive 10 games.
Manager Bob Melvin said that the play of the youngsters, especially the slugging 24 year-old, is inspiring:
“It’s fun to watch. … Healy is a guy that almost seems like a veteran now.”
Pinder’s seal-breaking RBI came in career at-bat No. 13 — just his third attempt with a runner in scoring position.
The path has been a bit different for Maxwell (.111/.143/.185), who had scuffled his way to two hits in his first 26 trips to the plate, going hitless in his first four run-scoring at-bats.
While Pinder (.133/.133/.133) can be very happy with his third-inning, line-drive single, the big backstop can build on an eight-inning, two-strike, opposite-field double to drive in a pair.
Both players received identical keepsakes with which to remember the magical night — the respective game balls.
The skipper said that the key for young players, like Maxwell, who have been run producers before hitting upon tough times in the big leagues is not getting behind the numbers. Though, he did add that it is a difficult ask:
“It’s easy to tell somebody that. It’s another thing to actually not look at it. He’s gotten some really tough matchups … so it was good to see him square one up and drive a couple runs in.”
Melvin, who spent 10 seasons donning the tools of ignorance in the big leagues, said that the first RBI of a career is one of the things players will always remember. Manaea, who fanned reigning AL Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa for his first strikeout, told SFBay that his mark felt different — at least in the moment:
“Honestly, I had no idea that had happened. I came in after the seventh inning, and Triggs told me congrats. I asked, ‘what for?’ He said, ‘100 strikeouts.’ That’s pretty cool, but you don’t really think about things like that right now. It’s about getting innings up and going deep in ball games, that’s where my focus is at.”
Adding an exclamation point onto a game featuring major roles played by a quartet of players 24 (Manaea, Pinder and Healy) and 25 (Maxwell), the final out was recorded to the pitching record of 35-year-old minor-league journeyman Chris Smith (0-0, 2.57 ERA) — who has appeared in just 55 major-league games since being drafted in 2002.
The night also came on the heels of another dominating performance from another journeyman minor leaguer, Andrew Triggs (0-1, 4.38 ERA) holding Cleveland to a single run over six strong.
A youthful Pinder said that his team holds a promising future::
“It’s a great group of guys here, and a great group of guys coming up, so I’m very excited to see what the future holds.”