Down on the Farm: Barreto breaks slump with first four-hit Triple-A night

Down on the Farm: Barreto breaks slump with first four-hit Triple-A night

Franklin Barreto, the A's top hitting prospect, came out of the gates on fire this season. The 21-year-old shortstop hit .440 with two home runs in the first week of games this season for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. 

And then, the young middle infielder hit a wall. Barreto dropped down to a .286 batting average as recently as Wednesday after striking out 11 times in six games. But, on Thursday, Barreto put all his tools together for his biggest Triple-A game in his second stint with the Sounds. 

Barreto went 4-for-4 with a RBI triple in the Sounds' 4-3 loss to the Oklahoma City Dodgers. He started off with singles to left field in his first two at-bats before smacking an opposite-field triple, his second of the season, and finished with a single through the left side of the infield. 

For Barreto's hitting coach, to get him out of his hitting slump it was all about improving his two-strike approach. Barreto took the advice in stride, collecting his first two hits of the night with two strikes. 

"A couple of the two-strike hits were balls that were in that he was able to get a barrel to and get some base hits, Sounds hitting coach Eric Martins told MiLB.com. "He took some pitches that were in the dirt and some pitches that were down that he was chasing before." 

As Barreto keeps improving, Martins wants him to continue his aggresiveness at the plate while also being a smarter two-strike hitter. 

"Barreto's aggressive, but he also has pretty good plate discipline on top of that," Martins said. "He may swing and miss a little bit, but it's something that, with two strikes, it shouldn't bother him too much because of how quick his hands are and how good of a path that he has." 

After his big four-hit night, Barreto raised his batting average 54 points from .286 to .340.

When it was announced A's shortstop Marcus Semien would miss the next two months with a right wrist fracture, many believed Oakland would turn to their biggest piece from their Josh Donaldson trade. Instead, GM David Forst wants more time in Triple-A for Barreto's development. 

“It’s hard to say,” Forst responded when asked for a timetable of Barreto's arrival. “It’s not science, it’s an art, knowing when a player is ready. We’ve had enough guys come through that they’ll tell you when they’re ready. You look at what Healy did last year, his performance told us when he’s ready. You hope that the player forces your hand and says it’s time.”

For the time being, the A's are going with a mix of veteran Adam Rosales and prospect Chad Pinder at shortstop. 

Around The Horn

—Former Cal star Daulton Jefferies is set for Tommy John surgery. Jefferies pitched in two games for the Stockton Ports in Advanced Single-A this season going 0-0 with a 2.57 ERA. The A's drafted Jefferies No. 37 overall in 2016. 

—The A's first-round pick from 2016 in dominating in three appearances for the Ports. A.J. Puk has thrown 12 innings this season and has only allowed one earned run while striking out 20 batters. 

—Matt Chapman, the A's top power-hitting prospect, is still out after suffering a wrist injury on a check swing in the second game of the season. He struck out six times in those two games.

Manaea felt 'little sharp pain', but status of shoulder not immediately known

Manaea felt 'little sharp pain', but status of shoulder not immediately known

ANAHEIM — Sean Manaea is hopeful his left shoulder injury isn’t serious, but the A’s likely won’t have a full read on the starter’s condition for a couple days.

As of Wednesday night, no MRI was scheduled after Manaea left after just two innings of an eventual 8-5 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels with tightness in his shoulder.

“I felt it a little bit in the bullpen,” Manaea said. “I thought it was just one of those days where it took me longer to warm up, and that just wasn’t the case. It’s just really unfortunate.”

Just as the A’s are about to welcome Kendall Graveman back to the active roster Thursday, when he starts the series finale at Angel Stadium, and just as it appears Sonny Gray might be ready to come off the disabled list following one more rehab start, the A’s are hoping they don’t see Manaea subtracted from their rotation for any period of time.

Manager Bob Melvin said it was the top of Manaea’s shoulder that was bothering him.

“The velo was down, and it didn’t make sense to have him keep pitching,” Melvin said. “But we won’t know anything probably for a day or two, how he feels.”

Once he started throwing in the game, Manaea said he felt “kind of a little sharp pain. I mean, it’s nothing serious. I’ve dealt with it before and it only took me a few days to get back on the mound. To me, I’m not really worried about it.”

