MESA, Ariz. – Once considered one of the bedrocks of the A’s starting staff, Jesse Hahn’s status appears anything but solid in Oakland’s rotation right now.
The right-hander had another rough outing in Monday’s 6-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians, allowing six runs on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings, including a two-run homer by Tyler Naquin. That raised Hahn’s ERA to 11.15 over five starts, but it’s his last two outings that have been most troublesome. He’s allowed a combined 13 earned runs over 6 1/3 innings in those starts against Seattle and Cleveland.
“I know I’m a better pitcher than what I’m showing right now, and I know I’ve got to figure out a way to get some batters out,” Hahn said.
He has one spring start remaining, Saturday’s Bay Bridge Series finale against the Giants. Whether or not that’s a do-or-die start for him to make the club, A’s manager Bob Melvin wasn’t sharing. But Melvin did say:
“Where we are right now, everybody knows we’re looking for some results. At this point for him, I know he’s probably disappointed in the results he’s getting too.”
Hahn walked two batters, but missing the strike zone wasn’t his issue Monday. Missing bats was.
He gave up far too much hard contact, and the fourth was the only inning in which a run didn’t cross the plate against him. He was hurt by a couple breaking balls he left up in the zone, but Hahn identifies his biggest problem right now as a sinker that isn’t creating the downward movement it usually does.
“I just don’t think I’m putting hitters away when I need to,” he said. “When I get two strikes on them or get ahead of them. When I get runners in scoring position, I’m not doing a good job of putting away the next hitter. I’m not seeing the same sinker I usually have. It was better today, but it’s still not where it needs to be. Whether it’s the climate out here or it’s a feel pitch for me, I need to figure it out, but the sooner the better.”
He’s right about that.
Sonny Gray and Rich Hill line up as the No. 1 and No. 2 starters. Chris Bassitt seems to have done enough to this point, relative to the performance of the other starting candidates, to command a spot. He’s currently lined up as the No.3 starter, and Kendall Graveman delivered an excellent outing Sunday to bolster his chances as the No. 4 guy.
Felix Doubront is scheduled to start in a minor league game Tuesday, and if he’s kept on an every-fifth-day schedule, it could potentially line him up as an option to fall in as the No. 5 starter if the A’s don’t go with Hahn.
“It’s a little frustrating,” Hahn said of his struggles. “At the same time it’s still spring training. I’d rather it happen now than during the season. … I have time to try to figure it out. I have another start, so I’m gonna keep working hard.”
Hahn missed most of the final three months last season with a strained forearm. That he’s been healthy throughout camp has been a bright spot for Oakland, because Hahn has some of the best pure stuff on the staff. But he needs to show he can get outs.
“He’s a guy that’s done a nice job for us before,” Melvin said. “We’ve got some other guys that have done a nice job too. When we’re done evaluating it, we’re done evaluating it. We still have some guys with some more starts to go.”
STOCK RISING: Left fielder Khris Davis is rounding into form nicely at the plate as the regular season approaches. He went 3-for-3 with a triple and an RBI on Monday. After beginning the spring 4-for-22, Davis is now 10-for-24 (.417) over his past eight games.
LIGHTER SIDE: Is there such thing as a pinch catcher? There was Monday. When the ceremonial first pitch was set to be tossed, the A’s had their guest hurler on the mound, but no one was at home plate to catch it. Andrew Lambo’s name was being announced over the P.A., but Coco Crisp jogged out from the dugout with a glove and handled the honors.
ODDS AND ENDS: Sean Doolittle turned in his second strong outing since returning from a triceps strain, throwing a scoreless inning with one strikeout. … Yonder Alonso connected for his first spring homer, which also happened to be his first extra-base hit of the Cactus League season. He had 13 singles before that.