Come­back is com­plete

Year after surgery, A’s Manaea set to start in must-win game

The Morning Call - - VARSITY - By Janie McCauley

OAK­LAND, Calif. — Just more than a year after shoul­der surgery, Sean Manaea will make his most im­por­tant start yet when he takes the mound for the Ath­let­ics in the AL wild-card game.

Man­ager Bob Melvin named Manaea his starter for Wed­nes­day’s win­ner-take-all home game against the Rays. The left-han­der earned the nod over Mike Fiers in a tough de­ci­sion.

“I think it came down to the fact that since Manaea’s been back, he’s pitched great ev­ery sin­gle game out,” Melvin said Tues­day be­fore his team held a work­out. “We were lucky to have two guys to con­sider in that re­spect and a lux­ury to have two guys we’d be com­fort­able with, but Manaea will start.”

Manaea re­turned later than he had hopeAd’s fol­low­ing surgery last Septem­ber but im­medit-he ately found a groove, go­ing 4-0 with 1.21 ERA in five starts last month.

“This is one of those op­por­tu­ni­ties I think about a lot,” the 27-year-old Manaea said of his first play­off start.

Fiers (15-4) pitched a no-hit­ter May 7 against the Reds to be­gin a 21-start un­beaten stretch in which he went 12-0.

“Mike’s been the ace of the staff this year,” Manaea said.

Fiers also was passed over for last year’s wild-card game started by opener Liam Hen­driks in a 7-2 road loss to the Yan­kees.

Rays right-han­der Char­lie Mor­ton (16-6, 3.05 ERA), who’s set to start Wed­nes­day, praised Manaea’s re­mark­able come­back.

“It’s nice to see that,” Mor­ton said. “That’s a re­ally big deal. The shoul­der is a tricky thing to come back from and it’s not a guar­an­tee and then to make it back and pitch well enough to not only be on the ros­ter but start this game is a big deal. It speaks for what I’m as­sum­ing what was a re­ally rough and pro­longed re­hab. It’s nice to see that, it’s good for base­ball.”

It’s been a long jour­ney back for Manaea with a cou­ple of set­backs dur­ing his re­cov­ery. The A’s waited pa­tiently, hop­ing to re­turn Manaea to the form he showed dur­ing a no-hit­ter against the even­tual World Series cham­pion Red Sox on April 21, 2018.

“No-hit­ter, that was huge, but it’s only one game,” Manaea said. “I know it was against the Red Sox. This is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent beast.”

Hav­ing let his hair grow since Jan­uary, Manaea was headed to get it braided be­fore his out­ing. When Melvin called Manaea into his of­fice a cou­ple of days ago and asked the pitcher whether he wanted the ball Wed­nes­day, Manaea’s an­swer was im­me­di­ate:

“Hell, yeah!”

“Crazy how things turn out,” Manaea said. “Ob­vi­ously there’s a lot of pres­sure. You can’t shy away from that. This game means ev­ery­thing.”

JA­SON O. WAT­SON/GETTY

pitcher Sean Manaea will start against Rays on Wed­nes­day night in Oak­land.

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