The pitcher added that he experienced a similar situation with his shoulder while a minor leaguer in Kansas City’s organization, toward the end of spring training, and he missed minimal time.

Things didn’t get better for the A’s (10-11) after Manaea exited, as they struck out 13 times and played sloppy defensively in dropping their third in a row. Catcher Stephen Vogt couldn’t handle Ryan Dull’s glove flip to the plate on a seventh-inning squeeze play, ending a streak of six errorless games for Oakland, but Melvin can live with occasional physical misplays. More problematic were occasions when right fielder Matt Joyce and center fielder Jaff Decker both seemed caught by surprise to see Angels runners take off for an extra base. Whether it was a lack of communication from infielders or the outfielders themselves needing to be more aware, the A’s can’t afford those kinds of mistakes.

“As a group, we can’t let that happen,” Melvin said. “We talk about it in advance meetings the way these guys run the bases. It’s not something we can do and expect to beat this team.”

Added Vogt: “We were on our heels quite a bit. This was obviously not the prettiest baseball game we’ve played.”

Instant Replay: Manaea hurt in A's 8-5 loss to Angels

Instant Replay: Manaea hurt in A's 8-5 loss to Angels

BOX SCORE

ANAHEIM – The A’s endured one of those nights Wednesday when the scoreboard couldn’t convey the extent of their blues.

The tone of an 8-5 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels was set early, when starting pitcher Sean Manaea left after two innings with what was announced as tightness in his throwing shoulder.

From there, things gradually unraveled as the A’s lost their third in a row and took on what looks to be another injury to a key player. The seriousness of Manaea’s injury wasn’t immediately known, but his early exit added to the recent run of medical misfortune, as center fielder Rajai Davis, shortstop Marcus Semien and starter Kendall Graveman have all hit the disabled list over the past 12 days.

Graveman will be activated Thursday and start against the Angels, but Manaea’s condition will loom large as the 25-year-old lefty is considered a foundation piece for the A’s, now and for the future.

The A’s trailed 4-3 in the seventh when the Angels pulled away with four runs off Ryan Dull. Matt Joyce’s two-run homer in the eighth pulled them closer but they lost for the second night in a row at Angel Stadium and will have to win Thursday night to avoid a sweep. Wednesday’s loss dropped them back below .500 at 10-11.

Starting pitching report:
It was obvious early that something was bothering Manaea. His fastball, which usually sits in the low 90’s and gets into the mid-90’s, was hovering in the 88-89 range. The A’s led 2-0 before the Angels struck for three runs in the second. Danny Espinosa and Martin Maldonado each delivered RBI doubles that landed just past the diving reach of right fielder Matt Joyce and center fielder Jaff Decker, respectively. Another run scored on Cameron Maybin’s single.

Bullpen report:
Frankie Montas gave up a run over 2 1/3 innings after being called into early duty when Manaea got hurt. Dull, trying to keep it a 4-3 game, did not have his command in the seventh. He threw a wild pitch, hit Danny Espinosa with a 1-2 pitch and then allowed Maybin’s two-run single that keyed Los Angeles’ four-run seventh.

At the plate:
It was a big night for Yonder Alonso, who had a two-run single in the first and then homered in the sixth to pull Oakland within 4-3. Alonso already has four homers, putting more than halfway to his 2016 total of seven in the season’s first month. The A’s struck out 13 times, giving them 24 strikeouts over the first two games of this series.

In the field:
It took until the seventh inning for the A’s to be charged with an error that snapped their streak of six consecutive errorless games. Stephen Vogt couldn’t hold on to Dull’s glove flip on Martin Maldonado’s squeeze bunt. But even before then, this wasn’t a sharp defensive effort. Joyce got caught off guard in the fourth when Maybin tagged up and made it to second on a fly to right. Joyce’s gesturing afterward seemed to suggest nobody was letting him now the runner was tagging. An inning later, Decker seemed stunned as the lumbering Albert Pujols went first to third on Andrelton Simmons’ single.

Attendance:
The announced crowd was 30,248.

Up next:
Kendall Graveman (2-0, 2.00) is set to come off the D.L. on Thursday and make his first start since April 14, when he was lost to a strained right shoulder. He’ll be opposed by Ricky Nolasco (1-2, 4.76), who took the Opening Night loss against the A’s at the Coliseum when he allowed three runs over 5 2/3 innings. First pitch is 7:05 p.m.