GOODYEAR, Ariz. — He entered camp as one of the A’s players with the most to prove, and so far Jesse Hahn is delivering.
The right-hander fired four scoreless innings Monday, one of the lone bright spots in Oakland’s 3-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds that snapped the A’s six-game winning streak.
Hahn has a 3.12 ERA in three appearances (two starts), but that doesn’t include a scoreless three innings against Team Italy, which doesn’t count toward his official Cactus League stats. Include that outing, and Hahn has surrendered just three runs in 11 2/3 innings, with 11 strikeouts and two walks.
“That’s the way we expect Jesse to pitch,” manager Bob Melvin said of Monday’s outing. “Even if he has to back off the throttle on fastball velocity, the sink is what made him successful two years ago, so it was good to see. The ball was down in the zone, he was getting a lot of balls beat into the ground. And when we’ve seen him in the past pitch well, that’s what he’s done.”
Though Melvin wouldn’t address it directly, Hahn is pitching his way into strong consideration for one of the two available spots that exist in the A’s rotation in light of Sonny Gray’s injury. Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton line up as the top three starters, with Graveman setting up well to get the Opening Night call on April 3 against the Angels. Melvin hasn’t made an announcement yet.
Regarding Hahn’s rotation candidacy, Melvin offered only: “We’ve got a long way to go, but he came into camp with that in mind, and certainly what he did a couple years ago would suggest he’s got the ability to pitch well at the big league level.”
Hahn posted a 3.35 ERA in 16 starts for Oakland in 2015 but fell on hard times last year, failing to make the club out of spring training and seeing his ERA rise to 6.02 in nine major league starts.
NOTEWORTHY: Graveman started against the Reds and went 3 2/3 innings, his day spoiled on his last pitch, when Brandon Dixon hit an elevated fastball for a two-run homer in the fourth that gave Cincinnati a 3-0 lead.
Other than that, Graveman was pleased with his ability to mix in some breaking balls and changeups effectively. He allowed four hits and three runs, with one strikeout and one walk.
Last season, Graveman hit his stride when he began showing confidence in his sinker and throwing it often. Figure he’ll ride that strength heavily again if the sinker is dialed in, but the right-hander also sees the value in his off-speed pitches.
“Today was the first day (this spring) we flipped the lineup a time or two,” he said. “The third time facing some of these guys, you realize they’ve seen a lot of fastballs. I think you can start getting ahead of hitters with some off-speed stuff.”
LIGHTER SIDE: Somehow, Trevor Plouffe’s No. 3 jersey never made it to Goodyear, and the A’s third baseman wound up taking the field wearing No. 94. That made Plouffe look primed to rush a quarterback, but on a serious note, he made a nifty barehand pick-up and throw to first to retire Dilson Herrera in the fifth.
ODDS AND ENDS: Non-roster outfielder Chris Parmelee homered in the ninth to help the A’s avoid a shutout. They mustered just three hits in a game that wrapped in a tidy 2 hours, 15 minutes. … Reliever Sean Doolittle remains on target to make his first Cactus League appearance Tuesday against the Rockies in Mesa.