The Athletics have formally announced their roster for this year’s Wild Card game against the Rays. They’ll head into tonight’s sudden-death showdown with 11 pitchers, headlined by resurgent top starter Sean Manaea.
The fact that Manaea is in line to start tonight’s contest is remarkable for multiple reasons. The lefty underwent shoulder surgery last August that, at the time, was expected to not only end his 2018 season but quite likely his 2019 campaign. Over the course of the current season, though, Manaea passed recovery milestones and benchmarks well ahead of schedule — enough that he was able to make it back to a big league mound at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 1.
Talented as Manaea was known to be, few could’ve expected the type of otherworldly production he’s shown since activation. In five starts, he’s given the A’s 29 2/3 innings of 1.21 ERA ball with a 30-to-7 K/BB ratio and just three home runs allowed. He didn’t face a dominant series of lineups down the stretch, squaring off against the Tigers, Rangers (twice) and Mariners in addition to the more formidable Yankees, but that level of output immediately upon returning from major shoulder surgery is nevertheless impressive.
One name that is notably absent, as was first reported by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, is right fielder Stephen Piscotty. The decision to carry Barreto over Piscotty boiled down to the simple matter of health, manager Bob Melvin explained in that interview with Slusser. Piscotty missed a month with a sprained ankle late in the year, and while he returned in time to take four at-bats in the Athletics’ regular-season finale, the club felt Barreto’s superior speed was a better use of the roster spot. The A’s could, of course, change gears and carry Piscotty on the roster in the ALDS if they advance beyond tonight’s one-game playoff.
More broadly looking at the Oakland roster, it’s punctuated by a rather large number of rookies. Not only have none of Luzardo, Puk, Neuse, Murphy or Brown played a full season in the big leagues — none of those five had even played in a single Major League game prior to Aug. 21. Barreto, meanwhile, has seen action in parts of three Major League seasons but still has just 209 plate appearances at the game’s top level under his belt.
Oakland isn’t carrying veteran starters Tanner Roark, Homer Bailey or Brett Anderson on its single-game roster, either, although as with Piscotty, they can be added back into the mix for the Divisional round of play in the event of an A’s victory tonight.