OAKLAND — Sean Manaea can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but he’s trying not to look at it.
The A’s left-hander threw 15 pitches during a bullpen session at the Coliseum on Tuesday after a 53-pitch Saturday rehab start, and said his surgically-repaired shoulder felt “awesome,” but there’s still a ways to go. He’s closer than far, but far from close.
Manaea — who underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in September — has not pitched since Aug. 24 of last season, but even without him, Oakland is in the playoff picture. Having won 10 of their last 12, the A’s are in sole possession of the second American League wild card spot, meaning that, when Manaea does return, he’ll be in the thick of a pennant race.
“I really want to come back up here and help the team out any way I can,” Manaea said in the clubhouse on Tuesday. “I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but at the same time, I’ve got to keep focused and try not to rush these things. I’m super close. I’m really excited.”
In Manaea’s second rehab start this weekend with the Single-A Stockton Ports, he threw 2 1/3 innings and allowed five runs (all earned) on three hits and two walks, striking out four.
“Results are whatever,” said the 27-year old starter. “I’m not really worried about that, but overall, I felt good. The arm felt awesome, and yesterday, it bounced back really well. I’m progressing really well.”
Of the 53 pitches Manaea threw, 36 were for strikes, and he was able to get some swings and misses with his slider, a key out pitch for him.
“I threw a couple sliders for strikes, and got some swings and misses, so that was really encouraging,” Manaea said. “For the most part, I was locating on my fastball. Those results, I was happy with. [The stuff is] not nearly where I want it to be, but I threw a couple good changeups, a couple good sliders. That’s encouraging, so I’ve just got to keep that feeling and try to mimic those. Like I said, that’ll just come with more reps.”
At this point, Manaea’s biggest hurdle is getting his arm back in shape. In his first outing, his fastball was between 85 and 87 mph. Last start, it sat between 88 and 90.
The coming weeks are essentially like the back half of spring training for Manaea, manager Bob Melvin said.
Manaea will pitch again for Stockton on Thursday, throwing between 65 and 75 pitches. If all goes well, he’ll head out to Las Vegas to continue his rehab with the Triple-A Aviators.
“It’s still gonna be several more outings before we potentially see him here,” Melvin said. “He’s gonna have to get to 90 to 100 [pitches] before we get him up here.”